“In retrospect, I can say that the drawings made under the effects of mescaline were really ordinary, while at the moment you believe to have done something brilliant. For the Codex I used, if anything, some Valpolicella”
DRUGS Don’t do drugs. Don’t do it too much. Or, at least, don’t think it can help have incredible ideas. Luigi Serafini invented a world that seems to have come out of a lysergic trip (as we understand the stereotypes of creativity under the influence of drugs), but that actually derives from the lucid and deep exploration of one’s own mind. “I don’t like this vision of the brain according to which imagination can be reproduced mechanically, taking something in order to achieve a result. In 1971, in the time of psychedelia, I travelled to America with a sleeping bag. I believe that period didn’t have any good artistic or literary results. In retrospect, I can say that the drawings made under the effects of mescaline were really ordinary, while at the moment you believe to have done something brilliant. For the Codex I used, if anything, some Valpolicella”.
ANSWERS The Codex Seraphinianus, published in 1981 after a long production started exactly 40 years ago, in 1976, originated by an answer. “Do you want to go to the cinema?” a friend asked Serafini. “No thanks, I’m working on an encyclopaedia”. It was nearly autumn in Rome, and some disconnected visions that had appeared during the previous months, suddenly found their place in a story.
“I didn’t know whether the Codex was a joke or not, I’d just made seven or eight tables. I was in my room in a sort of trance, just like asleep. When that friend asked me to go out, I woke up and realised I had fallen into my work”.
QUESTIONS Mystery is the key of a book that should explain a world but that paradoxically leaves it overwhelmed by an enigma. In some illustrations you can see question marks that turn upside down to become hooks.
We are taken in this trick and we let ourselves be transported towards the following page because we believe to be able to find the key or simply because of its beauty.
MUTATIONS The Codex Seraphinianus is strict, cohesive and tidy. Pages written with a made-up alphabet interchange with illustrations of an unknown civilization. Biology, zoology, physics, technical drawings, fashion, physiognomy, architecture and city planning: from unicellular organisms to cities, from petals to faces. Insects and deities, punched rainbows and blooming roots, umbrellas with legs and eggs with wings, twirls in front of a fridge and trees that plunge into the sea, eyes and artichokes, labyrinths and periodic tables: the catalogue of imagination is unlimited. Everything changes and transforms in the Codex, nature and artifice mix up in this big encyclopaedia of the possibilities of a different but recognisable universe.
ROSETTA Towards the end of the book is presented a half drawer and half scholar character facing a sort of Rosetta Stone with the Codex characters on one side and some signs that remind hieroglyphics on the other. It is an illusion or maybe the mocking proof that this work can be translated, interpreted, transported in the field of a comprehensible language.
“There’s a formal logic in my writing. I can’t see it, but it’s there. I’m attracted to curves: I wanted to create the shadow of a real writing, to give the reader the same feeling we have as children when we read books even if we can’t read. I wrote releasing myself from the duty to use the alphabet we’ve been taught: we all have a secret language and there’s a deeper one in every writing”. He used the italics, which, in Serafini’s opinion, represents the most important innovation in writing, not less important than Gutenberg or the digital era. “Writing while rushing! It’s a poorly understood revolution”
ALIENS AND CATS “I think I’ve worked under the influence of aliens”. This is the explanation Serafini gives about those months and years spent writing and drawing. “I used to live in a flat in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte street and there was a cat that used to come sit on my lap while I was working. It was probably the channel of a civilization that wanted me to describe their world. At the beginning of Close encounters of the third kind there are characters that draw mountains without any reasons but then you discover that they are drawing the aliens’ landing place”. Aliens, strictly related to the Etruscan civilization. “The Etruscan civilization always gets involved, they’re there spying on us. The way the Roman civilization cancelled them, even if they learned a lot from them, has always fascinated me. I carry Etruscan existence I my heart”.
FMR “It seemed to me completely logical and normal that the world drawn by Serafini could exist, as I found the language used to describe it very readable”. (Franco Maria Ricci)
The Codex Seraphinianus is an artwork in the form of a book, as the author believed that other forms (as a classic exhibition, for instance) couldn’t have expressed its complexity, but also because when Franco Maria Ricci saw the first tables, he understood this new universe. “You don’t know me, but I’ve been working for you for a long time”, said Serafini when he could finally meet his future publisher. “This guy is crazy,” one of Ricci’s colleagues thought. However, the latter did not see any folly in that new artwork, only a bit of obsession. “Luckily, at a certain point he said “that’s it!””, tells Serafini. Otherwise he would have never stopped writing and drawing, drawing and writing. “At the time, I thought publishing was the only way possible. It was like I had done a blog that then became a book. I didn’t want any galleries nor exhibitions”.
Questo articolo è stato pubblicato originariamente su ILIT-2