CRITICS

Title: Body, Vision, Contamination: Dark Star. An Interview by Elena Forin to Marco Bolognes
Author: Elena Forin
Year: 2008

If, as Antonio Tursi* believes, today’s man, like his Baroque counterpart, finds himself in a precarious anthropological situation, it is as a result of a widespread instability which affects both art and politics, civil development, systems for obtaining knowledge and interpersonal relationships.
And yet the similarities between the 17th century and today lie not only in the macrostructure of a society veering towards uncertainty, but also in the significance of an allegorical world centred around pomposity and the prevalence and stratification of content and meaning, just as Marco Bolognesi’s work does, in which conceptual maps and aesthetic bodies meet in a debate on the life and times of contemporary man. What emerges from this is the cyclical and continuous nature of a world which has a multitude of relationships with time and a restless personality, where the collapse of certain categories has left us with all but a few symbols which, like the Babylon Federation, simply emphasise the boundaries in which our identity can express itself.
Belts, whips, arms and uniforms become therefore a metaphor of a universe
that has wilfully chosen segregation in order to face the pot-pourri of science, technology, power and image of Dark Star.
Elena Forin: Why have you chosen to call this publication Dark Star?
Marco Bolognesi: It’s in homage to the John Carpenter film of the same title and his work. Dark Star was his first feature film and as a seminal work had a strong influence on his style. I have, through this book, portrayed my world, or at least a part of it, and my vision of the universe.
Elena: Can you tell us about the discovery and creation of your artistic universe?
Marco: It’s essential for me to make visible a universe which is a metaphysical place: it’s a sort of parable hovering between reality and illusion. Edgar Allan Poe said that the reality we see, and the world in which we live, is only a dream in a dream. The English cosmologist John David Barrow instead talks about our vision as a phenomenon that is linked to the instruments surrounding us that are capable of making us see, and in this way he makes a distinction between a visible universe and a Universe with a capital U. I believe that Western culture (that is, if we can talk of such a thing as Western culture in our globalized world) tells us and teaches us to see certain realities and to make a distinction between what exists and what does not exist. Through art I can confront these contemporary themes by focusing on the transformation of human beings through the birth-death-birth process conceived in terms of a cyclical pattern.
Elena: You believe, therefore, in the concept of the eternal individual, of lives that have no end…
Marco: Exactly. An “Ouroboros”, one of a handful of symbols known to all people and throughout the ages: it’s a depiction of a snake swallowing its own tail, a cosmic serpent depicting a totality that symbolises the devourer and devoured. I find it fascinating because it is the metaphor par excellence that expresses the ambivalence between the beginning and the end, good and evil, male and female and the cycles and eternal flux of energies. It was the symbol of the universe in ancient Egypt and is the inspiration behind my own universe.
Elena: The ambivalence you express in Ma’aM was a starting point for your subsequent research. What changed with the past and what were the values you chose to embrace with this series?
Marco: Ma’aM coincided with my arrival in London and my coming into contact with a different social and cultural environment. It was here in London that I began questioning a lot of things, first and foremost my ideas on culture which in Italy I had found overwhelming.
Elena: What do you mean by this?
Marco: Everything is possible in London because it’s easy to loose oneself; one can disappear and subsequently reinvent oneself later. You can act out a variety of roles whilst feeling completely free, something which unfortunately in Italy is impossible to achieve.
I based my whole universe on Ma’aM and it marked a turning away from my earlier vision. Through Ma’aM I in part revived by deep interest in Guido Crepax, whose work fascinated me. I tried to “translate” his work into photography, through role playing images, as expressed in the relationship between the dominator and dominated. Sure, it’s shocking, but it’s also light and takes an irreverent stance on relationships of power.
Elena: Femininity achieves a defining consecration within the universe of Ma’aM …
Marco: The theatre of Ancient Greece was centred around men, in fact men played women’s roles. The complete opposite can be said of my work, mine is a world of Amazonian women. I am convinced that women will be the dominant force of the future: some time ago I read an article which claimed that the difference between men and women did not lie in their hormones, but in their genes. Indeed, women have more active genes than men and this consequently gives them greater opportunities and an increased aptitude even in scientific research. This makes me believe that it’s very well worth studying women, even when it comes to my personal work and I don’t believe that all this pondering is pure science fiction. No, it will become an imminent reality.
Elena: Sexuality is interpreted as the backbone of all relationships and plays a very important role in your research. What changes did you make from Ma’aM to Geiko?
Marco: I believe that the body is a type of writing, being able to manipulate it is important in terms of linguistic stratification in order to be able to build a new vocabulary. The eroticism of my photographs clearly declares a deep respect for the body and sexuality of women. I’m not interested in constructing a photo based on shocking images, as do Nobuyoshi Araki and Terry Richardson. I’m more interested in evoking emotions that grow from within.
Elena: Linguistic stratification transforms itself in your work into a visual collage, which played a fundamental role in Woodland. We have a taste, through your sketches and polaroids, of how your vision and how your way of looking at the world builds a superimposition of symbols and meanings through objects…
Marco: My approach to work has a connection with the cinematographic techniques associated with filmmaking, because I proceed in different phases that can sometimes overlap in, if you like, a prescribed order. My photographs are conceived and are developed after a lengthy rapport with an idea. Each phase adds something new to the preceding phase and forms a substrate to the next phase, just like a collage.
It all begins with a sketch that helps me to develop a concept upon which
I then construct my projects.
Elena: The link with the world of fashion is an area that needs to be clarified and confined to precise limits: can you elaborate on this relationship?
Marco: The world of fashion interested me because of its psychological masking and adeptness at transformation. A dress on a body can change an individual’s role and transform the person wearing it into something completely different. This is because an outfit can cover up and accentuate other characteristics. The artistry and daringness of fashion interest me hugely and I relate to it in the same way a fashion designer draws inspiration from cartoons and illustrations. Fashion mirrors the society which creates it and the catwalk reflects society through symbols and metaphors.
Elena: Your C.O.D.E.X. B. are not the synthetic hybrids of Synteborg, nor are they the creatures that are a mixture of robotic limbs combined with natural bodies. They are individuals with a heightened power. What role did science fiction play behind the inspiration and development of this project?
Marco: Science fiction is a part of my culture. I’m drawn to it because not only is it a description of an imaginary world of the future, it also uses metaphors to narrate the future and describe and develop contemporary issues. A prime example of this is Terry Pratchett’s “Only you can save mankind”. What emerges in this book, written for a young audience, is the subject of the first war in Iraq. I wanted to create individuals who were a hybrid between the X-Men, the mutant “homo superior” conceived by Stan Lee and the cyborgs, like the Terminatrix, in “Terminator 3”. The character of Mistique in the X-Men, with her inconstant beauty and powers, is a great inspiration for the C.O.D.E.X. B. series, which is a work in progress, as is Alien’s Ripley a character who had a fundamental impact on women’s image in the 1980’s.
Elena: The cinema plays an important part in your research: what role does it
play in visual and content terms?
Marco: My work has essentially very strong links with cinema, if nothing else because I feel a close affinity to the medium’s capacity for vision and because I want this vision to be an important part of the achievements I make in my research. I’m interested in the work of Cronenberg and the way he uses the human body and Shinya Tsukamoto’s depiction of posthuman women with deadly robot arms in Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
This cinematic influence was highly influential in your last short film “Black Hole” I wanted to take my research into the obscure to a deeper level and chose a visionary route combined with a gothic setting at the fringes of reality. In Black Hole I experimented with concepts that up until the making of the film I had developed exclusively through photographs. The fusion of the individual with artificial intelligence in Black Hole is altogether more fulfilling. Unlike my past experiences, this fusion rather than expressing itself in physical and practical terms, is more conceptual, insofar as man, made of flesh and blood, becomes whole with his computerised and mathematical components, thus creating a new race capable of greater transformation than other human beings. I developed the work that I had already tackled in Cyborg Faces centred around a human beauty grafted into which were technological and artificial features such as piercing to strengthen and increase the potential of my subjects, turning my creatures not so much into synthetic robots but into beings with an elevated humanity who are the survivors of an inhospitable land. This has led me to believe that the dramatic contrast between human naturalness and the technological frigidity of the microchip and the metal artificial body parts of the face were a very important element in the conception of this cycle.
Elena: In your Baylon Federation and C.O.D.E.X. B. cycles we are party to a conflict waged between the synthetic, real, virtual and hybrid. Science fiction, horror and cyberspace: what is Marco Bolognesi’s world?
Marco: I have a great appetite for science fiction. Films like Dune and Blade Runner opened up my universe. But certain horror films also hold inspiration for me. The mask of the protagonist in Dario Argento’s Phantom of the Opera influenced Synteborg. I wanted some of my synthetic creations to receive special treatment, as does the character of Betty. My women are, just like the protagonist in the film, physically forced to look out into the homicidal world that surrounds them, unable to avert their eyes.
Elena: The idea of genetic modification, already a feature of Babylon Federation is another fundamental aspect of your work which highlights the recurring theme of the juxtaposition of the cinema, technological research and literature…
Marco: It’s about deconstruction and de-contextualization, which carried a certain weight, together with a vision of futurist Nazis, in the Philip Dick book “The Man in the High Castle”. What I wanted to do was de-contextualize the customs steeped in history of certain epochs by mixing them with fetish images in order to create a language which would discompose symbols of power and sarcasm in order to create post human women who do not belong to our times yet they wear the symbols.
Elena: We find in Geiko an accumulation of all your previous experiences, where the inhibited sexuality of Ma’aM and the collage work of Woodland and Babylon Federation work in combination, as does the concept of the latent conflict found in C.O.D.E.X. B. What kind of influence could far eastern cinema have on an already highly developed concept?
Marco: I have a love-hate relationship with far eastern cinema. I find the visual and latent conceptuality highly interesting, but often the narrative structure is too slow. The Korean filmmaker Byung-Chun Min in Natural City and the Japanese filmmaker Kazuaki Kiriya in Casshern both explore the relationship between androids and the human race within the setting of a chaotic and hyper-technological future in which man has to fight in order to preserve the capacities that make up human nature. Far eastern cinema is strongly inclined to bring to light the vision of a future that criticizes that is heir to a technological inheritance but that also leaves space for emotional responses allowing the human race to distinguish itself from androids. Detailed dreamy images, my familiarity with the world of cartoons and an informed relationship with a range of expressive media that result in an end product that is unconsciously real intrigue me enormously, as does my contact with videogames.
* A. TURSI, Estetica dei nuovi media – Forme espressive e network society,
Costa & Nolan, Milan, 2002

Marco Bolognesi ©2020 all rights reserved | info@marcobolognesi.co.uk

Design by Veronesi Namioka

Marco Bolognesi ©2020 all rights reserved | info@marcobolognesi.co.uk

Design by Veronesi Namioka

Privacy Policy