Michele Horrigan bio / contact
What A Feeling!
Dante's Rock Phase
In Ruin Reconciled
Nature Obscured by Factory / Factory Obscured by Fog
A Very Reliable Performer
Video, 15 minutes 30 seconds
Poet Dante Aligheri was said to be inspired by the landscape of Les Baux to write
vivid descriptions of purgatory in his epic poem The Divine Comedy. Dante completed
these verses between 1308 and 1321, during which time he was exiled from Florence
and travelled several times through the hills and valleys of Provence.
To test out how Dante might have visualized the region, several days were spent
roaming around the valley photographing prominent rock formations, many of which are
quite spectacular, akin to the background of a Renaissance painting. In some locations I
found my camera framing images of faces and heads in the stone, natural phenomena that
seemed as if they were almost carved into the rock. After re-reading The Divine Comedy,
it seemed likely that Dante might have seen these same faces in the fourteenth century,
and that they might have influenced his writings.
In the town of Les Baux, these associations were further experimented with. Les Baux is
a tourist hotspot of consumerism, drawing a tantalizing parallel to what a contemporary
purgatory to be: souls walking aimlessly from place to place in search of a way out might
be compared to the modern touristic experience walking from souvenir shop to souvenir
shop searching for the consummate gift or bargain. A resulting video traces an approach
from a road into Les Baux, through streets of gift shops and tourism infrastructure, to the
medieval castle hilltop in the centre of the town. Subtitles feature relevant quotes from
Dante's Purgatorio, to create sometimes uncanny connotations.