If anyone wants to know where the Camera Oscura, Bagni di Lucca’s Arts Festival new poetry space, is then it’s practically the first ex-shop one comes to on the right as one enters Ponte a Serraglio from Bagni di Lucca Villa.
Alternatively, it’s almost the last ex-shop one comes to coming from Ponte a Serraglio to Bagni di Lucca Villa on the left.
Why is the space called camera oscura? It’s not that dark anyway!
It’s because it used to be a photographer’s studio at the time when all those empty spaces were living shops giving life to a community which sadly has diminished or has gone elsewhere for their daily goods.
We’ve seen this sadness in the crisis that’s hit the English high street but it’s all the more poignant for a small and beautiful place like Bagni di Lucca, Ponte.
Indeed, the names given to the other exhibition spaces reflect their old uses: La macelleria (butchers) Spazio Daddo (old shoe shop) La Mesticheria (ironmongers). (I still remember that shop in use back in 2005, and treasure the hammer and paintbrush I bought from it.)
“My” space has a little back room, presumably the old dark room (camera oscura), and a lovely alcove with a contemporary marble statue, comfortable seating and even a projector.
Decoration is minimal but you can enrich it by adding your own words about poetry on the walls and join company with greats like Wordsworth, Shelley and, last night, Mara Mucci, who will recite her poems tomorrow Thursday at 7 pm.
For a few days a year this space will resound to the words of that quintessential art form, poetry, and then relapse into silence like an ancient Roman triclinium which once heard the odes of Horace or revelled in Petronius’ Satyricon but which now only has bare, ruined walls which not only hide frescoes but also echoes of words which have become faint shadows of those who uttered them.
What pictures emerged from these whitened walls
what portraits of newly-weds or daughters?
What parents faded in their yellowed shawls?
What years forgotten in icy waters?
And will these words also crumble away
written in a summer’s evening stilled heart?
And will our memories also decay
Like this shop’s long-lost photographic art?
Obscure room lighten up for me all your past clients,
bring me into the centre of your heart.
Show me both red dwarfs and hypergiants
mid the stars that set our planets apart.
The film projects upon a blanched background
where nothing is lost and nothing is found.