1. Source


1. Source

Underwater Tales

The Bormida Valley includes an extensive territory that stretches from the Ligurian Apennines in the hinterland of Savona up to southern Piedmont. These are the places that have given rise to Atlas Bormida: a collection of stories, a choral work of revelation, a space where visions and documents, sound experiences and stories strike sparks off one another.
Necessarily partial and subjective just like any work of fiction, Atlas Bormida does not focus on the best known places, the most popular images, and the official histories. It is consistent with the land where it was born: a complex, polycentric, and contradictory valley. Those who wander through these places and discover other stories will continue this opus.
of Alessandro Sciaraffa
28 audio tracks, recordings of a world
undeclared but real. Experience sound
literally immersive that can be chosen,
turned on and off. To change tracks
click on the sound player in the top right.
Lake Osiglia. Alberto Momo, Laura Cantarella and WPA

a bubbling hot spring

(a pre-Roman Gaulish word)

In the beginning there were two, or actually three, Bormida rivers: Bormida of Spigno, from the confluence of the Bormida of Mallare and Pallare, and Bormida of Millesimo. The springs are located in the mountain range that separates the Valley from the sea: on one side, the Alps, and on the other, the Mediterranean, the natural boundaries of a country.

Near Alessandria, the rivers join to become one, flowing into the Po River at a distance of 154 km from their springs. But before that happens, the rivers flow through one of the most wooded areas in Europe, which in the past was a transit route for merchants and pilgrims, thus always the theater of fights and battles, including the last one - only in chronological order - of the first environmental struggle in Italy. The Valley, affected by the phenomenon of big industry in the past decades, has been spared from the widespread overbuilding that has affected the more famous surrounding areas. Today a significant architectural heritage coexists with a few large infrastructures of modernity: abbeys, monasteries, castles, villages, dams, highway bridges, reservoirs, and large abandoned factories. A land of contradictions, and perhaps for this reason resistant to simplification and reification, the Bormida Valley is a place still to be discovered.

These territories inspired the creation of Atlas Bormida, the result of a cultural and investigative work on the places and the stories undertaken by various people from 2013 to 2016, with the participation of authors, artists, researchers, students, and journalists. The common ground for the different approaches: the unveiling of what is not immediately visible or rediscovered from a decentralized point of view with respect to established narratives, thus avoiding simplistic and celebratory representations.

Bormida River ferry, approx 1880. Cassine Municipal Photographic Archives

Bormidavision, curated by Alberto Momo, Laura Cantarella and students from Polytechnic University of Turin, is a filmic mapping the Bormida Valley which is composed of stories and pictures of places. It has created a cartography of images of the Valley in a way that is similar to those who, by following along a path trodden by others, with their own passage, even unintentionally, make it viable for the next travelers.

The stories in Bormidavision arise directly from the places, the protagonists themselves and custodians of the geographical, as well as historical and cultural, sources. Ancient and recent, epic and familial vicissitudes are narrated in the first person, rendering transparent that which is sometimes hidden or omitted from the official narratives.

Bormidavision is therefore a space of encounter for the voices of the inhabitants and the observations of those who come from elsewhere, the eternal meeting of the insider and the outsider in the narrative, and thereby a cultural construction of the landscape. It is a collective work both for the number of people involved during filming, and for the chorality of the voices that emerges.
The title Bormidavision is an homage to Ferrania, the historic producer of color film.

The protagonists of Twelve seekers, that Andrea Botto has made in Bormida Valley are, as its title indicate, seekers. Among them, the water diviner and the gold seeker are actually the natural inhabitants of these places who are used to looking for what is not immediately visible, and because of this, even more precious.

Like the water diviner, the photographer, or the twelfth seeker, is driven by the subject of his/her search; just like the gold seeker, the photographer patiently picks up tiny fragments, small precious presences that are barely visible. An investigator of both the physical and the virtual territory, the photographer collects and reinterprets images of objet trouvé, as did Ando Gilardi, born in Ponzone, to whom to one of these stories is dedicated. And again, just like the spelunker or the miner, the photographer abandons the usual spaces and tests his/her ability to recognize the surrounding space without the element that is indispensable to the existence of seeing: light.

Underplace, an audio work composed by Alessandra Sciaraffa in Bormida Valley, is an imageless film soundtrack made of deep sounds, the recordings of a submerged world also from the point of view of perception, but at the same time, traces of a world that is real. The artist becomes the selfsame instrument of the listening and provides a literally immersive experience.

Underplace was developed using 28 audio tracks, which can be chosen, turned on and off at each station of Atlas Bormida, superimposing the texts and images, as a soundscape. Underwater sounds, VLF radio waves, wind turbines, and dams auscultated as if they were organs, are the local voices that thereby constitute the interactive soundtrack of Atlas Bormida.
Underplace explicitly reiterates the focus of all the research contained in the Atlas on what is not immediately perceptible and provides a fundamental nonvisual contribution.

The Diviner, Andrea Botto


Locations, routes and directions

Bormida River, source. Alberto Momo, Laura Cantarella and WPA