Working in Rome is difficult. Two weeks in: I’m enjoying it immensely but it’s a kind of challenge that I barely get to experience back home. That’s a very good thing: it’s the reason I’m here. It’s about directing a path, and being open to how the path directs me. It requires a kind of “loose focus.” Does that make sense? It’s about understanding what’s not important, and remaining completely open within a limited zone of attention.
So I’m trying to listen to cues and clues that reveal themselves to me as I explore the city. One experience leads to another, and I’m reacting with thoughts, images and posts here. Artifacts. I guess these posts are becoming the work, really.
The geometry of the Pantheon (security of place) brought me to St Peter’s bones (impossibility of place), and then to his chains and Freud’s cinematic musings, and now I find myself staring at these. Symbols representing the 22 Rioni (regions) of Rome (14, under Augustus).
In 1744 “Count Bernardino Bernardini was given the task of regularizing the neighborhood borders by Pope Benedict XIV Lambertini.” (Good analysis here. The symbols are actually keyed into the borders of the Nolli plan.) Bernardini ordered 220 plaques placed along the borders or the districts. The locations of the marble plaques are documented in a plan produced by Nolli’s son, Carlo, right here in the Academy’s library, as well as the twelve folded leaves of plates that comprise the 1748 “Nuova typografia di Roma.” Thrilling to think that these historic artifacts are across the street, available to me 24/7.
Districts defined by borders, borders marked by names and symbols. Semiotic traces that inscribe deep into the history of this place: dragon, pine cone, moon, sword, lion, bridge, griffin, amphorae, angel, wheel, hill, column, etc. Time to go look for these plaques.