Curatorial Note

This project was introduced to us 6 weeks ago and kept unfolding as the weeks went by. We started of with reading the book “Invisible cities” by Italo Calvino which then became the foundation of our project.

Each of us had to choose one favourite passage from the book and that is when I chose Adelma. The whole process of slicing Adelma into smaller pieces helped me unravel the metaphor behind this city. I had two completely different understandings of the text from the first time and the last time that I read it. We segmented the city by understanding it from a different lens every time. The lens we looked at were memory, constructed space and semiotics. We analysed the passage through each of these and made visuals from our perspective of memory, constructed space and semiotics. By this time we had understood all the different elements that come together to bring out the essence of this passage.

After breaking down the text, we used all these findings to create a narrative of our own with the same foundation as Calvino’s passage. It was surprising how easy it became to write a narrative as we had all the ingredients ready already.

There was an evident connection between our studio and seminar work as both would be spineless without each other. Only when we wrote a narrative or a reflection of the text could we turn it into a visual and further into a cut out.

The narrative I wrote for Adelma was transformed into a tunnel book which had all the elements of constructed space, memory and semiotics. My Tunnel Book looks like a kaleidoscope (visually the city looks like that to Calvino) where each slide is actually a memory of Calvino. I have analysed the text as the dead actually being a metaphor for the all the experiences and memories that he has. I have tried to portray that how each memory on its own evokes several different emotions, but when you put all these memories together, they form a sort of a void that hypnotises him into dying. My Tunnel Book supports this concept, with each slide illustrating a new memory and all these memories fitting together giving the effect of a kaleidoscope.  The whole idea was to show how as Calvino goes further into the city, and passes each memory, he loses a little life each time and you see him dead in the last slide. This city is basically a city of realisation and deception. He discovers himself dead only when he is done exploring the city.


Cities and the dead – a poem

Never ever have I wandered as far as Adelma,

Where every living face is someone dead,

Am I in a nightmare while lying in bed?

Or is it a real city off which my memories fed.


A kaleidoscope of escapades,

that suck me into their void,

and chew me alive,

to discover me dead.

The city and pieces- Adelma

Marco Polo, a relatively old man although still young at heart was filled with passion to travel the world. He visited many cities but consciously avoided Adelma. However, he was at Hypatia and going to Eusapia, but in his path lies Adelma, a city he wanted to evade, but couldn’t. He did have a valid reason to fear Adelma as no Adelmians ever came out of their city and anybody who entered Adelma was never heard of again. He wondered, was the city so exceptional that nobody wanted to leave or did the city swallow anybody who entered? A shiver ran down his spine as he thought of the latter.

As he set afoot on the shaky grounds of Adelma, every nerve in his body gave him negative signals about the city. He was amazed by the maze in front of him with innumerable twists and turns. The meandering streets branched out into smaller ones forming confusing patterns. Although surprisingly, there would be somebody at each turn trying to lead his path into misery.

The first person he encountered told him to take the right promising that path to give him the fatherly love that lacked all his love. He felt a stinging pain in his heart as he remembered his father’s funeral. Deep into grief, he wandered to the right where he was attacked by graves and dead rotten flowers. Reaching the end of that street, with difficulty, he met with another crossroad. A second man pleading him to help his daughter who tried to kill herself for the man she loves. He couldn’t resist helping the man and took the left however found nothing but deceit, reminding him of his wife’s luscious long hair. Now, every turn he took was with a heavy heart, not knowing what would accost him next. He left on this adventure to attach his broken pieces together but Adelma was feeding onto them.

He thought of going back to where he started instead of passing through the city because he knew by the time he crossed the city, there would be nothing left of him. However the maze like structure actually got him closer to the end. He feared the end of the maze, he feared the suspense of what happens when you reach the periphery of this city.

Failing at every attempt to escape, he found himself at the exit gate of the city. Having nothing left of him by the end of this journey, he realised that although he was leaving the city, he actually was entering another place. That place didn’t look like Eusapia or any other city. With no choice left, he continued walking. Was it hell or heaven?


Wholesale fish market Fish industry Literal -the sea is an important source of food

Metaphorical- a market resembles exchange therefore it probably shoes exchange of experiences

The dead outnumber the living the dead count is more than the population Literal- according to his life experiences he knows more dead people than living

Metaphorical- He arrived this city at own old age.

Kaleidoscope of eyes,wrinkles and grimaces The city is made up of different patterns Literal- He sees alot of eyes, wrinkles and grimaces

Metaphorical – Shows old age, decay and “ Kaleidoscope” perhaps suggests how the perception

The resemblances will dissolve he wont find anything familiar Literal- he will stop recognising the people and relating them to someone who is dead

Metaphorical – If he stops thinking about the memories and the experiences in his life, he will start forgetting them due to his old age.

I no longer dared look anyone in the face he was afraid Literal- He didn’t want to look at anybody because he knew it would remind him of a dead person

Metaphorical- He had reached a point in life where the present had nothing but misery stored in it.

For each face it finds the most suitable mask every face has another face to resemble it Literal- He matches every unknown face to a person he has known according to what fits best.

Metaphorical- He is trying to find closure of all his past experiences in his present.

Their faces were hidden by sackcloth hoods Their faces were covered Metaphorical- His experiences were hidden until they start unfolding when he sees familiar faces.
assailed by unexpected faces as if he was being attacked by appearances Metaphorical – He didn’t expect to come across experiences from the past and therefore felt attacked with all his experiences relating to death.



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This light bulb, as ordinary as it might look, has a very peculiar feeling captured within it. Looking at it always transports me to that time which will never come back. I received this light bulb on the last day of my school, last day of grade 10. Although I had no idea this light bulb would ignite such memories in the future but now when I look at it, I become that 10th grade school girl again. This doesn’t only remind me of that day but also that time, a much easier time, when my biggest problem was finishing homework. Today, time runs away, without any warning and that light bulb is my escape to slower times. It reminds me of the chitter chatter in the school corridors during break time and sharing all our flavoursome food on the noisy steel canteen tables. Teacher’s scoldings and praises that are instilled within me, have shaped me the way I am today, these are a few memories I never want to let go of. I have very few objects that have a a specific time period enclosed within it. This light bulb is one of them, it has all my emotions and the essence of an innocent little school girl. It also marks the start of a new life, my college life, one very different from anything I had ever encountered and this is why this bulb is a treasure to me.

Constructed Environment

How does Calvino describe his cities ?

Calvino describes this city through people and through the memories that the people create. How every person he sees reminds him of a memory of a dead person. The city is formulated through the whereabouts of these people. He creates this city through the backgrounds of the people he encounters, he doesn’t directly describe the structure of the city.

2. What is the role of that monuments play?

Places like the dock, the fish market and the building with a balcony are mentioned in the text however they don’t have a monumental role. I think the narrow street in the city is the monument of this city. This is because this is the only place in the city where Marco feels that he himself is dead.

3. How does the Urban interact with the natural?

There are a few hints of contact between the urban and natural. The fish market shows that that the people went fishing, therefore interacting with the natural environment. Another hint is the sea urchin basket. The vegetable vendors also give a hint of agricultural activity.

4. How do we distinguish between nature and man-made ?

Nature is anything that are provided by the Earth, they are products of the Earth. However man made is anything that is created by man and using existing resources provided by the Earth. Hence in the extract it is easy to identify what is man made and what is nature. The balcony, street, houses, the dock and the market are man made.



You find this place filling the spaces between the bridges. Before the first bridge you’ll see a cluster of people, all of them with empty hands waiting to be occupied. Their eyes glitter of passion to select the most materialistic thing they can get their hands on. When you cross this bridge you’ll see men, women wearing a completely different attire. Wearing wrinkled faces and preoccupied hands with bundles of paper they hurry into buildings while continuously peeping at their watches as if time was not the only thing they were losing.