Mediamatic Off-Line Vol.10#2 Dirk Van Weelden 1 Jan 2001


The subject of Davolio's cd-rom Annunciation is historical: namely the Brigate Rosse's kidnap and execution of Aldo Moro, the chair of the Italian Christian Democratic Party, in the spring of 1978.


CD-ROM Annunciation by Davolio (screenshot) -

Davolio puts us in touch with what went on during those 54 days. The past becomes present in an immediate way. We see fragments of television reports of the events. We hear tapes of telephone conversations between the kidnappers and the family. And we read the Brigate Rosse's communiqués and the letters Moro wrote to his friends and family while in captivity. But the events are also presented in the form of analyses and historical writings by journalists and political scientists.

Davolio is not aiming to make a contribution to historical writing; he is neither historian nor journalist. Nor is the cd-rom a digital version of an educational documentary film. In his foreword Davolio writes that his interest is in the symbolic content of the Moro case. His piece is a poetic reflection of it. This is a personal digital essay about a historic event, an essay that acquires its personal tint through the selection, presentation, editing and visual treatment of the facts and documents.

The cd-rom's title, Annunciation, raises the question: Annunciation of what? The cd-rom gives no clear answer. Moro's death is a drama in which something erupted that until then had remained largely hidden: the Italian disease, the corruption and internal struggle for power in the upper reaches of politics. And if the Moro case is still surrounded by mysteries and sinister riddles, still it was the beginning of revelations and scandals which developed in the 1980s into more and more of a national trauma. The Moro case contains the announcement of a truth slowly revealing itself: that crime and an immoral lust for power rule the land, and that the democratic political establishment rests on illusions and deception. But it is also the announcement of the difficult struggle for a new beginning, a big cleanup.

Is this cd-rom an artistic rehabilitation of the Brigate Rosse terrorists? Definitely not. They come across as exponents of a movement that became trapped in its own ideology. Confused and desperate, so that the only security is offered by dogma and the flight forward toward terrorism. Terror, horror, error, as Davolio puts it in a typographical animation. He clearly identifies a group of villains, led by Andreotti. Andreotti's network does not remain restricted to the high levels of politics, but extends into the mafia, the judiciary and the secret services. We do not get to see his face nor those of the other behind-the-scenes players.

Everything here revolves around Aldo Moro and his 54 days of imprisonment. As one works one's way through the documents with Davolio, after a while one gets the feeling of looking at the traces of a classical tragedy. The Brigate Rosse, desiring to strike at the heart of the state, abducted the leader of the party that had run the country for more than thirty years, the intended premier. Officially, they demanded the release of thirteen br prisoners, but more important to them was sowing panic among the leaders of the Christian Democratic Party. In the name of the people, the powerful would be divested of their untouchability, and the sordid basis of their power laid bare.

To this end, they interrogate Aldo Moro in their people's prison. He is ordered to reveal how the dc is interwoven with the mafia, how leftist parties are infiltrated and sabotaged by the secret services, how the communists were swindled, how corrupt the Socialist Party is, and that secret military organizations exist. As the saying goes, there is nothing more disastrous than answered prayers. Tragedy breaks loose at the moment that Moro begins to speak freely. He also writes letters one after the other to his family and political friends. From these, it becomes clear that even the darkest suspicions of the leftist radicals have been exceeded: everything is much worse. The terrorists do not know what to do with this explosive material and forward only 30 of the 95 letters, the tamest and the least incriminating. They keep back the rest.

Only a few people still believe that the police truly found nothing and stayed in the dark about Aldo Moro's whereabouts for almost two months. It looks more as if Andreotti saw his chance to dispose of the radical left and cut out the communists with whom Moro wanted an open dialogue. He chose to take the hard line and sacrificed Moro. If Moro were let go, his frankness about the dc's shadowy practices would be much more damaging than if he were to die as a martyr for law, order and propriety, who had naturally said everything his executioners had whispered in his ear. Andreotti refused to negotiate, urged the ruthless pursuit and punishment of the villains, but in fact he waited until the terrorists had no alternative but to murder Moro.

It all went on much too long. Finally no one seemed to have control over the situation any longer. The Brigate Rosse put off their ultimatum; they were panicking. Moro knew that he was being used as a scapegoat and that he was lost. In his fight for survival, he indicts the corrupt political system of which he is a product. His captivity liberates him, paradoxically enough, from a public hostageship to the cynical and brutal obsession with power that rules the Christian Democratic leadership. He reminds his friends of the moral duty that comes with the exercise of political office. He pleads with them in the name of Christian values, decency, good, loyalty to their electorate, the Italian nation. He begs them most of all not to commit the ultimate sin: to knowingly sacrifice a person in order to secure power. My blood may come upon you, he writes.

Without making Moro into a saint, Davolio's associative presentation opens our eyes to Moro as a real statesman (the heart of the state), someone who pushes aside reputations and party interests when push comes to shove and argues for a clean sweep, for a politics that aims to be bona fide and decent. With that, Moro does indeed become a symbol, perhaps most of all for the desperation and rage of those forced to watch powerlessly as a wealthy and developed country is held hostage and plundered by corrupt politicians.

Davolio's extensive use of the design and iconography of the radical press of the time leaves no doubt that he wishes to point out that the desperation and indignation are the same the Brigate Rosse arose from. This is the real tragedy which takes place in those 54 days and which Davolio underlines with his symbolic graphic animations: that such desperation leads to the horror of terrorism and that Moro's death became unavoidable precisely because he proved more honest and decent than his friends. Moro is a tragic hero in the true sense: he undergoes such a cruel tragedy that a certain moral heroism is wrung out of him. Without his ordeal, he most likely would have remained, at best, a slightly less corrupt Christian Democrat politician.

Davolio makes us identify with this desperate rage, with the indictment of the conspiracies, murders, corruption and repression. Not with the deeds of the Brigate Rosse, nor even per se with Aldo Moro the man, but with his moral courage and with what happened between him, the br and the leadership of his party, what had to happen.

Davolio does not pretend to offer a conclusive interpretation of Moro's death and the context in which it was able to happen. Moro's original writings are still missing, and the copies are incomplete. Many bewildering questions remain unanswered, and the key figures and journalists who could have told us more have been murdered. This personal reconstruction of Moro's imprisonment and death aims to show the traces of an honest, political feeling, a passion for a just political system, which takes on ever more violent and tragic forms as those in power become more brutal and corrupt and better able to hide their true faces behind a proper and reasonable image. Calling this cd-rom nostalgic is incorrect. It does bespeak a certain wistfulness, but not of the sweet, comfortable sort. It is a critical wistfulness, one which expects no answers, but in its poetic reflection sniffs out the right questions.

translation laura martz