CRITICS

Title: The Memory Inside The Future
Author: Gianluca Marziani
Year: 2009

December 2007. I will start a sentence which I used in the conclusion of another text about Marco Bolognesi. I wrote the following: Face which are the memory inside the future… which I think in few words sums up the artist’s precise stylistic passion for personally breaking down the female body into its constituent parts. Two women appear at the centre of the frame, icons which the artist stares at with close-up shots against backgrounds exalting the female figure and its ambiguously erotic energy. There are only women in this photographic gynaecium where stylist quality meets with a concise stare. Woman who relentlessly observe us, who remain fixed even while something is happening on their skin. Woman who are the targets of our energies, sensations, memories, obsession and fears. We are here. They are on the other side, unemotional catalysts forcing us to ask ourselves what we really see behind the images contrived perfectionism.

Woman toying with their own multi-faced beauty, opening themselves up to extend influences, to themes of clairvoyant transformism, to other cultures in a world yet to be explored. The photographic shot catches them at the juncture of momentary perfectionism, when the gestures and poses become an iconographic act. In that precise shot, as part of photographic model manipulating nature to create artifices, the figure departs from its historic context and acquire a universal quality. The woman is transformed into pure image, a malleable tool combing ideas and messages in her scenic presence; confirmation that art begins when the body become a pretext, when physicality is sublimed in the imperceptible semantic variations of a new figurative composition.
In order to be philologically accurate, I will quote a small selection of my previous text describing the elaborate method with which the artist constructs his photographic images: “…The face become an organic edifice to be constructed with media of varying theatrical complexities. From make-up artists to hairstylist, the professionals involved contribute to the backstage design, putting Bolognesi in the position of a figurative cinematic director, where the creative forces collaborate holistically.

This leads to multitude of visionary icons: unusually striking woman against dark or contrasting background, theatrical staging with the tension of real participation and concentration of making a photograph without any mistakes… A journey between models with sinuous lines, radical body painting and enchanting hairstyles. A work of casting, hair stylist, makeup, backgrounds, reaffirms fashion’s iconographic stereotypes…”
She is a primitive, atavic figure, the daughter of a deep memory focusing our gaze on African Cultures, towards the spiritual tribalism o wooden masks, conserved and evidenced in our literature, in particular, I am referring to the face masks, from the Republic of Congo, a mature expression of spiritualism with a historic background and complex ethical values. The energy of this artefacts emanates from the eyes, which are allowed out or engraved, from the decorative details (shells, raffia, strings, fabric…), the skillful carving of the wood, the noses which capture the central perspective and the paintings which adorn the front surface. There are varying examples among them, dating back to different times and customs that explain every single aesthetic choice. Seen as a whole they indicate a very strong relationship with the body, in particular with the magic radiating from the face which incapsulates life and its mysterious alchemy. Pathos and power resolve around the mask, confirming the central importance of the human face even for distant cultural communities.

With an effect similar to that of the African mask (especially the Mkaki, Mfondo, Mwana phwevo, Kifwebe, Lukwakongo, and Ngaady a Mwaash masks), Bolognesi’s faces are transformed into unmasked masks, visionary pretences where the artifice makes up the ideal identity with its ferile aesthetic quality. The hairstylist, the dramatic make up and the decorative elements are the mirror-vision of a multifaceted influence vacillating between black and white western cultures. A contrast which is often explicit, recreated through expressive colour, the ambivalence of the re-coloured skin and the naturalistic hairstyle. We like to think of a woman of pure racial influences, a mixture of anthropological gender which elevates human nature to a higher plane. A woman beyond the restrictions of sexuality, of imposed roles, of the many labels which the culture of television applies to her. A different yet familiar beauty emerges from these images, a living hybrid which takes our approach to and vision of what is plausible to a new level.

In the previous text I wrote, “…a contemplation of the archetypal fashion shot in the style of Guy Bourdin (artifice, simulation, hyperrealist perfectionism), a surreal short-circuit in which beauty becomes a visionary pretext, a combinatory crossroads which records the contradictions in contemporary society. The faces are transformed into pure story-telling fantasies, dreamlike configurations between Enrico Baj and Meret Oppenheim, Arcimboldo and Man Ray. Paintings (Arcimboldo), assemblages (Baj. Oppenheim) and photography (Man Ray) as historic end-points which merge in Bolognesi’s fluid multilingualism…”
Here she is, an artificially natural woman. Connected to western principles but also outside any system of classification. A woman with the synthetic symbols of Derek Jarman’s theatrical cinema, Peter Greenaway intersected symbolism, Tatsumi Hijikata’s and Kazuo Ohno’s butoh dancing, and Akram Khan’s Kathak dancing… Bolognesi’s figures are sculpted like coloured clay, a mixture of material and spirit which senses the fluidity of the cinema and the pigeon-holing of the theatre. On the barriers joining the two (where Jarman and Greenaway remain the undisputed masters), here is photography whit its sublimation of the beauty, its fascination with the colour and composition. The background pushes the figure towards us while it is held back, precisely as happens in Akram Khan’s choreographies, by pure concentration on the motionless yet dynamic body, an energetic synthesis in which the face captures the surrounding energy and gradually spreads its force. For Bolognesi this artifice corresponds with a second reality which moulds the archetype itself. The close-up framing embodies the bond which puts us in touch with an experimental beauty, alien and plausible at the same time, ironic and literary, debatable yet coherent.

The great attitude in this work is directed towards the models of enjoyment of fetishism. A tension which is never didactic and which chooses a recognisable mode of expression, focusing on the half-length portrait and energy of the face. Bolognesi’s work is confirmation that the basic fetish characteristics can be applied to almost any part of the female body, regenerating every detail with motionless and credible artifices. From make-up to sculptural hairstyle, from body painting to ornamental trimmings, everything speaks to us of women who have their own science fiction in their atavistic memory (and therefore a sense and a sexuality in artifice their display). And it is a hyperreal vitality which is created from a poetic fetishism, excessive because of its artificial nature, almost a hyperbole of contemporary beauty. We don’t understand who they are, nor where they come from and what they want. But we understand their “dangerous” energy, just like when we discover a tribal wooden carved mask. African art is disruptive since it has kept its mystery intact. It does not claim revelation and prefers to hide, suggesting fragile spirals of discovery. Think of Gino De Dominicis, the western artist who has best understood the value of a mysterious face, of the Sumerian and Babylonian features in a completely private version, without spacious-temporal certainty. His small paintings on boards remain a masterful example of a mysterious alchemy surrounding the face, close-up. Seeing these paintings again in the idealistic perspective which combine them with a tribal masks, helps us to think differently about certain photography genres which explore “woman” as a marker of cultural transition (Matthew Barney, Shirin Neshat, Bolognesi himself…)

Black seems a constant theme in Bolognesi’s work. A colour for scenery and make up but also an interior colouring, an atavistic space which drives the project’s ethical metabolism. Black in African cultures, the black of burnt wood, the black of anthropological depths to be explore. The clack scenery in the sculptural theatre, the black of hybrid beauty, of the inspirational night-time and of a new cosmic purity. As I wrote previously, Back in Black…

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