NERO is an international publishing house devoted to art, criticism and contemporary culture. Founded in Rome in 2004, it publishes artists’ books, catalogs, editions and essays.

NERO explores present and future imaginaries beyond any field of specialization, format or code – as visual arts, music, philosophy, politics, aesthetics or fictional narrations – extensively investigating unconventional perspectives and provocative outlooks to decipher the essence of this ever changing reality.

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My Path

Contingencies-driven memories

Ruth is a collector of writings, a site dedicated to grey literature, unpublished and experimental texts. Conceived by Manuela Pacella, Ruth was born from the pleasure of writing and reading. Each month, we select a text from one of the sections of the four-headed Ruth: Yellow Dog, Hungry Ghosts, Free Spirits, Brain New.

This month we chose from Free Spirits My Path by Daniele Di Battista, originally written in Italian and translated in English especially for us.

 

I have always written during and after a walk. I walk for hours almost every day, listening to music I am unfamiliar with being played randomly, interrupting myself, every now and then, just to write on my cell phone notepad.

This very text was conceived and partially written during a walk, and in order to tell the story of a walk I had taken, many more walks were necessary so that I could complete the story of the walk I had chosen.

My cell phone notepad:

Message from Rebecca: “Meet me at 5pm at the Camuzzi”.

I need to get the gimbal to Rebecca at 5pm but it’s 4:30pm, what do I do for 30 minutes? 
Option 1: I wait. 
Option 2: I walk. 
Thesis: In case Rebecca arrives early, since she said she’s in a hurry, I don’t want to keep her waiting. 
Antithesis: I certainly can’t wait for half an hour and do nothing. 
Antithesis solution: But then why do I leave at 4:30? I’ll wait at home a little longer. 
Antithesis rejection: No. I’m going out anyway. So that even if something unforeseen happens, I will still be on time. When in doubt, better to get there earlier than late.

Therefore: 
1 – I leave. 
2 – I wait. 
Resolution: She arrives late.

My cell phone notepad:

It’s 5:30pm and I have nothing to do. Rebecca took the gimbal and left; the next day she will be filming a video clip, what do I do? 

Option 1: I walk.
Option 2: I go home.
Thesis: I feel like going for a walk.
Antithesis: I don’t know where to go.
Antithesis rejection: I wouldn’t know what to do at home, plus in this time of pandemic a little air can only be good for me.

So:
1 – I walk.
Resolution: I don’t know where to go.

My cell phone notepad:

My feet go on their own. I take off from the Camuzzi Towers and wander. No idea where to. I walk, listen to music, think and, at times, write. While walking I try, maybe unintentionally, to avoid crowded places; my desire is to find desolate streets. When I walk I prefer to be alone: me and the music I listen to; me and the chaos that carries me through the streets. Usually I’m the kind of person who can’t turn off his brain (which has always been extremely mathematical)—but when I’m walking it’s as if I let myself be carried away by the currents of a river flowing down to the sea; the path, although invisible (or not existing at all) is, in a sense, defined; my brain doesn’t have to make any calculation to understand where to go.

My cell phone notepad:

As I walk I start to recognize the road. I smile a little as I think of something silly: “My legs have used their muscle memory to make me retrace these paths.”

Di Battista, I have failed with you. When I think about you, I feel like shit. 

Said Professor P. seeing me smoking on the school balcony; no remark, no suspension or admonition, yet those words have been stuck with me for years; now I’ve quit smoking (electronic cigarette only), perhaps in part due to the memory of my professor’s disappointed look as she sees me take a drag.

These words were the first to come back to my mind once I arrived in front of the place where my high school once stood. I didn’t know they had torn down the building. Seeing a hole where my school used to be caused an “equal and opposite” reaction in me; a set of thoughts and memories suddenly filled that empty space, building back what was once my high school. Maybe also because Portanuova (actually the high school was called Leonardo Da Vinci but we all called it PN, or PortaNuova) has always been for me one of those few places where I felt at home despite not being H-O-M-E.

My cell phone notepad:

(Yes, I used to do it peacefully in the bathrooms at my high school)

Just as I was about to start walking again, a question comes back to my mind, torturing me:

What was Gregorio VII’s name?

In my head I immediately answer: “Ildebrando di Soana!”

I do know now, when I was asked I didn’t. I still carry around that damned five and a half that little shit gave to me, just because I didn’t remember that Gregorio VII’s name was Ildebrando di Soana. 

Di Battista, this isn’t fine; you cannot forget such things, it is important to me that you have acquired the necessary knowledge.

YOU! Reader! Did you know that Gregorio VII’s name was Ildebrando di Soana? You didn’t? Yet, your life is probably proceeding quite the same, isn’t it? NO?! Anyway, it has nothing to do with the fact that you did not know that Gregorio VII was in fact Ildebrando di Soana. 

(If it was really about that, please contact me because I want to hear your story: [email protected])

My cell phone notepad:

As I continue walking, I begin to hear, more and more clearly, very familiar noises, especially ringing tones many would consider annoying, yet in me they trigger tranquility and a strange sense of belonging. 

These noises are shoes slipping on parquet, balls bouncing, banging on the iron or doing “Ciof!” (as we “baskettarians” say). The noises of the coach yelling—“DWARF! YOU MUST BRING THE BALL BACK!”—the referee whistling; someone protesting a penalty. Calling out the schemes—“RED! SHIRT! HORNS!”—of pain; a torn-quad yelling. The sound of the curses raining down from the field, the benches and the stalls.

All of these sounds are now loud in my hippocampus both as projected blurred images—as the hippocampus is probably the most beautiful cinema ever.

I am in front of the building in via Elettra, where once upon a time I started my basketball career with Amatori Basket, and right next to it is the building in via Pepe, where I ended it with Antoniana Basket (a team I never thought I would play for, given the competition between the two clubs). My amygdala reminds me of how much I miss competitive basketball, the pleasurable pain of running out of breath—as opposed to the adrenaline to make one “last effort” that is never really your last.

Thinking about it though, a last “last effort” was there, somehow. Last time I made a last effort, then it was the last one for real, a belief formed in my head. Yet, I never want that last “last effort” to not be the last one for real; after all I am still 21, there are many many last efforts to come.

My cell phone notepad:

Before I could start hearing in my head the coach yelling things like—“YOU IDIOT!” or “PUSSY!”—he once yelled at one of my teammates: “CALL BERLUSCONI! GET OVER THIS SHYNESS!” or other unbelievable things that I never thought could come out from the mouth of a human being—that I will not report because I think that even indecency has some limits—I walked back home. Strangely I took a longer route; a route that had me past Il Minuetto, the place where I used to study drums, an instrument I unfortunately abandoned once I discovered my new passion.

My hand does something it has never done before during a walk: it skips the song on my phone.

BACK IN BLACK! I hit the sack! I’ve been too long I’m glad to be back!
Snare drum, bass drum, snare drum, bass drum….
[…]
Yes I am
Hey yeah, yeah oh yeah
Snare drum, bass drum, snare drum, bass drum….
Back in now
Well I’m ba-hey hey hey hey (I’m back)
Snare drum, bass drum, snare drum, bass drum….
Hey hey hey hey, (I’m back)
Hey hey hey hey, (I’m back)
Hey hey hey hey, (I’m back)
Hey hey hey hey, (I’m back)
Hey hey hey hey
Snare drum, bass drum, snare drum, bass drum….
Back in black
Yes I’m back in black
Crash and bass drum.

Back in Black was the first song I’ve ever learned to play. Of course the version the teacher gave me was very simple (snare drum and bass drum from beginning to end, accompanied by the hi-hat, and just a little crash at the end). 

Yet, despite its simplicity, lashing out at those drums, at the cymbals, was a wonderful release; playing the drums made me feel free of all thoughts, all worries.

Snare drum, bass drum, snare drum, bass drum….

My cell phone notepad:

Over the tunes of Back in Black, Numb and 7 years (the two songs I have learned to play after Back in Black) I continued my walk home; I’m still listening to them—even now as I write.

Just before arriving home I thought I’d see Filippo from afar—whom I hadn’t seen since July—and Claudia, whom I hadn’t met probably since fifth grade; by instinct, I went towards them and said hello.

Like me, they had finished their session that day, they had also decided to go for a nice walk but, unlike me, together.

For an hour we laughed and cracked jokes, we talked about PortaNuova, we even reminisced together about some of the events that took place while we were in elementary school—who knows how teacher Elena’s doing now—the short films that Filippo and I made together and, probably, those we will make.

My cell phone notepad:

After saying goodbye to Filippo and Claudia, with the promise that we would see each other again (Spoiler: we never did) I headed back home. It’s very close but maybe there’s enough time to listen to one last song.

Once I was seven years old my momma told me
Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely
Once I was seven years old
[…]
Snare drum, break, bass drum, crash and bass drum.
I always had that dream like my daddy before me
So I started writing songs, I started writing stories
Snare drum, break, bass drum, bass drum.
Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me
Cause only those I really love will ever really know me
Snare drum, break, bass drum, crash and bass drum.
[…]
Once I was 20 years old, my story got told
Before the morning sun, when life was lonely
Once I was 20 years old
Fill, crash and bass drum.

Message sent to Flavia:

 

Daniele Di Battista born in Chieti in 1999, is currently living in Pescara. He is a student of Audiovisual Theories and Techniques at the Fine Arts Academy in Rome, videomaker of narrative short films and video art.