"The shadow of the night"

Prof. Enrica Colabella

Generative Design Lab. Politecnico di Milano





Every shadow of the day is similar and different in my mind

IL Canto/The Singing

Mi parlerai/You will talk to me

Come un canto antico, semplice/As an ancient song, simple

Senza alcuna esclamazione./Without any exclamation.

Faremo pausa del numero/We will take breach of numbering

Per un dolce respiro dell'anima./For a sweet breath of soul.


Streams of Story

The shadows as a code

Shadows are evocative places, Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens.

They are as a subsystem, that is the first representation of the idea that is evolving in our mind.

This code is a tool for identity: we define our idea before for proceeding in poetic world and for building our identity.

The idea in Generative Art, in first time and plurality. The shadow of the night.

Over the borders of our world, beyond the Celestial Vault of sky, Platone imagines in his poem Fedro that the Truth Plain extends.

There are the Ideas, without arms and face and body, without color and form. But only few souls can be introduced to supreme mystery: they are able to contemplate the immutable splendor of the Ideas. They know the real science and the

untouched bliss.

Goethe in the Myth of Mothers tried to represent the contrast between the Reality sphere and the Being one with Platone'

pattern in his mind, but in contrast way. The Mothers live beyond the caves, the breaches and underground labyrinths, where the gold of alchemy is occulted between " the night and Horror ". They show the total solitude: a desolate desert.

All around an eternally  void distance is shown. The travelling man can know only the ecstasy of Nothing.

Only light is a burning tripod. Near that dim flame the Mothers stay like specters and around their heads  "the images of all creatures" are in the air. These images are not archetypes, like the Ideas in Platone are, they are "what once was". There they still are the shadow of their own " form " (Gestalt 7439). In the world of Mothers they begun "scheme".

Already  Plurarco in "The life of Marcello" tales that in  Sicily existed a little town of Enguio, "very ancient and very famous for the apparition of goddesses, that are called Mothers, and after also Cicerone in " Oration against Verre" said that in Enguio sanctuary was the cult of Great Mother.

The Mothers are the only possible relation between the two essentials of Being and of Reality .

They superintend the " forming and transforming"( Gestaltung, Umgestaltung) for "the eternal game of eternal mind"(6287-8)

They transform the void scheme in an unique reality; at the end they get  images in the same course that they  have done infinitely, " in the sweet course of lifetime", " under the tend of the day and the vault of the night ", in always new sites and times. Therefore it is up to Mothers to transform a scheme in a multitude, all different, but connected by an occult similitude, lending from a same code.

Under this generative power we begin to grow starting from the roots. We look ahead, like a just winged bird, eager to fly.

So man in knowledge of this intense feeling reaches the mania condition, as the light and pure soul of the real poets.

"This is the first knowledge and the first action: to know  ourselves and to feel our soul".

When Faust comes back to the light his initiation is performed.

Grande Madre, a Te/ To You Great Mother

Sul selciato puro e lunare/Upon the limpid lunar paving

Di un lieve suono sopito/With a gentle sedate sound

Levo con dolce piccola cura/I draw the sweet little care

L' arcano svelato./Of the unveil  secret.

Flebile richiamo/Just a try of call

All'altro, a noi/To another, to us

Alla simbiosi madre figlio/To symbiosis mother and son

Persa per sempre/For ever lose

Nasciamo in due e moriamo soli./We born in two and we dye alone.

The neophyte knows all performing that other men don't  know and don't want to see. With a great dream he

plans a world infinitely more rich then that where we live.






Involuntary memory. The room of the night.

An example of this creativity process comes from Marcel Proust. He made build a room all covered by cork, where any ray of sunlight could rise: a night for ever. There he begun to write The Recherche and in that room, as a heart of night he ended all The Recherche. A night without time. A room without natural light, in shadow for the chant of night.

 A singular point of view: A PoeticCode in Perspective.

 In script of Decio Gioseffi about the Renaissance perspective is this mention of Brunelleschi about perspective codes: "What renders intelligible and mastered an architecture (and also readable and harmonic to our eyes) it is not presence of numeric relations (as it might be the golden relation between the length and width of a window), but constancy and running again iteration of which every relation, that we choose before as fundamental."

 This is the real contribution of perspective. An operative teaching, that is not possible to evade. We recognize the design of Brunelleschi,of Leonardo, of Mantegna,and so on,for their different imprintings. These they defined before and these are iniundersites in their opera.

Codes in time evolving. " The eternal game of eternal mind"

Dolce fanciulla vestita/Sweet Young clothed

Di orgogliosa certezza/ Of proud certainty

Leva il tuo sguardo in sogni/Raise your eyes to dreams

Solo da vivere/Just for living

Che non potrai lasciare in eredita’./That you could not leave in heritage.

Dell' io derinto/ About ego vanished

Della madre tenera/Of tender Mother

Conserva il seme./Preserve code

Con silenti lacrime/With silent tears

Costruisci il luogo/Form the prolific site

Fertile della sua visione in fiore./Of her view in flower.

 We can define Generative approach as a run from idea to shapes, from shadows to light. It is possible to represent this run infinitely, as natural world. Every day sun runs and dyes.

In the shadow rises civilization and shadow draws fantastic world.

But we have to intend about the significance of fantastic. In Latin fantastic said morosus. This adjective means morbid, eccentric. Or cerebrosus , involved. In the Academy of Crusca Opera fantastica means "without foundations". In fact if an artist images before the scenes of his tales, or his paintings instead of discovering them with the running  of his idea, as generative way does, we cannot find an opera of art.

Dante says

Tu stesso ti fai grosso

Col falso immaginar, si' che non vedi

Cio' che vedresti, se l'avessi scosso.

Several tools can be used against this attitude: sistro, used in Isiache holidays, rolls, yet used by English boys during ball matches, tops, used by Pythagorean, beads, used in several religions, and so on.

But today this passive attitude to imagine is not more only specific of slothful person. In fact movies, Television, music, books are only for evasive entertainment Their goals are to spend the human time. Spectators are active in time of technical repeatability only for admission and exit and nothing else.

A Commonplace as hidden tools to activate conscious process

" Yes, with fantasy "

This turn of phrase is high ambiguous. It defines the unrealistic man, in an enclosed meaning,  his exclusion from reality.

It is an ancient Mediterranean way of speaking. It contains a border, leaving a possible opening margin. From which we can find also a fantastic sense as a measure in progress of reality. Commonplaces are angular stones and materials for filling up literature. They are analogous to drawings that some abstract painters do shaping the picture, when they write in the camp sites the names of colors to remember to intellect in conceptual way what will be offered to eye in perceptible way.

These embody shaded and fleeting  specters that topos  wants to perform.

Indizi/Traces .

The showed paradigm.

All this century is the story of shadows. The underground tool in  new unique light.

From the screen of Nietzsche : God is died, all what was under, veiled is shown in its own peculiarity. Laws, structures, norms are shaped and shown in abstract way. Just they are the plurality of forms. The idea is the opera, This in music, literature, see FinnegansWake of Joyse and first of all in painting.

First trace

Klee in his work eliminates form in totality, but in the same time he connects to myth in some titles of his paintings (see the exhibition in act in Monaco). He puts into a species of hieroglyphs his writing for images and as an Orphic chant he tales senses of signs in calling his pictures with the names of ancient myths. The ancient masks of  Greek tragedy perform in metaphors. These are in a new modern place, with different dresses, but in the same sense.

Second Trace: The shadows of the evening

Amo carnalmente/I love in carnal way

Il mio devastante silenzio./My devastanting silence

Resounds, the myth as root

The main peculiar form of some sculptures of Giacometti is the radical elongated shape. This mark get to recognize these opera immediately. The shape reminds to image of human body when the sun is low on the horizon, at sunset. This device is the idea., the imprinting of sculptures as an ambiguous sign of a shifty reality. This is an high modern identity.

Giacometti said: "Everything happens if in a dream, time, space, I no longer understand anything. And you ask me to write notes of my sculptures. I don't know. It' s all so far!".

All opera of this artist, not only  some very similar sculptures, is imprinted from Etruscan culture

"All the more strong frames of mind take a resound of  similar feelings and compositions: they move memory. In their places some memories awoke us and we begin conscious of analogous sites and of their origin. So it is forming rapid links of feelings and of thoughts that we don't feel evermore as a complex act, but as a unity".()

Signs of connection

In 1917, he was sixteen, Giacometti made the self-portrait Laughing

If we observe the features of people sculptured on top of Etruscan tombs, we note that these are high imprecise, not realistic, "idealized", just burlesque. Both picture and tops are flat, without depth., without shadow.

"My work comes to me, already completed, that they simply appeared in my mind".

"The shadow of the evening" is the name that Grabriele D' Annunzio gave to a sculpture of Etruscan culture, as an oral tradition attributed. This opera is considered the best one inside a twenty  similar exempla, that are united in a same elongated  figure. It is in relief model. Almost all are done in a very schematic way by thin strip. Over elongated form they have the same form of arms, shoulders and legs, hang,  when they are not nude, shape of back  and body profile.

Until today the mystery is standing around these figures, as in all Etruscan civilization, especially about their origins .

A point of  cultural connection with Giacometti  might be the  hypothesis of Annio da Viterbo, a Dominican monk off 400' hundred, prime Humanist in studying Etruscan culture. In his book, Antiquitates ( ) he ascribed a Semitic origin to Etruscans. He said that they are direct descendants of  Noe', gone in Etruria with the name of Vertumno and founder of Viterbo. This hypothesis is not sure, but it is possible.

Iconological manners defines The shadow of the evening in several different modes:

·         He belongs to Lari, domestic gods of  supernatural dimension (Larem domesticum humana specie maiorem)

·         He is a local divinity ( dii indigetes)

·         He is a Lemure, a spirit of dead, a demon, but it never got in representation.

·         He is the image of a silk child, a giant

·         He is an ex-vow

·         He is Tagete, the son of  Genius and of a nephew of Jove, the prophet child that is sage as an old man. A sign of certainty is body nudity, peculiar of gods.

He have not pins and base, he is not able to stay on foot. Many little dissymmetry get a sense of moving.

These data don't reveal the mystery hole that is around this sculpture and others.

If we put together these operas and the Giacometti sculptures, so very far during human time, we can define a similitude, but, it is sure, none can affirm that Giacometti' work is a copy. Why? The answer is very simple.

They represent the human idea. This rises from a trouble process. But it defines our identity.

In front of a work that is a results of an own difficult and laboured discovery every person fells its quality, pass over same taste. Every recognizes idea. Also if he don't understand it, or we don't share it.

In the last self-portrait of 1923  Giacometti, in accordance with Romantic tradition ( this is a mine hypothesis ) gives to us a sign of his performing matrix. He puts over his shoulders, on the left , in the same site of heart, an Etruscan vase.

Just a little anecdote.

In 1960 Giacometti went to Etruscan Museum of Volterra and saw the shadow of evening with Mino Trafeli, a critic of Art. This asked him about the similitude with his work. He did not answer any words, he called a cigarette to a custodian and cutting it in two parts he begun to smoke in silence.

It is the silent the  only pause of chant.

La figurazione dell’ irrazionale/The shape of unreality

Tratti forti, deboli arcani/High manners, feeble mysteries

Primogenie matrici/Firstborn matrices

Di sogni iscatolati/Of canned dreams

In lavatrici sempre/In washing machines always

Piu’ silenziose dove/More silent where

Il come è diffuso e disperso/How is widely and missing

Lasciate nel tratto memore/Leave in mindful part of

Del ginocchio espresso/Of express knee

L’identita’ della mia sottile/Identity of my thin

Speranza di costruire/Hope of building

Nell’improvviso riverbero/In the sudden reflection

Un come altero flebile/A proud and feeble how

Come un giunco in erba/As a budding rush

Bagnato da un argenteo/Watering by a silvery

Suono liberatore/Sound releasing.

Third trace: The shadow of the day


The principle of function of ancient tools for knowing  hours of day is inside this Latin saw.

An ancient trace: Decempedalis/Ten Feet

This is a measurement of shadow of every own body in units called "feet". Aristofane pointed out the time (or better the moment) of dinner when shadow of a man had length of ten feet. This type of watch was called "Stoicheion" and it was very much used until IX century.

This very simple technique evolved in complex way, defining several new information.

The sundial indicates sun journey in sky through shadow getting over stilo or gnomone, so it is called the indicator element, that can be a sharp iron, a metallic triangle and so on. This is very irregular journay,it changes according to Keplero theorem. Shadows are different in each place.

“Advocandum est gnomices summae ac divinae artis fulmentum” Igino il Gromatico II sec. d.C.

Among several people that studied this technique Vitruvio (IX Liber), Plinio il Vecchio (Naturalis Story), Apione, Erodoto,and many other philosophers and mathematics, Leonardo, Andrea Mantegna, and Hans Holbein, the young.

In his painting “The Ambassadors” he represented the date and the hour in wich the picture where done with a solar quadrant.

 Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit, wrote in 1646 Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae. This opera is one of first exempla of Generative and complex Art. This is a global synthesis of Gnomonica, Geometry, Astronomy, Astrology, Astrolatria, etc., never happened and tought in the world. All these complex meanings needed only an horizontal plane and one stilo-gnomone. They are able to tale a lot of  very defferent informations. A first effect beyond his work is a sence of wonder and visual pleasure. He invented several easy methods for building solar watches connected to many disciplines.

In Sciatericon Astronomicus Hemerologius Totius Motus Primi Mobilis, we find a civil calendar, with names of  Saints and holidays.

In Sciatericum Iatrico-Georgico-Oeconomicus Electionum we find things total different:

Phlebotomia (about doing bloodletting)

Medicinae Sumptio (about taking drugs)

Balnea (about having a bath)

Aedificatio (about building houses)

Piscatio (about fishing)

Caesura ligni (about cutting wood)

Plantasio semi (about sowing)

Kircher designed also small portaable watch, with conjurier effects.


The inner world:S. Maria degli Angeli

In ancient time the inner world was called forum poli, and also inner hole, in other words hole of heaven and tramontana.

The last opera of Michelangelo was S. Maria degli Angeli under ruins of Roman Thermal Baths. Inside it was built a Meridian. But when Vanvitelli made again the Basilica did not takeit in consideration. So it was necessary to do a deep cut inside the frame of Cappella Albergati.

Also Romans readden for a hundred of years  wrong hours on a meridian taken away from Catania by Valerio Messala and installed at Fori.

Art and science are conquist of knowledge.

Avanza lenta l’ ombra/Rises slowly shadow

I tuoi passi di bimba/Your steps of little girl

Leggiadra ovattano/Gracefully muffle

Uno spazio oscuro di/A dark space of

Paura e tremore,/Fear and tremor;

Vecchi forti richiamano/Great old men draw

Fate dalle leggiere mani./Faries with lovely hands.

Tu trasporti nel cuore/You get in your heart

E nelle borse armoniose/And in your harmonious bags

Bellezza e tocchi echeggiant./Beauty and echoed touches.

 Suoni e dolci parole/Sounds and sweet words

Regolano il tuo ritmo/Steady your steps

Nel cammino,/In walcking,

Scorre lento il passo/The step run slow

Nel giardino del silenzio/In the garden of silent

Uno sguardo amico veglia il tuo dire./A friendly look watch your saying.