More than a thousand words?
La Ferita, JR, palazzo Strozzi, Firenze
It is April and it is now a year since this pandemic began.In the previous article “Todos necessitamos arte”, I tried to share some thoughts on the importance of art in our lives focusing mainly on photographic images because they are the form of expression I know best. What interested me most of all was how much and how the artistic contents we got in contact with, which we may have also appreciated, could have been of help in resisting in a particularly difficult period. (Although it seems that the media do everything to not find good news to be shared, it seems that in fact very rich artistic projects were born in this year thanks to the network that the web has allowed; but this will perhaps be the theme of a new analysis).
Then, we also mentioned the works that photographers made with two different points of view, one of documentation and criticism of the external situation with the desolation of cities, the closure of places of aggregation, or what happened in hospitals, the other instead focusing the lens to the interior and intimacy, the home and the daily life. And it is precisely on these two different approaches that today I would like to try thinking about, always remaining in a visual context; if then you would like to move the topic to other fields such as literary or even musical, all the assonances and admixtures are welcome. A small premise needs to be made regarding the general thought that people have towards photography, which is almost always considered as a reproduction or documentation of reality, except for some artistic experimentations. To better explain, I report a personal memory of a few years ago where one evening in summer I found myself in Trastevere to intervene after a fight between guys to rescue some of them who were injured. Upon the arrival of the police, witnesses were asked and when I reported that I was a photographer the policeman told me with an annoyed tone: “and why didn’t you take a picture?”. Let’s try to go even deeper.
During the work that we are carrying out in these months in the Aristofane school, when we could still meet in the presence, a girl asked an important question addressed to the present teachers: “What could be done to solve the problems of the school?”. It was not easy for them to respond mainly because after many years in a certain situation already focusing certain flaws, it turns out to be a complex work and it was discussed about how much of the responsibility could depend on politics. But this politics, precisely because outside of the school reality, does not seem to be able to find real solutions. We then wrote on the blackboard this sentence: To solve a problem, within or outside? Everyone responded freely with a prevalence of inward glances and many said that both views were important. The problem, I tried to say, is that when we choose to tell the world, we cannot be in two positions at the same time, especially if we want to do it by taking a picture; as a camera has a cyclopean eye that covers about 180° at most, you understand well that it’s impossible. The question was asked again the following week when we were forced to meet on a platform and many answers changed while others remained the same. Without taking interpretative readings of the kids’ responses, I think that where there is a group work it’s necessary to have a diversity of visions, not necessarily balanced, but with at least one variable, otherwise wealth and quality of work could easily have limits. But where can we go with this thinking? Meanwhile, we can ponder on the fact that it may be important to find a way to vary our own point of view and that we often need someone who is “outside” a situation to understand what happens inside. This topic, for example, is fundamental in my work when it is necessary to do the so-called “editing of images”, that is to select, often in a radical and ruthless way, the photographs to be inserted in a book, to be sent to a newspaper or to be sent to a contest. But following the line of other articles published on this blog seems that there is once again a difficulty in reconciling two dimensions that are often read in strong opposition. And one wonders if it is possible to find other solutions to the problem: can one think of connecting these two different realities as the inside and the outside trying a fusion? We should always be able to travel in balance, instead, on a thin border between the two, or even, we would need a more harmonious passage from one to the other… but how? I hope that those who are reading will provide answers or new questions to continue to think together. I would like to conclude with a recent piece of news that has interested me particularly. Since a few days, in Palazzo Strozzi museum in Florence, a new work by the French artist JR has been exhibited. The interesting thing is that the installation was created on one of the exterior walls of the building. A large tear shows what is inside the museum at this time, but that you cannot see because of the restrictions. With a clever game of perspective painted in black and white on large panels, you can see the interior rooms with famous paintings such as Primavera and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli or the sculptural group of The Rape of the Sabine Women. These works are not really preserved in the museum Strozzi but the artist, beside telling us the importance of culture denied at this time, wants to propose a reflection that deserves many insights. No ticket to be paid then, no fixed time to see it but simply a glance that anyone can discover by randomly walking in the neighbouring streets. It’s nice to think that the famous photographer wants to invite us not to stop in front of an external limit during such a time. Yes, but to do what and how? Someone might even object saying they’ve never been in that building and therefore cannot know what’s there inside; but perhaps it’s here that the game becomes even more interesting, because where we do not know what can be inside, we are called to invent. But if the saying “an image is worth a thousand words” is true, with this dramatic and powerful installation called “The Wound”, what do you think JR is telling us?
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article
La Ferita, JR, palazzo Strozzi, Firenze