Daphne Cneorum

Space is fundamental in any form of communal life;
space is fundamental in any exercise of power.
Michel Foucault, Space, Knowledge and Power
In 1973, with the volume “The new cartography,” the German historian and geographer Arno
Peters proposed a revolutionary way of representing the planisphere, five hundred years after
the universally accepted by Mercator. A projection in which the image of the planet is returned
with greater objectivity, reducing the distortions that in Mercator’s projection increase the scale
(and therefore reduce the size) of everything that is farthest away from the equator.
In the chart of Peters, on the other hand, the proportions among the actual surface of the
various continents is preserved, with the aim of correcting the traditional Eurocentric vision.
“The new cartography is based on the knowledge that all the peoples of the earth have the
same rights”. Statements on which Peters based his proposal to revise our vision of the world. A
conviction more revolutionary than it sounds today to the ears of the Western populations, born
after the end of the colonial period, which assimilated this concept without realizing how it is
nonetheless violated on a daily basis. A specific case, of particular importance, is that of the
relationship between the population and the right to live in their own territory.
“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”, alleged
Simone Weil, ‘It is one of the hardest to define “, that opposes the ““the disease of uprootedness”, the
most dangerous sickness of human society” […]. ” In all parts of our country at the present time — and
setting aside the question of the conquest — there are two poisons at work spreading this disease. One of
them is money. Money destroys human roots wherever it is able to penetrate, by turning desire for gain
into the sole motive. It easily manages to outweigh all other motives, because the effort it demands of the
mind is so very much less. Nothing is so clear and so simple as a row of figures.” 1
From the theme of the fragile relationship between the individual and the territory takes its
stance the exhibition “Daphne Cneorum. Something there needs to thrive”.
The issue of the land, the disciplines of ‘custody’ of the natural environment and the fight to the
processes that threaten its destruction, (in particular, the deforestation) are addressed by
Simona Barbera through various media. As a result of a long research, the project developed
from a journey, over ten years ago, into the struggles of the Brazilian communities of the
Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (landless rural workers), the land occupation
movement deprived of their right to cultivate communal lands, due to the Brazilian
Governmental Policies.
In the second half of the 60s, the American artist of the Land Art developed a specific attention
toward the natural space as scenario working material. Remarkable interventions by the artists
of this movement – although geographically – had been able to capture subjects still sensitive
today. The intervention of Beuys in 1982 at Documenta ”7000 Oaks,” during which more than seven
thousand oaks were planted, proposed as a restitution of its rights to the violated and sacrificed plant

Women are oftentimes in relation to the protection of the environment: an empathetic and physical
presence that can be found in the work of the Cuban artist Ana Mendieta.
But it is around the ‘mapping procedure’ of Robert Smithson that Simona Barbera finds a more important
inspiration: in his interest in the landscape marked by man’s intervention, transformed in a ‘territory apart
from representation’2.
The interest of Smithson in the concept of entropy, a vision opposite to the mechanicistic idea of a world
that move forward a further equilibrium, designed his attention toward the relationship between man and
nature, culture, territory and the post industrial. ‘Mapping’ is often used in his works, in a sort of ‘negative’
form, as in the ‘Non-site.’
In different ways, mapping is often at the center of the work of Alighiero Boetti, who uses geography as a
visual element to describe the world, by questioning the representation of reality and its power relations.
In his maps he chose the form of embroidery, a long skilled ancient art, carried out by female hands, the
elaboration of which requires good care of creation.
In the work of Simona Barbera many other influences have played a role; therefore it is necessary to
mention the writings of Lucy Lippard, the American art critic and activist whereof in the catalog is
reproduced an excerpt from the essay “The lure of the Local”.
“Daphne Cneorum” is the scientific name of a common poisonous plant, also called Cneoro or ‘odora’
Daphne, which grows in the fields above one thousand meters height, in the past used to dye wool and
fabrics. A useful plant, yet poisonous, which became the title of a complex narration, weaved by the artist
with three very different works.
In the audio track, the artist’s voice outlines different events of dispossession and land eviction
of ”the ancestral portions of land inhabited yet by indigenous communities” threaten by destructive
environmental measures.
Through the processing of different sound sources (acoustic and electronic), the soundtrack
consists of a long soundscape made up of low frequencies and field recordings.
A series of hand-dye on untreated canvas reproduce, through the applying of natural pigment,
the maps of zones marked by heavy deforestation. The maps, reproduced by stretching the
fabric with an embroidery hoop, appears as a circular blurry area, which only at a closer look
reveal forms taken from a geographical map of the global deforestation made available on the
web by the University of Maryland. On the maps, all green areas show the vegetation, the red
ones the deforestation.
The depiction of the ‘sensitive’ areas of the map with reddish vegetable pigment, it’s an indirect
reference to the plantations made in the past centuries for cultivating dye plants such as the
Indigo, which has caused in turn different uprising episodes known as the Blue Rebellion,
alongside massive transplanting of numerous species of plants.
A series of photographs documenting a path in the Norwegian woods – the country in which,
together with Italy, the artist lives – record the formation of ice on the surface of water. The
series of photos try to fix an impossible time to display, in which the water is transformed into
ice, a natural event that global warming has made in recent years increasingly uncertain.

The exhibition is, therefore, composed as in a game of Chinese boxes, of works apparently very
different from each other that dialog in a continuous reciprocal reference, to detect, as in a
kaleidoscopic vision, the continuous bouncing of topics, questions, references, images.
About thirty years after the new cartographic view of Peters, in 2005, an American journalist and
author, Richard Louv, coined the term “nature deficit disorder” proposing to pinpoint, in the loss
of relationship with the natural environment, the cause of many behavioral disorders of children
and adolescents.
The belief of Beuys, that man has to retrieve the contact with things “under him, animals, plants
and nature, and above him, angels and spirits”, still requires a long effort to follow through.

1 Simone Weil, La prima radice, SE, Milano 1990
2 Francesco Careri, Walkscapes, Einaudi, 2006