CRITICS

Title: Total Depravation Flash, Flesh and Fetish
Author: Alberto Abruzzese
Year: 2008

Alienation and fetish are the horizon not of the modern world but of the different assets, or indeed, of the different types of sovereignty governing our universe. Fetish flirts with hedonism in art and fashion. Very few grasp its tragic rapture. Still for the time being a woman’s body harbors power: her decorated flesh is still today sectionalized by the desire we call wealth, be it human, social, symbolic or technological. Bolognesi’s images are striking in the way their icy coldness precludes their fetish nature from being regarded as sexy. Let what is really attractive appeal to our senses.

Bolognesi seduces us into looking at the world with depraved eyes. We find ourselves in a world in which we reinterpret the ethical values bent on the redemption of the aesthetics and politics with which they have been traditionally linked. What our artist is proposing is total depravation. His views are based on a strict analogy between the religious belief that evil is the only reality here on earth and the aesthetic view of worldly depravation is the only possible artistic solution on earth. The two extremes defer to divine grace. Flesh can be pardoned by the divine, as well as by beauty. Both that which is divine and beautiful can evoke human flesh, as long as the flesh does not conceal its own damnation.

Total depravation is a religious concept of human existence which draws inspiration from protestant reforms, the very ones that have had a greater sway on capitalism and modern society. The Latin meaning of the verb to deprave is to wrench, twist and deform, all of which has very little to do with today’s current usage of the word, when used to sanction corruption of the senses and spirit. No, indeed the corruption of bodies and souls is held to be the only way man can attain his lost origins. Salvation is derived from our downfall simply because we are on earth, and because of our arrogance in creating a world according to our image and likeness.

Bolognesi’s images are part of an image bank that today encourages the critics into questioning their legitimacy and survival as an institution and that questions the very survival of canons of art. What is the difference between the imagery we have imposed for at least the last thirty years on products of the culture industry (which is so rich in all types of posthuman perversion) and the imagery conjured up by a small number of extreme artists? Artists who have absorbed the avant-guard movements on the lines of the knight’s move in chess, or rather the double movement of disenchantment and re-enchantment with works of art, its disorientation and ensuing consecration, have pushed depravation to the limits in their universe and have distorted it. If in the 20’s and 30’s it was art that was at the forefront of an avant-garde movement or at least one that promoted with dynamism and hot-headedness images of mass culture and the whirlwind trends of fashion, today the reverse is the case. The traditions of the avant-garde movement at the dawn of the new millennium are now confronted by the collective imagination that it helped evolve at the beginning of the last century. Artists like Bolognesi take it upon themselves to give an alternative meaning to the instruments of the horror movie bent on depravation in order to satisfy the whims of the general public.

Three centuries of sensory development lie between the automatons of the 18th century and the techno-somatic and bio-political hybrids of Stelarc. The phase of heavy machinery was long and protracted, and that of digital devises ephemeral; from low definition machinery as a means of reproduction and construction of reality to their high definition and user friendly devices. Our modern day technological solutions have erased the endless and remote psychosomatic experience which was a fundamental part in the making of mankind and his passions and which now is destined to resurface through the internet. The ever increasing ability to express in a highly defining way goes hand in hand with the virtual world and has in recent years been sanctioned by the transformation of photography into a numerical language: from a loosely defined photograph embedded in the tradition of painting, to the well defined language that can associate itself with and contribute to the realization of all other media. The images of obsessive cleanliness that Bolognesi reveals to us are inspired by the transition – and therefore momentary suspension – between the material nature of production processes, i.e. the quality of the traditional art of theatre, sculpture, painting and photography which is an immaterial reproduction of a product, and the image of our time achieved through digital reproduction.
Bolognesi works on both banks of this ford, in other words both behind the scenes and on stage. Before he takes a photograph he makes sure his models are meticulously prepared. His punctiliousness in rendering his models exactly as he would like them is one of his most distinguishing trademarks. He works by flash; distinctive elements of life are literally ripped apart from their historical and symbolic bodies only to be assembled together as accessories that shape an individual. This time consuming bricolage gives the body a new subjectivity to what was dispersed elsewhere and became lost in objectivity. This is the behind the scenes work.

The stage setting is the final image. This entails much preparation, inspiration from other sources and eventual fulfillment, it must feel like a flash photograph. Flash photography, albeit a photographic technique, will always play an integral part in this medium. Its inhuman nature is the result of a violent intrusion of technology into the physiology of our eyes, which becomes incapable of seizing hold of the movement and grabbing it as it flows. So, a photograph transmits, or rather it allows us to share the zone, bubble if you like in which small and big events take place which the flash is capable of seizing better than any printed image can. But it goes beyond the set. The printed image is the only way that the temporal and spatial elements of a flash can surface. It is a concept of time and space that escapes the social order of continuity. The precision of Bolognesi’s compositions consists in transforming the bodies of women in such a way as to ensure that the combination of their accessories are reflected in the flash.

Aesthetics – even when not creating order and peace – manage to keep what is shattered inside itself. Having lost their sense of belonging and identity they become a blend of all that which can potentially dissipate itself and decompose. The same applies to creators of art, according to their feelings and to those who make art their philosophy of life. Can aesthetics be applied to accessories? This question is liked more and more by fashion designers (and markets) who nowadays have to work much harder on designing accessories than the outfits themselves. The outfit – the sartorial object that gives shape to a body – is restrained by the structure of bodies, that is the skeleton, limbs and joints – which remain unchanged. This is heavy. Today’s outfit, which is an altogether less elaborate affair than that of ancient times – now disappoints our gaze. Why? Because the life of a body inside this social simulacrum continues to expand in the several prosthesis available now through technology where the organic and inorganic parts live and thrive in everyday life.

The accessories that have accumulated over space and time in complex societies are replacing the outfit as imitation and alteration of the nude figure which, when dressed, exhibits all the aura of its time. This has existed forever (even the rags of the poor showed the other side of this coin). However in the extreme climate of our digital world the outfit has always been more abused by the huge number of accessories of which the bodies and human flesh of modern life have made use. This array of accessories is the debris of modern life – and this is how Bolgnesi portrays them – yet in their grace they recall a lost beauty. Not that which we have degraded but that which we have banished because of divine fate, yet another requisite of our roots, this is the destiny of every organic and inorganic creation. I pose the question: do artificial limbs come first, or is it our body?

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