“..the entire town has rebuilt a network of relationships connecting a house to the other, a door to the other and above all a person to the other overcoming in the aesthetic event of Bounding to the Mountain resentment and hostility and remote dissimilarities. Perhaps modern art’s great daydream of changing life has come true, although only once, right about here, far away in this place where the names of artistic avantgarde are just names? I believe so: here, art succeded where religion and politics could not…”
Filiberto Menna on Bind to the mountain
“…. And it took a collective intelligence and stubbornness also of the country, starting with the women, who did not want monuments but community places, not works of art in the traditional sense, but new opportunities to practice life under the sign of creativity and alliance, to get back an old wash or a Via Crucis. (…)”
Filiberto Menna, june 1982
Maria was living in a different world than ours and was growing as a stranger to us, her brothers. We were jealous of her, she seemed to be our parents favourite because she was always praised. When we were together we were communicating through the drawings she was realizing with coal on the tiles of a terrace. We were surrounding her, lying on the floor, for hours, completely amazed. She was drawing and telling us stories, little scenarios were set animated by figures on the move and by incredible stories. Using objects at our fingertips such as stones, shells, canes, cork boats; we were living those stories in first person because we were given a role and a character and the game was fun. When Maria was gone, we were all coming back to our reality.
Maria’s clothes were from the city and they seemed so beautiful to me, when they were too small for her they were given to me as her younger sister although I was rejecting them as they were not suitable for me and for the village life I was part of. My uncles had a house in the country side close to the sea, on a hill in front of a nuraghe. A big house where Maria had a extended room to play. Walls were clear and she was drawing on them with coal until filling them up as if it was a chalkboard. Someone was always painting them all over, so she could start her game. She was sent to school behind time, however she was already able to read and write thanks to her uncles; they managed to gain her love to such an extent that she preferred them to her parents, that was my impression.
When Maria was four or five, the uncles hosted in their property two families of wanderers who took refuge in Sardinia since the First World War and were waiting to leave the island. They had a farmyard for their own, their children were educated to become circus jugglers and Maria was fascinated by their lifestyle. She was free to stay with them all the time, participating in their trainings. Time has come for the bandwagon to leave the farmyard and Maria left with them as she was hidden inside. The gypsies took her back home after midnight to her worried uncles who received her in silence and did not talk about her escape never again. Since then every time she came back home, she was amazing us with some acrobatics and she was trying to teach us but without success. After few years uncle died tragically and after a while aunt as well, she could not stand the pain, it was a traumatic event for all of us particularly for Maria who had to come back home.
Much time was need for her and us to get used to each other. Something magnificent arose from this situation: we were becoming friends, although I was feeling she was different as when our little sister went missing: while I was crying incredulous and desperate, Maria was painting lilac bluebottles on the little silk pillow for the grave. For that grave my father asked the most famous sculpture of the island to give us the child’s portrait in white marble. The photos we had were not enough for the sculpture, since Maria looked like our sister, she was invited to pose. Maria attends the sculpture’s studio and becomes familiar with the clay. Her sister’s portrait was complete, but she kept on attending the studio, fascinated by the artist who was encouraging her aptitude. We were sent to a boarding school, I can still remember my mates features, their place in the dining hall and in the studying room and the bed in the dormitory. I remember the repressed laughter in the silence hours, the warped weaves for the inflexible nuns, the obligations, the prohibitions, the din during the brief recreation time. Pealing and, more or less, pious prayers were giving rhythm to our days. When I left the school I was sure I had permanent friendships, unfortunately I never saw them again. Unlike everyone, my sister was able to adapt to that discipline. Her diversity was causing me to suffer, but I was enjoying her when she was donating drawings, portraits, white paper cut out doves that the nuns used to adorn the chapel during Easter. When it was time to go to sleep and lights were turned off, Maria was welcoming me in her bed and she was warming me up, calming down my unconscious fears and may be she was forgiving me for some treacheries.
I have always been intrigued by the edge of charming Maria Lai, which for me means also his wonderful Sardinia. A thread that binds us to the ancient civilization of ichnusa but also the unforgettable pages of Bitter Honey (1954) by Salvatore Cambosu, which for Maria Lai was a “magic lantern” in the most difficult years of his youth. Admiration of bibliophile for its art books stitched with thread, and as much admiration for his works and performances made with wire, to “bind” a whole country, a whole mountain … more with the magic of the wire, his sign thin and light aircraft.
Today is the time for Maria Lai to intervene on a wall of reinforced concrete (40 by 5 meters), built on a promontory facing the sea, in San Gemiliano in Tortolì. The wall is built on a foundation of a church, which remained unfinished. Title: Time of Art, a plastered wall of cement, 5 meters high and 40 wide, with traces of signatures made in fresh from the locals. Pages adhere to the wall, in stripes and checks like the notebooks of school children; leaves in forex white opaque each measuring 2 meters by one and a half.
The words, as escaped from the pages, are made of copper rod, and adhere to the sheets and the concrete wall. II rod copper wire becomes magically writing, sewing and tangles.
The choice of materials: gray cement and white cement for I’intonaco; the copper rod (one centimeter in diameter) suggests I’idea of ??thread of a seam made by means of a stainless steel needle of a meter and a half. The words written up the following sentences: “The eye needs a long period” and “Art is a big lie, but does not have short legs.” The shy, tiny Maria Lai does not want to define it, but merely attempts to provoke a dialogue on the theme of art: Time of Art, 1997, indeed.
Maria was a woman open to the world and at the same time very private, almost secluded – it could not interfere if she was working in the studio – but she was also able to turn her life to accommodate someone if it was needed. Thus it was that I went to live with her, I needed a rest and she understood, and made room in his life and in his house for me, holding me in a room that looked out on the pottery studio where she had the furnace and the clay . Were important years for me, I remember now with wonder and gratitude. We talked about many things, she did travel to see art and architecture, she was always talking about art and graft between art and life. I knew she had a lot to teach and report me, and for this reason i followed her.
Her was a full life between school, studio work, family, friends and reading – she loved reading and she read important literature and philosophy books . Often she commented the books with us, and often was seen with Giuseppe and Luisa Dessi who lived in the same building. I remember her sitting at the table or lying with a book and a pencil in his hand as she read and underlined the important phrases. Her relationship with the art required solitude and concentration to be able to listen and understand their work but its generosity ‘urged her constantly to the others . It was as complex as direct – able to tell you what they were hiding in you and what of your personal choices or art not convinced. She affected many people and she had time for everybody, although then she was basically a loner.
Mila DauPh. Daniela Zedda
Not much time has passed since those bright and full of projects and assets sixties . And she was building universes sewn through the ritual action and slow point after point. Consciously or not, she twist the grammar of women do. she back to basics and to the myth also coming to science through art.
Stones and drapes, soft and hard, ancient and contemporary, Maria Lai, a pioneer of public and relationalart, coexist in a harmony of opposites totalizing made and related.
I walked towards the Fountain of Santa Barbara, I felt the silence of the mountains of Ulassai; sniffing the air i passed through the city feeling in a place from another world. The small church De Chirico, under the clouds of the storm, was a refuge, one evening, that led me to a Via Crucis essential, secular, highly spiritual. Meanwhile Maria was in bed, silent, who “taught us how to die.”
Maria left many presents, everyone strikes a chord in our lives and resonates in the soul, reminding us that – despite the systemic violence and individual – poetry (rhythm) continues to exist on earth.
Manuela GandiniPh. Salvatore Ligios