I have been living in Dromana for the last six months so I can be close to my mother who is approaching her final days.
I live above a thrift shop in the main street and my balcony overlooks the bay to the north and the local shopping centre to the west.
On my daily walks to the pier I have often strolled past a vast empty building, which formerly housed the Reject Shop, specializing in cheap trifles re-sold at an even cheaper price.
Gorgeous nothings really.
I dutifully ignored the ‘For Lease’ signs affixed to its windows for weeks, until one recent morning I suddenly ran downstairs, scribbled the agent’s number down and called her, seemingly all in one breath. The museum of innocence was born at that instant.
Innocence is an important component of our humanness that has been lost.
As I get older I miss it more and more.
I miss the opportunity to be a constant beginner, to declare clear-eyed to all who would listen: ‘I don’t know’.
And then to further exclaim, most joyfully, ‘I don’t know!!’
A beginner has no outcome in mind, but focuses on simply being.
Knowing demands that an outcome is settled upon at the beginning of the journey, consequently limiting new possibilities, seeing only what might lead to that so keenly desired, so seemingly significant outcome.
Joseph Campbell said that ‘we must be willing to give up the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’
When we understand that principle we begin to notice all the gorgeous nothings abounding around us, beckoning us to not to simply listen but to hear, not to simply look but to see.
It takes a particular innocence to truly hear and see.
Why a museum?
A museum collects objects and ideas for posterity and elevates things of cultural value above others so that we may affirm certain ethics and morals beyond our time.
This particular museum collects innocence, affirms and elevates it as un-knowing, consequently proposing that we may begin anew anytime, enabling a mindful clarity to flow like spring water through our lives.
This beginner will inhabit the museum of innocence for forty-four days until the full moon of July 2.
This beginner will sit inside the museum and sing each day from dusk to deep darkness all the songs he knows.
Some songs are like haikus that were written last century by emigrant Russian Jews, some might have been sung by those sitting at the feet of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
He remembers others being sung by his mother over many decades.
But this beginner has sung all of them repeatedly since he was a child.
So much so that they have become one endless song. As the poet said: one note, one bird. In the end, when life begins to dissolve, all that remains is to sing. To sing what you love, as a beginner would.
This beginner will at times also move about and make things, write stories, make notes and re-arranges small objects around the museum.
Others will join him; musicians, dancers, those who have by chance passed by and stopped, then entered.
At other times he will simply sit and look out through the freshly cleaned windows, taking in the wonders that constantly abound around us.
Visitors to the museum are most welcome; a few chairs are provided for each to sit on and listen.
Perhaps hear and look, even see.
There is no cost in order to participate in this collaboration; this beginner only asks that each visitor maintain a respectful silence while inside the museum and not disturb the experience of others, so that all may focus on their own responses, thoughts, musings and feelings without interruption.
This might allow new possibilities for being to arise, and through allowing oneself to experience a series of a single, seemingly inconsequential moments (which may well be defined as a succession of gorgeous nothings) one may invoke no less than a renovation of the world, the transformative affirmation of yes above that of no, and the affirmation of the songs of birds and poets above the insistent chatter that suffuses our lives.
These affirmations include an acknowledgement of the ongoing presence of those no longer with us, and of formlessness above the illusion of form.
Through embracing such encounters one might enter the unknown, risk-laden province of an ultimate inclusiveness, and in so doing perhaps even leave behind the illusory knowing-ness of an exclusive life.
domenico de clario
Domenico de Clario is an interdisciplinary artist, academic, writer and musician. He was born in Trieste, Italy, in 1947 and migrated to Australia in 1956. He studied architecture and town planning at Melbourne University, painting at Milan’s Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera and lithography at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Urbino. In 1998 he was awarded an MA and in 2001 a PhD in Performance Studies from Melbourne’s Victoria University. He taught in the Art School at PIT/RMIT from 1973 until 1996 and from 1998 both at the Centre for Ideas at VCA and at Victoria University.
He was Head of the School of Contemporary Arts at Perth’s ECU (2001-6), Head of the School of Fine Arts at Monash University (2006-9) and from 2009 until 2012 he was Director of Adelaide’s Australian Experimental Art Foundation. From 2008 until 2013 he was Adjunct Professor at the University of South Australia. Since 1966 de Clario has presented more than 300 solo and group exhibitions, installations and performances and has published a number of books and CDs. He has been the recipient of numerous national and international residencies and grants, including the Australia Council Fellowship. His work is represented in major public and private collections both in Australia and worldwide.