With clockwork fervency, the island of Stromboli has been shooting bursts of brimstone into Tyrrhenian skies for some 2,000 years, solidly securing its nickname as ‘The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.” It was this conical mound of cinder rising from the seabed, just 40 miles north of Sicily, that inspired J.R.R Tolkien’s literal manifestation of Mount Doom in the land of Mordor; for Jules Verne explorers, it was an exit from the earth’s core. Continuing to augment creative minds, Stromboli now plays host to one of the most magical and supernatural of all the art festivals: Volcano Extravaganza.
“The affair is either the most magical living art collection of sorts, or simply one hell of a surreal party.”
Nicoletta Fiorucci is the mastermind behind the project, in which several dozen artists, performers, writers and filmmakers participate. Nicoletta is the matriarch of Italy’s lauded Fiorucci family – that’s the ham Fioruccis, mind, not the leather dynasty. Nearly every fridge in Italy has her family’s salami on their shelves. Shunning conventional approaches to art collecting, Nicoletta brings together this veritable troupe to produce and display work relating to carefully considered themes. The affair is either the most magical living art collection of sorts, or simply one hell of a surreal party, as captured here in an extraordinary series of pictures by Italian photographer Giovanna Silva, herself no stranger to the island and its nuances (she has visited the Extravaganza three times).
This year, the title of the event is “In Favour of a Total Eclipse.” A curious theme to say the least, but one that opens up an interesting dialogue. Back in 2008, the Fioruccis dug up a prophetic manuscript on the island written by an unknown mystic. The script is incomplete; each scene set in the context of a different planet. The festival opened in July on a New Moon, and closed 10 days later during the peak of the Delta Aquarids meteor shower. Pair this cosmic consideration with an island that is on the verge of blowing its top any second—Stromboli was completely evacuated in 2002 after a particularly aggressive series of eruptions triggered a submarine landslide and tsunami—and you’ve created a thrill, or an edge, which works well in the context of creating art.
“Kembra Pfahler put on a play in a cave, conceived as an apology to Stromboli’s volcano, and Goshka Macuga staged an alien landing.”
Nicoletta’s prime lieutenant is Milovan Farronato, a larger-than-life Italian curator. This year he herded artists including Christodoulos Panayiotou, Adriano Costa and Thomas Zipp to the island’s black beaches, and made damn sure that the artists exploited every special pocket of the island. Kembra Pfahler put on a play in a cave, conceived as an apology to Stromboli’s volcano, and Goshka Macuga staged an alien landing at the summit of the crater; in previous years, Ed Atkins showed films on the terrace of Nicoletta’s island home, aptly named La Lunatica (“Of the Moon”).
Stromboli was only connected to electricity back in 2004. Visitors to the Extravaganza still need to negotiate the narrow alleyways of the island with a flashlight. It makes for particularly awkward tourism but it also makes the festival very unique even on a practical level.