Over the Hedge: North East South West  

Curated by Francesco Finotto
November, 6th 2022
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Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea | Spazio Mostre "I.Battistella"

Over the Hedge: North East South West

There are questions meant to remain with no answer. For centuries, the Arabs have known the theory of light scattering, so why didn’t they invent perspective? Why did the Chinese ignore movable type even though they had invented printing? Why was the photography invented in the West even though landscape was invented in China?

We certainly know that Arabs were interested neither in the human figure nor in the physical space, so they had no need to resort to perspective. We also know that in the East they have never been interested in the reproduction of reality as it is. The millenary way to the Chinese landscape is poetic, made up of water and mountains, light and wind: sublime way. In the first half of the nineteenth century we can find fine Japanese art prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige, even if precious celebrations of everyday scenes, presented as a succession of horizontal planes, the same art prints are devoid of space. It is curious that the invention of photography in France (1839) is contemporaneous with the birth of realism in painting, the Barbizon school of Millet and Corot, which values reality as lifelike, and the search for industrial means of reproducing printed images: an alternative and less expensive way than engraving for use in illustrated printing. As if photography, like mirrors and copula would have said Borges, was a cheap way to reproduce the real world, and therefore reprehensible.

Yet today, when photography has become pervasive in daily life and thousands of photographs are present around the world at any given time, it seems that everyone takes photos in the same way, chasing the same stereotypes. The various photography festivals and international photography competitions only make uniform styles and images. Software on various digital devices are created to reproduce increasingly perfect images and correct photographs to make them resemble trendy clichés. Artificial intelligence programs can be used to create images from simple text descriptions.

But is it really true that in the continuous flow of digital images all differences are lost? If it is true that we take photos of what we know, can we say that all cultural differences have disappeared? Do we all take photos like North Americans? Do the researches, the individual projects of photographers and the artists using photography in the four corners of the world reflect only their tastes? Do they fortify their global exchange of information on social channels, following fashion trends, or do they preserve the roots anchored to a place? Are they pure Zeigtgeist or also genius loci?

So let's admit that the differences have not completely disappeared, that they continue to exist, not only in the way photographs are taken, but also in the way they are read, the way they are used, the way they are consumed. How can we better appreciate them? Can we say that diversity is best appreciated by watching images flow across a cell phone or computer screen, smooth, bright, intangible? Or would it be better to compare them by printing them, restoring their physicality, roughness, resistance? Of course, there isn’t only one answer; the web is the most suitable environment for grazing with the eyes, for indulging the flow of the pleasurable, for maintaining distance. On the web, photographs, even the most shocking ones, bump but do not hurt, are devoid of harshness. They all have the same dimension, the same fluidity: they are familiar, habitual. They glide by. An immediate, impatient contagion that leaves no room for memory. No secrets, no silent residue that resists time: no wounds. Nothing that grabs attention.

So it has been born the project of bringing together the photographs of authors from the four parts of the world, to look closely at them and discuss identity and differences, transformation and hope: a rest area in the middle of the highway flow. Bringing together in the same exhibition hall four different views of the world is perhaps a childlike curiosity, a light-hearted intent, but also a direct way to deal with photography.
For this first edition of N.S.E.W. over the hedge, promoted by culturaincorso in collaboration with the Sandonatesi Civic Museums, we wanted to host in Gallery I. Battistella in San Donà di Piave four masters of international photography, choosing four different ways of declining metamorphosis and promise, loss and hope, exploring social aspects and addressing individual anxieties.

Margaret Courtney-Clarke witnesses the social process in Namibia that combines fragility and hope: a nation of diverse peoples and cultures in a vast land of seemingly nothingness and unparalleled light. In Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain she tells of the precarious existence of people living in a ruthless environment: little or no rain, scarcity of water and food.

Dave Jordano, presents an excerpt from A Detroit nocturne, an investigation of his hometown, strongly marked by demographic decline but also the scene of rebirth and urban regeneration, brightened by night light. It is about something deeper than a stylistic attitude: in the darkness of the night the street-lights that make the facades of disused factories glow, those that enliven the interiors of houses, those of commercial signs and motels, even those of lightning that rip through the sky, prove to be sharp messages of hope and life.

Uma Kinoshita's Lost in Fukushima documents in Fukushima Prefecture the triple tragedy of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident that struck eastern Japan on March 11, 2011. Beyond the disaster and abandonment, beyond the pain, despair, anger and sense of loss we find courage, inner strength and the will to rebuild daily life by relying even on religious traditions.

Maria Pleskova presents Metamorphosis. Black, a series of black and white self-portraits where the mystery of personal growth is presented using the radicalism of black, which by obscuring what is transparent gives shape to anxieties, fears: it transforms obsessions into images. Something that overwhelms the screen of the beautiful and through the formless gives a glimpse of the depth of the terrible and the emancipation of the living.


© Toni Garbasso