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Saccomazzone Game
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Politics of Dissonance, curated by Mike Watson, Manifesta 12 Collateral Events, Palermo.
July 2018




Saccomazzone is a game that was originally played between two blindfolded peasants. They used something often described as a sort of cloth made from strips of rags knotted together.
They gripped it with one hand while the other hand rested on a very low pedestal where they had to stay.
This was how blindfolded players maintained a constant distance between them. They tried to hit each other with the knotted rags and the one who was hit the most lost. This game, very popular in the past, and often appearing in paintings and sculptures, is almost never played today.
In the Boboli gardens in Florence there is a statue of Saccomazzone players, sculpted by Orazio Mochi in 1620 from a drawing by Romolo del Tadda.

This game of hitting each other’s heads to see who wins reminds us of the way the jockeys whip their horses, except that things have been switched around. The player feels the snap of the whip directly on his body, reminding him of the violence suffered by the animal.
The performers are dressed as jockeys but they don’t ride horses; they are fixed in one place. The whole area is bombarded by the amplified sound of illegal horse racing in Palermo. The thundering engines of the scooters surrounding the horses and jockeys creates an atmosphere bristling with tension. Behind them images of illegal horse races are projected onto the walls.  
By now the sound dominates the space, creating a kind of noise music somewhat reminiscent of Luigi Russolo’s Intonarumori futuristic experiences. Every door of the city of Palermo has been assaulted by civilisations from every part of the world.


© Robert Pettena 2018