Imagines mundi interview

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Mauro Zanchi: Can you talk about the imaginary territories you find in your photographs (printed scans)?

Giulia Flavia Baczynski: I can start mentioning a fragment of a book that is very important to me, The invention of Earth by Franco Farinelli. In this chapter, the author tells how Greeks began to produce Western models of the world and how they were all, in fact and ultimately, geographers. “At that time the only living beings were three: Heaven, Earth and Ocean, which serves as a priest of the rite. The Earth was not yet called Gé, the Gaia of the Latins, which means the one that laughs, shines, and expresses clarity, visibility, therefore horizontality.
The Earth was then still called Ctòn, a term that in our language survives in the adjective ctonio, or ctonico, which means underground, dark, deep, invisible, and therefore implies not horizontality but on the contrary the vertical dimension, that of the abyss. of which we are trying to reason. This is how the ritual of the first wedding in the world works, the most sacred of all, which will be model for all the others: Ctòn, the bride, is veiled and when she removes the veil the groom, the Sky (which is Zas, Jupiter) puts on her shoulders the mantle that he has embroidered himself. The bride remains naked only for a moment, and it was precisely in this moment, which was that of unveiling, that it was possible for the Greeks to grasp the truth. The rite consists precisely in the replacement of the primordial veil with the mantle that is the gift of the groom, receiving that, the Earth marries and changes its name, or rather, just as it still happens to women today, it adds another name to its name becoming also Gaia, Gé. But this cloak is not a simple cloak, because on it the groom has embroidered designs, he has woven in various colors the shape of the rivers, lakes, mountains and castles, the shape of the Ocean and its palace. In other words: on this mantle the form of the Earth is represented for the first time, Ctòn is transformed for the first time into Gé, appearing as such and becoming that. (…)
At the end of the sacred wedding what we see is only the image on the mantle of the mountains, rivers, palaces, in short not the Earth as Ctòn but only as Gé, as a simple face, also as an image of the face: what we can see and therefore know is not the thing but the image of that thing, they are not true mountains and the real seas but they are the images of the things to which they refer to.
The real things, the real mountains, the real lakes, under the mantle, belong to the hidden, chthonic, underground, dark, abyssal body of the Earth itself. But we are condemned, if we want to try to get to know something, to be content with what we see, and when we see the image of what exists we believe we are seeing what really exists.
So the truth remains and will remain hidden from us forever and we will have to adapt only to appearances, illusions. “I find this passage particularly appropriate because in some way I am approaching the image of the Earth, the image of that Gé we all know, but using the same paper as the raw material of the process on which the world has always been represented. Maybe working on the support and with the support, modeling the mantle I discover what’s underneath, who knows. Returning to the imaginary territories of my photographs, what I can tell you is that they exist. I do not know where they are on Earth, understood as the planet on which we live (and I believe it is not an essential piece of information), but precisely because they correspond and approach and contain the idea of the landscape that is culturally specific to us. . As much as the idea that is formed in the mind even before becoming a completed action.

Mauro Zanchi: What is (and what sets in motion) between “the idea that is formed in the mind before becoming action” and the completed work?

Giulia Flavia Baczynski: There is the perception of a form, its visualization that is still immaterial. I could define it as a sort of latent image that is not yet fully developed and completed but that is there. It is a trace for a process that leads to attempts at physical realization. In this process some attempts fail because not always the completed work (although it is still in progress) corresponds to the initial pre-visualization. It is a research that moves to a different level, because it goes into the details of the single image rather than remaining on the level of the general concept that underlies the series.

Mauro Zanchi: What value do you give to the light that comes from the scanner and that enters the formal choice of your research?

Giulia Flavia Baczynski: The scanner allows me to simulate the process that the eye performs towards the contemplation of the paper matrix. The first time I made a matrix I looked at it dynamically: I rotated it, I turned it upside down, I watched it resting on a table with grazing light and suspended in the emptiness of the light. Here, looking at it against the light and seeing how the perception of the matter changes, has pushed me to prefer the scanner to the camera. The camera only gives me back the photograph of a rippled sheet of paper, while the scanner light passes through the translucent paper and transforms it completely. Before that: this wandering of the eye from one point to another of the surface of the matrix brings my mind back to the winged eye of Leon Battista Alberti, who flies on his own, freed from his body and his motto: what does this tell us? How does the perception and the image of the world change if you know it with your eyes and enough, rather than through your legs and your physical journey?

Mauro Zanchi: You crumple up sheets of polish, several times, then you make them plane and crumple up them again, as if I was an unwitting sculptor waiting to understand what the response revealed by the lines, the ripples, the signs, half-way from the case and half from the your desire to create a further possibility. And then you entrust your manipulation to the light and memory of the scanner. Can you tell us what moves your doing between the action on the sheet and the appearance of the texture of the physical map of the Earth series?

Giulia Flavia Baczynski: This series on maps was not born with a purely photographic intention. Through my work, that is, building models of architecture for museums and exhibitions, I often allow myself to leave the rigorous lines of execution to experiment with other possibilities of representing spatial concepts or cities or single architectures. Not always these experiments find an appropriate place in the orders. Most of the time they feed personal research that can be the basis of techniques to be refined on the models or remain in the field of pure experimentation that then converges into photography. The physical map of the Earth has become such after understanding that the simple sheet of paper is an extremely powerful and versatile tool: since it exists it is a vehicle of information, tales, stories that are imprinted on the substrate with inks and graphite. Drawings, texts, maps easily transportable and conservable. The paper, however, is not a neutral support because it can itself become a spatial concept if duly manipulated: folded in the right way supports a weight 50 times higher than its but is also fragile, delicate, flakes, burns, is consumed, becomes bas-relief , it is molded around any object. Each paper then has intrinsic characteristics that makes it unique and precisely on this aspect I insisted. The tracing paper that once was the basis of the architectural design, if folded produces a white crack, a distinctive sign that becomes part of the support without resorting to external agents. The more you bend the more signs appear. As you rightly pointed out, there is a part of randomness and a part of intention that over time guided me in this process of construction and the part of indeterminacy pushed me to continue in this direction avoiding repetitiveness of the gesture (try to crumple in exactly the same way two sheets of paper … it’s impossible). The reliability on the scanner was the result of a reasoning on light and how it can be used to convey an idea in the best way: there are so many types of light, we tend to divide it into categories. Sometimes, however, the apparent banality becomes an inestimable resource. Just change your point of view.

Mauro Zanchi: Is your photography “artificial” or “natural”? (Luigi Ghirri thus defined the two categories: “The first, the” artificial photography “, finds its place in the cultural production chain, repeats to infinity itself, believing to escape the stereotypes and is therefore reproduction. suspension – interruption in the chain of reproduction, which is similar to the different moments of the natural gaze and interaction with the outside world “).

Giulia Flavia Baczynski: According to this clear distinction I would say without a doubt natural photography also because I do not consider my works as something that easily fit within the production and the cultural chain panorama of today. However, I would like to make further reasoning on the basis of Ghirri’s definitions. Recently a friend who is an architect has pointed out to me how these maps can be placed within a furrow: on one side there is the matrix, the unicum unrepeatable, on the other side there is the reproduction of this uniqueness through photography that does not only aim to make it usable by the multitude but is also an essential part of understanding and decoding. It is therefore a synthesis between the artistic process of the traveling sculptures by Bruno Munari and the concept of reproducibility of Gillo Dorfles on industrial design. Going down the ladder, however, this difference between artificial photography and natural photography I see it as an important warning that teaches me not to fall, within my production, in the easy trap of repetition that generates the stereotype behind many other artistic productions and contemporary photographs that are no longer able to get out of the tight meshes they have slipped into.

Mauro Zanchi: Would you define the terms “image” and “photography” in your research?

Giulia Flavia Baczynski: I have always had a great passion for etymology, for the search for meaning and the root of names and words with which we define the things of the sensible world. I am convinced that the etymon is an important tool with which to interact because in itself it already contains the intentions that a word represents. The word “image” has the same root of imitating and contemplating the action by man to represent a thing; but image is also the transposition of an idea onto a medium (I think about painting and figurative art in general, surrealism, symbolism, conceptual art). The type of mechanism that images trigger, for me, is the attempt to decode a concept / meaning that the author has represented through the sign. The word “photography” instead literally means to write with light and has to do with the appearance on a surface of the visual and optical image of an object. Photography is one of the many types of images that can take place and for me it has always been the most mysterious because it does not limit itself to transmitting its shape, material, size and relative color, but in some way it captures and fixes definitely also more intangible aspects that fall within the field of impalpable. In this regard, I quote a reflection that Edward Weston made in his journals: “I took a picture of a trunk of a palm tree: it is the photograph of a tree trunk and something else. I do not know what I would give for someone to tell me what this something else is … “. Here, for me, the substance of photography is this, and it is this aspect that I continue to seek and also the reason why I will continue to prefer photography (even my maps are photographs despite being obtained with a scanner, because it is always light the means for the apparition). Returning a moment to the image instead, I do not consider it any less (I have always had an artistic training) but what separates these two concepts is what remains entangled in the plot of photography and does not come out anymore because it becomes a fundamental part, adds a metasignified that goes beyond what is revealed before the eyes. Then we can also discuss how much, in photography, there is awareness of this aspect but it is another chapter.

Mauro Zanchi: In your photographs live at the same time a dynamic image (that of conceptual questioning and the shifting of thoughts in progress) and an apparently static image (like that of pictorial abstraction), balancing between states of stillness and movement. Observing your images it seems to me that an accurate search for the “suspension” emerges, evoking the long reading times, the pause for reflection beyond reproducibility. In which area do you place your images?

Giulia Flavia Baczynski: This sense of suspension between the evidence of the image and its archetypicalness on a conceptual level is the keystone of this work. I am not interested in the exhaustiveness that a lot of photography proposes and I find it much more stimulating to use the symbol and the metaphor because both start from the concrete to expand the reasoning in other directions. Think of the starry sky: we know perfectly that the constellations are our visual projection and that the stars that belong to a constellation are very distant from each other both in time and space, it is science. But despite this we see bears, dogs, eagles, snakes and women and men and watching them for a long time we build mental castles that reveal the most ancestral issues. It is the time that we take to reflect and make conjectures about all this that is important and if these photographs are approached even minimally to this direction then it is a good thing, even if it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Interview published on Doppiozero and Loosenart.