The book of visual arts.
The book of visual arts.
AIM - The book of visul arts. S/F 2016 - ISBN 978-88-99367-20-6 English translation by Daniel Clarke Greta Edizioni - Via Passeri 97, Pesaro (IT) - firstname.lastname@example.org www.gretaedizioni.com Relations&PressOffice: BILDUNG Inc. - email@example.com Printed in April 2016 by Graffietti Stampati Front Cover: Martin Parr, The Amalfi Coast, Sorrento 2014, ÂŠ Martin Parr, Magnum Photos, Studio Trisorio Back Cover: Martin Parr, The Amalfi Coast, Capri 2013, ÂŠ Martin Parr, Magnum Photos, Studio Trisorio
Is it really true that in the digital age, magazines, books and catalogues have become obsolete? Let me put it another way: are we moving towards a world where leafing through pages of ink, fonts, and printed images will no longer make any sense? by Andrea Tinterri & Christina Magnanelli Weitensfelder
For a while now ART has been telling us no, we still love images that tell us stories, that are to be browsed, we still love to bring together all of our senses and immerse ourselves in reading and in the enjoyment of observing a printed photographic image. We want and need distant voices which clash or just brush each other, perhaps without even looking. In this issue we present the portfolios of Martin Parr, Uliano Lucas, Gabriele Galimberti and Paolo Woods, Giuliano Ferrari, Lorenzo Vitturi, Valentina Scaletti, and Flavio Bonetti. What we offer is eclectic, irregular, contaminated. We don’t seek to create an editorial project which fits into pre-established themes, into specific areas of expertise. We are a platform for the collection of research, projects, ideas. Parr takes on the consumerist stereotype of mass tourism, presenting The Amalfi Coast in an ironic, grotesque and enjoyable way. A reading of saturated colours which float within the rectangle of the image. Lucas’s black and white, the memory of the social and political change of a country, and the characters who moved on the Milanese intellectual scene of a few decades ago. Ferrari’s Grand Tour which explores the smartphone as a possible instrument for the translation of the landscape. The complexity of the work of Vitturi, who doesn’t just photograph, but who experiments with installations and sculpture to describe the anthropological
changes taking place in the Dalston area of London. The intimacy of a portrait which becomes a declaration, the body of Scaletti which acts as the symbol of a possible and desired rebirth. Galimberti and Woods who, together, present an important work on the theme of fiscal paradises, exhibited at Arles in 2015. A visionary tale by Bonetti from inside a museum of natural history, leaving clues for the reconstruction of illicit presences within the museum, among the rhinoceroses and zebras. Parr and Lucas, two historicised artists who, with their diversity, have both characterised the world of photography – and more – of the last fifty years. With the first, colours are vivid, bright, they indulge the scathing humour and the paradox of his work. In the second case, the use of black and white recalls a classicality which transforms photography into an exhibit, in something which needs to be examined. Because nowadays, in a vorticistic system, where images disappear before our very eyes with a simple click, what remains is artistry, long-lasting, the permanent and identifying substance of a culture. It is in this very moment that a magazine like this, printed on paper in large format, takes on the role of witness. It is the archiving of Time itself which makes the difference. The cataloguing, issue after issue, of proposals which persevere in our contemporary world. The vice
of self-referentiality is not only sectorial or geographical, it is also temporal. A work which doesn’t burn out in just a few weeks, which does not suffer changes from passing fashions or the seasonal winds which are often just breezes, leaving no significant trace on the skin. We want to communicate with those who, in only two hundred years’ time, will still want to read and leaf through our magazine. With those who, in just three hundred years’ time, want to understand what was being photographed at the beginning of the twenty-first century, or thereabouts. With those who, in only four hundred years’ time, want to see if our beaches were still crowded with men and women in flesh and blood. With those who, once Mars and a good part of the Moon have been colonised, want to understand why people took to the streets to fight, why they lived in houses of bricks and mortar, why they looked at the stars, believing them to be so far away. This is why, beginning with this issue of #AImagazine, now in its eighth year of publishing, we have decided to come out with two versions. AIM is for those of our readers with an international mentality, who we know to be many. DREAM, DO. that’s us, hunters of art, rebels of the written word, we speak through two magazines, the inevitable process for a better world, which moves on through the right questions.
“Man gave names to all the animals”, Bob Dylan reminds us in a song, with an eye on the Bible. Giving a name, in occidental Christian culture, means dominating, exercising paternal authority, owning, deciding fate. by Roberta Valtorta
Man names animals because they are different and inferior, and decides about their life, their possible usefulness and their death. But beyond physical dominance – which also happens between animals – an even more significant and much more complex way in which man takes possession of animals and of everything else in the world, whether from nature or from culture, is the activity of classification, which is immediately linked to those of conservation and the making of museums: these activities have been, and remain, the tools and institutions of the human aptitude to dominate the world. An important book by Georges Perec, entitled Penser/classer, offers a critical and subtly ironic interpretation of the problem – practically impossible for the human mind to resolve – of comprehending the world (in the etymological sense of taking, possessing – but also in the sense of finding a meaning for things and for existence itself) through categories to permit logical, all-inclusive and, in the end, reassuring order. Perec’s writing reveals, step by step, how the operation of classification is simply a disconcerting work of fiction conducted by man through imagination, creative construction, always open, incomplete, and always subject to discussion. Strong and structured, yet weak at the same time. Natural History, uses the spaces of a small museum of Natural History as a setting for a grouping of fic-
tional accounts that unfold on various levels. On the one hand, there is the fiction that is always staged by a museum of this type, through small, sometimes naïve or clumsy, but always fascinating depictions, arrangements, compositions, the use of display cases, dioramas, artificial spaces. On the other, there is the instance of minimal scenes that happen inside the museum, of objects that somehow appear there, though they may seem extraneous and out of place. On another level, there is the fiction generated by the photograph itself, also through reflections, overlaps and, of course, cropping and the choice of vantage points. So a goat that certainly knows many things gazes at us from inside the photo with its little eyes, seeming to have entered the world only to be photographed and to look at us. But if we raise our gaze we notice that a bottle of wine and some glasses have been mysteriously placed on top of her display case. A dog – a living one – sits on the checked floor and curiously observes many stuffed owls in a display, individuals and couples. We are tempted to say that the owls are also curiously observing the dog, wondering what it is doing there in the museum. The dark head of a hippo smiles from the corner of a photograph, looking at various big mammals, each closed in its own case, its new spare and insufficient habitat, on the same inappropriate checked floor. But on the floor we see a live cat, making itself at
ArtProject: Natural History, 2006
home, and beyond a door we can see a washing machine. A display case contains a scene featuring ostriches, large and small, or still in the eggshell. In the background different birds hold different poses, in profile, motionless, eternal at this point. But below the display case of the ostriches we see a few pairs of shoes. We don’t know to whom they belong or why they are lined up there in a row. Other images of birds repeat and are overlaid on images of the world outside the museum. It is impossible to understand if these are real scenes, installations or the result of digital processing. Common household objects and living pets positioned here and there in the impressive exhibits of a small Museum of Natural History make us think of the home, of everyday life, of the little things we all do, the weaknesses of life. But what’s going on? Has the photographer brought objects and animals here, to stage these tableaux? Or are we looking at evidence of a simple, homey way of running and experiencing a museum, where the guards make themselves at home? Who are the inhabitants of the museum? This, in the end, is photography: a way of attributing an effect of reality to a given situation, be it possible or impossible – if there is such a thing as an impossible situation. And what is reality, that reassuring term we often use to understand and justify things, remains a mystery.
â€œBy the way mom can hang out the washing only after the closing time. Living here is complicated, but we are used to it.â€? (Were we live, F. Bonetti 2006)
The Amalfi Coast is probably one of the most famous and most photographed of places that Italy has to offer. How many postcards, how many anonymous images on film or in files, how many selfies could the Faraglioni of Capri count? by Andrea Tinterri
The photographs by the Fratelli Alinari shaped the publicâ€™s image of Italy for a good part of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And before then, engravings, paintings, travel notes written in pencil on a piece of paper. A legendary place, which has become part of popular culture as the identifying landscape of a country. It is no coincidence that in 1982 Luigi Ghirri depicted the Faraglioni, inserting a panoramic telescope into the shot. A kind of reflection on photographic production itself, on the iconographic heritage that the place has produced. The Amalfi coast (2013 - 2014), a project by the photographer Martin Parr, forms part of this tradition, which sees the landscape and those who cross it the subjects of an examination without filters; ironic, crude and saturated with all that which a location such as this can show to the attentive eye. The work concentrates on the form of tourism, a theme dear to Parr, and on a number of examples of the behaviour typical of those who visit the coast, and not only. The beach is shown as a mass of abandoned washed-up bodies, often overweight, all waiting for time to pass and for the sun to change the colour of their skin. Plastic loungers which become tables for card games, or for food, drinks, anything that can break the sun-drenched, bewildering routine of the day. Parr blends in with the witnesses, with the subjects of his photographs. In the majority of cases he seems to get close up to his subjects without particular hesitation, he is there on the sand, listening to the voices, watching the movements, the
gestures, choosing his story page after page. Thus the tourist becomes an occupant, the spaces are frequented out of holiday habit for a momentary ritual emigration. The landscape is transformed, or rather deformed, under a momentary summer siege. But this emigration requires a record, the evidence that one has really been there, the essential souvenir to confirm our passage and our happiness (whether it be real or constructed). It is the moment of the photo memento, a holiday portrait to lose in the labyrinth of social networks: the Faraglioni of Capri (Italy) return, a young woman in pose blowing a kiss to a hypothetical audience. Parr often concentrates on the smartphones or cameras held by tourists seeking a keepsake; thus the study moves to a metaphotographic level. What will happen to those images? Why do we think they are necessary? What needs do they satisfy? Even Pompei becomes a place in which to record ones presence, a place to plant the flag of the happy tourist. Like the Blue Grotto in Capri, where Parr photographs the mass of small boats waiting to enter for a furtive look around. A sweltering wait in the sun, necessary however to assure the positive outcome of the holiday, or its account. In some cases the gaze seems to fall on the search for repeated symbols within the landscape. The figures in a nativity-scene, full of all kinds of obsessions: a mass of characters, Popes and footballers, singers, politicians and Queens. All mixed up, a world of media superheroes. And the symbols of Christianity
ArtProject: The Amalfi coast, 2013-2014
abandoned on the beaches beside colourful inflatable mattresses. They form part of a landscape which is probably by now secularised but which continues to accumulate ancient residues. In The Amalfi coast, Martin Parr continues a project which is by now consolidated by a long and fortunate period of research, which finds its object of investigation in mass tourism, standardised food, and the consequences of kitsch consumerism. Leaving nothing to the interpretation of the observer, Parrâ€™s is a photography which is explicit, violent, desecrating, and fiercely ironic. And colour plays a predominant role, the saturated tones highlight the excess before our eyes, the opulence of a crowded landscape, probably overloaded with stimuli. But the next step is also that of comparison, of self-identification. How many times have we found ourselves on an overflowing beach? How many times have we taken a photograph in a symbolic location to have a keepsake? How many useless photographs have we abandoned to the web? It is a world in which we play a part or which, at least in some strange way, conditions us. It is an unfiltered anthropological study which brings the observer face to face with rituals which are by now a consolidated part of our cultural habits. In Parrâ€™s project there is no privacy, it is a world which mixes and shares experiences. Rituals which are clearly dictated by well-established consumerism and induced needs, but which are also small gestures, temporary emigrations which are necessary in order to exorcise a year of everyday life.
“With photography, I like to create fiction out of reality. I try and do this by taking society’s natural prejudice and giving this a twist.” (M. Parr)
Giuliano F errari
This Italian journey proposed by Giuliano Ferrari is not linear, from one place to another, from one landscape to another. It appears instead to proceed through accumulation accumulation of images and writings, always destined towards an ‘elsewhere’ with respect to that which is shown. by Paolo Barbaro
Of course, travel photographs, the iconographies of Grand Tours, have always been subject to a similar destiny: in photo albums where cartes de visite were interleaved with later instant portraits in holiday outfits, perhaps interspersed with the usual photos by Alinari or Sommer, purchased during visits to art capitals; then later the Baedeker guides, books of exploration, books which in any case tend towards distended time – from passage to contemplation – and then condensed in various ways – from an attentive study to a quick flipping through, just ‘looking at the pictures’ – and interleaved among, or superimposed on to, other experiences. Figures which remain apparently inert until someone pulls them out of the warehouse/archive/collection. Then they come to life. Before our eyes they produce memories, knowledge, nostalgia: all nouns which presume a certain distance, a comparison, an articulation, which suggest the piling up of images over or under other images, other experiences. Certainly, many of the recent methods of producing and using photographic images lead to excessive production and accumulation in relation to actual use. Indeed, often the use of images is concentrated in the brief moment surrounding their creation, it is consumed in the gesture of a selfie, in the ostentation of the tablet held high in front, imitating a benediction or a curse on the complicated panorama spread out before us. The accumulation of such artificial images does not correspond, as is often claimed, to an acceleration of use, or even to an increase in the consumption of images – the consumption, if anything, regards time, subtracted from that which could be dedicated to observing, evaluating and understanding the configuration of that which is visible – but which
moves towards a kind of visual anaesthesia, a dulling of perception which is translated into a uniformity of icons, apparently interchangeable. And it is curious how esthesia, how aesthetics seem to offer a refuge or the pretence of a refuge when the tide of images seems to rise. It has already happened: at the turn of the twentieth century, when the printing industry began to be able to propose the abundant printing of photographs without the use of drawing or halftones, what emerged was the profusion of so-called pictorialism, an integration of pictorial traditions and methods and the new iconography proposed by photographers. The trick, here, was actually in the slowing down, the elision of the combination of precision/speed guaranteed by silver salt and the growing automation of photography. And it may seem even stranger that it is from this redefinition of the boundaries between painted and photographic imagination – consider what happened with Camera Work, with the photography of Stieglitz, then Strand, and Weston, which produced the hypothesis of an absolutely immediate and direct style of photography: it is here that Straight Photography was officially baptised. I feel it is wise to keep in mind a number of points in this digression when examining these recent photographs by Ferrari: in effect the artist is a photoreporter, he has continuously, and with intensity, practised live narration through both film and silver salts, and through digital supports, to then play on nostalgia, or rather, of a historical fiction which is nothing if not contemporary (a historical reconstruction in Canossa (Italy) is a theme which is not so far removed from a science fiction, futurist setup), and has recently undertaken a Journey in Italy
ArtProjects: Grand Tour, 2010-2016 – Impulsi, 2010-2016 – Icon, 2010-2016
which he claims is neopictorialst, but here the move is the very opposite to that of the classic pictorialists: the style which simulates the ageing and consumption of the image is an automatic and instant effect which he applies and adds to a medieval cloister or to a photograph of the instant ritual of the self-portrait, or the ruins of a temple in such a way that we no longer know if it is archaic panorama or Pop style. And then apparently casual details, cathedral façades smooth and imposing in full sunlight and then sudden contructivist glances cast skywards. The proliferation of instruments seems to be superimposed on the multitude of places, situations and genres: the pinhole which shows the ghost of reality, the Polaroid which colours ancient stone with shades of Pop and invites manipulation, scratched film, then a dramatic black and white alla Rollei with a red filter; distended time and stolen moments, high tones and bleached colours, and then the acid saturation of chromes. Ferrari truly seems to be possessed by a legion of photographers, crushed by mountains of technology and stories of photography, but we know that every move is solved in an instant, in an ever reversible application. We think that every one of these frames, of these steps in an ongoing journey, potentially contains scores of other images, other connotations, other times and references, all ready for new emotions. It is a labyrinth from which we really have no idea how to escape, and every picture induces the wait for a further surprise. At a certain point the artist asks to propose a choice, asks how to stop, to stem this proliferation which seems to have its own momentum. The observer, however, is unable to decide, they can’t: they ask for more, they want to keep playing, they hope it never ends.
â€œMillions of eyes look up at windows, bridges, capers, and they might be scanning a blank page. Many are the cities like Phyllis, which elude the gaze of all, except the man who catches them by surprise.â€? (Invisible cities, I. Calvino)
Photography often assumes a therapeutic role, and at times this role is associated to a project in which the physical presence of the photographer is plainly shown. Francesca Woodman immediately springs to mind, a possibly over-cited personality, by now legendary, as well as Nan Goldin, who declared: “I was obsessed by the idea of having to photograph my life. by Christina Magnanelli Weitensfelder
The major motivation for my work is an obsession with memory. I became a serious photographer when I started drinking because the morning after I wanted to remember all the details of my experiences. And so I would go to the bar, I would shoot, and I was left with a recording of my life”. Photography which becomes memory, transforming into narration: excess, alcohol, sex, life. The act of photographing is necessary, perhaps it something similar to survival. This, I believe, could be the starting point for the observation and for a reflection on the work of Valentina Scaletti. An artist who, on her own body and on that of the people who form part of her personal universe of friends and family, has constructed a significant part of her art. It is by now banal to speak of the threat and build-up of images on our system of daily interactions. But it is a fact which brings our attention right down to a fundamental level, or rather to the most impertinent and innocent question that one could possibly ask. Why produce images? Why take photographs? At this point the necessity could be considered the standard with which to evaluate the production of a narration through images. And the body, both that of the photographer and those of the people who directly influence them, could become the starting point for such a narrative experience. It is as if, within, there were the traces of an invisible identity, necessary not only to the producer of the image, but also to whoever reads the story. The body is square one, it means starting from a secret, with something
that needs to be revealed, placed on a table and discussed, studied, examined in the finest of detail. If, with Nan Goldin, her very physicality was the clear sign of a geography, a culture and a specific historical period, with Valentina Scaletti this aspect is masked, more ambiguous, and hidden under a rich symbolism. The contemporaneity of Scaletti’s narration lies with this clean slate, with this necessity from where we began. In this case what she brings into play is primary symbolism: places and people through which to begin a public diary, in a moment in which Western culture – following a phase which we considered post-modern and fluid – needs a regenerative and re-constructive story. Scaletti’s is a narrative journey which sees the body, and not only, as we will soon see, the subject with which to begin. From which to start a re-constructive examination which is perhaps emotive, but not introflexed within her own Id, rather it is aimed at a Western contemporaneity which we now see as tired. In the portfolio a brief synthesis of three recent projects where this kind of reflection is blatantly expressed, highlighting the common thread in her work. Inner space is a project of just five photographs which depict two places which are far apart but which define their own intimate geography. Scaletti photographs the interior of an old house located within a wooded park in the province of Parma, and in the Apuan Alps in Garfagnana(Italy). Two places that she knows and frequents. Two spaces that characterise a geographic identity. This is also a form of
ArtProjects: Inner space, 2015 – Invisible Light, 2014-2015 – Self Portrait, 2013
self-portrait, or rather, it is a form which seems to precede the evidence of the body. It is as if they were fictitious, imaginary places, created in her own image and likeness, in which to live, feel safe, and begin the story. A superimposition of files which allows for a new construction of the World, a simple gesture which allows the introduction of people, of their words. With Invisible light the landscape begins to come to life, to be inhabited. To be filled with people with whom Scaletti interacts. They are self-portraits with her Father, her Mother, her husband, and other members of her family. Almost all of them are placed within a natural landscape, as if to recognise the image’s generative role, as if to remind the observer that it regards a rebirth, a new word. And then to definitively focus, in the project Self portrait, on her own physical subjectivity: her face is obscured and her hands sew a fabric heart onto her chest. A self-transplant, DIY surgery. Again, in this case, the reconstruction of a diseased or missing part, a kind of re-birth. It is here that Scaletti’s language acquires contemporary form, assuming the characteristics of a proposal for the future. A declaration of intent. A genesis of a bucolic, personal, fragile nature. But the intimacy of the photograph disappears in the very moment that it is published, shown printed on a piece of paper and left in the hands of the observer. And it is in that very moment that the images lose their characteristics as simple personal therapy to become a manifesto.
“Nor shall the blind night rob thee of the road, To hinder thy gaze on Nature’s Farthest-forth. Thus things for things shall kindle torches new. ” (De Rerum Natura, Lucretius)
How can one describe a territory and the transformation in progress which determines its change? This is the premise reflected on in the last two projects by Lorenzo Vitturi: Dalston Anatomy and Droste Effect, Debris and Other Problems. by Andrea Tinterri
The area is that of Dalston, a district of East London. An area which, until a short while ago, was considered working-class and was characterised by a large immigrant population. Over recent years the area had been subject to a heavy property revaluation which has seen the construction of luxury housing and shopping centres, leading to a process of gentrification. This phenomenon has caused the gradual cancellation of a cultural identity, forcing a significant part of the population to move away from the area, permanently changing its distinctive features. Lorenzo Vitturi well understands the problem and the extent of the transformation, as Dalton is the part of London in which his studio is located. That which we may consider urban change has, over the course of the history of photography, often been a frequent theme and source of debate. One need only remember Gabriele Basilico’s work on a number of areas of Milan between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s (Milano ambiente urbano and Milano ritratti di fabbriche), areas which over a short period of time were to change their social, and therefore architectural, traits. But Lorenzo Vitturi’s project does not limit itself to the rendering of an image, nor to a photographic investigation interpreted as the study of an area. His is a more complex act, or rather one that contains a sum of elements and actions which define a story. Vitturi looks for objects, relics of a life, fragments which are more or less important, in Dalston’s rubbish. He collects them, building sculptures, installations, a kind of Nouveau Réalisme. And then he photographs them, showing how those objects which were
abandoned or considered unimportant can bear witness to a moment in history. The distinctive traits of change, of a research which will probably become impossible once the process of gentrification enters its final phase. This first stage is accompanied by photographs of that part of the population that is leaving the area, the faces of the African and Turkish communities which had characterised the area and which are gradually drifting away. But often even these faces are reprogrammed, superimposed with the same objects collected by Vitturi, creating an even stronger identification with the area, a physical and emotive unity. Thus the journey traced appears hybrid, rich with layers: faces, objects, sculptures. Such complexity is also expressed through the final part of the project, or rather the exposition: an installation in which the viewer rediscovers and reconstructs the pieces of a social earthquake, a structure which is collapsing, but whose physical presence is still evident. It is the affirmation that something still exists, a resistance confirmed by very strong colours, almost pop, similar to the phosphorescence of a number of advertising campaigns. Such chromatic choices could appear apparently opposed to the basis of the project itself, but it is the very vitality of the colours which re-establishes the level of resistance of the place. The work involved a long process of research and elaboration, which lasted two years. It was followed by Vitturi’s latest project: Droste Effect, Debris and Other Problems. A continuation of that study, that investigation, that examination of memory. Naturally
ArtProject: Droste Effect, Debris and Other Problems, 2013-2015
time moves forward and the process of transformation begins to take on irreversible characteristics. In this latest project we have the discovery of objects, the idea of installations, photography as one of the many possible languages which summarise an urban situation. But, while the evident continuity between the two works can be perceived, the difference is substantial. Time has consolidated a process which Vitturi presents in a form with, possibly, more melancholy traits. The objects photographed are ever more abstract, compositions which reveal almost nothing of their original function. Even the colours are often dulled. The faces disappear, save for perhaps a reflection in an advertising poster. The distance between a then and a now is revealed. The assemblages of objects composed and then photographed appear as something which is difficult to interpret, perhaps the last totems of an eliminated community. It is the slow deconstruction of a social fabric, an urban fabric, of a universe of which only totemic presences remain. The recognisability of that which is displayed is reduced to a bare minimum. In some cases we find ourselves faced with monochrome parallelepipeds, which we struggle to place in their original spaces. The functional memory of the object is completely lost. The disintegration is in its final stage, perhaps by now irreversible. It is probably the end of a story, or almost. The obstinate desire to bear witness to the little that remains, still holding on, multiplied in new images which gather the remains, minuscule particles which create others, in an unstoppable transformation, a relentless survival.
Lorenzo Vitturi Droste effect, debris and other problems. Milan (IT) â€“ Curated by Fantom Until May 20th, 2016 (viasaterna.com)
1997 saw the publication of a book by Uliano Lucas: “Fotografie perdute, ritrovate, via Brera e dintorni, 1962-1965 (Lost photographs, found, via Brera and the surrounding area, 1962-1965)”; perhaps it would be useful to reproduce a few of Uliano’s answers to my questions of the time. by Carlo Arturo Quintavalle
“Life stories - he said - , stories of a time of when it was still possible to while away the day; Milan was a city in a phase of transition from a post-war economical period to a economical miracle, a Bohemian flavour persisted, of passing time together, of cafés, discussions were an important part of daily life. At six in the evening the painters, writers and intellectuals stopped working and went to the café to meet, perhaps also because there were no heated houses, many lived in pensions, and there was still a strong desire to keep up to date, to get information”. And, then: “You know, Brera (Italy) was a world where you could meet everything, and where everything passed through, it was a place of healthy anarchy with various generations living side by side, and there was a wonderful kind of solidarity towards new arrivals... so at Bar Giamaica you didn’t find just artists, there was also the world of the neighbourhood, artisans, factory and office workers, everything blended together and the key word was tolerance”. (Barbieri, 1997) So, first of all an important observation, Via Brera and Bar Giamaica were not only meeting places for intellectuals, but that bar, and others in the area, saw the presence of various figures, ‘actors’ whose names have faded away but which often re-emerge through the words of Lucas, and they are not just artists, or journalists, or designers, or draughtsmen, but that world which Uliano Lucas discovered at the time and which he has never left. Thus, whoever looks at these images, which go way beyond the time of the Bar Giamaica of the early 1960s, whoever looks at these images must try to discover what, then and until the 1970s, Lucas wanted to say, and why these portraits, these figures, are so different from the others, again of intellectuals, but also of spaces, places, environments, which few others in that same period had depicted. In his portraits Lucas invents figures in a space which amplifies the gesture, marked by shadows, the shadows of beautiful old black and white prints developed, perhaps, in the stolen moments be-
tween a news photograph for Pannunzio’s Il Mondo and another for L’Unità, Paese sera, or perhaps L’Illustrazione italiana. And so we have Truman Capote, or Man Ray, Giovanni Testori, or Elio Vittorini, Franco Angeli or Nandi Vigo and many, many others, but also, with them, marginal figures, figures who hide their faces, figures lost behind a glass or enveloped in spirals of smoke. The shadow, the shadow is that of the few surviving images of this period taken by Mario Dondero, the photographer who gave the first camera to Ugo Mulas. So what is the novelty, what is the importance of these images? Of course, the photographs are a record of the dozens of intellectuals who have made a mark in our history, of course they are testimony to a critical sensibility and attention towards the figures which is, without a doubt, exceptional. Because, if one looks at the dates, to have discovered and photographed these celebrities, or rather, to have made them celebrities, means to have lived within the world of literature, painting, graphics, design, the creation of our world today. Lucas is, above all, a ‘director’ who knows how to choose his ‘actors’, he judges, and finds a ‘figure’ within the person he depicts, he uncovers correspondences between that character and their work, a work which, perhaps, at the time had only just begun. All of this certainly doesn’t happen by magic, but through culture, through knowledge. And here I go back to a number of points I had proposed at the time, about fifteen years ago, on Lucas’s education. At the time the scene was dominated by the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson and his idea of a ‘stolen picture’, of a moment that was, in some way, sublime, suspended out of time, a moment which, for Bresson, came directly from studies of surrealist painting. Well, none of this regards Lucas, who is not at all interested in the ‘stolen picture’, if anything he wants to converse with his subject, and so awaits the awareness of his interlocutor. The person photographed knows that they are the subject, and in some way they propose gestures, a pose, an organi-
ArtProject: Ritratti, 1960-1984
sation of their body which must be unique; when a person is photographed it is as though they have been invited to create the picture and, I am sure, Lucas took pictures only once he had forged a friendship, once he had conversed, once he had discovered the person and had become interested in them. And so his pictures are much more than portraits, they are evidence of how much one can discover within people, and about people, through dialogue. Lucas is an unusual photographer, every time he shoots, he archives a character, he remembers what they said, how they interacted with him. Lucas at times shoots in his studio, other times – a classic framing of his – he has a subject lean out of a window and he takes the shot from the next window along; in other cases he modifies relationships and proportions, like when he put Testori in the background, but with his face lit up like the moon, or when he modified perspective, as was the case with Man Ray at Studio Marconi. We almost always know the names of these figures, but for thousands of other pictures taken by Lucas with the same committed passion, the names have been lost, perhaps forgotten, while the photograph is the record of a dialogue, a discovery, the respect for a testimony. Early 1960s Brera was still a working-class neighbourhood but, over the years, even though here he shows us important personalities, Lucas has always narrated the complexity of a society. It is no coincidence that many of his photographs have made history, from those of the migrations from the South to those of social conflict, of students and police, demonstrations and religious celebrations, harrowing photographs of ruins and famine throughout the world, to those – calm but bitter – of the current end of occupation, of the death of the factories, the abandoned suburbs. In this important and attentive gaze on a part of history which is yet to be published but which Lucas has already written, these intense images by one of the great, most respectable protagonists of modern-day European photography are to be seen.
“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” (T. Capote)
Paolo Woods & Gabriele Galimberti Our subject here is a book. To be more precise, a hardback book in a case which measures 31.5 by 25 centimetres. On the cover, an arrow carved in a lightly-clouded blue sky indicates the direction of an impossible voyage which is underlined by the title: The Heavens. by Giovanna Calvenzi
The subtitle makes it clear that it is an Annual Report. The implicit suggestion that we have before us something heavenly is in any case confuted as soon as one starts to leaf through, by the pragmatic photograph of a certificate which attests that the authors, Paolo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti, have formed a real company, The Heavens LLC in the United States, in Delaware, and the book is presented as an annual report of their photographic activity. “We paid a tax – they write in the presentation -, signed a piece of paper, and that was it”, and now they own a company registered in a state in which, if they carry out their business elsewhere, they won’t have to pay taxes. A paradise, albeit fiscal. Thus begins, with this ironic tone, the Annual Report of a company created by two extraordinary photographers, both very much used to carrying out in-depth journalistic investigations. This time their investigation focusses on fiscal paradises, in an attempt to understand and narrate a distortion in the capitalist system which plays a central role in global finance. It all began in 2012 while Paolo Woods was living in Haiti. “Gabriele came to visit me – they add –. He had just received his income tax return and he realised that the Italian Authorities had taken approximately 50% of his earnings. We were looking at a map of the Caribbean, seeing that the Cayman Islands were just an hour away, and he said, jokingly: “I should go there to hide my money”. We suddenly realised that we knew practically nothing about fiscal paradises or how they work”. As they are used to doing, they started to read up on the subject, but despite their experience with tricky situations, the subject turned out to be iconographically one of the most difficult to take on. “We didn’t know what
we were supposed to be photographing. The more we read about fiscal paradises, the more we realised that there was nothing to photograph. How can you translate laws and financial transactions into images? Also, whatever happens in fiscal paradises is hidden, but is generally legal”. For almost three years, Woods and Galimberti, together with the English journalist Nicholas Shaxson, one of the most learned experts on the matter, visited thirteen different ‘paradises’, or countries that suffer the consequences: London, Jersey, Guernsey, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Delaware, Angola, Hong Kong and Singapore. They thus began to photograph whatever was visibly available: row upon row of security boxes in Singapore, the headquarters of financial companies in London, the Hong Kong stock exchange, but also beaches, golf courses, party halls... Then, surprisingly, many people were happy to be photographed and therefore a series of images was created that alternated faces that have a name and surname with more general situations. The narrative language that Woods and Galimberti have chosen is exactly what you would expect from an annual report which a company sends to its shareholders: positive images that aim to reassure, posed portraits directly facing the camera, meetings with the board of directors, busy offices, landscapes of light blue skies and blue seas, which are at times interleaved with incongruous situations of people dressed as pirates or the image of a man flying skywards on a gigantic jet of water. This is how The Heavens came about, over 200 pages of text and images masterfully constructed to narrate, with an unusual lightness, a phenomenon which is visibly
ArtProject: The Heavens, 2012-2015
evasive, a situation which, every year, sees 32 billion dollars escape taxation in their country of origin. Without ever betraying their incredible ability to narrate with cheerful levity, Woods and Galimberti have created a series of images which combines portraits, photographs of architecture and landscapes, scenes of life and posed situations. But this extraordinary lesson in applied photography is enriched by a journalistic aspect. Every single image has a substantial caption which characterises and informs, and which often changes our perception of the image itself. Nicole, a beautiful young Philippine woman shown naked, looking out of a Singapore window, is in reality a waitress who works as a prostitute on her days off to help support her family; a night view of Panama underlines the fact that the majority of apartments are unoccupied, nobody has enough money to live there, but they have been built with drug money from Colombia and Venezuela; the gardener of a magnificent residence in Jersey informs us that whoever earns at least a million dollars a year is actively encouraged to take up residence on the island (naturally benefiting from an incredibly low tax regime). Photographs and words tell the same story but the languages diverge radically, creating in the reader a sense of disorientation which renders them privy and complicit to the project. The work by WoodsGalimberti-Shaxson renders us finally aware that fiscal paradises are not exotic tropical locations; rather they are an integral part of the globalised economy. “The money that ends up in the vaults of offshore banks is ‘stolen’ from public services, schools, hospitals and roads. It may be legal, but it is most certainly immoral”.
â€œWe have produced a body of work that shows what these places look like, but, even more importantly, what they mean.â€? (P. Woods & G. Galimberti)
S/ F 2016 ISBN 978-88-99367-20-6
eu 9 788899 367206
Published on Jul 7, 2016
THE VISION AIM illuminates the many facets of photography and visual art. #AImagazine is published by Greta’s Books as an international art-...