A special nomination of the Bird in Flight Prize with a winner selected by readers
Francesco Merlini, Italy
For many years I have tried to narrate a valley where I was born and where I’ve spent a lot of time since when I was a child even if I grow up in a big city like Milano. This valley is a place that I loved and hated, a place I’m tied to by an emotional link that involves me, my father passed away when I was fifteen and my mother disappeared one year ago.
In my work, memories of the time spent in this valley are mixed with dreams, nightmares and visions that my mind has set in this familiar and at the same time distant place, drawing on a sort of magical realism.
Project Timeline: 2014 - 2017
A smoke signal in this part of the world is unlikely.
It is the cord that joins the earth and sky like yolk and albumen or maybe it’s just the wake left by something that has abandoned the valley.
The lump in the throat is sharper, like a knife in a sack, ready to suddenly tear it apart. Her greenish and gray irises seem to pulsate, as chrysalises on the verge of opening up to reveal something wonderful but at the same time closer to death.
The rust around the windows and the sealed doors make the uninhabited houses look like blood-stained fortresses after a long siege.
Each year, the same day, the small settlements that sting the valley light up and spark.
Disordered clusters of wood with the appearance of primordial huts are burned more or less clumsily, almost to prevent an unwelcome guest from returning.
Rock mud fills and stifles the most hidden cavities of the valley as clotted drool at the corners of a drunken giant’s mouth screaming against the heavens.
Only in the late adolescence I started hanging out with other youngsters who used to spend holidays in the valley.
So far I had walked these paths exclusively with my parents, my first love, partners in a relationship that was about to end too soon.
Many people live their entire existence where the solid earth is distended, ignoring these restless valleys that drag towards the sky.
Every time I look into one of the holes that tire this land, I find inside, broken, the spear of a man.
My father spent a lot of time on the mountains collecting minerals. He used to spend whole days smashing rocks with a hammer, like a sentenced to death, and eventually death came.
Its stones remain to adorn its tomb and our home.
Every night the trees along the road are awakened
by the lights of the cars climbing the valley.
At every hairpin turn, cones of light moves frantically in the forest as flashlights of guards seeking a fugitive.
Before I was ten, I often dreamed of a landslide that, after wiping out the mountain side, struck our house.
It was summer, my family and I were sleeping,
we were sleeping in that house.
At that time I did not like to spend the holidays in this valley and I woke up almost relieved.
Although the trail is impervious, I would like to try anyway, to get to touch it.
It’s solid, immovable, like the water of a diorama. I would like to see the ripples produced by the touch of a finger, chasing up to return the appearance of a lake to what appears superhuman and synthetic.