Sailing on Dry Waters

Year: 2012-2015
Technique: mix media, variable dimensions
Website: sailingondrywaters.com

Gloria Vallese:
My most remote memory, as a little girl, is a walk (or more than one, probably) during which I discovered with great wonder the existence of other houses, other people living their mysterious lives beyond their windows.

I know from my parents that I must have been between three and five then. 

The adults' hands to which I was safely anchored during those walks probably broadcasted that that adventure beyond our own home gate was a normal, secure experience. Yet my emotion and bewilderment must have been great, because I have a vivid, almost photographic recollection of windows in the twilight, of unknown characters talking and moving inside, of weeds that grew between the stones, of pillars and iron gates to other gardens. 

 I think it is why, as an adult, I feel especially attracted by novels or movies in which mystery and wonder develop from normal, commonplace details of everyday life. Doors, windows, dead walls, weeds, gas meters, stairs, are for me the beginning of the most intensely fantastic adventure tales. Just allow each detail a quiet moment, and they will draw you into the realm of imagination, unto the most unexpected, strange, even gory development.

I feel especially attracted by this Sailing on Dry Waters series, where the bond between normal and uncanny appears to be so intense.

Some images in this collection point overtly to a repertoire of other stories: mystery, thriller. Urban gothic. Some, consciously or not, quote famous movies. All are deeply symbolic. They are homes, mostly. And, as somebody else’s homes, they are synonym of mystery. A wall means an inscrutable secret; a window or door ajar, allows a glimpse inside; a closed door, means that there could be an access, but that it is, at the moment, denied (in Sailing in Dry Waters, we find so many windows and doors walled up; also a whole facade sealed by a mantle of ivy). A mirror, a puddle, are pools of reflection, from which the adventure of the double starts; the image, the virtual and unreal world, are deceiving, frail, yet so magic.

Sigmund Freud devoted an essay to the Uncanny (Das Unheimlich, 1919). “The German word 'unheimlich', he wrote, is obviously the opposite of 'heimlich' ['homely'], 'heimisch' ['native'], the opposite of what is familiar; and we are tempted to conclude that what is 'uncanny' is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar."

But Freud discusses this notion: for him, the uncanny is what should be familiar, yet, for some reason, it resonates to us as strange and unknown.

I also find the German word "unheimlich" ill-conceived:  for me also, it is in our homes, our neighborhood, our familiar town (that, in this case, could be Bucharest) that the most wondrous adventure tale is waiting to drive us in an unknown, elsewhere.