The psychic center

“The idea was to start in New Orleans and from there we had no plan.” This is a line from Joan Didion’s recently published notebook South and West, written during her stay in the South in June of 1970.
Further on in her notes she writes: “There was no reportorial imperative to any of the places I went at the time I went: nothing “happened” anywhere I was, no celebrated murders, trials, integration orders, confrontations, not even any celebrated acts of God. I had only some dim and unformed sense, a sense which struck me now and then, and which I could not explain coherently, that for some years the South and particularly the Gulf Coast had been for America what people were still saying California was, and what California seemed to me not to be: the future, the secret source of malevolent and benevolent energy, the psychic center. I did not much want to talk about this.

I spent two months in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, with a plan that was similar in its ephemeralness to ms. Didion’s. I’ve been obsessed with the Medieval flagellants for quite some time now. From my studies, a number of themes emerged: the whip, the blood, spectacle, a claim on supernatural or mystical knowledge.

The image of the flagellants keeps haunting me, but I want to move this image to a contemporary setting, using a personal narrative of obsession as its basis.

The idea of the South as the psychic center appealed to me. It’s in many ways a religious place, a place where the occult still plays a role, where mystical, supernatural ideas keep their grasp on some people. In Cajun country, people whip each other during Mardi Gras. The whipping stems from the Medieval flagellants, some writers have claimed.

And so there we were. The flagellants believed they could overthrow the natural order of things by whipping themselves. Joan Didion believed she could learn things about California by visiting Louisiana. I believed I could learn things about the flagellants by visiting Becca, a Cajun ‘traiteur’, or traditional healer, in Scott, near Lafayette.

When I arrived – hungover, I admit with shame – Becca took me to a tree that was spiritually significant to her. Her identity is largely based on being part of the community, and for her there is a transcendent component to being part of Cajun culture. A travel writer from a different state who was drawn to Becca came with us to the tree. She talked about the energies she felt there, the colors she saw emanating from the tree. “Y’all are crazy if you don’t come check out this gigantic thistle”, she shouted from across the field. “There’s a ladybug on here!” We did not comply with her request.

Do you feel energy emanating from this tree?”, Becca asked me. I said I did not. It felt like a confession. Why was I feeling guilt?

Later in the car, I talked to Becca about the significance of the Courir de Mardi Gras for the Cajun culture, for the local communities. “It felt like an echo of a tradition”, I told her. Becca nodded in agreement. The travel writer chipped in and started explaining to Becca that Mardi Gras was actually only about money. “It’s transformed into something to lure tourists to Louisiana, which is good for those people”, she said. Becca was displeased by this notion. You should never try to explain someone’s own culture to them, I thought. So I took care to listen to Becca carefully.

That night, she read to me from a notebook. She told me stories about her life, how she was diagnosed with a mental illness, that she’s a cancer survivor. Being a healer helped her at first, but now she’s transforming into an artist. I wondered what I was, at that moment. I felt I came looking for a transforming miracle myself, but I wasn’t finding it. She told me about her amputated breast, which was very real, and she told me how her deceased daughter was giving her instructions – via a spiritual medium – about how to be the healer of Cajun culture itself. She wants to bring light and love to the darkness of her culture. “My daughter’s helping me heal the collective Cajun unconscious”, she said. Here then was mystical, supernatural information, and yet I couldn’t relate to it the way I could relate to the scar I imagined to be on her chest, or the grave Becca showed me where she would come to lie upon her death.

The next day, Becca took me to the place near where her daughter had violently ended her own life. I looked for a transcending experience, yet found beauty in this kind of emotional intimacy.

To Live in the South, One Has To Be a Scar Lover. That’s the name of the book Maaike Gouwenberg and Joris Lindhout made in 2011, referencing the writer Harry Crews.

Writing, researching, is traumatizing in an abstract way, because the fabric of your expectations is always being torn up. Thankfully, scars can be very appealing. Just wait ‘til you see mine.

Private Salon with Jan van Tienen

Thursday April 20 at 7:00PM, private salon with Jan van Tienen, at the house of Maurice Ruffin.

We choose our words –
Notes on family
Deltaworkers and the Dutch foundation for literature present a partial English translation of Jan van Tienen’s debut novel Nothing here remains.

A family is a blunt instrument that guides and moulds. It shapes one’s character, like a drunk man shapes a vase. There are intentions, but they are fickle and their effect is uncertain, and all the while the wheel keeps turning. Sometimes the clay starts to chip. Let’s study the fragments.

Please contact us at to order a copy of Nothing here remains or to attend a reading in New Orleans.

Digital Water

Wednesday April 12 at 6PM, lecture and book launch of the International Cloud Atlas Vol. III (2016, 2nd edition) by Christina Gruber, at The Stacks, 900 Camp Street (inside the CAC).

Volume III of the International Cloud Atlas (2016, 2nd edition) deals with the analog parts in the digital world, in this case water. A digital “cloud” (a network of servers) needs water to cool down its processors to be able to stream data at the highest speeds. The first digital “cloud” is described in the third Volume of the International Cloud Atlas. This specific “cloud” is located in a small village in Upper Austria, Kronstorf. Here Google purchased land for a future data center. These manifestations of the digital world become visible and add an additional layer on the Earth’s surface. “Digital Water” engages in the relationship the user has with streams of data and the connection to water streams in the “real” world. The virtual world is connected to the most abundant element in the world: water, and gains actual weight. 

According to the World Meteorological Organisation (International Cloud Atlas, 1975) clouds are so called hydrometeors. A meteor is a phenomenon observed in the atmosphere or on the surface of the earth, which consists of a suspension, a precipitation, or a phenomenon of the nature of an optical or electrical manifestation. Clouds consist of minute particles of liquid water or ice, or of both, suspended in the atmosphere and usually not touching the ground. However, a specific cloud does not permanently consist of the exact same particles. Technically speaking, a cloud is not even an object, but an area in the atmosphere reaching over saturation.

Somewhere at the bottom of my memory are the sunken remains of all the films I have ever seen

What the fuck are you looking at? Why are you staring at me?

He tells me, irritated, one of three guys sitting on the porch of a house on – I don’t know what street. I would have replied “ah no, sorry, I wasn’t looking at you, but at some kind of specter of you which is buried in a cinematic elsewhere. In this case a very recent elsewhere since I’ve just seen Moonlight (2016), because everyone was telling me that it’s an amazing film, and so a scene came to my mind… I don’t care what you’re doing, I looked at you with the same stupefied face as I looked at the kids playing baseball in the backyard of a house some blocks down. Me, I’ve only seen this thing in the movies. From my own personal archive I’m drawing frames or stills which I have unconsciously saved and which, just as unconsciously, pop out as I’m cycling or walking.

Obviously I don’t reply anything like that to the irritated guy. I limit myself to looking down and sneaking off as quickly as a rat when startled by a sudden noise.

One thing all films have in common is the power to take perception elsewhere. As I write this, I’m trying to remember a film I liked, or even one I didn’t like. My memory becomes a wilderness of elsewheres. […]

I will allow the elsewheres to reconstruct themselves as a tangled mass. Somewhere at the bottom of my memory are the sunken remains of all the films I have ever seen, good and bad they swarm together forming cinematic mirages, stagnant pools of images that cancel each other out. A notion of the abstractness of films crosses my mind, only to be swallowed up in a morass of Hollywood garbage. [Robert Smithson, A Cinematic Atopia, in Artforum. Special Film Issue, edited by Annette Michelson, September 1971.]

The fact is that my first week in the US, in New Orleans, is a trip down these personal elsewheres from cinema or national television. They ask me what has struck me the most in these first days in New Orleans. “Hey Gio, so what’s the most beautiful thing you’ve seen till now?

I don’t know“, I say

I like to wander around and look at the houses at different moments of the day.

In fact there is no shortage of richness in architectural styles here. I have a little booklet from the Historic District Landmarks Commission of New Orleans in which they’ve gathered all the different types of houses in the city: from the Shotgun to the Townhouse and Greek revival.

But, before I can put my new architectural knowledge to use, television images from my childhood pour into my mind. Images floating in my cinematic subconscious. “They float down here…they all float down here” as Pennywise said to Georgie before killing him in the TV miniseries IT (1990). In fact, I can’t help but notice I’m riding a cruiser bike like one of the kids in the series.

So, in order to get to the center I head towards the house of “Freddy Kruger in Nightmare on Elm Street” and then, shortly after, I cross this sort of jet market from the “Simpsons”, turn right and find myself on the street with colonial houses which seem like “Gone with the Wind” reshot in 2017… and, bam, I’m in the center”.

My mental maps are a collage of overlapping and interchangeable visions, a film privately projected in the movie theatre behind my eyes. The fiction preceding my gaze, which has crept in as a filter between the landscape that surrounds me and the retina of my eyeballs. Many are those who tell me that the first week is the one in which the jet lag manifests itself most intensely; you find yourself intoxicated for free, a constant wakefulness which slightly distorts the perception of things and of the flowing of time. You are, in other words, constantly “stoned”.

Horror movies play with our strongest emotions and the fear and distress they evoke cause their images to remain in our visual memories the longest. They are glued stuck there, like chewing gum under school desks until you lay your hand on them.

During my gothic metal teens, I watched an infinity of horror movies (to be honest I’ve always watched them but in my teens it was my duty as a metalhead), thanks to this visual baggage, Louisiana (the one geographically situated in my imagination) has become a land of horror. We (me and the metalheads) often watched interviews with the vampire.

In my mind, even films that weren’t filmed in Louisiana were filmed here. Louisiana is the name of the receptacle which contains my personal archive of horror memories. These residential areas which I’m passing through, anonymous and new to me, are not familiar because of experience but are mentally decoded by my perception to be familiar. It is this feeling that I’m “reliving” things that amplifies the unsettling aspect of them, they are an echo of a deep-seated image infesting their appearance. As in The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.

The objects surrounding me […] I couldn’t deny the extent to which everything was known to me, and nonetheless I was surprised to perceive how strange the fantasies were that those ordinary images agitated in me.

In 1980, Lucio Fulci came to New Orleans to shoot the movie The Beyond (1981), which I have always called by its Italian name L’aldilà e tu vivrai nel terrore. Here (or in an elsewhere) is the Seven Doors Hotel that the main character reaches via the endless freeway which cuts through Lake Pontchartrain. The same dwelling, with slight adaptations, is featured in the movie Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1988), directed by Claudio Lattanzi and produced by the legendary Aristide Massacesi alias Joe D’Amato. Obviously I visited this house (now museum) during my first days in Louisiana. I needed to geographically pinpoint one of my cinematic elsewheres, to remove it from abstraction and experience it as a physical place, to then let it drift, as a mere image, in my memory.

The Otis House. The photo on the phone is a still from Fulci’s The Beyond

I also wanted to go to the house used for the movie Amityville Horror (1979) but that is in Toms River in New Jersey. Strange though, I was convinced that I had seen it on – I don’t know what street, in New Orleans.

(…) sites in films are not to be located or trusted. All is out of proportion.

Scale inflates or deflates into uneasy dimensions. We wander between the towering and the bottomless. We are lost between the abyss within us and the boundless horizons outside us. Any film wraps us in uncertainty. [Robert Smithson, A Cinematic Atopia, in Artforum. Special Film Issue, edited by Annette Michelson, September 1971.]

Still from The Skeleton Key

Current photo of the house by Giovanni Garetta

Shot In New Orleans

Thursday March 30 at 8PM, screening of films by Deltaworkers residents Léa Triboulet (FR), Jacob Dwyer (GB) & Giovanni Giaretta (IT), at St. Mary Majaks, 918 St. Mary Street.

With Shot In New Orleans we present films by Deltaworkers’ residents. Alumni Léa Triboulet and Jacob Dwyer stayed with us in 2015 and created and shot their films entirely in New Orleans. Both films have premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and have toured the world since. Current resident Giovanni Giaretta will give an introduction to his work and show 3 of his films.

The Brother (Léa Triboulet, 2016, 9 min)
The Brother
Three young sisters quietly mourn the absence of their brother as they continue their everyday life. Léa Triboulet uses the New Orleans backdrop to create a sensitive, powerful short film about loss and sisterhood and makes us excited about her work in the future.

Donovan Garcia (Jacob Dwyer, 2016, 9 min)
Donovan GarciaDonovan Garcia was shot throughout one day on a trip to the Jean Lafitte Swamps just outside New Orleans. As a voice from behind the lens attempts to document the trip, the presence of another man, whom we’ve been told is with us, comes into question. His name is Donovan Garcia.


Giovanni Giaretta will give an introduction to his work and his stay in New Orleans and show the following films:

The Sailor (2017, 9 min)
The Sailor
A sailor dreams of a homeland he has never had: day after day he constructs his new native land, shaping it to the substance of his soul. This video deals with the notion of what we call ‘home’ and ‘foreign’ while simultaneously dealing with issues related to language and translation.

A thing among things (2015, 7 min)
A thing among things
The video combines a recollection of visual memories of a blind person with close-ups of transparent minerals. The images work almost as a setting design open to different interpretations: as to see something presuming being something else.

Untitled (Portrait study) (2012, 13 min)
Untitled (Portrait study)
The video documents the relationship between an entomologist with a few different species of butterflies. The gestures and the experience of the entomologist create a narrative between scientific description and a choreography.

*Descriptions by the International Film Festival Rotterdam & Giovanni Giaretta.

Open call for New Orleans based artists

Open call for a residency for New Orleans based artists at the Centre for Contemporary Art FUTURA in Praha, Czech Republic.

Future Prague

CCA FUTURA and Deltaworkers offer a one month residency at the A.I.R. FUTURA program for August 2017 (1st till 31st 2017).

The residency is offered to one individual artist based in New Orleans.

CCA FUTURA provides travel expenses (max $1400).

CCA FUTURA offers a 40 square meters living space, a 20 square meters working studio and necessary assistance and guidance in pursuing related research and production.

Note that the artist is responsible for their own production budget and daily expenses. Daily expenses are estimated at around $12 a day.

CCA FUTURA requires a presentation of the selected artist’s current work. This may take the form of an open studio or smaller exhibition at the end of the stay.

To apply send a portfolio, a current CV and a brief statement describing your artistic practice to The deadline is April 1st.

The applications will be reviewed and selected by Michal Novotný, director of CCA FUTURA and Maaike Gouwenberg & Joris Lindhout, directors of Deltaworkers.

Full Aperture: Martha Colburn in person

Saturday March 18 at 8PM, screening of films by Martha Colburn, hosted by the New Orleans Photo Alliance (1111 St. Mary Street), organised by Shotgun Cinema.

Martha Colburn will be present in person to present a selection of her stop-motion animated films along with a show of puppets and an introduction. Starting with her Super8mm films made in Baltimore with Jad Fair (Half Japanese), the Boredoms, and her own band The Dramatics, she has produced over sixty short animations. Her 35mm film Cosmetic Emergency – a film about war and cosmetic surgery – premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. Tonight’s screening will also include some new films, including her Standing Rock protest animation, Myth Labs, about the American frontier and Meth use, and Metamorfoza, a stop-motion animated doll film which takes place in WWII.

Her style has been called ‘Monty Python meets Hieronymous Bosch’ and her work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (NY) and the Military Museum of Dresden, Germany.

Pricing Information:
$6 general admission; $5 NOPA members