23 January 2009 - 26 April 2009, Galleria comunale «Tina Modotti» - Udine
A passionate researcher on the pursuit of the exotic and primordial Sardinia of the 30s.
In December 1932 the Friulian philologist Ugo Pellis started a long research journey across Sardinia. After a systematic investigation of the structure and peculiarities of the Sardinian idiom, throughout three consecutive years, he drafted the reknown Atlante Linguistico Italiano (Italian Linguistic Atlas). During his so-called ‘nobilissimo ma gravissimo’ work ( Pellis meant that his work in Sardinia was noble, but at the same time extremely heavy) Pellis visited 124 places on the island. He was sometimes accompanied by his Nelda. He walked, travelled on the back of mules and on the wobbly driving wheels of a Balilla that had been donated by the Duce. He travelled thousands and thousands of kilometres, carrying with him his album filled with pictures, philological surveys, field notebooks and geographical maps that made him appear as a mysterious and funny character. He also carried a set of photographic plates (later films), which he used to portray the reality that surrounded his universe of words. This reality consisted of men and things which, according to this scholar who studied in Vienna and Innsbruck, formed a sort of inexhaustible collection of Mediterranean archetypes. Through photographs, and the meticulous linguistic surveys that he conveyed to hundreds of informants, Pellis exposed the world. He actually portrayed it to essentialize both things and people, in order to reflect their lexemic context and to highlight their composing features within a culture that ideally follows the model of a language. He therefore shaped his Atlante through intensive fieldwork. His photographs reveal a predilection of relating volumes and shapes and an attempt to reproduce feelings produced by landscapes. His frequent searches for a natural frame reveal how small things are intimately connected to larger ones, in a surprising game of cultural miniaturization.
The 36 images have all been reproduced from Pelli’s photographic negatives. These have been preserved by the Società Filologica Friulana and were printed on fiber based paper by Fotociol di Casarsa della Delizia (UD). The rationale behind the exhibition is that of a continuous game of visual references between objects and portrayed individuals. This ends up shaping the complex network of local cultural aspects that were philologically investigated by Pellis. This is a surprising journey and its anthropological and visual outcomes are everything but obvious.
Ugo Pellis was born on the 9th October 1882 in Fiumicello (UD). He studied Romanic and Germanic philology and linguistics at the University of Vienna and at the University of Innsbruck, where he worked under the supervision of Theodor Gartner (the pioneer for researches on Retoromanic languages, 1843-1925). Following some experiences in the field of education, he started his first research projects at the beginning of the twentieth century. As of 1907, his texts regularly appeared in Friulian scientific literatures and during the first decade he published his first essays in the Friulian idiom (‘La ciana gargàna’, ‘Al rusignùl svuarbat’). His scientific activities intensified with time, finding their methodological framework in the great linguistic investigations that construct cultural areas on the basis of geo-phonetic features. The first great linguistic Atlases derive from this research. Due to his enthusiasm for philology, Pellis was one of the founders of the Società Filologica Friulana (1919), and was even the society's president between 1920 and 1923. During the following years, he took part in the creation, planning and drafting of the Atlante Linguistico Italiano (ALI). He especially worked on the extremely rich fieldwork card (the well-known ‘Questionnario’) that enables researchers to use linguistic data to reproduce an articulated representation of the system of cultural features. From 1925 to 1943, he conducted constant linguistic surveys in Italy (and in the alloglotte areas of Istria and Dalmatia) with the utmost seriousness and loyalty to his method of investigation. His greatest contribution to Italian philological research was his three years’ fieldwork in Sardinia, from December 1932 to June 1935. The philological and photographic data that was collected during his seven journeys in Sardinia constitute almost one third of his overall activity as a researcher. By the time he passed away in Gorizia on the 17th of July 17 1943, he had already investigated 727 out of the thousand locations he was supposed to explore for his research. He thus left a huge amount of linguistic and photographic material that still awaits to be explored in all its abundance.