The folds of space

There are many ways to look at the world. To look at the Earth from the outside, with our feet planted on another celestial body or suspended in the void of the sky. The blue planet, as it was viewed from space in 1969, which inspired Luigi Ghirri to write that such an image was not merely the image of the world, but the image that contains all possible images.

Giulia Flavia Baczynski proposes another view. Imagines mundi reveals the infinite possibilities offered by her imaginary cartography, photographs that evoke the geography of the earth’s crust: seas, mountains and rocks created by crumpling sheets of glossy paper. There are no living forms, none of the bushes, plants, or shrubs that give places a sense of depth. The mountains are made up of fractal-like shapes, the rocks and the sea are coloured ripples; the sky is a dense network of lines and points.

Everything is surface. Space is a simulacrum that contains all possible spaces; what you see and come to know is not the thing itself, but the image of the thing. Layers, husks and fabrics are surfaces and their images experience two-dimensionality. At the same time, however, with her images that translate landscape into reasoning, the horizon this photographer constantly evokes is that of complexity. Imagines mundi thus shows not only a landscape-map, but a landscape-pathway; not a datum but a process: to bend and explain, to illuminate, to photograph.

As Deleuze suggests, implication-explication means not only distending-extending and contracting-expanding, but also enveloping-developing. The dual character of the fold, writes the philosopher, “is necessarily reproduced in the two sides that it distinguishes, but which imply each other even while distinguishing themselves: a scission in which each term refers to the other, a tension in which each fold stretches towards the other”. The photographer’s gaze is defined by her ability to bend the parts of space infinitely: the surfaces grow, fold, form coils, thereby filling with meaning the distinction between inside and outside, between depth and surface. The fold, in fact, represents that which is beyond the visible; it implies an existence that is not on display and which thus remains to be explored. It is that which makes it possible to be full and empty, surface and the negation of surface, protuberance and abyss all at the same time. The fold outlines a body made of absences, it becomes a trace of what is not there and thus also gives form to a cognitive process, a research. The concept of fold is connected to that of knowledge: if the universe is conceived as the unfolding of a roll that was originally coiled up on itself, the knowledge contained in the book can only be learned if and when it is unrolled. Yet the lectio, like an Exsultext unfurled by the deacon to announce the resurrection, brings to the surface a text that remains encrypted until it is explicated. The code with the power to explain the shape of the world is nestled among the folds of the world, and only if we are willing to wander and get lost in its labyrinths can we learn an alphabet which not only causes us to recognize the shape of the world but also allows us to grant it meaning. Giulia Flavia Baczynski’s Views of Fractal Mountains reveal the composition of the matter, folds and traces of natural things. And while we read the world by reading maps, the only way to understand those maps is by reading the world. Hence the possibility of identifying the volumen with the book – as long as the roll unfolds in evolutio, as long as it is explicated. An action that paves the way for the infinite series of combinations that can be generated from each individual sheet and its infinite folds. Photographing entails reading the map of the world. The strength of these images derives from their being a cross between landscapes and mindscapes, that is, between terrestrial and mental geographies, between what is and what might become. Imagines mundi is the site of osmosis, transition, transformation. It is the instant in which each of us tries to imagine not a place, but becoming a place, in our own minds.