Genova, Pilgrims & Asveri

May 15, 2018

The posters of the Gianfranco Asveri exhibition at the Commenda were the first thing I noticed arriving in Genova a few days ago. I didn't know  who he was, I still don't, in a way, but his paintings seemed so fresh, colourful and innocent, in a grey town steeped in so much history that seems to almost break the back of its inhabitants. My own pilgrimage brought me to explore the Commenda, where I had never been before, and to be transported into the world of the Medieval pilgrim, who knocked at this door to find a place to sleep, to wash, and to eat. Thousands and thousands of pilgrims knocked at this door.


While reading the history of the hospital/hostel commissioned in 1180 by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, I saw the pilgrims. I use seeing, as opposed to looking based on the distinction made by Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan in A Separate Reality. Quote (sort of): "Looking refers to the ordinary way in which we are accustomed to perceive the world, while seeing entails a very complex process by virtue of which one perceives the essence of the things of the world..."


At the Commenda, today, I saw the pilgrims, I became one, I knocked at that door, and rested on a bed with other pilgrims. Ignorant of the world, of geography, of how to travel, I learned the stories of a flat world, stories of adventure, mystery, miracles. I ate and slept, and dreamt of my Jerusalem, near and far away, in a land of visions and death. I drank wine with the sick.


I ascended to the Asveri exhibition on the second floor, and wondered if there was a link, if Via Roma 53 was part of a pilgrimage. If memory was too. I felt that I was seeing without knowing, while the only three other museum visitors looked, keeping a knowledgeable distance, that protected them from feeling. For some, knowledge is a shield. For me it's the joy of acquiring, losing, forgetting, searching, with the freshness of Asveri's pets.


To explore, with innocence.


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