still life

by Andrea Rosset

and Marina Fornasier

 

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Elisa, also called Isetta, was born in 1902. Marina, her grand-daughter, in 1981.
This work started with a dozen of simple portrait I took of Isetta in July 2009. In the following months, acknowledging the strength of the pictures but also, simply, envisaging a support for such a strong but feeble body, in need for amplification, we decided to place Marina next to Elisa.
Still Life was born in 45 minutes, in the silence, in the out-of-fashion living-room of a house in the Veneto countryside, Italy. With grandma Elisa’s present-absent body, and her grand-daughter Marina’s acting body, which, in a sort of performative improvisation, doubled and amplified the former’s postures, gestures, slight movements; or, on the contrary, a body which was different by contrast. The image of the two women was powerful and well-defined, the one in her unripe maturity, the other in an exhausted oldness; yet, there was a sort of continuous shifting of Marina’s presence into the deed of grandma being there (of her being there and then, of her having been, once, a young girl): Marina is (also) the former Elisa, and Elisa is (also) the future Marina. The work got then structured, simply and almost necessarily, in an antinomian framework: Marina’s pale skin and her grandma’s worn face, Elisa’s blackness and her grand-daughter’s whiteness, an old woman’s heavy clothes and a girl’s light dresses, and then again, inevitably, life and death, elderly and youth, modern and old… The inner contradiction within the images also derives from the coexistence of documentary photography and staged photography; Still Lifeis at the same time a session of posed portrait, a not posed portrait and the documentation of a performance. Even the few stylistic choices on Marina’s body – the lipstick, the gathered hair, a white blouse, the red earrings – move along the ambiguous thread of the pair identification-differentiation: present? past? proximity? distance? The unity of time and space of the photographic set and the chromatic unity isolate and amplify these two women’s deed of being, their biological relationship, the years of life they have shared, the ones back in Elisa’s life and the ones projecting into Marina’s future life. After the shooting session we decided to work on a photographic installation, entirely available to its beholder, who is free to choose the possible paths within the various images: recognising one’s personal experiences, seeing one’s mother, grandma, life, death, identifying oneself, focusing on an element, the skin, the eyes, the feet; or again, perceiving aesthetic and compositional lines, hands followed by legs, gazes followed by gestures, full-length images, close-ups, details, chromatic unity; feeling the opposition of sweetness and violence, virginal and corrupt, sensual and worn out.
Every path is possible and free, but contradictory as well: we are, then, continuously frustrated in the reassuring attempt to translate our work in a univocal and comprehensive way, with one key to the reading, yet constantly contradicted by the different interpretations which cross our gaze.
The installation brings its beholder to a crisis: the elegant, composed and nearly repetitive appearance of the photographs, naked and intimately interwoven on the wall, may lead a distant observer, and us, to underestimate their power. What happens is that, instead, the pictures subtly overflow as we come closer to them. The subject belongs to us, but it seems cold and ruthless, as an object. And, once it has become an object, it looks at you, with a straight gaze. Then we surrender to the work, and we let it breathe.

 

View the complete series

 

STILL LIFE (2011)
Lambda print on Dibond, inkjet print, various format

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