a king listens
text By Italo Calvino
A Photo Narrative by Alexandra Donovan
Modeled by Rebecca Allen
Italo Calvino intended to write five short stories, each pertaining to one of the senses—he finished three before passing away, including this tale. A King Listens is a story that revolves around hearing. The king lives deep within his palace: alone, perpetually installed on his throne. He spends his days listening carefully to the sounds of his kingdom that arrive to him through the entrails of the palace. The king is dependent on the sounds; they act as a clock and as reassurance that he is still in control. He lives in paranoia of being deposed, because he deposed the king before him. Much of the story is cyclical as well as hypothetical, based in constant wait and anxiety. The identity of the king is intrinsically tied to his physical situation--on the throne, wearing a crown, holding a scepter, and most importantly, not moving. He is encased in the palace, a great ear that mediates between the king and his kingdom, “whose anatomy and architecture trade names and functions.”
This text is accompanied by a series of portraits. A young woman denotes the figure of the king, drawing parallels to the trapped state of the character. These figures are subject to a contrived sense of freedom and of autonomy, while in fact their existence is defined by constraint. There is a question of who is surveying, and who is under surveillance. The portraits express minute movements that demarcate the stillness of the figure, exposing emotion in an otherwise consolidated personality. 
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