Peopling the Palaces, by Peter Greenaway
Peopling the Palaces is the installation conceived by Peter Greenaway for the Royal Palace of Venaria. The story, unfolding in eleven rooms along the visit itnerary, narrates the life at court organised into three broad themes. For each, different artistic and technological solutions have been adopted.
The project was carried out in cooperation with Castello di Rivoli - Museo d’Arte Contemporanea and Volumina.
The presentation of the court
The visitor is welcomed by ten characters, emblems of court life at the Palace of Venaria around 1670: the Marquis and Marquise of Caraglio (Ennio Fantastichini and Ornella Muti), the cook Tomaso Foco (Giuseppe Battison), the first chamber maid Antonia Cotta (Martina Stella), the baker Bartolomeo Vernetti (Francesco Martino), the doctor Pierre Thevenot (Alessandro Haber), the hunter Alessandro Petitti (Tommaso Ragno), the secretary Filippo Arduzzi (Mattia Sbragia), the Prince Giacomo della Cisterna (Francesco Rossini) and the archivist Giovanni Montardi (Remo Girone).
They are projected onto six large screens mounted on a circular structure. Their appearances and their cultivated dialogues reveal that these courtiers are the first series of 100 archetypes of court life: the sage, the wife, the tyrant, the flirt, the dupe, the quack, the bravo, the prude, the libertine and the cynic.
Running time: 19’23
The noisy and colourful kitchens are the domain of the tyrannical cook and his turbulent crew of scullery boys, apprentices, butchers. His actions, as well as those of the energetic washer woman, seen on the large central screen, are intensified by a sophisticated game of projections on 20 transparent screens. The multimedia project creates, using sounds, lights and projections, the illusion of fumes, scents and streams of water. The preservation and cooking of food, as well as the gastronomic rituals were an integral part of the celebrations at court and are found in the mocking lists of culinary precepts recited with emphasis. In a cupboard below the stairs, some of the servants act as the link between the dark vaults of the palace and its upper floors.
Running time: 12’35”, basement 5’52”
The procession of the court
The two large assembly rooms, once the Antechamber for Menservants and the Duchess’s Drawing Room, are located just after the famous Great Gallery, and are characterized by multiple projections on each of the four walls. On one side, the slow procession of the court in three different historical periods, 1640, 1710, and 1790, while a herald solemnly announces the names of the guests and a band of gossips have fun running down the marquis and countesses, commenting bitingly on journeys to exotic lands and the embarrassing hand-kissing of the sovereign. The music of a string quintet (Architorti), which plays a melody by Fiorè, reflects the elegant and sumptuous atmosphere of the procession, that closes with a sardonic dance by these inclement commentators.
Running time: 14’53”
Painter, writer, film and opera director, author of multimedia shows and exhibition organizer, recently vj, Peter Greenaway is the perfect incarnation of the modern artist. A creative spirit and visionary, he effectively uses cultural tradition while taking advantage of the potential offered by new technologies; he owes his fame to the cinema, thanks to successes like The Draughtsman’s Contract, The Belly of an Architect, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Prospero’s Books. His indisputable talent as a “creator of images” was later celebrated with his film-installation Nightwatching. Profoundly tied to Italian culture, he has developed a special relationship with Torino. He dedicated his artist’s book Tulse Luper in Turin to the city, made 92 drawings of the Mole Antonelliana, filmed an episode of The Tulse Luper Suitcases at the Castle of Racconigi and for three years he worked on this ambitious project, Peopling the Palaces.