Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

Mar 19 - Jun 19

The Shape of Time. A dialogue through images between Fabio Barile and Domingo Milella

Fondazione Pescheria Centro Arti Visive, Pesaro

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

The sense of time is the subject of the dialogue through images between Fabio Barile and Domingo Milella. Both use photography to portray time. The measures are different: historical time is very short compared to geological time, but both the artists transpose, reduce and compose images that describe the shape of time.
The work of Domingo Milella, Indexing 2001/2016, features the main destinations of fifteen years of research during which the author has collected images and signs of people and cultures vanished, ancient enough to be forgotten or even incomprehensible. Milella’s journey began in the outskirts of Bari, the city where he grew up, and continued traveling from East to West, marking a map in which the man, often physically absent, still leaves traces of his presence.
The work of Fabio Barile, An Investigation of the laws observable in the composition, dissolution and restoration of land, is the analysis of the complex and intricate elements that characterize the landscape we live in, through geological evidence, experimentation with photographic materials and simulations of geological phenomena. His intent is to establish a dialogue with the deep history of our planet that, eroded, compressed and shaped, over billions of years of transformations, has generated the illusory stability of the landscape we are used to today.
The spirit of time-traveler is the imprint of the research of the two authors. The juxtaposition of their photographs let us into a backward journey, a descent into the unknown, into the human’s heart, from present to deep time.

Dic 18 - Feb 19

Libri per bambini con il culto dell'immagine

Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

Until the Sixties, the book for children, with the exception of Munari's experiments, was a purely written book and only accompanied, at intervals, by some illustrative tables of the contents. But between the Sixties and Seventies many publishers seem to take on the idea of ​​Walter Benjamin who, thinking about his collection of children's books, talks about the parallel and autonomous reading that the child performs by immersing himself and getting lost in the illustrations, leaving out the logical shore - verbal, so much so that the illustrations come to constitute a further sense that the child will have of history.
The story appears as a verbal pretext for giving life to simple images constructed precisely for the visual perception of a child; so much so that the images are often made with the help of photography, and integrated with graphics to sharpen the reader's ability to observe. The integration between graphics and photography on the one hand makes the use of captions or words or descriptions not essential, and indeed guarantees an absolute pictorial rendering, on the other it produces something that resembles the sequences of a storyboard and the incisiveness of a neorealist film.
The intent of the most experimental publishers regarding the children's book in those years is to use an elementary language and visuality, with the attempt to address at the same time an audience of boys and adults, workers and peasants. Reading is in fact to be understood as a capacity not only alphabetic, but also visual and figurative. The effectiveness of the photographic story and the use of photography as a document and not as an illustration thus become the watchwords of all those authors who will lead back to this absolutely avant-garde research.
Libri per bambini con il culto dell'immagine [Books for children with the cult of the image] is an exhibition project that was born from these first experiences and in particular from the collection of children's books by Giuseppe Garrera, which brings together the rarest and most experimental publications and series of Italian editors of the Sixties and the Seventies, including Edizioni dalla parte delle bambine, Emme Edizioni, Io e gli altri, Per leggere per fare, and of authors such as Bruno Munari, Gianni Rodari, Umberto Eco, Nico Orengo and Folco Quilici.
In dialogue with the books of Giuseppe Garrera's collection, innovative photographic publishing publications for very young children and adolescents will be exhibited, acquired by the Malaspina Foundation from contemporary publishers such as Corraini, Ecole Des Loisirs, Editions Thierry Magnier, Greenwillow Books, Nanaroku Sha, Topipittori and many others. The selection of books was carried out in collaboration with Cartastraccia, an association committed to the promotion of books, reading and libraries, with particular reference to the age group of children.
Moreover, on the occasion of the setting up at the Pastificio Cerere Foundation, some original Xerographies by Bruno Munari will be exhibited together with the edition published in 1977 within the series Quaderni di design which he himself curated for Zanichelli. The unique copies of Munari will serve as an invitation to the public that within the exhibition space will be able to freely experiment the use and operation of a copy machine, intended as a tool to produce images as well as to reproduce them.
In Italy a census and research work on this rich production for children has not yet been done, and there are no specific collections. The aim of the exhibition on the photographic book for children, conceived by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Cartastraccia and realized in collaboration with the Pastificio Cerere Foundation in Rome, is therefore to deepen the productive field of Italian and international children's publishing, focus attention on the most innovative and experimental experiences and promote them through activities for children and adults.

Dic 17 - Mar 18

Qualsiasità - Cesare Ballardini, Cesare Fabbri, Jonathan Frantini, Marcello Galvani, Guido Guidi, Francesco Neri, Luca Nostri

Fondazione Pescheria Centro Arti Visive, Pesaro

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

Qualsiasità [translator’s note: term used by Cesare Zavattini to indicate the ordinary or mundane aspects of everyday life] features ninenty-nine works by the Italian master of photography Guido Guidi and the artists who attended his lessons in Ravenna and Venice at various times and frequented his home and studio in Cesena, including Cesare Ballardini, Cesare Fabbri, Jonathan Frantini, Marcello Galvani, Francesco Neri and Luca Nostri.
The projects developed over the years, independently or commissioned, have given rise to an in-depth exploration of the landscapes of a circumscribed geographical area extending from Cesena and Ravenna to Bologna, including Faenza, Lugo and Massa Lombarda, the birthplaces and homes of the photographers. The documentary style of the photographs on display allows them to offer an accurate and anti-rhetorical description of places considered marginal by the official iconography. It is an Italian geography that, just a few years later, is already of inestimable historical value due to the rapidly changing landscape.
The aim of the exhibition is to re-establish a link between photographic practices and genres, which critics and historiographers have long kept separate – such as “documentary” and “research” photography – thus offering an opportunity to continue to examine the conceptual and figurative dimensions of the Italian territory.
The title chosen for the exhibition is loosely based on a quote by Cesare Zavattini, a multifaceted figure and voice of Italian Neorealism. The “qualsiasità” of the eye is translated into a photograph of the day-to-day, attentive to the minor aspects and immediate vicinity of the land. The democratic eye that places each aspect of the visible world on the same plane, the narration of that which is unfinished, and the accumulation of signs that man leaves in the landscape are the elements that continue to transform their photographic practice into an existential approach that questions the act of looking and the traditional hierarchy of vision.
Promoted by the Fondazione Pescheria Centro Arti Visive, Qualsiasità is a production of the Malaspina Foundation in Ascoli Piceno, which is now restoring its venue (an historic palace of the sixteenth century) damaged by the earthquake last year. The exhibition returns to Italy after an international journey at the Italian Cultural Institute in London, where it was selected for the official program of Photo London. The appointment of Pesaro offers an expanded version of the exhibition that is enriched for the occasion with unpublished photographs from the eighties by Guido Guidi.

Dic 16 - Jan 17

Fold and Unfold - Kate Steciw, Letha Wilson

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

Fold and Unfold is the fourth chapter in a piece of curatorial research on the most experimental contemporary forms connected to the use of photography as a medium. The exhibited artists go beyond the traditional confines of photography, freeing the image from the limits of the two-dimensional.
Letha Wilson transforms flat images into sculptural objects combining photographic prints, metal and concrete in hybrid creations. Color photos that evoke the wild nature of the American landscape are cut, pleated and immersed into layers of viscous cement. Her photography installations are as much connected to sculpture as photography and they blur the boundary between the two mediums to reinvent the image of landscape photography. The final textures refer to natural terrains through the manipulation and exploration of color and form. The abstracted forms explore our complex material relationship to landscape.
Kate Steciw, on the other hand, interrogates the relationship between reality and virtual representation. Her digital photographic collages combine her own images with visual material found online, often promoting mass-produced products. The images collected are extrapolated from their context and reimagined as the pieces of an abstract mosaic, repeated in clippings and layers. Through a process that is both digital and artisanal, Steciw explores the production, consumption and manipulation of the contemporary image. By reflecting on the saturation of digital images which are meant to convince us to consume, she creates an artificial aesthetic reality in a reimagined space.

Oct 16 - Dic 16

Pier Paolo Pasolini

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Giuseppe Garrera

Strolling around Rome – wrote Bauer – is the only possible way to diminish even a little our nostalgia for the loss of Pier Paolo Pasolini. What we miss about Pasolini is his voice, his gaze, his smile, his step and the way he moved his hands (rarely in literature has there been a truer incarnation of the word in heat and proximity).
This exhibit is born of mad hope and faith in future resurrection, that one day we will have him back, in the same way that Dante found his beloved, immense Virgil in the afterlife, smiling down at him after such a long silence.

Jun 16

Qualsiasità - Cesare Ballardini, Cesare Fabbri, Jonathan Frantini, Marcello Galvani, Guido Guidi, Francesco Neri, Luca Nostri

Fondazione Malaspina Edizioni

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

Qualsiasità [translator’s note: term used by Cesare Zavattini to indicate the ordinary or mundane aspects of everyday life] compares various surveys undertaken in the territory of Romagna since 1984, through the eyes of seven photographers – Cesare Ballardini, Cesare Fabbri, Jonathan Frantini, Marcello Galvani, Guido Guidi, Francesco Neri and Luca Nostri – who recount the Italian province between Cesena and Ravenna passing by Faenza, Fusignano, Lugo and Massa Lombarda.
The title of the book is loosely based on a quote by Cesare Zavattini, multifaceted figure and voice of Italian Neorealism. The “qualsiasità” of the eye is translated into a photograph of the day-to-day, attentive to the minor aspects of the area and devoted to the landscape of the immediate vicinity, taken as the prime observation point.
The documentary style of the photographs on display allows them to offer an accurate and anti-rhetorical description of places considered marginal by the official iconography. It is an Italian geography that, just a few years later, is already of inestimable historical value due to the rapidly changing landscape.

A text by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

From its very beginnings, it was evident that photography could play a cognitive role and that photographic images promised an exact rendering of reality, silencing the individual and transient emotions that underpin each glance and recording the absolute uniqueness of individual events. The concept of a great archive of the world thus seemed within reach, because the eye and mechanical memory of the camera assured the absolute impartiality of the archivist, regardless of all preconceived schemata and preventive decisions regarding what might seem worthy of note.

There are many and varied examples of this archival use of photography. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris commissioned Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget to document the past of the rapidly changing French capital: a monumental work that would become the historic model of documentary photography. August Sander’s Menschen des 20. Jahrhuderts is another example, in which the photographer entrusted the impartial eye of the camera with the task of documenting the human diversity that constituted 20th-century German society, merging the concept of the archive, classification and sociological knowledge in the photographic image.

The physical and mechanical link with the world of everyday life led the “realists” of this “new objectivity” to delude themselves that photography was capable of producing something of objective value, capable of guaranteeing the truth of what was represented in the actual image. However, there is no one knowledge, just as there is no one reality; every external appropriation implies a process of selection, whether conscious or unconscious. And every choice implies the photographer’s viewpoint, and every viewpoint implies a stance. Every photographer’s decision have specific consequences for the meaning of the end result.

It is only since the mid-1930s that the ambiguity of photography, inherent in the very concept of “document”, has been used as the basis for a reappraisal of the photographic image and for the complete overturning of earlier photography. John Szarkowski offers a good description: “It was at this moment that sophisticated photographers discovered the poetic uses of bare-faced facts, facts presented with such fastidious reserve that the quality of the picture seemed identical to that of the subject. The new style came to be called documentary. This approach to photography was most clearly defined in the work of Walker Evans.”(1)

The detached, neutral style of these photographers produced a representation capable of informing and reflecting on our perception of the world, accepting its underlying paradox. Suddenly the hitherto opposite poles of “documentary style” and “art” ceased to preclude each other. This important transition underpins the vast area of work that started to take shape in the United States in the 1970s, and in Europe in the 1980s, by photographers who focused on the study of ongoing changes in the contemporary landscape, in the historic leap from industrial to post-industrial economy.

The 1975 exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape recognized that the formal and neutral detachment of the photographic document had the potential to revive our ability to read the landscape and adopted the “documentary style” already proposed by Walker Evans in 1971: “Documentary is a very sophisticated and misleading word. And not really clear... The item should be documentary style... You see, a document has use, whereas art is really useless. Therefore art is never a document, though it certainly can adopt that style.”(2)

Between the early 1980s and early 1990s, Italy was also the stage for a cultural movement constituted by many photographers who used direct photography with simple observation of places to probe the rift between contemporary man and the world that he himself built. This veritable geography of photographers became explicit in 1984 in the form of Viaggio in Italia, the famous project devised by Luigi Ghirri and Gianni Celati. On the inside flap of the book is a manifesto outlining the work: “Viaggio in Italia was born of the need to take a journey into the new Italian photography, and, in particular, to see how a generation of photographers, having discarded the utopia of exotic travels, sensational photo reports, formal analysis, and presumed and contrived creativity, have instead turned their sights to reality and the landscape that surrounds us... The journey is thus a quest and the chance to activate knowledge that is not a cold scientific category, but an adventure of the mind and the eye.”(3)

Their photography is characterized by numerous cultural references, from conceptual art to land art, from its closeness to American modern photography to contemporary photography – from Walker Evans to Lee Friedlander, from Robert Frank to the New Topographics. But above all, 1980s Italian photography shows close continuity with the great Italian neorealist film movement. Luigi Ghirri himself indicated “continuity with experiences other than photography, the films of De Sica, Rossellini, Fellini, Antonioni... They weren’t so much changes in the landscape as changes in the way of life. I found that American photography spoke of the same things... Paradoxically, no less than Antonioni’s Red Desert or Fellini’s La Strada, American photography teaches us to build our identity that is inside and outside ourselves, in a unique synthesis of external and internal world.”(4) And Guido Guidi speaks of “a photography that is not monumental and of monuments, but of qualsiasità [translator’s note: term used by Cesare Zavattini to indicate the ordinary or mundane aspects of everyday life], as Zavattini called it.”(5)

It was during this period that Guido Guidi decided to work with a large-format camera, able to ensure an accurate projection of the image and meticulous detail, achieved by making contact prints from a colour negative. Sensitive to the insignificant everyday life of inhabited spaces, emptiness, and everything that is marginal and dispersed, Guidi’s work does not focus on the city, but on an entire area – the strip between Emilia-Romagna and Veneto – along which it continuously moves. Always surrounded by young people, the artist displays great dedication to observing materials and the tiniest things that inhabit the landscape, the outlying and abandoned areas, stripping photography of all formal artifice.

During the early 1980s, Guidi launched a research project addressed at the area as a democratic accretion of traces, displaying a new sensitivity to natural light and colour, the architecture of spatial voids, and contiguities and associations: “I tried to approach the origins of the visual language by simply looking and connecting, just as the prehistoric hunter identifies his prey using the tracks it leaves in the field.”(6)

The explicit reference to Zavattini’s concept of qualsiasità and the focus on the day-to-day, which reveals the sense of places, are timeless and continue to display a clear link with neorealism that endures in Guidi’s photography and in a new generation of photographers who testify to his particular aptitude for exploring the landscape.

Artists such as Cesare Ballardini, Cesare Fabbri, Jonathan Frantini, Marcello Galvani, Francesco Neri and Luca Nostri, who attended his lessons in Ravenna or Venice at various times and frequented his home and studio in Cesena, have projected the interest in the marginal landscape into the new millennium as an occasion to reflect on the nature of photography. The qualsiasità of the eye is translated into a photograph of the day-to-day in their work as well, attentive to the minor aspects of the area and devoted to the landscape of the immediate vicinity, taken as the prime observation point.

These different generations of photographers are linked on the one hand by the quest for human footprints in the landscape, and on the other by the refusal of the exceptionality of beauty in the traditional sense, in favour of the observation of reality in its layers of meaning. The democratic eye that places each aspect of the visible world on the same plane; the narration of that which is unfinished; and the accumulation of signs that man leaves in the landscape, are the elements that continue to transform their photographic work into an existential approach that questions everything about the world.

(1): J. Szarkowski, Looking at Photographs. 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1973.
(2): W. Evans, Interview with Walker Evans, by Leslie Katz, in “Art in America”, march-april 1971.
(3): L. Ghirri, G. Leone, G. Celati (curated by), Viaggio in Italia, 1984.
(4): L. Ghirri, L’obiettivo della visione, in “Lotus International", n.52, 1987.
(5): G. Guidi, Una fotografia della “qualsiesità”, in "Racconti dal Paesaggio. A vent’anni da Viaggio in Italia", Roberta Valtorta (curated by), 2004.
(6): G. Guidi, Appunti per una lezione, in "La figura dell’Orante", 2012

Jun 16 - Oct 16

Qualsiasità - Cesare Ballardini, Cesare Fabbri, Jonathan Frantini, Marcello Galvani, Guido Guidi, Francesco Neri, Luca Nostri

Fondazione Malaspina, Ascoli Piceno

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

The Malaspina Foundation, a new experimental platform for research on contemporary photography, inaugurated its exhibition activities with a group exhibition curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva.
Qualsiasità [translator’s note: term used by Cesare Zavattini to indicate the ordinary or mundane aspects of everyday life] features eighty-five works by the Italian master of photography Guido Guidi and the artists who attended his lessons in Ravenna and Venice at various times and frequented his home and studio in Cesena, including Cesare Ballardini, Cesare Fabbri, Jonathan Frantini, Marcello Galvani, Francesco Neri and Luca Nostri.
The projects developed over the years, independently or commissioned, have given rise to an in-depth exploration of the landscapes of a circumscribed geographical area extending from Cesena and Ravenna to Bologna, including Faenza, Lugo and Massa Lombarda, the birthplaces and homes of the photographers. The documentary style of the photographs on display allows them to offer an accurate and anti-rhetorical description of places considered marginal by the official iconography. It is an Italian geography that, just a few years later, is already of inestimable historical value due to the rapidly changing landscape.
The aim of the exhibition is to re-establish a link between photographic practices and genres, which critics and historiographers have long kept separate – such as “documentary” and “research” photography – thus offering an opportunity to continue to examine the conceptual and figurative dimensions of the Italian territory.
The title chosen for the exhibition is loosely based on a quote by Cesare Zavattini, a multifaceted figure and voice of Italian Neorealism. The “qualsiasità” of the eye is translated into a photograph of the day-to-day, attentive to the minor aspects and immediate vicinity of the land. The democratic eye that places each aspect of the visible world on the same plane, the narration of that which is unfinished, and the accumulation of signs that man leaves in the landscape are the elements that continue to transform their photographic practice into an existential approach that questions the act of looking and the traditional hierarchy of vision.

Oct 15 - Jan 16

Rachel de Joode - Metabolism

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

“As documentation of a finished work of art is posted to the Internet, and then dispersed and multiplied via likes and shares, online viewers become the overwhelming majority of an exhibition’s audience. All works, regardless of their material constituents, are flattened, scaled down to several hundred pixels and the digital image is supplanting the art object” (Loney Abrams, Flatland, The New Inquiry, August 12 2013).
Rachel de Joode explores the role and aesthetics of the gallery space in relation to the vast circulation of contemporary art online. Her work explores the relationship between the three-dimensional piece of art and its two-dimensional virtual counterpart, blending the techniques of photography and sculpture in a constant play of surfaces and materiality.
For Rachel de Joode, photography is the perfect tool for flattening reality and transforming its sculptures into surfaces, then sculptures once more and then surfaces again. The sculpted object is reconfigured through the two-dimensional lens only to return to the three-dimensional world. The initial photograph is manipulated, mixed with others and printed in order to continue its journey as a new photograph or sculpture. A long experimental process that brings digital images back to the galleries, where they discover a new physical space.
Organic materials, skin, stones and clay: nothing is what it seems. Rachel de Joode’s sculptures generate a sense of dissonance that modifies our expectations of materials and surfaces. Multiple references are interwoven into a single piece that, just like the Internet, offers a fascinating collage of non-correspondent information. Rachel de Joode’s work belongs to our age, drawing on themes such as technology and isolation, and it blurs the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. What remains are questions about the existence and perception of the image in the digital age.

Oct 15 - Jan 16

Paul Graham - The Present

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

Paul Graham delivers us The Present as the final instalment in a trilogy hereto comprising American Night and A Shimmer of Possibility. In the earlier series, Paul Graham formally explored the social fracture of America by intentionally overexposing the images to create “blindingly white scenes and render near invisible the dispossessed people and landscapes”. In A shimmer of possibility he examined “the compression of time in photography” by depicting in-between moments, intermediate places, people in transition. In its vivid depictions of New York’s inhabitants, The Present now questions our very consciousness of the world.
In contrast to the tradition of street photography of the 60s and 70s, in which one shot contained all essential formal elements, Paul Graham investigates the nature of this genre and its own limits by taking two, sometimes three pictures, a few seconds apart, varying them in point of view and focus. When viewed together, they mimic our own visual experience, in which our concentration continually shifts from one object to the next. Little by little, the viewer becomes aware of the actual subject matter: it is the photographer’s eye, its wanderings and explorations of its surroundings, its change of focus from one figure to another, from foreground to background.
Paul Graham’s interest in “breaking down the decisive moment, not allowing life to become this single frozen shard, trying to reflect something of the flow of time” brings us to film and the obvious tension between these two media. But the artist refuses the “tyranny of narrative” and storyline imposed on film. In his view, photography is “much more an accurate reflection of the way life comes at us, unbidden and without perfect little narratives”. In his pictures, people pass by and move on. We are witnesses to the flow of time that continues in “jumpy, erratic and elusive progression”.

Oct 15 - Jan 16

The Present - FOTOGRAFIA International Festival of Rome

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Marco Delogu

The theme of the 14th edition of FOTOGRAFIA is the present. In a world of constant and sudden acceleration, photographic practice – whose mechanisms of production and distribution are now almost immediate – presents itself as art. It is one that is privileged to fix and define the present, and to observe and delimit its boundaries. Defining the boundaries of the present is to separate it and to abstract it from the time restrictions that threaten it, which have been heavily investigated already. Now, our gaze turns to that endless moment capable of self-representation and self-determination. FOTOGRAFIA at MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome features the following exhibitions and events.
Il Presente, a group show of Italian photographers curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Marco Delogu, including Olivo Barbieri, Fabio Barile, Federico Clavarino, Nicolo Degiorgis, Stefano Graziani, Allegra Martin, Domingo Milella, Francesco Neri, Sabrina Ragucci, Giovanna Silva and Paolo Ventura.
The Present by Paul Graham curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva. The contemporary nature of Paul Graham’s work draws from the American tradition of street photography. The images of The Present are seemingly spontaneous images of the streets of New York, however every moment is accompanied by its double. The images are shown in pairs, taken from the same location but separated by just a few moments in time. Thus, the present is no longer a rigidly frozen moment of life, but rather a continuum between the before and after, between what comes in and what is leaving. It is a provisionary present that is fleeting and free of precise definition.
The thirteenth edition of the Rome Commission carry on the tradition of an exclusive portrait of the city of Rome (inaugurated with Josef Koudelka and continued with Olivo Barbieri, Anders Petersen, Martin Parr, Graciela Iturbide, Gabriele Basilico, Guy Tillim, Tod Papageorge, Alec Soth, Paolo Ventura and Tim Davis) with the new projects Eur and Aqua Claudia by Hans-Christian Schink and Sevla by Paolo Pellegrin. Paolo Pellegrini’s images are based on the plethora of odd names of Italian cities and neighborhoods, Rome included. Rome, the capital of Italy, also means gypsy. Thus, Pellegrini’s images are of a gypsy family living in an unrecognizable Rome, confusing what the meaning of the word has traditionally meant. Furthermore, he rejects the western disintegration and creates images of his own understanding of life around him. Hans-Christian Schink puts the two archaeological pasts of Rome into dialogue through two series of images. The first follows the aquaduct Claudio from Ager to the city center, and the other investigates the metaphysical forms of Rome’s EUR district, built during fascism. Moreover, the images reveal the way in which architecture dominates the skyscape and defines nature.
Metabolism by Rachel de Joode curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva. Rachel de Joode is a Dutch multimedia artist who redefines the limits of photography and sculpture through sculptural photography and photorealistic sculpture. Her works alters traditional forms, and explores the materiality and our perception, giving a new life and look to bodies and objects. Wall on Wall by Kai Wiedenhöfer features photos of the walls and barriers that divide eight nations and cities in five different continents. there are images of Berlin and Israel, but also Baghdad, Ceuta and Melilla, Cyprus, Mexico and the two Koreas.
Little big press: The book's space, curated by 3/3. This work focuses on seven books published between 2014 and 2015, in order to investigate the photography book. Works of different media are arranged on horizontal and vertical planes, which creates a dialogue between the photographic subject, the book designer, and the photographer. The exhibition is accompanied by a transcript of short interviews with photographers and designers, as well as various objects. The inclusion of covers, inserts, first dummies and inspiration emphasizes the process of creating a photography book, as well as its collaborative nature.
Incontri di Fotografia is a new series of lectures and conversations with photographers including Sally Mann, Hans-Christian Schink, Paolo Pellegrin, Francesco Jodice, The Cool Couple and Pietro Paolini.

Sep 14 - Jan 15

Asger Carslen - Wrong

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

The digital image no longer shares the basic functions of photography aimed at documenting experience. “Its transgressive effect is similar to that of the Trojan horse: infiltrate between the walls of credibility to strike the final blow” (Joan Fontcuberta, I knew the Spice Girls, 2005).
The photographs by Asger Carlsen document a visionary world where the grotesque, absurd and surreal take on the features of the ordinarily normal. At first sight Wrong appears as a collection of banal daily moments, vernacular portraits or documents of minor news events. We recognize the context of these images as familiar, but the persons and creatures which live in this distorted reality are anything but familiar. Obscure hybrid and genetically flawed presences, characters with roughly homemade prostheses for limbs, mutants with two heads and strange unnatural shapes: these are just some of the hallucinations which populate the dystopic world of Wrong.
Yet the deep sense of unease caused by the vision of these images has another origin. Even if the bodies are recognizably imaginary constructs, their existence is within the reign of the possible. This is because photography has a penetrating power superior to that in painting, sculpture or drawing. Despite the reservations of our critical mind we are forced to assume that the object depicted really exists.
Carlsen represents a generation of artists who aggressively exploit the editing potential of digital images in their creative processes. The mise-en-scène and the retouching allow the creation of optical illusions with invisible scars. The hard and direct lighting of the flash and the grey scale of the black and white add a touch of authenticity. Asger Carlsen's artistic fiction does not concern truth or falseness, but our ability to believe.

Sep 14 - Jan 15

Portrait - FOTOGRAFIA International Festival of Rome

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Marco Delogu

The 13th edition of FOTOGRAFIA is dedicated to the portrait, understood not only as the genre which has been a part of the history of photography from the start, but also as a means of analyzing contemporary society. The theme of the portrait is to be tackled by reconstructing its historical development and its role within contemporary art, literature, and cinema, emphasizing the interdisciplinary aspects which link photography to areas of anthropological, philosophical, sociological and semiotic studies. FOTOGRAFIA at MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome includes the following exhibitions and events.
Portrait, a group show of artists selected by international photographers, curators, critics, and directors of museums. In particular Maria Alicata (curator), Antonio Biasiucci (photographer), Francesco Cataluccio (philosopher, writer), François Cheval (director of Musée N. Niepce), Alessandro Dandini de Sylva (photographer, curator), Stefano De Matteis (philosopher), Franz Koenig (publisher), Per Lindström (curator), Giuseppe Lisi (documentary filmmaker, writer), Danilo Montanari (publisher), Gil Pasternak (photography historian), Sandra Philips (director of SFMOMA), Bartolomeo Pietromarchi (director of Fondazione Ratti), Carolina Pozzi (curator), Leo Rubinfien (photographer, curator, writer), Hans-Christian Schink (photographer), Marta Sironi (curator), Alec Soth (photographer), Valentina Tanni (curator) and Paolo Ventura (photographer) selected Antonio Biasiucci, Piergiorgio Branzi, Martin Bogren, Asger Carlsen, Alexandra Catiere, Doug Dubois, Bernhard Fuchs, Ingar Krauss, Zanele Muholy, Antonia Mulas, Arthur Patten, Jon Rafman, Thomas Roma, Assaf Shoshan, Guy Tillim, Andrea Ventura, Paolo Ventura and Oleg Videnin.
The twelfth edition of the Rome Commission, Luce attesa by Marco Delogu, carries on the tradition of an exclusive portrait of the city of Rome (inaugurated with Josef Koudelka and continued with Olivo Barbieri, Anders Petersen, Martin Parr, Graciela Iturbide, Gabriele Basilico, Guy Tillim, Tod Papageorge, Alec Soth, Paolo Ventura and Tim Davis).
Asylum of the Birds by Roger Ballen, curated by Marco Delogu. Blurring the lines between truth and fiction, photos of a group of shacks on the outskirts of Johannesburg harbor a motley assortment of inhabitants, where a remarkable number of birds fly free. Birds symbolically move between earth and sky, hell and heaven, and even life and death. Through the use of this analogy, nature is used to confront our understanding of reality.
Beats by Larry Fink, curated by Peter Benson Miller. These photographs were taken by Fink in 1958, when he was 17 or 18 years old. They are portraits of writers, musicians, and artists, who he identifies as the second generation of beats, calling them “the princes of expressive freedom.”
Wrong by Asger Carlsen, curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva. Asger Carlsen documents a visionary world where the grotesque, absurd, and surreal take on the features of the ordinarily normal. His artistic fiction does not concern truth or falseness, but our ability to believe.
Portraits from the Trevisan Collection, curated by Mario Trevisan. The collection is presented as a constantly growing encyclopedic corpus. It consists of photographs of nineteenth-century experiments, up to works from the twenty first century. Today, the collection includes works by over 200 artists, from which some of the most significant photographers are exhibited at the Festival, with a selection dedicated to portraiture.
Incontri di Fotografia, a new series of lectures and conversations with photographers, critics and curators, including Roger Ballen, Didi Bozzini, Larry Fink, Peter Benson Miller, Francesco M. Cataluccio, Thomas Roma, and Tod Papageorge.

Apr 14

Middle-Earth. A journey inside Elica - Fabio Barile, Francesco Neri

Fondazione Ermanno Casoli

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Marcello Smarrelli

Middle-Earth. A journey inside Elica is an exploration of territories from Fabriano – in the Marche, Italy, where the company was born – all the way to Mexico and China. From this journey and from Fabio Barile and Francesco Neri’s projects a variety of landscapes emerge, outlining a research on Elica’s global expansion from the Fabriano valley, enclosed by the Umbria-Marche Apennines, to the historical Querétaro territory in Mexico and the modern industrial landscape of Shengzhou in China.
The photographs by the two artists offer an accurate and non-rhetorical portrait of the faces and the places that form Elica’s identity, and they already hold a priceless historical value due to the extraordinarily fast changes affecting industrial landscape. At the same time, the project has the objective of re-establishing a connection between documentary photography and experimental photography, offering an important occasion to keep on exploring the figurative and conceptual dimension of Italian contemporary photography.
Middle-Earth. A journey inside Elica was presented at Elica’s Showroom on the occasion of Fuorsisalone 2014, a collateral event to Milan Salone del Mobile; the arrangement was curated by the architecture firm stARTT.

A conversation between Fabio Barile, Francesco Neri and Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

ADS: Place and identity are two interconnected elements which must be firmly drawn together and aligned in order to be understood. In what terms did your work contribute to the difficult task of defining Elica’s identity in relation to the complexity of its landscape?

FN: This is a difficult question. Every time we talk about abstract relations, such as that between place and identity, we can easily fall into implying ill-concealed hierarchies. I work with photography precisely because, in a way, it prevents this occurrence by placing every subject on the same level. Identity – the idea of home for example – is more a shifting background rather than a fixed concept, a porous backdrop containing information about relations. Consequently, finding myself taking photos so far from my home in Faenza, where I was born, I tried even harder to photograph as if I were still there in order to create the right “temperature” and allow the play of identities to operate in that context, finding a stable balance regardless of my projections. So I worked without the presumption of being exhaustive or complete, which is, I believe, a dangerous legacy of programmatic photography that would like to show the world as it really is. An objective that if not impossible is epistemologically aggressive, for thoroughness is the last aspiration of photography, I think. But obviously the silence of a photo requires a considerable effort on the side of the viewer quietly looking at it. A photographer always tries his best, tries to fail in the best way possible, according to the chaotic but also precise ratio of Becket’s invitation to “fail better”.

ADS: A mapping of places and the creation of an atlas that has its centre in Fabriano. The heart of the entire company production striving for innovation, the strength of the highest tradition of Italian design, the advanced technology and its workshop-style research oriented activity.

FB: The idea behind the work I carried out in Fabriano, Mergo and Serra San Quirico can be summarized with the verb “to make”, understood in the multiple aspects that this action takes on within a multilayered dimension of a large company. What captured my interest is how this “science of making” comes into practice: from the initial spark in the designer’s mind, to the hands of a technical designer, to those of a prototype designer, who creates a prototype that is then passed on to the research centre; here it will be tested and modified and then returned to the technical designer until a final version is defined, and eventually folded, printed, welded, mounted and packed along the different assembly lines. Among these many steps of “the making”, the one that captured me the most was the prototype and research phase, during which the ideas are tested and carefully assessed on working tables scattered with tools and with traces of the effort being made. The workshops are like the laboratory of an alchemist that at the end of a long process will see his intuition come to life.

ADS: You both use large format cameras. What does this choice entail?

FB: The choice of using a large format camera derives from the need to reduce limitations to the minimum and obtain the highest quality image. I would not consider it a philosophy of life, but surely it determines a very specific approach entailing a slow paced and carefully studied image composition. This said, I also appreciate other techniques, such as infrared photography with a camera I borrowed from the Serra San Quirico research department where it is used to photograph the smoke extraction trails.

FN: I come from a school of photography in which many photographers prefer large format. I have always been attracted by the quality of prints from large negatives (8x10 inches) and since the day I started using this camera I have simply stopped using anything else. The size of the negative is part of the research, just like the retina is part of perception, and – returning to the concept of a “constructive failure” – the power of large format fully embodies the ancient drive for the capture of reality and the impossibility of this endeavour. Still today, when I look at original vintage prints by important photographers of the past, such as Watkins, Atget, Sander or Evans I am enthralled by their veiled voluptuousness, by their beauty and optical performance that reveal the drive to capture and create reality, giving place to a well accomplished failure. My work would like to humbly be part of this line of photography, explicitly paying homage to it but also having something new to say (I hope). This kind of equipment, so large and heavy, forces you to adopt a very unhurried working method, but the positive aspect of this slow paced work is that it also induces you to a higher level of concentration. Besides, I am training myself to learn an easier and faster use of this kind of equipment that by its own nature tends to deliver a more static and formal result. One thing is for sure: when I take portraits, people tend to trust this kind of camera more. Me and the camera capture only what the sitter is willing to give us.

ADS: A kind of photography that can still answer a need for objectivity and foster a new conception of visual testimony. A photographic method capable of putting the photographer in front of reality, drawing him closer to the neutral and non-expressive side of photography that is the basis of documentary.

FN: I will answer you with a story that comes to mind. Not too long ago I was at Guido Guidi’s house. He told me that if I took a photo of a shopping bag hanging from a tree (there was one right in front of us then), every day, for ten years from then, standing in the same position, at the same time, with the same camera, I would never have two photos the same. They would probably be so different from one another (even only in terms of light) that they could inspire contrasting feelings. The repetition of the same photo of the same subject over and over would teach us something, every day. I keep wondering about this alleged “objectivity” attributed to photographs or – even worse – to “a” photograph in particular. At the same time I also ask myself: are those thousands of photographs of that same shopping bag anti-expressive and neutral or shamelessly romantic?

ADS: What interests me in your photos is the relation between subject and space, the relation the objects establish with space. In particular, especially in the photos of the industrial landscape, besides the relation between the object and the context, we can clearly sense the relation between what is inside and outside the shot.

FB: I would say it is a choice determined by instinct. What I do is try to find a balance between the elements inside and outside the shot. There isn’t a specific formula or calculation behind it. It is a kind of choice that has developed in time.

ADS: Another key element of your work is light. How much and in what terms did the different working conditions (such as the contrasted light outdoors and the homogeneous brightness of the neon lights indoors, the low sun light in Mexico and the diffused light of the grey Chinese landscape) influence your work?

FB: Neon light is not an easy light to work with. An outdoor photographer like me might consider it a “bad light”. But I usually work in whatever conditions I find and I entrust the light and its colour with a crucial role in the outcome of a project. In the shots I took inside the plants I worked with the bluish-grey glow of the neon coming from the high ceilings which created a flat and homogeneous light. Even the outdoor light in Fabriano in fact was dominated by grey, except for some moments. This kind of light looks “exotic” to me for I am not used to it, but I think it delivered some interesting results.

FN: Even if sometimes I would like to, I can never wait for the right light to appear. I often finish my film in the middle of the day. What I think is interesting is to be unfaithful to your own resolutions and end up discovering, once the plates are developed and printed, that you did well not to wait for any moment that might have been “ideally” better. Any moment is the best moment. Sometimes it is the compulsive side of the photographer’s work (like the stamp collector) that prevails over silly stylistic rules. That is when photography shows its extraordinary “unexpected” aspect.

Oct 13 - Dic 13

Fleur van Dodewaard - A Number of Angles

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Claudia Caprotti

A new generation of artists are dedicating themselves to still life photography, renewing its language. The definition of the photographic medium is continuously changing. The studio based practice, with its static elements and controlled conditions, has become the perfect breeding ground for experimenting and creating new aesthetics.
Fleur van Dodewaard constructs her own visual language in order to question the role and nature of photography as “an imaginary medium”. For the artist, the medium of photography is no longer a transparent glass through which reality can be seen, but an instrument whose properties can be manipulated and put into dialogue with other media. The work of Fleur van Dodewaard is made up of a series of compositions created in studio that explore the evocative nature of geometry and color. It involves materials and shapes that alternate between abstraction and representation and refer to different subjects in art history, such as Landscape, the Nude and Still Life.
The artist constructs all of her photographed objects manually as part of the creative process, including sculptures, paintings, and layouts. This process is a performance that allows Fleur van Dodewaard to approach the work/object/image that she creates from different points of view. The result is a photograph of a static sculpture that, in addition to showing the perspective of the artist, leaves the viewer free to dwell on what can be seen and what can only be imagined. The photographs of Fleur van Dodewaard, at first so simple and essential, are unexpectedly complex, leading the viewer to question what he's looking at. By means of these images, the artist accentuates the illusionary aspects of photography and draws attention to our perception and to the subject and its countless representations.

Oct 13 - Dic 13

Vacatio - FOTOGRAFIA International Festival of Rome

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Marco Delogu

After Futurespective, Motherland and Work, the twelfth edition of FOTOGRAFIA explores the theme of the Vacatio, or the absence and the suspension in photography, in an era of profound institutional, economic, and social uncertainties. Reasoning on this issue is to think strongly and patiently on the act of photographing, the specificity of the medium in relation to new technologies, is to understand how far can get the subtraction and reason on the border between photography and other arts. At the same time it means watching the world go by, the Chinese invasion of Africa, Africans migration toward the old continent, the regimes of North Africa in perpetual instability, the transversal crisis of the values of politics and economics. FOTOGRAFIA at MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome features the following exhibitions and events.
Vacatio, is a group show curated by Marco Delogu, which includes works by Luca Campigotto, Aline Diépois & Thomas Gizolme, Elger Esser, Patrick Faigenbaum, Gaston Zvi Ickowicz, Guy Tillim, and Jeff Wall.
The eleventh edition of the Rome Commission curated by Marco Delogu, is Quinto Quarto, in which Tim Davis has found a new paradigm for himself as an artist. It is made up of a series of pieces rather than a body of work, that has allowed Davis to play and provoke in ways he hasn't always been able to as a photographer.
A New Map of Italy by Guido Guidi, curated by Inge Hennemann in collaboration with the PixSea Award. The first PixSea Award is an Oeuvre Award, which has been awarded to the Italian photographer and architect Guido Guidi this year.
Wounded Citiesby Leo Rubinfien, curated by Joshua Chuang. Wounded Cities is acclaimed photographer Leo Rubinfien's exploration of the "mental wound" that was left by the terror attacks in New York in 2001, and in cities around the world in the years before and after.
Foresta Bianca, curated by Francesco Zanot in collaboration with Gerry Badger, Sandra S. Phillips and Sujong Song. The exhibition presents a critical reading of the Foresta Bianca project, conceived in 2012 by the artist and curator Matteo Balduzzi and the sociologist Stefano Laffi.
A Number of Angles by Fleur van Dodewaard, curated by Claudia Caprotti and Alessandro Dandini de Sylva. The exhibition features a series of photographic works made in studio, where the artist depicts a series of compositions that oscillate between abstraction and representation.
Trolleyology in Rome, curated by Hannah Watson. The exhibit presents prints, books, dummies, slideshows and interviews from the first ten years of Trolley Books, and especially the unique vision of Trolley's founder Gigi Giannuzzi. The exhibit also features new work by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, which is a forthcoming publication. Scarti revisits their first book with Trolley ten years ago, Ghetto.
Another Country by Paolo Pellegrin, curated by Annalisa d'Angelo. Paolo Pellegrin's gaze is directed to the constant and daily violence of the American society, which tries to fill a huge void through the craze of control.
Incontri di Fotografia, a new series of lectures and conversations with photographers, critics and curators as Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Jean-François Chevrier, Tim Davis, Patrick Faigenbaum, Guido Guidi, Michael Mack, Leo Rubinfien and Hannah Watson.
A three-days focus on photobooks, curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Saverio Verini. It will include numerous publishers, authors of self-published publications, independent publishers and international libraries, who have distinguished themselves in recent years to the high quality of their productions: Chopped Liver Press, Danilo Montanari Editore, Documentary Platform, Drago, Loosestrife Editions, Lugo Land, MACK, Monospace Press, One Room, Osservatorio Fotografico, Postcart, Quodlibet, s.t. foto libreria galleria, Trolley Books.

Oct 13 - Nov 13

Enrico Boccioletti - Palinopsia

Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

The exhibition of the artist Enrico Boccioletti entitled Palinopsia is the second event curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva in his role as 2013 curator-in-residence of the Pastificio Cerere Foundation.
Palinopsia presents a selection of recent works that pose questions about the state of the art of photography and visual culture that has come to be dominated by the Internet. New technologies have greatly influenced photographic practice, expanding its vocabulary and the scope of its development and applications. Graphical elaboration by means of computer software has now become the principal means for the production for images. Exploring the digital image is an ongoing process at work in the sector of contemporary photography, which has led to a blurring of the boundaries between manual interventions and digital effects, as well as between reality and its manipulation. Nevertheless, in Boccioletti's work the process of creation of the image becomes transparent, the digital intervention is clearly visible, and the language of photography is irrevocably revolutionized.
In this exhibition, two series are put into dialogue with each other. The first called Content Aware is based on a collection of found digital images from the Internet. Boccioletti transforms fashion images by completely removing any traces of the figure, including the face. The result is the background environment, replaced with photo software. The digital manipulation uses advance software that allows the user to select the figure, and then automatically apply preset features. The result is a process in which technology shapes the final result of the image. Guided by technology, a website called randomly assigns names to the images, which Boccioletti uses as titles. Not only does the series question the meaning of content, it also deals with assumptions of identity and gender.
The second series is called Retina. Boccioletti takes abstract images from the monitor screen of a computer and manipulates the images several times. The final image is a result of processes, using both technical and physical manipulations. After physically manipulating his images, Boccioletti takes photographs of them and then digitally manipulates the images again. The appearance of the finished works are like images on top of each other in a monitor screen. Boccioletti represents the confused reality of the digital age, which falsely presents itself as a period of immense clarity and simplification.

Oct 13

Stefano Graziani - Late night conversations


Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

Convulsive photography
A conversation between Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Stefano Graziani

ADS: In his article on “convulsive beauty”, published in 1934 in Minotaure magazine, André Breton featured a photograph of a spark by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, along with a series of photographs of minerals and corals by Brassaï. The sight of this double page(1) and reading how, by freeing the documentary image from the constraints of its primary use, it may become the most extraordinary transformer of the imaginary(2), made me think of your work. Leaving aside the genre itself, what seems to have drawn the Surrealists to documentary photography is its openness and its capacity for poetic regeneration. What is it that attracts you in the same direction today?

SG: I’m particularly interested in Breton’s Nadja, because, as you say, there is an evident dualism, a correlation between photograph and text, which is not the connection between photograph and caption. In the case of Nadja we are looking at a form of artistic photojournalism, where photography starts to recognise itself as art at the moment in which it attentively examines its clear linguistic limits. Here I can quote a passage that perhaps expands on what you hint in your question: “[A]dmitting me to an almost forbidden world of sudden parallels, petrifying coincidences, and reflexes peculiar to each individual, of harmonies struck as though on the piano, flashes of light that would make you see, really see, if only they were not so much quicker than all the rest. I am concerned with facts of quite unverifiable intrinsic value, but which, by their absolutely unexpected, violently fortuitous character, and the kind of suspect ideas they provoke – a way of transforming gossamer into spiderweb (that is, into what would be the most shimmering, delicate thing in the world were it not for the spider in the corner)...”(3). The matter that interests me most is the freedom of the viewer more than the image, or rather the opportunity that we have to question ourselves about what we see.

ADS: It has often been said that your photographs should be viewed like a mirror, probed as something different, an instrument with which to observe ourselves. This appears to hold true for Conversazioni notturne / Late Night Conversations: the title of the series and the first pictures in the book – the starry sky and the caves – suggest a path towards the unconscious. Can we interpret this collection as a sort of strati cation of thoughts?

SG: I think that all photographs can be seen as mirrors; perhaps the mirror to which you allude is again the series of questions that we can pose ourselves when looking at photographs. But it can also be an answer to the search for meaning in this series of pictures and above all the quest for a new direction in the work. However, if you ask me about the mirror and we can imagine it’s truly late at night, this is a series of photographs in which I recognise myself, as in many other possible ones. As you say, it’s possible that stars and caves may evoke unconscious matter. If I think back to the images contained in this book, I think that the photograph of a copy of a drawing by Tiepolo, for example, is an opportunity to reflect on the fact that the Scherzi are among the few non-commissioned works that Tiepolo made; the drawing depicts a mystery that has attracted a crowd, with a strong magical content and without offering any real explanations. The page represents a scene where something is happening; it may be a coincidence, but there are not only snakes, but also two skulls, a sword, a quiver and perhaps a mirror on the ground. The presence of relics in other photographs evokes an archaeological world that, however, exists without any context; the sea is an attempt to approach the subject of landscape; and the flint is a reflection on the possible discovery of a stone before it has been worked and transformed into a tool.

ADS: Let’s go back to the beginning and talk about the title of this series of photographs and how you conceived it.

SG: This series of photographs was devised to form a book that was part of an exhibition. They are pictures from my archive, taken over the past few years. It’s an autonomous work that has some points in common with the projects that I am conducting in parallel with this one. I like to think that all the works in which I’m engaged are actually the same one and that some photographs may be simultaneously present in several. I made it because I wanted this book to be an organic work. I included several photographs of landscapes because that’s the direction in which I intend to proceed. I think each exhibition and each publication is an opportunity to see your work from the outside, an occasion to take a fix within a process.

ADS: To use your own words, each photograph is an encounter; all spatial and temporal references tend to be erased, reducing the possibilities for linking the various images together in the form of a story. Nonetheless, the presence of several elements such as the shipwreck and the arrival in Egypt seem to lead us back to a sort of narration. In Cult of the Dead, the Spirit of Parrots and the Soul, Anselm Franke speaks of the “geological imagination”, where “the furthest past and the farest [sic] future become once again one and the same.”(4) Do history and time revert to being purely subjective dimensions then?

SG: I don’t know what to say about the concept of narration that you propose, it would pave the way for a whole night of conversations that would probably eventually take us full circle. I don’t think there’s a true shareable relationship – a specific story or narration between all these elements – but I’m sure it’s possible to find many of them if we are interested in doing so. I would like to suggest this: “Kurt Schwitters worked with the contents of his ash can: He used nails, brown paper, ragged scraps of newspaper, railway tickets, and remnants of cloth... In Schwitters’ obsession with things, however, this manner of composition occasionally became merely absurd. He made a construction of rubbish that he called ‘a cathedral built for things.’ Schwitters worked on it for 10 years, and three stories of his own house had to be demolished to give him the space he needed.” On the following page we read, “‘An object awakens our love just because it seems to be the bearer of powers that are greater than itself.’ Sayings of this kind recall the old alchemical concept of a ‘spirit in matter,’ believed to be the spirit in and behind inanimate objects like metal or stone. Psychologically interpreted, this spirit is the unconscious.”(5)

ADS: Among the pictures in this book an important role is played by the photograph of green smoke emerging from the earth, which introduces the specific nature of the medium of photography and leads us to several works by Jeff Wall. The indefinite form of the smoke captured by the shutter, like the explosion of milk from its container in Milk, is a reflection on the language of photography and the role of water as a photographic archaism. This brings us back to another image in your book – the water from the shore of Lošinj, photographed with many different exposures – that in turn leads to the final question: where does the quest for a purely photographic state lead us?

SG: The different forms that we can discern in the green smoke, which I’d like to call a cloud, are completely unpredictable, and correspond to the specific power of photography, its ability to show what is happening, through its optical and mechanical system. In this photograph we can distinguish only a movement. I made this work because I had been advised to watch the beginning of Friedrich Murnau’s 1926 film Faust in order to see some special effects created using very simple technologies. Perhaps these effects, in which manual action is so present as to make them appear childlike, can still be useful to us. The connection you suggest is very interesting because it can amplify the effect of this photograph in the way that you indicate, supporting a fluid intelligence of photography, the idea that the image is formed in water and is developed, fixed and washed in the same liquid. Evoking this liquid state of photography means evoking its primordial constitution of an image that is formed and is gradually brought into focus. I think that conducting a purely photographic quest is first and foremost a task whose aim is to study the very action that underlies photography, which is the action of seeing.

(1): André Breton, La Beauté sera convulsive, in Minotaure, n. 5, 1934, pp. 10–11. Photographs by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot (left) and Brassaï (right).
(2): Clément Chéroux, L’immagine come punto interrogativo o il valore estatico del documento surrealista, Johan & Levi, 2012.
(3): André Breton, Nadja, Grove Press, 1960, p. 19.
(4): Anselm Franke, Cult of the Dead, the Spirit of Parrots and the Soul, in Stefano Graziani, Under the Volcano and Other Stories, Galleria Mazzoli, 2009.
(5): Carl G. Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz, Joseph L. Henderson, Jolande Jacobi, Aniela Jaffé, Man and his Symbols, Dell Publishing, 1968, pp. 291–292.

Jun 13 - Jul 13

Stefano Graziani - Late night conversations

Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

Late night conversations is the first in the series of exhibitions curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva in his role as the 2013 curator-in-residence at the Pastificio Cerere Foundation. The exhibition presents a new series of works by the artist Stefano Graziani, which are centered on the meaning of representation and on the physical action of seeing, as well as working towards defining photography as a language.
In Late night conversations, every photograph is an encounter. Unlike in the day to day reality, Stefano Graziani's compositions allow us to see only one subject at a time. Eliminating any spatial or temporal markers, and constituting a kind of taxonomy, his images individualize a series of elements that articulate a process of knowledge and interpretation of the world.
In this new series of photographs, as in the preceding Under the Volcano and Other Stories, Stefano Graziani extracts the image from its denotative context and subtracts its original use, transforming the photographic document into a powerful instrument for stimulating the imagination. It becomes one for poetic regeneration. In a conversation with Rene Gabri, the artist describes his work as a looking around oneself with a different light: an "atmospheric fog" envelops his images, offering new visions and making new things visible, engendering a condition in which every time is the first time.
The photographs have a reflective quality similar to mirrors, as an instrument in which we can observe ourselves and unceasingly investigate differences. The title of the exhibition suggests a strong link to the unconscious: a time of doubt, of wonder, of phantasms, dreams and strange occurrences. Conversazioni notturne uncovers a different history of photography, here understood as self-analysis, as an instrument that allows us to view ourselves. In his essay on the artist Culto dei morti, lo spirito dei pappagalli e l'anima, Anselm Franke introduced the concept of "geological imagination", a delirium that awakens dreams of tribes and sinking kingdoms, through which the most extreme past and the most distant future merge back into the same thing.

Sep 12 - Oct 12

Il Paese è reale - Tommaso Bonaventura, Alessandro Imbriaco and Fabio Severo, Andrea Botto, Lorenzo Durantini, Francesco Jodice, Francesco Neri

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

The crisis has been a permanent condition for some time now; once a breaking point, a line of demarcation between before and after, it has become an immanent and constitutive element of our present. The climate generated by this condition has repercussions across all work experiences and thus on life in general.
Focusing on individual experiences, stories of instability, exploitation, injury or unemployment would have meant replicating a narrative approach that the mass media tend to feed on, and that seems to produce a sort of desensitization. It is at this point that photography can construct a different discourse, capable of conveying a condition in which prospects for the future are increasingly limited in the short-term, and replace the narrative flow by a descriptive immersion in things and in the landscape.
The show includes works by Tommaso Bonaventura, Alessandro Imbriaco and Fabio Severo, Andrea Botto, Lorenzo Durantini, Francesco Jodice and Francesco Neri. Vado a bordo, cazzo! by Lorenzo Durantini, is a picture of the infamous sunken ship off the coast of Isola del Giglio. The captain was the first to deship, leaving everyone aboard to fend for themselves. Kaboom, Andrea Botto's photographs of controlled explosions in the landscape, render the effect of chaos as spectacle. Cenere, Tommaso Bonaventura, Alessandro Imbriaco and Fabio Severo’s series of property set on fire by mafia organizations, deals with the changing perception of the mafia in the last decades. Francesco Neri’s portraits of teenagers in their last year of high school reflect the unpredictable nature of the present moment. Dubai Citytellers by Francesco Jodice represents a futuristic and modern model that Italy strives for, a façade that hide violations of international law and enslavement of people.
What all the projects have in common is an emotional quality. The lack of specific references to the theme means that the viewer must pursue an autonomous path between the featured works. This is beyond metaphor; this is the concretization of the real.

Sep 12 - Oct 12

Work - FOTOGRAFIA International Festival of Rome

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Marco Delogu

Work is the theme of the 11th edition of FOTOGRAFIA, a classical subject of twentieth-century documentary photography, reinterpreted with humankind at the heart of the action. Here it is viewed from new standpoints and through new narrative approaches to photography. What changes have occurred since the twentieth century's mythologizing "vision" of work, laden with physical toil and the teeming masses? How has this kind of work endured alongside more sophisticated, often solitary, high-tech jobs that are hard to make images of? And how do these old and new visions come together? The underlying framework of the world – and indeed of photography, which to date remains one of the most effective tools for analyzing contemporary society and styles – may perhaps be found in the answers to such questions. FOTOGRAFIA at MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome includes the following exhibitions and events.
Camera Work, group show curated by Marco Delogu, which includes works by Roger Ballen, Yto Barrada, Claire Chevrier, Raphaël Dallaporta, Joseph Koudelka, Chris Killip, Simon Roberts, Lars Tunbjörk and Florian van Roekel.
The tenth edition of the Rome Commission: Lo zuavo scomparso, curated by Marco Delogu. Artist Paolo Ventura has reconstructed the scenes and characters typical of his oeuvre to create a timeless Rome suspended between reality and fiction.
Rome, a diary 2012, exhibition by Anders Petersen, curated by Marco Delogu. The photographer has assembled a new diary alongside a selection of previously unseen images from his 2005 diary.
Yto Barrada's Riffs, exhibition curated by Friedhelm Hütte (Global Head of Deutsche Bank Art) and independent curator Marie Muracciole. After successfully showing at the Guggenheim in Berlin, the WIELS in Brussels, the Renaissance Society in Chicago and the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, RIFFS comes to MACRO with a revised selection of images chosen especially for the museum.
Il Paese è reale, group show curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva, dedicated to young Italian photographers. Highlights include Tommaso Bonaventura, Alessandro Imbriaco and Fabio Severo, with a work on modern-day mafias; Francesco Neri's series of portraits of teenagers and students in and around Ravenna; Andrea Botto with a selection from his project on controlled explosions; Lorenzo Durantini's work on the Costa Concordia; and Francesco Jodice's video Dubai_Citytellers, investigating modern-day slavery in Dubai.
I mondi dei lavori perduti, curated by Marco Delogu and Paola Ugolini. It includes images by Fosco Maraini and Nina Poppe, documenting the work of the Japanese Ama fisherwomen.
The three exhibitions: Field curated by Paul Wombell with works by Ulrich Gebert, Mishka Henner, Jackie Nickerson; Hit the Crowd curated by Valentina Tanni with works by David Horvitz, IOCOSE, Matt Richardson; This is Not an Office curated by Marc Prust with works by Stanley Greene, Tim Hetherington, Jeroen Kramer, Marco Vernaschi.
Lost&Found 3/11, exhibition curated by Annalisa D'Angelo, Stefano Ruffa and 3/3 that comes to Rome after showing in Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York and Melbourne. In the wake of the Japanese tsunami on March 11th, 2011, a group of volunteer researchers attempted to return thousands of photographs found in the ruins to their rightful owners. Cleaning, drying and digitizing a huge amount of material over a three-month period, they succeeded in returning 7,600 albums and 13,000 photographs. This exhibition tells the story of this endeavor and creates a space that renders collective memory into image.
Photobooks, an exhibition curated by Douglas Stockdale, includes a selection of contemporary photobooks around the theme of work and a concurrent exhibition of interior double-page spreads re-photographed by the photographers.
Solo shows by italian photographers such as Olivo Barbieri and Massimo Mastrorillo.
Three days of lectures and conversations with photographers, critics and curators as Arianna Arcara and Luca Santese, Munemasa Takahashi and Kazuto Hoshi, Chris Killip and Paolo Ventura.
For the first time during the Festival's four opening days, Photobooks a La Pelanda is hosting a photobook fair with stands full of rare and self-published books from 3/3, Cesural Lab, Contrasto, Danilo Montanari Editore, Little Big Press, Loosestrife, Lugo Land, Nediza, Osservatorio Fotografico, Postcart, Punctum, s.t., talkinass/anti/btomic and many others.

Sep 11 - Oct 11

David Favrod - Gaijin

Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva in collaboration with the Swiss Institute in Rome

"For a Swiss I am a Japanese and for a Japanese I am a Swiss or rather a gaijin".
David Takashi Favrod was born in Kobe, Japan, the son of a Japanese mother and a Swiss father, but grew up in Vionnaz, a town in Switzerland's Valais Canton, where his family moved shortly after his birth. Though he grew up far away from Japan, he was deeply exposed to his roots through his mother's culture and traditions, his maternal grandparents' war stories and his own trips to his native land. When he was 18 years old, the Japanese Embassy denied him dual citizenship - which is allowed only to Japanese women who wish to acquire their foreign husband's nationality besides their own. As a result, he felt the need to explore his refused identity, the inspiration for the Gaijin project. Favrod writes: “It is from this feeling of rejection and also from a desire to prove that I am as Japanese as I am Swiss that this work was created.”
The title of the project Gaijin is a Japanese word made up of two characters: gai, which means “outside,” and jin, which means “person”. Thus, gaijin literally means “outside person.” The Japanese use it to indicate a person who is not from the area, a non native, or, more simply, a foreigner.
Gaijin is a fictional narrative, a tool for his quest of identity, an effort to come to terms with a refusal and assert his Japanese heritage. Inspired by family stories, the popular and traditional culture of Japan and the ancestral world of spirits or yōkai, he develops archetypal images with irony and intelligence in a deep visual reflection on the complex relationship between self and others, image and memory, his own Japanese identity and his story. The auto portrait serves as Favrod’s starting point. They are images that he uses as the basis of his narrative story, thus always returning to the self in his investigation of identity.
All the photographs in this series were created in Switzerland. In each carefully composed picture, full of references to Japanese commonplaces and connotations, the viewer discovers a hybrid of both countries; a tiny Mt. Fuji made out of a bedspread, romantic Swiss landscapes that look like Japanese prints, a brave samurai in cardboard armour, Kaiju shadows, mysterious monsters inspired by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, light and insubstantial origami birds, Nō theatre masks, fixed and timeless portraits, and archive material.
From one image to the next, the artist slowly leads us into an atmosphere that blurs the line between reality and imagination, and drop by drop builds his own personal and elaborate view of Japan. The result is the recreation of Japan on Swiss soil that both blurs and lines our understanding of national identity. Omoide poroporo, translatable as "Drops of memory" or "Memories drop by drop", is the continuation of Gaijin and, as the eponymous Japanese animated film produced by Studio Glibly in 1991, is focused on the contrast between the present and memories, a stream of consciousness to images perfectly described by the sound of the rain when it falls in a non-violent way, slight but constant.

Sep 11 - Oct 11

Motherland - FOTOGRAFIA International Festival of Rome

MACRO Contemporary Art Museum of Rome

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and Marco Delogu

The theme of the tenth edition of FOTOGRAFIA International Festival of Rome, Motherland, aims to tackle the unique relationship established between photography and the land, in the deepest and most intimate sense of the word, based on a genuine analysis of the close relationship between the photographers and their belonging to a place, and in many cases their actual identification with that place. It is the result of an increasingly pressing need to seek one's "motherland": everyone responds in their own way, examining lands that belong to them, whether they are old or new, large or small, real or virtual, with a completely personal documentation, which is the fruit of their life and with the need to return or move away. FOTOGRAFIA Festival at MACRO Testaccio Museum includes the following exhibitions and events.
Motherland, group show curated by Marco Delogu, which includes works by Alec Soth, Tim Davis, Guy Tillim, David Spero, Leonie Purchas, David Farrell, Tod Papageorge, Anders Petersen, Guido Guidi, Paolo Ventura and Antonio Biasiucci.
The ninth edition of the Rome Commission, La belle dame sans merci, is a meditation on John Keats, Rome, pale kings, beautiful women and pineapples by Alec Soth, curated by Marco Delogu.
The three exhibitions: Wherever I lay down my camera is home curated by Paul Wombell with works by André Cepeda, Julian Germain with Patricia Azevedo and Murilo Godoy, Eva Leitolf, Wiebke Loeper and Nigel Shafran; Datascapes curated by Valentina Tanni with works by Mathieu Bernard-Reymond and Rick Silva; and The place where I belong curated by Marc Prust with works by Chris Harrison, Katharine MacDaid, Bruno Boudjelal and Rania Matar.
Mizu no oto - Sound of water curated by 3/3 is a group show of five women artists Rinko Kawauchi, Lieko Shiga, Asako Narahashi, Yumiko Utsu, Mayumi Hosokura, in which water becomes the metaphor for the cyclic character of life. In conjunction with this show, Little big press - Focus on Japan features some of the most fascinating Japanese photobooks from 2010-2011, by publishers as Artbeat publishers, Foil, Little more, Bookshop M and many others.
New Dutch Storytellers, a collective of young Dutch photographers curated by Rob Hornstra, with works by Anne Geen, Anna Dasovic, Willem Popelier and Rob Hornstra.
Solo shows by Italian photographers including Stefano Graziani curated by Francesco Zanot, Alessandro Imbriaco curated by Renata Ferri, Lorenzo Maccotta curated by Giovanna Calvenzi, Francesco Millefiori curated by Stefano Ruffa, and Valentina Vannicola curated by Benedetta Cestelli Guidi.
Two days of lectures and conversations with photographers, critics and curators including Alec Soth, Rinko Kawauchi, Asako Narahashi, Tod Papageorge, Sebastian Hau, Leonie Hampton, and Ferdinand Brueggeman.
For the first time the Festival also hosts three international booksellers, Le Bal and Plac'art from Paris and Dirk Bakker from Amsterdam, with their rare books, the finest pearls of photographic publishing.

Mar 11 - Apr 11

Personal Geography

PhC Capalbiofotografia 2011

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva

In the weeks leading up to the opening of PhC Capalbiofotografia 2011, a photographer, a curator and a critic were invited to reflect on the theme of the festival, leaving them free interpretation on its possible declinations. Every week for a month, from March 2011 to April 2011, the blog has shown unprecedented points of view and new shifts in contemporary photography for a natural introduction to the reading of the Festival.

Six unmade photographs

A text by David Farrell


I am tired and emotional. Another term of teaching complete. Just yesterday, a third year student uttered to me with a deep sigh as she quietly surveyed the corridor installation of ten-picture narratives from our first year group - ‘Facebook is destroying photography.’

'What do you mean?' I asked. ‘Look’ she said pointing at two projects that were documentary in nature. ‘I see these pictures on Facebook all the time.’ And so we conversed across what should have been a generation gap. Our observations were that there was no light, no content, no awareness of the frame, its contained borders and the possibilities that can be alluded to beyond, no engagement with the medium itself, no sensibility for the photographic print and that such photographs end up giving snapshots a bad name.

Perhaps one downside of the digital world in relation to photography is the rear illumination of our daily visual experience. Photographic prints need translation to the world of reflected light and the surface, textures and flatness of paper. Our conclusion was that possibly they were also empty pictures from people who had nothing to say. All that was portrayed was a homogenised universal experience that is readily accessible and that somehow this aesthetic had embedded itself as to what photography looks like. If ten thousand people on Flicker say your photo(s) are cool, there is a democracy there that Mr. Eggleston would find difficult to parse.

We live in an age of ubiquitous picture grabbing. Nokia is the world’s largest camera manufacturer. It has facilitated the creation of the greatest archive of human experience. Perhaps this is the problem. There are simply too many photographs in the world. Maybe we should have a worldwide day of abstention to highlight the fact that we should try to make more photographs rather than take more photographs. That it is a privilege to photograph. That photography once the plaything of the wealthy is over democratized and is debased and devalued as a result. We need to reclaim our medium.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


I have just walked home from having watched - no - having suffered Werner Herzog’s documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Its heretical I know to say this. How could I lack such sensitivity to one of the great wonders of the world? (the cave drawings not Herzog, although to be fair he is a bit of a wonder.) A hidden Platonic cave, a world where an early version of ourselves made an attempt at fixing in time the things that walked with them, the animals they looked at and lived with. They are the beginnings of memory and in that are as much if not more proto-photographic than Herzog’s suggestion of proto-cinematic.

And leaving aside the fact that it is a thirty-minute documentary stretched to the duration of the ice age itself. Leaving aside the hyperbole. Leaving aside the hokey soundtrack complete with heartbeats. Leaving aside the over-reverential inane prognostications that offer wild baseless conjectures and yet at no point consider the possibility that maybe people retreated into the caves to do something more fundamental than simply draw or engage in shamanistic rituals. That maybe, just maybe, people withdrew from the light of day to tell stories and create narratives with images. Narratives that now separated from their texts cannot be deciphered but can be endlessly deconstructed with supposition. Or that perhaps it was a form of graffiti, for there is an absence of the drawn human form save for one image of the lower half of a female form being ‘embraced’ by an animal – an early form of toilet wall pornography perhaps?

Leave aside these considerations for at least they provoke thought and discussion. It is the decision in this encounter with these visionary drawings, which nearly 30,000 years ahead of Renaissance notions of perspective have depth and distance as they traverse the rock forms, to film them in 21st century 3-D. The world outside the cave that he shows us doesn’t look as it is shown – there is too much cartoonish depth - and so this hidden world which I will never see, save for the possibility of a proposed touristic simulacra, cannot look as he shows it. It is a trick too far and I spend most of the film peeping above the Polaroid glasses at another distortion or listening with my eyes closed. There is a mistranslation of these drawings that hug the surface and texture of the rock and I am angry rather than moved.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


In spite of my earlier proposal I have to admit I am somewhat bereft as currently I have no camera. Hospitalized - they are beyond use. Its been seven days. I still wander. I still look. I still click. And the light – the light is beautiful. Come, come with me.

Past the echo of the echo of Mr Bill

Past the statue with the white hand

Past the notion of time fading

Past the large woman with the ‘dare to dream’ t-shirt

Past the man with the ‘just a fucking t-shirt’ t-shirt

Past the the young woman who smiles at me and I smile back

Past the sign that says ‘everything, two for one euro’

Past the dead flowers of the house for sale        Click

Past the poster which states ‘ignore this poster’

Past the man who says ‘jaysus i have too much stuff in me pockets’

Past the sign that says ‘we will be closing down in October’

Past the bad art gallery

Past the woman who says ‘she walks from one job to another, she’s after getting a masters degree whatever that is’

Past the discarded tired mattress        Click

Past the solitary lightbulb descending the tightrope        Click

Past the young woman who says ‘I was totally sobbing, and ye know the way yer eyes go all red’

Past the man in the fishing cap who always stands and stares

Past the empty park with the tombstones pushed to the side        Click

Past the graffitti which asks us to ‘SMASH NAMA’

Past the young chinese woman who smiles at me and I smile back        Click

Past the man who says ‘they’re the ones that used to cost €200’

Past the architects huddled around a small table

Past the chuggers plying their trade

Past the woman wheeling the tiniest of suitcases

Past the man carrying his cat

Past the image of Dorian Grey

Past the door to eternity        Click

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


A text by Francesco Zanot

In the second half of the nineteenth century the art system experienced a phase of extraordinary dynamism. Among the many revolutionary events that occurred during this period, we can consider two in particular. First of all, initially in France and then elsewhere, artists began to paint outdoors: en plein air is the term used to describe the new presence of artists in nature. At the same time, important improvements in optics, leading to brighter objective lenses, and chemistry, with increasingly sensitive plates, thrust photography outside the comfort of the studio. This had a single consequence: photographers and painters started to walk, moving about in cities and the countryside to portray the subjects of their works. Further technical progress then reduced the weight and bulk of photographic equipment, which – unlike canvases – no longer needed to be set on a stand, thus paving the way for the purest instantaneous photography, which is not merely the representation of motion but in motion. In effect, street photography is a gestural art that envisages the author’s continuous movement when it is created. Walking thus constitutes one of the key elements of picture-taking, practised by all those who work outside photography studios to (1) reach their subjects (those who use large-format equipment emphasise the importance of the path that leads to the click of the shutter) and/or (2) capture that subject through the lens.

Photography is the language best suited to describing the complex relationship between itself and the act of walking, which can be a premise for the pose, the subject or both. Therefore, what follows is the checklist of an imaginary exhibition encapsulating this topic, with ten images that are as famous as they are emblematic of this relationship.

— Louis Daguerre — The Boulevard du Temple, Paris, 1838.
It is a spring day. The Boulevard du Temple in Paris is swarming with passers-by, but the long exposure time – many minutes – needed to imprint a shadow of the world on the first daguerreotypes makes it impossible to capture any movement. The only visible human figures are a shoeblack with his customer and two people seated at a small table. Those walking have been erased by the camera. The photograph also contains what it is unable to show.

— Otto Steinert — A Pedestrian Walking, Paris, 1950.
A defect of photographic technology, i.e. the emulsion’s inability to capture overly rapid movements, can be transformed into a semantic device. This is conveyed to us by the title of the photograph, which captures a man’s foot and reduces it to its anonymous function: A Pedestrian Walking.

— Eadweard Muybridge — Plate 1 (from Animal Locomotion. An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements, 1887).
In the 1870s Eadweard Muybridge invented the shutter mechanism, a function that – until then – had been handled simply by removing the lens cap, and he thus discovered instantaneous photography. The first plate he published in his Animal Locomotion is that of a man walking, seen from the side, then from the front and, lastly, from the back. He thus reminds us that man is an animal.

— Hiroshi Sugimoto — Earliest Human Relatives, 1994 (from the Dioramas series).
The premise is the same as that of Muybridge’s plate, but here it is reformulated from an evolutionistic standpoint: man is an animal walking towards his own development. The fact that the photograph happens to depict a diorama, in which – by definition – nothing moves, raises doubts about the reliability of any statement made with this medium.

— Garry Winogrand — Central Park Zoo, New York City, 1967.
Winogrand perfectly embodies the very icon of the street photographer. Everything walks in his pictures.

— Richard Long — A Line Made By Walking, 1967.
In her book Wanderlust: A History of Walking Rebecca Solnit discusses this black-and-white photograph depicting a grassy path that runs straight through the middle of the meadow to the trees at the other end. As the title clearly indicates, Long drew it with his feet. It is a work that is at once more ambitious and more modest than conventional art: ambitious in dimension, as it wants to leave its imprint on the world; modest because it is an utterly ordinary gesture and thus the work is literally at ground level, under the photographer’s feet. Walking thus becomes Long’s medium. The level of abstraction of the photograph is augmented as a result. It is a medium of the medium, a trace of the trace(1).

— Weegee — The Critic, 1943.
Walking means moving in a given direction. This photograph by Weegee, taken at a premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, clearly depicts two people walking towards the photographer (and writer). The two women have overcome the first obstacle. And we are next.

— Dorothea Lange — On the road toward Los Angeles, March 1937.
This photograph is the exact opposite of the previous one: it depicts a departure. The fact that this departure is on foot conveys the idea of the difficulty of leaving something behind (a billboard on the right side of the picture mockingly reads: “Next time try the train. RELAX”). Specifically, the two subjects are moving out of the foreground to face the horizon. The paradox of photography makes it possible to go into depth without abandoning the surface.

— Luigi Ghirri — Alpe di Siusi, Bolzano, 1979.
Same as above.

— Timothy O’Sullivan — Field where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, 1863.
Among the photographs that O’Sullivan took after the Battle of Gettysburg, one shows the corpse of a soldier in an unusual position, lying on the ground with his legs crossed. It is as if he had suddenly grown tired of walking behind the enemy. This was an era in which wars were fought on foot, just like the uprisings of the past few months, conducted simply by walking into the squares of North Africa and the Middle East.

(1): Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Penguin Books, London 2011.

The necklace of memories

A text by Fabio Severo

“Today the consumption or destruction of any printed and permanent (so to speak) optical image or moving and ephemeral one lasts little more than the fraction of the second that was necessary to ‘impress’ its original phototype. The photographic works that last the longest are humble passport photos. . . . Take note the next time that you are about it, the average attention span oscillates between 1/20 and 1 second, a speed close to the motion of the frames of films and videotapes.”(1)

Ando Gilardi wrote these words more than ten years ago, and today more than ever the photographic image has assumed the contours of something that we experience rather than seek; something that is glimpsed rather than observed. The production and diffusion of photographs has achieved a scale that even our imaginations are unable to embrace, integrated in communication networks that nullify distance and exasperate the accessibility of distant places and stories. The simultaneous geography of information has largely replaced physical geography, and the instant visual wealth that we receive from (almost) everywhere and in any moment presents itself as a plausible source of information and a possible surrogate for experience.

However, there is something more, beyond risky rhetoric on media bombardment and our inurement and consequent indifference to news and images. If everything is made visible and perceived as accessible, what margin does photography have to continue to reveal something, to manage to take us to a place that we do not know, or to trigger an emotion that we did not expect? If we continue to consider photographs as extraordinary fragments of reality we will be increasingly condemned to a cyclic pattern of reactions towards what we see: grief will be displayed in a well-defined range of forms, like violence, joy or any other human manifestation. And the variants will alternate until the cycle is completed and simply starts anew.

In this way emotions gradually dry up until we risk finding ourselves simply acknowledging the content of the photograph we are looking at, feeling ever less. The objective and presumptive importance of the content of an image is a double-edged weapon, for it creates an icon and draws attention to a fact, but it makes the visual language subordinate to forced communication. However shocking an image may be, it is thus also condemned to be completely legible, presenting itself as something that the viewer can only acknowledge, being impeded from freely entering it by any other way that the obligatory path that it conspicuously delineates.

Perhaps we have a greater need for photographs that are offered to us as territories to explore, rather than well-trodden paths to which to add our footsteps, following in those of all the others who have taken them before us. It is necessary to lose oneself a little in a photograph in order to rediscover what is in front of our eyes, to recreate our ability to look on each individual occasion.

Giorgio De Chirico perfectly described the veil that falls in front of our eyes when we are accustomed to what we see: “I enter a room, I see a man sitting in an armchair, I note a bird cage with a canary hanging from the ceiling; I notice paintings; some books in a bookcase; everything strikes me and does not surprise me because the necklace of memories strung together explains the logic of what I see; but let’s suppose that for a moment and for unexplainable causes independent of my will the string of this necklace should break, who knows how I would see the seated man, the cage, the paintings and the bookcase; who knows what amazement, terror or even perhaps what sweetness and consolation I would feel gazing at that scene. The scene, however, would not have changed; it is me who would see it from a different viewpoint.”

“. . . who knows how I would see . . .”(2)

Let’s try to imagine viewing a photograph like sitting next to someone who tells us a story that we do not know, the work of an imagination that creates the world that it reveals to us. All of a sudden everything becomes worth watching, everything can amaze us, terrorise us or make us happy. Perhaps the fact that photography gives us the impression of having shown us everything of the world that we inhabit can give us the freedom to start imagining everything anew, to draw maps starting from any point, and to start losing ourselves in an unknown geography again.

Werner Herzog criticised cinéma vérité, accusing it of seeking facts that he considered reduced to a sterile “truth of accountants”(3), a mere recording of events unable to reveal any transcendence or illumination. Losing oneself in photography, opening one’s gaze without fixing it on any object to capture, thus becomes the way to free oneself from the logic of the facts and to rediscover the pleasure of exploring, accepting the unknown factor of our emotions and listening to the infinite calls incessantly transmitted to us by the space and life around us.

(1): Ando Gilardi, Foreword to second edition of Storia sociale della fotografia, Paravia Bruno Mondadori Editori, 2000.
(2): Giorgio De Chirico, Valori Plastici, april - may 1919.
(3): Werner Herzog, Minnesota Manifesto, 1999.

Selected works
Curatorial projects