Among countless eruptive activities that occurred throughout Mount Etna’s 500.000 years of geological history, only a few left a trace in human records since the Greek colonisation of Sicily. Rising up from a fissure between the Eurasian and the African plate, first located under the Mediterranean Sea, Mount Etna grew to the highest volcano on the European continent, changing forever Sicily’s landscape and leaving a central heritage in its culture and history.
The series Etnea was developed in winter 2013-2014 during a cooperation with design studio Formafantasma. Following Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin during their investigations on the culture of lava in the Sicilian region, I had the chance to experience some of the most intense eruptive activities of the last few years. Exploring lava fields all around the region and investigating different ages of volcanic stones, the series focuses on raw materials celebrating the abstract aesthetic of a landscape permanently reshaping itself. Under the pale winter light lava stone reveals its unexpected, nearly monochromatic nature, shining in different shades of blue, black and green. When snow starts covering the fields, colours almost disappear until the explosive power of the volcano relights everything anew.
The monumental beauty of Strombolian explosions (like the ones that occurred on Mount Etna during the last months), with their huge amount of pyroclastic rocks and ashes rising in clouds for thousands of meters, seems to embody Aristotle’s diagram of the classical elements: fire, air, water and earth reveal themselves in a spectacular, frightening interplay. No human shape or structure endures on top of Mount Etna longer than a couple of decades. Even the most efficient touristic facilities appear fragile over the instable, rumbling surface of the mountain. Despite the illusions of modern technology, active volcanos keep reminding us of the unpredictable forces shaping our planet, becoming an even more powerful source of fascination in an era when nature seems to collapse under the influence of mankind.
Text and images © Luisa Zanzani