Video Installations

Year: 2008 / Original Format: HD video, colour, stereo sound / Duration: 45:46 minutes /

The Majorana project comprises three films and a set of photographs that comprise an open narrative dispositif. The story fans out from an account of Ettore Majorana, a genius of Italian physics who disappeared at sea in 1938 under mysterious circumstances.

A secret history of sorts, Majorana’s journey traverses and mirrors the heavily shrouded story of the creation of nuclear weapons. Majorana’s story became a myth after the publication in 1975 of Leonardo Sciascia’s novel The Vanishing of Majorana. The polemic generated by this publication spurred an impressive number of speculative theories, some more plausible than others, about the causes that pushed Majorana to cover up his tracks. One theory gained much currency over the years: Majorana orchestrated his own disappearance because of his anticipation of the deadly outcome of the discovery of nuclear fission.

In the main film, Majorana Eigenstates (HD Video, 1:2.35, Colour, Stereo, 45min46), an actor who interprets Majorana – and who strangely resembles him – synchronically lives in two places: a hotel room in Napoli, where the real Ettore Majorana lived before vanishing at sea, and the cabin of a ship. The use of two cameras with a parallax gap generates a split filmic space.

A second film, The Sea Rejected Me (16mm, 1:1.33, B&W, Silent, 4min30) was found at a dealer of used cinema equipment in Tehran. The deteriorated film shows a man on the deck of a ship. The man’s resemblance to photographs of the physicist is striking. Like him, he plays chess and writes on what appears to be a cigarette pack.

A third film, The Sea of Majorana (Super-16mm onto SD Video, 1:1.66, Colour, Stereo, 8min30), shows a post-nuclear seascape filmed between Napoli and Palermo, where Ettore Majorana disappeared in 1938. The ambient radioactivity perforates the material support of the film. A voice over reads an excerpt of an essay by Majorana, “The Value of Statistical Laws in Physics and Social Sciences”.

A constellation of photographs, Persian Gulf Incubator (28 Archival Pigment Prints, 5 text panels, dimensions variable), narrates the finding of the wreck of the Italian luxury liner M/S Raffaello in the Persian Gulf. The ship was sold in 1976 by Italy to the Shah of Iran, and was sunk by Iraqi jetfighters in 1983, a few miles off the coastal nuclear reactor of Bushehr.
This facility much worries American and Israeli policy makers. In this narrative the ship is a time capsule that journeys over a historical period spanning from the 1973 oil crisis to the events of 9/11.

The theory advanced in this body of work is speculative. Majorana operated a ‘quantum disappearance’ on himself: a passage from an embodied existence to a multiplication of eigenstates, which can synchronically co-exist in different places, transcending the laws that link time and space. This elegant idea offers a vast territory for experimentation. It endows classical narrative with an open structure,in which Majorana’s uncertain journey becomes a time capsule, a container for narratives that subsequent historicizations can potentially bestow with meaning, and which, in the present context of nuclear weapons proliferation remains surprisingly relevant.

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