THERE IS SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW consists of a simulation of the existence of an esoteric group known as S.I.S. (“Scuola Iniziatica Smithiana”). Inspired by the Syncretic and Gnostic, S.I.S. is a bizarre, antagonistic leviathan, reacting against the tradition of a materialistic culture – reductionist, anti-metaphysical and pervaded by an illustrative attitude, or conditioned by the spectacular regime of the visual – which cannot actually “see” Jack Smith and his exciting work. The process of initiation, the uncertainties about how it works, the doubts, the fears and the complexity of the structure of S.I.S., can be understood as an allegory for the discovery of the world and the imaginative world of an artist: extremely articulate yet very magical and incommensurable enough to become a strange sort of “cult” as a tribute. The formal aspects of the piece (the sect, the theory/practical lesson, the Atlantean myth, the magic word, the refuge in the world of ideas, transcendence) reinterpret forms and procedures of some modern esoteric groups. Such groups present inexplicable, mysterious but extraordinary analogies with Jack Smith’s visual and philosophical imagination.
The S.I.S. intends to create the conditions for the reconstruction of a Jack Smith performance through a seminar. Or rather, to reconstruct the imaginative world brought about by a performance, in which all the characters, stories and actual myths constructed by the artist, are mixed together. Against this backdrop, the S.I.S. has decided not to work with an exhibition of documents, objects or traditional illustrative tools such as video or photographic images, but using metaphysical practices.
Thus, by following some philosophical and magical traditions, which believe in the Existence of the World of Ideas before the Material World (and in the possibility of exploring it), the S.I.S. teaches its members through “oneiro-nautical practices”. In fact the S.I.S. backs the existence of a magical, faraway land called Montezland, which is described in detail and invoked using a special magical formula. These practices might sound odd, but they are scientifically based on theories of lucid dream and astral travel.
The S.I.S. is keen to point out that the session does not include any paranormal phenomena, but at the same time, the teachings do not bring about learning with immediate effects. In short, the spectator is given a sort of alternative knowledge – an antagonistic version of the History of Contemporary Art – able to destroy (if so desired), the unified hierarchical systems of the dialectic, as much as the simplistic tautology of the visible world.
It is up to the sensitivity and imagination of the spectator – traditionally called the “student” by the S.I.S. – to put into practice what has been learnt and then perhaps decide what position to assume in his or her life.
A newly enrolled member of the S.I.S. answers some possible preliminary questions from the audience:
D: What’s going to happen?
R: Chiara Fumai has invited the “Scuola Iniziatica Smithiana” to a meeting in the circular rooms of the Pelanda. The Smithiana members have turned them into their temporary base in Rome for the occasion.
D: What is the S.I.S.?
R: It’s an esoteric group which takes its inspiration from the work of Jack Smith. You have to come to the meeting to find out more and understand what it does and how it works. Otherwise it wouldn’t be an initiatory school.
D: Can’t I get any more information?
R: They claim they travel outside the body.
D: Who is Jack Smith?
R: The Scuola Iniziatica Smithiana has organised a lesson, held by Prof. Andrea Lissoni, on the subject.
D: But is it a work of art?
R: Of course, just like the answer I’m giving you right now.
D: Do you really believe all this?
R: And do you really believe everything you see?
D: How many members does the Scuola Iniziatica Smithiana have?
R: We’re expecting about forty to attend this event.
D: Is it a hypnosis session then? Neuro-linguistic brainwashing? Or a séance with a medium?
R: Vade Retro Satana, I said it was an “Initiatory School”.
D: What if the journey doesn’t work?
R: Then the work would not have been understood.