< The simulacrum of reality

Behind the masks of appereance
by Francesca Baboni and Stefano Taddei

in Sabrina Raffaghello (a cura di), Biennale di Alessandria videofotografia contemporanea, Gli Alberi, Milano 2011

Disconnect and self destruction, one bullet at a time, What’s your rush neo? Everyone will have his day to die

A perfect circle, The Outsider

[Reality does not exist. Those who share this opinion live beyond time. After having acknowledged this condition, the man can only confront contingency as a matter of self-consistency. If everything that is visible to the eye of the individual is a subject to manifold interpretations1 there is no point in human beings considering themselves as the sole repositories of the truth2 of reality. As a matter of fact the reference to reality, also including its artistic implications3, has always been linked to the concept of authenticity. Now things are completely different. Nothing remains of reality – or of its alleged correspondence with a very stringent concept of visual truth – but a troubled memory. The term simulacrum comes from the homonymous Latin word and in ancient times it stood for the statue representing the power of a god. So, according to this meaning simulacrum refers to something simultaneously representing reality and differing from it. Photography is commonly considered as the principal “truth evidence” and in a historical period that is more and more extensively harmonised and influenced by the media and computer and multimedia technology the image production has to plunge into a precarious and fluid, in a way, liquid and ever-changing stream. A selected group of authors has been asked to try out photographing and/or video-making in order to represent an individual sense/simulacrum of reality.] Someone is deeply influenced by the recollections of a place where he has been: for instance, Bruno Cattani, who looks with his watchful and attentive eye over the spaces once destined to the treatment of madness, such as a mental hospitals and lunatic asylums, by following with his shots and a heartbreaking soundtrack the memory of a trace and of a human presence that is still tangible through the objects and things left by their owners who, however, are not there anymore.
Other alienating places are also the Urban Streetmarkets of big cities in the site-specific scale reproduction by Josef Rainer, who has been worked ever since at a poetics focused on the simulacrum of city-planning representation. Street markets and tourist attractions peopled by miniature men are characterized by an architectural structure ready to be compared with the real London and Vienna road networks, built on cardboard walls like a ramified and ever-expanding spider web, while the clip London Building screens the district of London.
A simulacrum of reality can also be the perception of a space becoming the scene of a loss experience. The young woman in the video installation Pregnant silence by Armida Gandini plunges down afloat, moving continuously, slowly and uncomfortably from a surface to another and being swept away by water, suspended in a silence pregnant with omens that separates her from the outside world and creates disorientation. While watching the spectator experiences at first claustrophobia, caused by the feeling of going under, and then a real physical disorientation.
One of the phenomena that have influenced our approach to the world since childhood has its roots in religious education. Starting from this premise, Adalberto Abbate subjects Catholicism to a careful scrutiny and his Catholicism Addiction Disorder is a work in progress on the deviations due to this belief, including the more sanguinary and monstrous ones. Deviations that are anything but peacemaking also for their approach to the contingency of being would hide behind a supposed secularisation of the societies marked by the presence of Catholicism.
New technologies change continually the physical and spiritual dimension of human existence. The survey presented by AMAE focused on the Holy Shroud. Not only does this relic represent a faith icon, but also a physical legacy that can be within everybody’s reach via web: My Body is Your Body is a deep and strictly virtual but also amazingly realistic multimedia mapping of the Holy Shroud and of a human organism recreated by computer.
Eleonora Rossi shows us the precariousness of life and deeply problematic relation to reality. In her video installation Forward-rewind The Earth childhood memories, education, time and space distance are only a few life steps that found a new visual investigation conducted through a totally unusual approach to perception. Alienated observing represents a metaphor of the difficulty of living fully in each moment of our existence.
Paolo Consorti’s humorous and social surrealism reminds us of a classic of antiquity, Petronius’ Satiricon, after a modern reassessment without too faithful references to the original work. The protagonists of the present and surrealistic social, religious and political situation parade on (apparently) funny floats, as if it were a real, embarrassing and incomprehensible celebration of Mardi Gras.
Barbara Uccelli has been impressed by the sparkling lights of Shanghai visible from Bar Rouge terrace, reproduced through a suggestive interactive light installation, which simulates the map of Pu Shi district alleys and roads, including the ancient areas razed to the ground to build skyscrapers. As a matter of fact, every day at a certain time such show ends and its memory merges in the dark. Red Riding Hood bearing a light becomes a timeless personification and an allegory of a use of energy more consonant with life. Only following such example reality can be interpreted in a more mindful and human way.
Each representation can hide aspects which are incomprehensible when they are merely displayed and the installation La Repubblica (The Republic) by Marco Giovani provides an emblematic example of it. The refraction of glass and mirrors creates new visual possibilities of the Aliens trio. This expressive modality proves the feebleness of the boundaries limiting each vision and representation, steadily on the borderline between a fixed enclosing and an uncertain opening towards a beyond that reveals itself as a precipice for sensible knowledge. Maybe the quotidian and invisible “monster” in the video by Massimo Festi tries to protect himself from himself through disguise and a sort of bizarre love and courting game accompanied by a distressing lullaby, as he wanted to prove that every man knows only his hidden truth and has to invent a stereotype scripting in order to conform to a world based on lies and on antiheroic survival strategies.
The photographic image has the power of evocating a lack beyond pure representation. Loredana Longo expands this reference substratum with further, especially sentimental references. Souvenir#4 homme collection refers to a past that reflects a disturbing absence even in the present, where a disfiguring amputation keeps reminding of that mix of love and death characterizing the tragic dimension of life.
Gian Luca Beccari works especially on the possible meaning of the term “simulacrum”. The author deduces from this word a sequence of interpretation of what can represent something else. So, through Plato’s Phaedo, some earthly matters are given a metaphysical explanation: a heritage of antiquity through the centuries. Thanks to Beccari’s work this doctrine of the universal has a new capability of enlightening our troubled present times.
Eurasia is not a mere geographical concept. Both continents have deep cultural contact points, which are often disregarded. Through his project Persistence Claudio Gobbi aims at bringing the cultural identities shared by Europe and Asia in again. So the author has immortalized a series of interiors from Portugal to Armenia where such conception is particularly rooted. These spaces show the boundaries between Western and Eastern civilization which are susceptible of becoming a bridge between them. Theatres, Japanese gardens or Armenian churches are both symbols of belonging and separation; memory and identity persistence places pose a question concerning our various cultural heritages.
Lightness can convey thoughts. Stefania Romano focuses her attention on an enchanted world that at least once has been dreamt of. Reality is certainly different but incorporates some of these fancies: this is the reason why lightness can leave a more tangible trace than any other complex concept. The authoress proposes the fragment of a dream where the tragic and the grotesque aspects play an active role in the theatre of life that never stops exerting influence. They are parts of bodies that can be fitted together by forming a sole system and connecting feelings of discomfort and instinct.
The unexpected comes in everyday life, and in fact, although it can be ordinary, each life can find new paths to self-understanding. Also images, apparitions, emotions come unexpected and change substantially the understanding of the past, the present and the future of being. Through a collage of small precious details Elena Arzuffi reproduces for us those images full of pathos and poetry that have impressed her deeply. Everyday life appears a positive and ambiguous metaphor for an existential change.
Martyrdom has always threatened humanity; methods change, but suffering is unaltered. Those who should love you most can be your worse torture. Physical beauty can become an impediment to acknowledging such suffering, as Cosimo Terlizzi seems to explain through the mise en scène of his votive chapel. The smell of perpetrated and suffered misdeeds still remains: the relic. This leaves in the martyred being a void that is difficulty to fill with faith in the neighbour and finally feeling balanced emotions. Thus sacrifice appears unavoidable and endless.
The image as the medium and the manifestation of an expressive and emotional potential: it symbolized the Apocalypse of essence and existence through the exaltation of a style or a fashion trend. Barbara La Ragione uses elegantly the non-colours (white and black) to combine together the concepts of moments already lived and moments not lived yet. Her disguised characters move inside an amazing capacious hive where the image itself turns into a sort of queen bee governing and watching over characterless individuals who come to life at the mercy of alienating and ambiguous laws of appearance.
Reality is always overburdened with individual or collective hallucinations. Daniela Bozzetto acknowledges the confusion caused by such visions, which are constantly suspended between concreteness and fantasy. Through photos shot in natural light, abstracted from their backgrounds and introduced into a borderline zone, the authoress conveys an ambivalent impression that multiplies unceasingly. These both charming and disquieting images amplify the evanescence of all certain will of exemplification of perceptible phenomena. The awareness of the existence of an uncertain, innocuous and altered limit between the organic and the inorganic world overburden with further anxieties any sense of direction.
[Can some simple pots become opening doors towards an unknown and fascinating world? Benedetta Alfieri connotes the objects chosen for the series Due (Two) with further complexity by making an attempt to bring them to life in their own sweet way in a parallel world. The iconographic simplification of representation betrays a further semantic difficulty and a deep substance in the transmitted message, which clash with the banality of the common photographed object. By loosing all certainty, also sense of the simplest things changes in a perpetual process of modification.]
In his work Tommaso Fiscaletti searches for the hidden sides on the common daily nature of a smile or a look. His rational research focuses on catching the significance of the unknowable emotions emerging from the life of a couple through the intrusion into their so-called normal family privacy, by capturing that crucial moment when something submersed comes to light and by affirming its legitimacy. Cinematographic narration concurs in creating short stories, real film shots, which function as moment of private confession of the characters.
The anxiety of Daniela Perego finds expression to the happiest day par excellence, thus imbuing it with indifference. In the video Wedding, shot during a real wedding reception, the artist is the absolute protagonist of the scene. She lies motionless on the floor in her petticoat and, paradoxically, no guest realises her absolutely disturbing presence because of the frantic confusion of the party: her being there turns to a sort of hyper-real nightmare, a dream without happy ending.
Marriage is not always all roses neither for Oriella Montin: in her Idillio nuziale (Nuptial Idyll) she tells the married life in an emotional, strictly alienating and metaphorical way, by alternating black and white and colour shots. The enigma of representation merges with the isolation of the photographed elements that suggests an autobiographical approach and a latent problem in fieri. The simultaneously disquieting and subtly ironical perspective of the picture immortalizing the newly-married couple by cutting the cake shows two blades instead of the wedding rings near them and some onions instead of pieces of cake as symbols of the suffering caused by the relationship between men and women.

La meg åpne det lukkede rom,
la meg rite de skjulte runer,
la meg kaste mitt spyd,
midt i trollets kalde hjerte
Burzum, Valen
Reggio Emilia, on April 2011
© Francesca Baboni and Stefano Taddei