Articles & Essays

            

LAY OFF 

BY GAIA PALOMBO for IL MURO MAGAZINE

The city, wrapped in the night numbness, is a silent field of lighted arteries, a glass and metal container filled with nothing. The lights trace its bones, so to make it more real, almost readable. The town sleeps, seems to have stopped its race; while the inhabitants of the night non-places don’t stop, their aim is to reach the same velocity. In front of this impetuous progress the man is always in competition: the progress goes ahead with big steps and he’s never ready for the continuous changing: nothing is ever enough in the race with the rising city.

Lay off is a project about the suspension and the right distance of a discreet gaze, horizontal, placed in a time and space where the social level and the existential level contaminate each other. This gaze modality is necessary so that the camera is able to question reality, without dominate, establishing a dialog.

Lay off seems to find its founding character on a given freedom – let’s think about a work break or the end of a work shift – subjected, for nature, to the same rhythm typical of the work time; this time of the doing for living, superimposes on that of living for living. If it’s true, like Gilles Deleuze teaches, the element of a big mechanical structure doesn’t cease to be so even if it’s no more part of it materially; the sentence “ On n’èchappe pa de la machine” (G. Deleuze, Kafka, for a minor literature,1975) is noticed in Benedetta Ristori’s shots.

The right distance, as defined above, is more efficient than a classical reportage that would easily risk to fall in the stereotype of man seen as animal laborans. In Lay off we notice the photographer attempt to approach the subject and let in between a thought space where it’s possible to find the alienating action of social duty on the time for living. Probably for this reason, Benedetta Ristori doesn’t give back real actions; on the contrary, the image construction bases on empty moments which are like a prelude to what could happen shortly. Full of this wait and interruption perception are also the desolated places and, more surprisingly, the shots that portray people beyond a desk, at work, immersed in a full activity contest. Every micro-story told in these pictures is inevitably collected and connected by a macro-story to which human being seems to be destined. Many anonymous solitudes, many everyday little stories that live this ultra-postmodern dimension, taken from the natural alternation of night and day; the loss of border extends largely over all the experience fields till every kind of original dynamic is deleted. A scenery where Deleuze’s words materialize: the machine is not a separated entity, it’s the same social organism of which we are active part. Like a vicious circle, desire is the product of such a system – soon and then, by constriction, tested -, the same that Calvino was able to give back in Anastasia, invisible town with deceiver charm.

«[…] But with all this, I would not be telling you the city’s true essence; for while the description of Anastasia awakens desires one at a time only to force you to stifle them, when you are in the heart of Anastasia one morning your desires waken all at once and surround you. The city appears to you as a whole where no desire is lost and of which you are a part, and since it enjoys everything you do not enjoy, you can do nothing but inhabit this desire and be content. Such is the power, sometimes called malignant, sometimes benign, that Anastasia, the treacherous city, possesses; if for eight hours a day you work as a cutter of agate, onyx, chrysoprase, your labor which gives form to desire takes from desire its form, and you believe you are enjoying Anastasia wholly when you are only its slave.»

(Italo Calvino, Le città invisibili, 1972)

 

EAST

BY OWEN PRITCHARD FOR IT’S NICE THAT

Shot over the course of two years using entirely analogue equipment, East by Benedetta Ristori is a documentary of the Balkan peninsula. Having visited Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia (to date) the series captures architecture, landscapes and portraits in different seasons. “The project aims to explore the relationship between the past and present of these nations and show how the past may influence or interact with the world today,” says Benedetta. “A particular focus is given to countries which until 2006 were part of Yugoslavia and immortalise what remains of this socialist period, a period that has left in these lands with significant traces of relations with the Soviet Union.”

The series captures instances of life such as bathers on the banks of the Black Sea to the grand Spomenik – memorials that serve as reminders of battles and commemorate events from the conflicts within the region. “The Spomenik are a great testimony of a macabre chapter of world history that is not always remembered with due importance; at the same time they are unique sculptures and architectural works of their kind,” says Benedetta. “It shows how ideology has interpreted the idea of commemorating the fallen in a totally opposite way to the memorials we are used to; the Spomenik are totems that through their abstract figurative language, recall shapes and organic shapes like petals, crystals or flowers totally immersed in the nature.”

The series is ongoing and shows how life in the former Soviet countries is moving on from the past, although its influence remains powerful. “The inspiration for the creation of this project was born from the passion for reportage of the great American photographers such as Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, Richard Misrach and Alec Soth to name a few,” says the photographer. “The nostalgic key that acts as a common thread of history is also maintained through the exclusive use of the choice of analog cameras.”

 

EAST 

BY DAVIDE BARBERA FOR WITNESS JOURNAL

L’insieme delle espressioni artistiche di una società ne rappresenta sempre, in qualche modo, anche lo specchio. L’arte si fa portavoce dello spirito del tempo e lo incarna alla perfezione tramite le sue opere, diventando metafora di un determinato periodo storico. Talvolta agisce ad un livello ancora più universale, arrivando a fondere le fattezze del manufatto con l’identità di un popolo intero: si pensi alla Tour Eiffel dei francesi, alla Statua della Libertà in USA, al nostro Colosseo. Andando oltre il dato puramente estetico, a colpirci è l’esperienza di leggere in quei monumenti (dal verbo latino “monère”, “ricordare”) la sintesi perfetta di un racconto. Se per Hitchcock “il cinema è la vita senza le parti noiose”, allo stesso modo queste icone del tempo ne tralasciano il senso cronologico e mutano in polaroid che immortalano i momenti da tenere a mente, le rivolte, i cambiamenti. Istantanee monolitiche che raffigurano gli ideali e i sogni dell’era alla quale appartengono.

In questa direzione sembrano muoversi gli Spomenik (dalla radice “spomin”, “memoria” in lingua serbo-croata), monumenti sorti tra gli anni ’60 e ’80, durante il periodo di unificazione della Jugoslavia per mano del dittatore Josip Tito. Puntellano il racconto East della fotografa romana Benedetta Ristori, frutto di un viaggio tra Bulgaria, Bosnia-Erzegovina e Croazia; ne costituiscono il leitmotiv, danno ritmo alla narrazione in un continuum di rimandi tra il passato della penisola balcanica ed il suo presente, ormai popolato da segni e da simboli per certi versi insospettabilmente simili a quelli occidentali. A ironico suggello di questa contaminazione si intravede un murales, alla base di uno spomenik, con la scritta “Enjoy Communism” che ricorda lo stile grafico del marchio Coca-Cola.

In un paio d’anni tra il 1989 e il 1990, scompaiono le linee di confine tra la zona d’influenza statunitense e quella sovietica, crolla il Muro di Berlino e con esso la concezione di un mondo diviso in due da una cortina di ferro. Quello che rimane è un paesaggio a tratti lunare, dove manipoli di abitanti si alternano a cattedrali nel deserto: un’edicola-tabaccheria, un bar, entrambi coperti da una coltre di neve che ne accentua il senso di sospensione nel tempo e nello spazio. E ritornano gli spomenik ad assolvere il ruolo di promemoria, commemorando le vittime nei campi di concentramento e la rivolta dell’esercito partigiano di Tito in opposizione all’occupazione nazista. All’indomani della rivoluzione i totem erano parte di un programma celebrativo, che vedeva al suo centro un paese senza classi guidato dal socialismo, un popolo jugoslavo unito da sentimenti di fratellanza e privo al suo interno di tensioni etniche. Questi monumenti, per volere dello stesso Tito, si distaccavano dalla retorica del realismo sovietico dell’epoca – stile figurativo incentrato perlopiù sul mito dell’eroe-operaio – per abbracciare il post-modernismo e il brutalismo (da “béton brut”, “cemento a vista”) di Le Corbusier. Altari laici che superavano le divisioni etniche e promuovevano i valori della repubblica riunificata. In questo modo l’intento di mostrare la forza della spirito socialista passa attraverso un astrattismo composto, tra gli altri, da forme organiche, petali e cristalli.

Architettura, paesaggi e persone vengono ritratti in diverse stagioni, dall’estate all’inverno, al fine di mostrare tutte le sfaccettature di queste terre, nel tentativo di approfondirne la conoscenza e indagarne l’estetica. Infine, con un linguaggio che strizza l’occhio all’oggettività tedesca dei coniugi Bernd e Hilla Becher, la Ristori si avvale dell’esclusivo utilizzo di fotocamere analogiche per accrescere il velato sentimento di nostalgia che permea l’intero lavoro.