CRITICS

Title: The Lost Beauty of The Future
Author: Lorenzo Canova
Year: 2008

The greatest authors of dystopian fiction and the most progressive science fiction writers, such as Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, James G. Ballard and William Gibson, were all conscious of the disorientation and anxiety that are the malaise of modern life, where the memories and nostalgia for the past accentuate not only our fears for the present but also our apprehension for a future riddled with mystery and the unknown. It was not by chance that many of these writers* were drawn to the work of Giorgio de Chirico, one of the first artists to explore the tensions, enigmas and threats that were building up at the turn of the 20th century. De Chirico, moreover, was one of the first artists to expose the condition of the artist who, like a two-faced herm, “sees” prophetically into the future and aspires to idealistically re-compose the lost harmony of the past.

Marco Bolognesi, even if almost obliquely, is interested in engaging in a dialogue with this lost beauty, or perhaps more accurately, with the ideal of beauty that for centuries epitomised the secret code of classical harmony, which had since time in memorial been sought after but never attained fully. De Chirico conjured up that ideal with paintings of statues of Arianna and Apollo, arched spaces and architecture, and through the custom of putting his own stamp on works of the past; all his work, possibly even more so than any other radical avant-garde manifestation, proclaimed the impossibility of recomposing that lost mosaic and of resurrecting the past which for us today is but a cluster of ruins, fragments and archaeological finds.

In fact, de Chirico depicted a world where man no longer holds a place and is substituted by the “orthopaedic” phenomenon embodied by the statue, the forebear of the android and cyborg, the fictional beings that have had such a dominant presence in the arts and 20th and 21st century thinking and that feature in the work of Marco Bolognesi. In fact, Bolognesi in his cyborg-face cycle creates a new artificial beauty, and opens a conscious dialogue with the visual stereotypes of the feminine beauty portrayed in glossy magazines and the influential and “classical” perception of the woman’s face whose natural aesthetic is in conflict with the tangible presence of today’s electronic world.
The artist, not by chance, has exploited all the contradictions of our digital world, whose obsession with the immaterial is based on the palpable existence of keyboards, cables and loudspeakers, hardware and software casing, optical filter surfaces for pixel diffusion and numerical codes which create the images and sounds of the new IT universe.

The faces of Bolognesi’s cyborg women are constructed from computer components, connectors and microchips, elements that are, in effect, the “ruins” of a modern world in continual and rapid transformation. A world in which the innovative and ground breaking technology of just a few years ago is now obsolete and, paradoxically, appears to have fared less favourably than the ruins of the ancient world.
The artist chose this iconography possibly with the “unwanted or useless objects” (kipple) of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in mind, the Philip Dick science fiction novel with its inspired vision of “posthuman” truths (the block buster film Blade Runner is based on the book). Bolognesi’s graceful and attractive women, indeed they are almost unreal when juxtaposed with out-of-date technology and particles of unwanted or useless objects made up of the mass of debris that has literally invaded our world and daily lives, symbolize the entropic presence of the end of personal and collective life, a vanitas (that recalls the work of de Chirico) after the fall of the gods which hails the destruction and eventual replacement of human life as we know it.

* J.G. Ballard, A User’s Guide to the Millennium, 1996; P. K. Dick, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, 1965.

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