A journey in the Hephaestus lab
In 2010 I’ve got a commission for a music performance and an installation by the Reggio Emilia Theatres foundation for the annual Aperto Festival in October; the theme of 2010 was the labor of man.
The commission required a site specific work. So after a few debates, me and my collaborators decided to look at the heavy industry of the area. My idea was to have both sound and video recorded. The sound would serve us as a source for the music and the images would help us to complete the show with visuals. We found a perfect site for recording and filming at the Rubiera Steel Foundry. The gigantic factory lies in one of the several industrial areas of the region, 20Km SW from Reggio and due to the economical crisis it works in nighttime only.
I thought that a modern video camera would not fit. After all, melting metals is one of the oldest jobs of mankind, so I come to the idea of using an old super8 camera with black and white film to give to the audience the impression of a timeless space.
We planned a four days long production; for the task of recording every possible sound and every possible usable image we had to split in two working groups. One for audio and one for film recording. I gave my field recorder to my friend and colleague Giuseppe Cordaro, while I kept for myself the video job. Walking in the place is no child’s play. The factory is dangerous and if one does not pay attention in where and when one puts his feet the situation can easily become lethal. A steel foundry is made of different work areas, each of them is a part of the process and works coordinated by a chief of staff. Melted steel tends to solidify pretty quickly and the job schedule can be long and complex so timing is an crucial factor. For this reason the working areas are continuously changing, the factory is a kind of living organism. It takes some time to understand what comes next and where.
Filming and recording there is a real challenge. Every time the steel is cast a huge cloud of carbon dust invades the air and then falls down on everything. We had carbon dust on equipment, clothes, skin and lungs. I’ve found it even in my underwear.
The sound can be far and soft or suddenly bursting in front of you up to 120 dBA. Filming with real film and a small super8 camera there is a kind of hell. The ambiance light was so low that the camera’s light meter was telling me I was going to have a totally black film, for that reason I’ve filmed all the time hoping that a push process to 400 iso during develop, would give me something to watch. I was lucky, pushing the film worked and worked great.
The performance was held in the gorgeous lobby of the Valli Theater on November 5th 2010. We used our factory samples, the Buchla synthesizer, a prepared guitar processed with Gleetchlab3 and an electric bass played with a cello bow.
A film and a music performance with the lights and sounds of the steel foundry.
Filmed in super8 (kodak Tri-x)and recorded at the Acciaierie di Rubiera (RE) in 2010
Friday November 5th, 2010 – Teatro Valli – Reggio nell’Emilia
Commissioner: I Teatri (Reggio nell’Emilia)
Production: AGON (2010)
Direction and Photography: Giorgio Sancristoforo
Sound: Giuseppe Cordaro and Giorgio Sancristoforo
Head of production: Massimo Marchi
Organization: Dalila Sena
Text: Silvia Sartorio