CRITICS

Title: The Re-Discovery of Symbols
Author: Alberto Abruzzese
Year: 2008

Bolognesi belongs to a group of artists that best capture the spirit of the times. We can discuss their work, as art critics are prone to do, by going into some detail over biographies and catalogues of work or by opening our eyes to the world they perceive and lay open to us. I prefer the second option, its suits me best. And the images I have in front of me would definitely be best described in this way. They are representations that are armed yet dispersed, of a shattered ephemeral or lasting image that continuously rejuvenates itself. Some thirty years ago I used the formula “armed and dispersed” to define anonymous Italian pornographic cartoon artists of the seventies. These artists, whose work was of varying quality, preceded the work of Bolognesi.

A metropolitan setting, then a black background, here and everywhere: blue women, naked, armed by their bodies more than by the pistol they carry, celebrate a sophisticated rite made up of citations. They’re both light and heavy, these citations, just like their pistols (technology par excellence, excellence of technology, its ultimate raison d’être). They know they are toys but that, as toys, they know they can be used as pistols. This fundamental concept that the innocence of each and every playful object is wicked and consequently contains within itself the irreversible and unchangeable truth of the post Holocaust era, of the nuclear bomb, must be ever present when we look at the work of Bolognesi. He loves science fiction cinema and is well aware of the fact that the cinema has always associated itself with the last and most horrific catastrophe that has befallen mankind. Where the past and future are obliterated by the flash of a photograph and the fluttering sound of the of the cinema projector: from Babylonia to the Roman Empire, the Via Crucis to the great natural catastrophes, the death of heroes to the King of Nazism, and lastly Manhattan’s Twin Towers to Total annihilation. A menacing blue pervades this emptiness of a world suspended in darkness. The sadomasochism of our forgotten memories. Woeful happiness.

These citations made by Bolognesi, became embedded in our memory when it was all over, when “pop” became “art”. Or the opposite would be better, when art melted into a restless and desperate life, baseless, but retaining all the passion, in ways and customs. From when Warhol (the last artist who was conceded the title of neo-renaissance artist) and Baudrillard (the last sociologist and philosopher who was considered to be a neo-metropolitan) ended the discussion that Marcel Duchamp (a man of too high intelligence) had started and never finished, in order to give it endless life; unwilling to leave his heritage to a museum. Playing a part in the world, not just being. And that end game, that disappearance of art only to transform into something else, goes on. Even today.
Bolognesi’s blue women who in the bottomless pit of his/our head, dance immobile, fixed by a photographic flash. Yet because of their conscious awareness of the fact that they are masks they remind us of the opening titles of a James Bond film, with their changeable sexuality, colour and nature. Sinuous, deadly women. Harmonious, aesthetically appealing, positive and politically correct, and very different from the dark and hard image that follows, portrayed by extreme artists and exploited for entertainment by global hypermarkets. There exists and affinity between intent, thought and experience between the super, or global market and the superhero. What they share is the physiology and psychology of the masses. Of course, it is fashionable to use the word masses, yet no other word better really explains that we’re not talking here about society, but of lives that have been really lived. We’re not talking about subjects, but about flesh.
No power crazed activity of “Spectre” as featured in the Bond movies would have been able to embrace the current and everyday conditions of life in Bush’s Western Empire and the vast number of people who aspire to take his place. Bolognesi, in his work as a professional artist and bricoleur of time and space belongs to the imploding world of the X-men, to their bodies and changeable senses, affections and desires, just like the archeo-industrial indulgences of Alien. He, like me, adores the heroic and feline intimacy of Ripley, the mother-warrior, a mother inseminated by monsters, whose body she cleanses in preparation for war. Or does he conspire to the pornographic irony (if there is such a concept) of Russ Meyer, the precocious manipulator of cinema and sex in all its openness and ingenuity who after having given much pleasure to artists and enthusiasts of the super 8mm now endeavours to satisfy the ever growing appetites of internet bloggers. The vision of John Carpenter, the director of the cult film Dark Star was not made to reflect illusions of reality. They are the threshold between the immersion and emersion of ectoplasms: in the deep blackness of Bolognesi’s mind his avenging women are illuminated by a blue light. Yet what is the reason behind their quest for revenge? Perhaps there is nothing they need to take revenge against.

Perhaps Bolognesi is engaging in a playful commentary recalling the figures of his childhood with this cycle, or with what remains of these figures. The early childhood of Bolognesi’s generation no longer had the piazzas, meadows and streets to grow up in, or to believe that they were growing up in. They had the television screen and a kaleidoscope of a thousand metaphors every split second. Inside this fluorescent generation living between night and day and heaven and earth: just like the tireless waves of television, homeward bound travellers, with an unexpected insight, have sought their own initiation into the world where the palimpsest stood still and yet tore itself apart, allowing them to experience the cyclical rhythms of myth. This is the world of the cinema and cartoon, well distanced from literature and painting.
A type of film and a certain type of cartoon. Their rejects. The myth associates itself with the elected few who feel this to be their mission. And the elected look for rubbish amongst diamonds and diamonds in the rubbish. This was the stuff of fables reinterpreted along modern lines: Edgar Allan Poe embedded a diamond in the knife handle that The Man of the Crowd hid between the folds of his casual outfit. That was his image, the inauguration of fashionable man. A man’s way of being.
Our tradition as modern people has experienced, albeit not continuously, deviations from the everyday union between society and its institutions: travels to the Far East and Africa, underground explorations, rambles along forgotten paths between mountains and forests and strolls along the shop windows and avenues of Paris.

This feeling of being exiled is repeated and now belongs to those who, instead of musing over history or daily news, associate themselves with personalities from the world of the cinema and cartoon characters who reject any connection with reality. They love looking amongst the industrial and post-industrial imagery and feel they can build something concrete, as does Bolognesi.
Superheroes play a part in men’s souls. If we work on the assumption that each and every one of us has a soul, then superheroes are intrinsically linked to us. Their souls do not fly in the skies of the spirit. No, they are immersed in a sequence of dreamlike imaginary images of modern day life and aspire to real posthuman life. We can’t celebrate the divine origin of the individual in superheroes, what we can do is celebrate the human tragedy of those who tried to seek their divinity because of their desire for freedom and a need to take control. Just as Siegfried bloodily slays the dragon, the bodies of these fantasy characters who try and attain reality are bathed in the rhythms of the everyday and humdrum life of the ordinary, weak and lost man in the street. Man’s aspirations to invulnerability are intrinsically linked to the tormenting weakness.
A book recently written by the American novelist Deborah Eisenberg, The Twilight of the Superheroes, can throw some light on the subject. It is set amidst the dusty fog of Manhattan’s Ground Zero. It depicts the impotence of the world and the trash superheroes that are the mythological heroes of modern times. The very same characters who were the twilight of the gods. And we know that at twilight, the regime of order (the height of visibility) gives way to the regime of disorder, where sight is overtaken by all that it tends to exclude. Where it is surrounded by the sensory perceptions of the skin (and the blue of Bolognesi’s bodies emanates and odour and vibration of their skin).

Culturally accepted by progressives like Umberto Eco as a result of their openness, the superheroes of the mass cultural media in order to establish themselves and express their human philosophy, overdoing it, have worn the outfit of everyday weakness, of all earthly shortcomings. Their capacity for salvation has exploited man’s every neurosis, illness and accident that has befallen him as a result of nature and science. There are now literally hundreds and thousands of superheroes, as a result of the viral exchanges between East and West. They represent a community of senses that has found its own medium in globalization and its vintage clothing in the customs of local traditions lost in time and space. An impossible community that is now living its own twilight. Bolognesi, with the steadfast strength of he who lives on these frontiers creates his images from superheroes weakened by their re-discovery of the sacred. With the intense colours of admonishment which, as futurism has taught us, are also those of feelings and effects.

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