Title: Domination, Control and Metaphor of Darkness: Ma’aM
Author: Elena Forin
Year: 2008

“Under the “ideal” conditions of our developed industrial world, to the alienation which coexists with the pervasive automation taking place in the world of work, the reduction of working hours and the interchangeability of skills… Eros and our life instincts have been unleashed into unchartered territories”.
H. Marcuse, Eros and Civilization

That the technological and industrial advancements of today have led to profound changes in society is quite clear, but that the advent of the revolution of the machine having far reaching implications for Eros would appear to be most certainly less apparent. And yet technology has gone far beyond merely providing us with tools that make our lives easier; it has opened up a new world and endless possibilities that years ago were mere flights of fancy and that have now turned into reality, even when they belong to the ephemeral world of the web.

This is where Marco Bolognesi’s exploration begins. It stems from a fascination with the very essence and rationale that are the driving force behind an age that favours change and hybridization of form and content, that disregards any preconceived ideas based on certainty. His is a world that embraces the vast realm of social integration and multiple identity. Bolognesi’s journey begins with Ma’aM and develops through his subsequent work, and culminates in the genetic modification of his Babylon Federation cycle and the synthetic and physical union found in Synteborg.

However, let’s proceed in logical order, as Ma’aM does not only play a thematically fundamental role in Bolognesi’s subsequent research, it is also a seminal work that lays down the roots that unfold into a bigger picture and paves the way to even more in-depth research that has far reaching implications for further development, and which at the time it was conceived revealed complete maturity.

Let’s begin with the conclusion drawn by Marcuse in the quotation we read at the beginning of the article: today’s world has witnessed a veritable explosion of energy, instincts and a change in the way we relate to one another with the advent of modern technology and internet communication. The destruction of barriers and ethical boundaries brought about by the web has made a radical contribution to modern day thinking and has eradicated stale ideas. This has, without question, led us to rethink our understanding of our obsessions, it has also encouraged us to reflect deeply on the control and domination that today’s society perceives as a form of freedom and which instead has the exact opposite effect. Mobile phones, Skype, the internet and digital technology have overcome all the spatial and temporal constraints of the past and paved the way for an emotional spontaneity which expresses itself unequivocally in the bond between the dominating mistress and her submissive slave. Yet Ma’aM does not consume itself with the turbulent energy emanating from a controlling relationship experienced with genuine sincerity. No, it slowly evolves with increasing perspicuity once the elements that shape the composition’s overriding character become clearer. These elements create the very fibre of a work whose lexicon, grammar and content are implied in such a way that they attract each other in order to create a complex identity with a strong and intense visual impact.
H. Marcuse, Eros e civiltà, Italian Translation, Einaudi, Turin

In this context, the emotional link between the protagonists plays a decisive role because it is strong enough to act as a frame to a concrete, material and physical entity which permeates its environment with a magical tactility that envelopes the protagonists in a mantle that absorbs all memories and sound, leading them to another dimension that overcomes any concept of space and time. The spectator in this way creates his own perceptions and stimuli that are awakened by what he sees, but that all-embracing warm, black mantle that he almost feels he can touch is not the only catalyst in Ma’aM: every single detail, the whip, belt, models’ make up and outfits represent a system of symbols that clearly lay the scene out, but they also contribute to a basic fact: they promote a filmic narration that has been ever-present in Bolognesi’s research and which here palpitates with rhythm unleashing a host of themes embedded with aggression. The vision Ma’aM conjures appears to be set within a context that is not consumed within the confines of a photographic image, but that is actually ready to evolve and question itself in order to create the rich plot of Ma’aM, a series of photographs in which darkness is like a flash of lightning and whose objects become metaphors and obscurity a cover, in which the afflictions and taboos present in our society intertwine with an “outbreak of nudity” and “composed sexuality” with which today’s technology “tatoos its message directly onto our skin”, developing a tactile sensitivity and stimulation that takes sexuality to new dimensions…*

* Loosely taken from M. McLuhan, Dall’occhio all’orecchio, Italian Translation, introduction by G. Gamaleri e C.H. Conford, Armando Editore, Roma, 1986, p.50.

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