Domenico De Clario

Domenico De Clario (b. 1947, Trieste, Italy) is an Australian artist of Italian ancestry. He has made use of painting, assemblage, text and performance, as well as site-specific and installation art to trace his memories and family migrations. Childhood, adolescence and adulthood are explored through everyday objects and personal effects. 

As an Italian migrant the experiences of dispossession and migration have been constant themes in his art. De Clario’s performances have often entailed blindfolded journeys to sites of personal significance. In many of the performances he played meditative harmonies on a grand piano, occasionally speaking to himself or to an unseen listener.

In a performance in Melbourne Magistrates Court, De Clario sat at the piano with his parents and sister completing a circle around the instrument. They were all blindfolded and bound by a black ribbon. Domenico occasionally spoke to them in their native Tuscan dialect and they gently reminisced together on matters of family history. Their stories were not accessible to the English-speaking audience and yet their intimacy allowed us for a moment to share in something precious: not information about events past, but a sense of mutual trust and family love. By wearing a blindfold the artist also avoided the confrontational and controlling aspects of performance. He was himself highly vulnerable, allowing the audience to enter his private world.

De Clario performed on 14 nights centred on the opening of TRACE (By chance, the opening night coincided with the equinox and was also, unusually, a night of the full moon.) The artist travelled across seven sites, back and forth over two weeks, following the moon through its entire phase. Each night he played the piano accompanied by a saxophonist, and told stories of the journey and of his response to the site.

The performances lasted for the nine hours between sunset and dawn, and the sites where illuminated with a different colour for each of the first seven nights. These colours – which are associated with the seven energy centres of the body (chakras) – where then repeated as he retraced his steps on the subsequent seven nights. As a lasting trace within the exhibition, each site was marked with a written text of the stories recounted by the artist during his journey.

Domenico De Clario at Liverpool Biennial 1999

13 Conversazioni with les Estrellas
, 1999 
Courtesy of the artist and Mori Gallery, Sydney
Exhibited in public realm