IL RITORNO IN PATRIA Redux
Installation and Performance
Chapter: Il Ritorno in Patria
Author: W.G. Sebald
One page from the chapter Il Ritorno in Patria was typed each day since the death of writer W.G. Sebald on December 14, 2001 to May 18, 2016. The chapter describes the author’s return to his home village after 20 years of self-imposed exile. The exercise reflects the longing to keep the relationship between the reader (myself) and the author alive, in defiance of knowing that—with the event of his sudden death—his creative productivity ended.
Over the years the chapter has been continuously re-typed, accumulating in a collection of multiple copies. Each typed page echoes the format of Sebald’s page, including empty space in locations where photographs are positioned. The use of photographs in all of Sebald’s writing has been a compelling, if ambiguous, aspect of his narratives. The author uses a mix as well as a hybrid of fictional or found images, autobiographical photographs, and those taken when visiting the sites referenced in his books. The empty space in place of the photographs references both absence and potentiality.
The cyclical nature of the exercise brings attention to repetition. One might see futility in a repeated activity, yet every copied page slightly varies and thus becomes something other than the original. Here repetition is a way of assimilating Sebald’s text, a narrative about self-exile, return and the experience of Heimat as otherness.