Domenico de Clario

A Tertiary World
MARS – Melbourne Art Rooms
13 June – 8th July 2007

Searching for lost time and how to recapture it was Marcel Proust’s main quest in life. Retrieving the permanent and the significant from the hidden layers of our memory would, he believed, help find continuity in a rapidly changing world. Free-flowing events or feelings from our past conjured up without volition are sometimes called ‘Proustian memories’. They are a phenomenon of ‘natural’ memory, while memories elicited by a will to remember are a manifestation of ‘artificial’ memory.

Domenico de Clario’s latest installation, a tertiary world, evokes a remembered world of Proustian resonance: the artist outwardly explores the past rather than the present, the personal rather than the social. He links the local area in inner-city Melbourne, where he has spent most of his life, to ‘natural’ memories: by his walking the streets of Carlton, ‘narratives’ of past moments flow to the surface of de Clario’s consciousness. This is an intriguing reversal of a prevalent mnemotechnic developed by the Ancients, which enabled them to store, and recover, astonishing amounts of information. This favourite method of memorizing facts and figures for easy retrieval involved ‘placing’ them in sequential order in a familiar architectural environment. By mentally visiting each location of this urban landscape, the information would be recalled on demand. De Clario’s narratives are expressed as a text and coded chronologically using the seven colours of the spectrum. These same colours are simultaneously linked to a grid composed of seven parallel streets of Carlton running North-South and seven parallel streets running East-West. Each of the ninety-eight narrative memories (seven for each street re-visited) is offered to the public for contemplation, in a manner reminiscent of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross. Two videos, screened on different monitors, show the artist’s pilgrimage along the chosen streets; they contrast the evocative revelation of the mental worlds of Domenico de Clario to the urban and social environment of present-day Carlton. A drawing depicting the grid in vivid colours provides a metaphorical mapping of this figurative urban topography and inner journey.

The artist describes the ‘tertiary world’ as ‘neither the primary lived experience that only the very few can manage, nor the remembered version; rather it’s the uncertainly recounted narrative that emerges as one attempts to crystallize the shadow and fog of the now into the passable legibility of memory’.

Evoking the past is a way to encode the present and give it legitimacy. The ‘lost time’ translated into words within a linear sequence for easy public consumption relates events of the life of an individual and his Italian family brought to Australia by the chaos and hardship of post World War II Europe. In their very ordinariness, each of these little stories echoes the lives of a whole generation of Australians from similar working-class Mediterranean backgrounds. This act of organised and staged remembrance reflects the evolution of Carlton which, like the community of Italians established there, has become a celebrated part of Melbourne’s multi-layered and organic identity. Domenico de Clario’s past is thus woven into the fabric of Melbourne’s collective memory.