Connecting present with forgotten past

Dreaming of a time in tune with our biological self

U TIÉMPE DU RÈLLÒGGE ME FA VÍVE: vússe stu cuórpe da mètín’a sére. Quànne me férme súle, cu pènziére, è sèmbe ‘n àtu Tiémpe che me véve. Dèmàne rèchèmènze cu pèssate. Squèrdàte sònn’i suónne ch’è sènnàte?


do I find another time that I drink. The past tomorrow will have again begun, 

have you forgotten all the dreams you’ve known? 

Giose Rimanelli[1] ‘U Tiémpe’. 21 settembre 1984, Termoli, Molise. Courtesy of Cosmo Iannone.  (Translation Deirdre MacKenna) 

As our experience of Time becomes increasingly de-territorialised and virtual, and the pressures upon our lifestyles to achieve, acquire and accumulate seem to mount increasingly, what ability do we have to control the pace of our lives?

We all share the “Tempo Giusto” of childhood, when our experience of life was in tune with our biological self. We would agree, I hope, that the experience was of a simplicity in daily life, when the building blocks are allowed to be connected at a natural rate of time, and the world we construct around us becomes gradually formed.

Two writers, with roots in the Italian region of Molise but now living in the USA, explore ideas of Time through their works, as we live it in the un-stoppable, forward motion of lives.

Giose Rimanelli and Don DeLillo experienced contrasting beginnings to their lives: one born in Casacalenda in 1926 and the other in an average immigrant household in New York.

Early in life, Rimanelli escaped the clutches of rural life but has remained preoccupied with his place of origin; his earlier works Tiro al Piccione and Original Sin (Peccato Originale) deal directly with his departure, and later in life, Rimanelli returned to the language and culture of Molise in Il ViaggioMolise MoliseMoliseide and other works.

“This return to origins, so central to Rimanelli’s most recent works and at the heart of the poems of Moliseide, is a controlled purposeful regression, a remapping and a reordering of one’s life in the light of a deeper and fuller understanding. A regression toward the mythical world of childhood, with its promise of a maternal, archetypal tongue.”

DeLillo was born in 1936, the year Rimanelli left Molise for the first time. With parents recently arrived from Montagano in Molise, DeLillo grew up influenced as much by the rituals and cultural traditions of his large family as by the environment surrounding him in New York.

Widely recognized as one of the most influential fiction writers of the latter twentieth Century, DeLillo’s works explore the themes which characterize Western society at the turn of the Millennium: mass media, the disintegration of the family, the role of the activist, (be it artist, politician or terrorist), and have in turn influenced a generation of writers and artists. Like Rimanelli, DeLillo’s oeuvre reflects anxiety within society and a sense of powerlessness in dealing with factors which determine our lives yet remain beyond our control.

“She told him she liked the idea of slowness in general. So many things going so fast, she said. We need time to lose interest in things”

In his novel Point Omega, DeLillo frames the story within a description of Douglas Gordon’s iconic video-installation 24 Hour Psycho of 1993. This influential work is a version of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho that has been slowed down to last 24 hours, turning each frame of Hitchcock’s film into a series of unfolding still images.

Choosing an iconic work by one of the most influential directors of cinematic filmmaking, Gordon creates an awe-inspiring temporal and visual experience, which beguiles and intrigues. Only by submitting to Gordon’s slowed-down time can we hope to make meaning of the unfolding events, yet Gordon’s treatment expands the dramatic events to an infinity, from which we can find neither resolution nor conclusion.

Giose Rimanelli’s earliest works are drawn from his own observations of the changing society of Molise as he saw it rupture and yield to opportunities abroad, and of the stark challenges found within an often hostile and rarely sympathetic receiving society. By the 1930s many of the communities of Molise had already lost the majority of adult male workers in a trend that would only stabilise, to a much diminished proportion, at the turn of the next century. Such was the odd sense of connectedness of Molise during much of the 1900s that it was often easier to obtain knowledge of society in Melbourne, Perth, Paris or Toronto than in other parts of the Region.

Since these early journeys, Molise, and many other similar communities in Italy, has experienced Time as a combination of actual and imagined states. The resident Molisani lived Seasonal Time in communities following a Lunar calendar and the changing seasons, with the colour of the hills and the peel of the church bell regulating the passing of Time. The metropolitan Molisani, living ‘all’Estero’ experienced industrialized Time, mortgaged to the momentum of someone else’s schedule for a future yet to be earned. What was created in between these two enormously different experiences was an imagined space and a timeless Time into which each could project without any possibility of quantification or measurement.

“My great-grandfather, who died in our home in 1940, did not remember the year of his birth with exactitude. However, he had a strong sense of the season of the year of his birth. His time was the existential experience of hot and cold, a quality in the air, a tactile experience – not an abstract sum.”

After a generation, say 20 or so years, you can start to fold Time to grasp its effects more tangibly. When considered in this way, Rural Time starts to illustrate its yield, often concerned more with what has been conserved rather than changed. But of course, it takes almost a lifetime to learn how to recognise this, and the value of achievements can become difficult to distinguish in a society which has become used to living Time at a rate of minutes.

Deirdre Mackenna
Deirdre’s field of practice is both interdisciplinary and intercultural, facilitating an interest in the intangible elements of cultural hybridity, time and place. Deirdre builds bespoke partnerships with a diverse range of collaborating individuals and agencies in order to enable the complex nature of cultural hybridity to be engaged with in ways which transcend cultural norms (e.g. conventional attitudes, dominant practices, and existing institutional models).
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