125 x 100 cm / 80 x 64 cm, C-print Fuji Matt Crystal archive paper, © 2013 - 2015
“Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89” has been conceived between 2013 and 2015. The series retraces the period known in Italy as the Years of Lead, referring to the vast number of bullets fired, two decades over which shadows still loom, along with lots of loose ends and unanswered questions giving rise to a rich production of books and feature films, parliamentary committees and even to the trial for the massacre of Piazza della Loggia in 1974.The view of some documentaries regrettably showed me how limited was my knowledge of this historical period, still marked by concealed truths and therefore bereft of a shared and socially legitimized representation. Such realization prompted me to investigate the mechanisms that regulate the transmission of collective Memory. The philosopher and sociologist Maurice Halbwachs asserts that every social group selects different images from the past as a function of our social present. The past leaves traces, but then it’s the present to remember. And as the philosopher Jacques Derrida argues in Mal d’archive, une impression freudienne, “ there is no political power without control of the archive, if not memory.” Thus, I decided to work backwards, seeking any tangible, shelved evidence, which was visually not yet fully known to the general public, from the Italy’s years of terror between 1969 and 1989. There is no Memory without learning and in order to remember we should have access to archival information. Thanks to the significant support given by several officials in the Italian Ministry of Interior and of Justice, and by the Army, I was allowed to access the archives and the auto-centers, where the corpora delicti seized from the hide-outs of the terrorists, the personal effects found on the victims, the vehicles involved in ambushed, are kept. The repository of Memory preserves through time subject, obviously, to the limits on the memory storage capacity. Selection, sorting and disposal are just as decisive as any action of collection and storage. Moreover, the evaluation criteria governing them might not be agreed on by the next generations. Like an archaeological exploration I could not predict what I would have been able to bring back to the surface. Several objects and items that I wished I could portray no longer exist, whereas the other, which remain preserved for the time being, are deteriorating. The lack of information I came across does not characterize only the inherited knowledge, but it intrinsically concerns the nature of the archives: they are at the same time places void of any information. Hence, this triggers a deep and relevant reflection about the retention and prevention of records and of other tangible evidence of a momentous event in Italian history. Remembering, as much as not remembering, is a social act with an ethical side: forgetting is a crime. Memory has a distributive character, as it is conveyed by texts, documents and images that are related one to the other thus contributing to build a cohesive sense of our past, which is fundamental to lay the foundations for the emergence of a common social identity. Its keepers will increasingly be those who have the power to decide what information should be reproduced on more durable mediums. In Italy we are experiencing and witnessing this also with the documents and the corpora delicti from the major terror trials. Suffice it to think that the original letters written by Christian- Democrat leader Aldo Moro during the days of his abduction would have suffered an irreversible deterioration if they had been left in the Archive of the Court of Rome waiting for the end of the forty-year term in order to be transferred to the Italian State Central Archive. Unfortunately, hundreds of items have been destroyed despite their evocative and symbolic power. On-the-spot ministerial inspections delete, indeed, the judicial history destroying important evidence and records kept in vaults in the courthouse basements and in the Police archives. At the conclusion of a trial, a provision decrees their deletion. However, it may happen that they escape from destruction as sensitive archivists deliver them to other institutions, whilst many other documents have been thrown away after coming into contact with flood waters, or - as is so often the case in our Country -, they have remained protected by oblivion. The deletion of documents has concerned, among the others, the Piazza Fontana, the Italicus and the Bologna Massacre, whereas irrelevant objects, such as shower gel, opened packets of pasta or trainers seized in a hideout, still lie inside the boxes just like during a relocation. The photographs of this series - both the survived and the disappeared signs -, become mediators of the Memory of events that for the adult generation belong to the recent past and therefore they are inseparable from the biographic memory, whilst for the youth of today they have already become part of the History. Through the immediacy of the photography I wanted to establish the truthfulness of what has survived and the rest that was destroyed. The shots frame frozen signs, the memory settled into the matter constitutes the remembrance: the bullet holes in Aldo Moro’s shirt on the day of his murder and on the blanket in which he was covered, but also the Škorpion submachine gun that caused them, the impact left by the explosion of a bomb on the stonework in Piazza della Loggia and the clothing items of the victims, the riddled vehicles, the sign of the bullet on the briefcase that saved the life of an alderman from Turin, the wooden box containing the timer and batteries of the rudimental unexploded bomb discovered in Milan’s Central Station on the 154 Trieste – Paris train. The written documents, essential bearer of meanings and evidence, can be read in their entirety. The four unpublished papers from a notepad of the Italsider steel plant bequeath a detailed analysis of terrorism by the worker and trade unionist Guido Rossa before being killed. The documents have been made available by his daughter.
Destroyed stonework - Piazza della Loggia Bombing (Brescia, 28.05.1974)
The stonework destroyed by the explosion of the bomb under the portico in Piazza della Loggia in Brescia on 28th May 1974 during an anti-fascist demonstration organized by the trade unions and the Antifascist Committee. The massacre resulted in the killing of 8 people and the wounding of 103. In July 2015 - 41 years on -, the second trial took place: the court of appeal has inflicted life imprisonment to Carlo Maria Maggi, who ran the extreme right pro-fascist group Ordine Nuovo (New Order, ON) in Triveneto, and to Maurizio Tramonte, ex “Fonte Tritone” of the secret services.
Victims clothing - Piazza della Loggia Bombing (Brescia, 28.05.1974)
Clothing items belonging to the victims of Piazza della Loggia Bombing. The massacre resulted in the killing of 8 people and the wounding of 103. In July 2015
One of the demonstrators umbrellas - Piazza della Loggia Bombing (Brescia, 28.05.1974)
On the day of the protest, it was raining. One of the umbrellas that was hit and riddled by the bomb fragments. The massacre resulted in the killing of 8 people and the wounding of 103. In July 2015
Burnt metaphysical landscape painting - Piazza della Loggia Bombing (Brescia, 28.05.1974)
Metaphysical landscape painting burnt by the bombing explosion. The massacre resulted in the killing of 8 people and the wounding of 103. In July 2015
Shirt A.M. - Murder of Aldo Moro (Rome, 09.05.1978)
Shirt of Aldo Moro, the leader of Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democracy, DC) and former Italian Prime Minister, at the moment of his murder and of the discovery of the corpse in the trunk of the Renault 4 in the historic centre of Rome on 9th May 1978 after 55 days of imprisonment at the hideout in Via Montalcini 8, where a group of Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades, BR) composed of Mario Moretti, Prospero Gallinari, Germano Maccari and Anna Laura Braghetti submitted him to a political process of the so-called “People’s Court”. The Italian government refused to negotiate with the terrorists asking an exchange of prisoners and he was killed.
Brown blanket with bullet holes - Murder of Aldo Moro (Rome, 09.05.1978)
The blanket with which the Italian statesman Aldo Moro, President of the Democrazia Cristiana party (Christian Democracy, DC), was covered in the parking garage of the kidnap hideout in Via Montalcini 8 before the bullets hit him and where his corpse was found in the trunk of the Renault 4 in Via Caetani in Rome on 9th May 1978. An Italian parliamentary committee - established during the 17th parliamentary term by Law no. 82 dated 30th May 2014 -, is still investigating the kidnapping and the murder of Aldo Moro.
Renault 4 (left side) - Murder of Aldo Moro (Rome, 09.05.1978)
9th May, 1978, Rome: the corpse of the politician Aldo Moro was found in the trunk of the car Renault 4, left in Via Caetani, after 55 days of imprisonment at the hideout in Via Montalcini 8, where a group of Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades, BR) formed by Mario Moretti, Prospero Gallinari, Germano Maccari and Anna Laura Braghetti put him on trial before the so-called “People’s Court ”. The Italian government refused to negotiate with the terrorists asking for a prisoner exchange for Moro’s release, and ultimately he was killed.
Renault 4 (right side) - Murder of Aldo Moro (Rome, 09.05.1978)
The Christian Democracy party had ruled every Italian governments since 1948. It was the first time that Italian Communist Party (PCI) had a government position, even if indirect. On the day on which Aldo Moro was kidnapped, Andreotti’s government obtained a large majority of votes. The DC leader Aldo Moro was a key figure in the negotiations of the so-called Historic Compromise (Compromesso storico): an accommodation between the Christian Democrats (DC) and the Italian Communist Party (PCI) led by Enrico Berlinguer.
Fiat 130 - Kidnapping of Aldo Moro (Rome, 16.03.1978)
Alfa Romeo Giulia - Attack on the regional headquarters of the Christian Democratic Party in Piazza Nicosia (Rome, 03.05.1979)
Alfa Romeo Giulia - 3rd May, 1979, Rome: massacre in Piazza Nicosia. Attack by Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades, BR) against the regional headquarters of the Christian Democratic Party. The brigadier Antonio Mea and the Public Security officer Pierino Ollanu were killed.
Fiat Ritmo - Ambush on the Police deputy commissioner Sebastiano Vinci (Rome, 19.06.1981)
Fiat Ritmo - 19th June 1981, Rome: Ambush by Colonna XXVIII Marzo (Column XXVIII March) of the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades, BR) on the Police deputy commissioner Sebastiano Vinci, Head of the Police commissioner’s office of Primavalle.
BRIGATE ROSSE red cloth banner with yellow writing - Attack on the Christian Democratic Party seat "Luigi Perazzoli" in via Mottarone 5 (Milan, 01.04.1980), Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89, Gigi Cifali, 2013-15
Red cloth banner, 5 m x 50 cm, with yellow writing BRIGATE ROSSE and bearing the five-pointed star emblem. It was left in April 1980 at the Christian Democratic Party seat “Luigi Perazzoli” in via Mottarone 5 in Milan, into which the Walter Alasia column burst during a public debate held by the MP NadirTedeschi. The MP Nadir Tedeschi, the Secretary of the D.C. seat Eros Robbiani, the journalist of the daily newspaper “Il Popolo” Emilio De Buono, and the President of the Cultural Center “Carlo Perini” Antonio Iosa, were victims of kneecapping.
BRIGATE ROSSE red paper banner with white writing “FROM NORTH TO SOUTH PUT ON TRIAL THE D.C. AND ITS SLAVES” and the five-pointed star symbol - Affixed in Sesto San Giovanni (Milan, 01.07.1981)
Red paper banner, around 3 meters long, with white varnish reading “FROM NORTH TO SOUTH PUT ON TRIAL THE D.C. AND ITS SLAVES” and the five-pointed star symbol. It was affixed by the Red Brigates in Sesto San Giovanni (Milan) onto the corner of Via Fratelli Bandiera and Viale Matteotti and founded by Police officers on 1st July 1981 at 8.00 am.
Attack on “Le Nuove” Prison (Turin, 15.12.1978)
Two public security patrolmen, Salvatore Lanza and Salvatore Porceddu, were murdered at dawn by a command of the Red Brigades as they were assigned to the surveillance of the perimeter of “Le Nuove” Prison in Turin. The action is linked to the “campaign against the treatment of the political prisoners”, hardened after the institution, in July 1977, of the maximum security prison under general Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa.
Briefcase - Attack on the Christian Democratic city councilman Dante Notaristefano (Turin, 20.04.1977)
The leather briefcase hit during the attack against Dante Notaristefano on 20th April 1977 in Turin. It saved the life of the Christian Democratic city councilman as he instinctively lifted it to shield himself against the bullet, hence he decided to keep it. The Red Brigades members were Cristoforo Piancone, Nadia Ponti and Dante Di Blasi.
74 leaflets claiming responsibility by BRIGATA XXVIII MARZO for the murder of the journalist Walter Tobagi (Milan, 28.05.1980)
74 leaflets by terrorist group Brigata XXVIII Marzo (28th of March Brigade) claiming responsibility for the murder of Walter Tobagi, journalist of the Corriere della Sera, on 28th May 1980 in Milan. They were found in Milan on the footbridge of the Porta Genova raiway station (21 copies), inside the rooms 101 (24) and 201 (14) of the Università Statale in Milan and in the flowerbed in front of the entrance of the Cooperativa editrice Bocconiana in via Bocconi 22 (15).
Four unpublished papers with a detailed analysis of terrorism by Guido Rossa before being killed on 24 January 1979 (Genoa, 1978)
Four unpublished papers from a notepad of the Italsider steel plant bequeath a detailed analysis of terrorism by the worker and trade unionist Guido Rossa before being killed by the Red Brigades in 1979. The murder of this Italian Communist Party member was a crucial turning point for the Red Brigades as through this act they hit the left wing. There was a strong reaction from the political parties, particularly of the PC (Partito Comunista Italiano), the trade unions and the civil society. The documents have been made available by his daughter Sabina.
Metal plate found in Sempione Park, headed "Here are the murderers of Pinelli" (Milan, 12.1975)
Metal plate headed "Here are the murderers of Pinelli”. It was found in Sempione Park in Milan in 1975 coinciding with the anniversary of the death of Giuseppe Pinelli on 15th December, 1969.
Molgora Starter Automatic Pistol cal. mm 8 and blanks. Legal report regarding Giovanni Ventura of Ordine Nuovo (Milan, 1980)
The Molgora Starter Automatic Pistol with shoot blanks is related to the Legal report regarding Giovanni Ventura, terrorist member of Ordine Nuovo (New Order).
BÖHMISCHE WAFFENFABRIK A.G. IN PRAG Pistole Modell 27 cal. 7.65 - Legal report regarding the accused V. Fioravanti, G. Vale, F. Mambro and L. Ciavardini of Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari for killing of the policeman Francesco Evangelista (Rome, 28.05.1980)
The Modell 27 is a weapon used by the members of Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (Armed Revolutionary Nuclei, NAR) Valerio Fioravanti, Giorgio Vale, Francesca Mambro and Luigi Ciavardini in connection with the murder of the policeman Francesco Evangelista outside the State High School Giulio Cesare in Rome on 28th May 1980.
The wooden box (closed) containing the timer of the rudimental unexploded bomb discovered in Milan's Central Station on the 154 Trieste - Paris train (Milan, 08.08.1969)
The wooden box (opened) containing the timer of the rudimental unexploded bomb discovered in Milan's Central Station on the 154 Trieste - Paris train (Milan, 08.08.1969)
ČZ Škorpion vz. 61 cal. mm 7.65 submachine gun - Found in the Movimento Proletario Resistenza Offensivo hideout in Viale Giulio Cesare 47 during the arrest of Adriana Faranda and Valerio Morucci, ex Brigate Rosse terrorists (Rome, 29.05.1979), Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89, Gigi Cifali, 2013-15
The submachine gun Škorpion - considered the weapon used to kill the Italian statesman Aldo Moro -, was found on 29th October, 1979 during the arrest of Adriana Faranda and Valerio Morucci in an apartment in Viale Giulio Cesare 47 in Rome, owned by Giuliana Conforto, a former militant of Potere Operaio (Worker Power, Pot.Op.). After the murder of the leader of the Christian Democracy party, the terrorists Faranda and Morucci left the Roman column of the Red Brigades and founded the Movimento Proletario Resistenza Offensivo (Proletarian Movement of Offensive Resistance, MPRO).
SIGNS AND IMAGES OF THE COLLECTIVE MEMORYGigi Cifali’s photographic art and the corpora delicti. By Lorenzo Migliorati
Remembering is not a neutral act. Keeping the memory of the past alive, particularly the one related to us and not only to me, is a complex act and the result of a dynamic and delicate cultural process. First of all, we do not remember everything, but only those parts of our yesterday that we deem important today in view of our tomorrow. Therefore, memory is a long process; a collective fact that occurs today, weighed down by the past, but that looks at the future. None of these three times can be neglected. Those who remember, therefore, do not have to deal only with their own past, but also with themselves who, in the present, look back at their own past, planning their future. And then we remember what defines us, which says something about us, of our story and of our identity. «Meditate that this came about » wrote memorably Primo Levi. The past simple tense engraves the seal of irrevocability and the irreversible margin of the never again on the universal collective conscience. The utopia – in the sense of the place of the not yet – of the history as the teacher of life, lies here: we are what we did, we cannot be what we were because time runs forward and the past does not disappear. We might remove it or sublimate it; we may avert our gaze, but it will stay there. It is the sense of trauma, of the destabilising event that may upset for ever the identity of those who experience it. One cannot simply change into oblivion, one has to go through it, name it, look at it, make room for it in order to overcome it. Hence, remembering the past is the main route to understand who we are. Finally, there cannot be any memory without any room for oblivion. Those who cannot forget cannot even remember. Ireneo Funes knows it perfectly, the memorable and memorious character penned by Jorge Luis Borges. He preserves in his memory everything that he sees, he is able to perceive every minute occurrence in its tiniest detail: «I have more memories in myself alone than all men have had since the world was a world» – he says. He has no memory; only a vast amount of information that kills his mind: « In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details», thus, he concludes, « my memory, sir, is like a garbage disposal». Hence, keeping the memory alive means to select the past to remember, to choose what to keep and what to let go and to re-build today what happened in the past in order to transmit it to the succeeding generations. Memory is a social construction based on the relationship between individuals and the social groups in which it participates, through the past events. However, memory is thereby made of an ethereal and fragile matter with uncertain and undefined boundaries: it is made of social representations, of what we, together, think of us, together. Hence, it needs to be substantiated through something more tangible and concrete in order to vive shape to the memories. Consider, for example, the evoking power that odours, scents, colours, flavours, images or sounds have on each of us. From the social point of view, the collective memory settles in a complex system of practices, more or less accepted, formal and objective, where the social representations of the past become manifest. Conversations, rituals, gestures, places, events, rules, images anything else that contributes to the narration of a collective past, are valid examples. And objects. Gigi Cifali’s photographic art in “Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89” dwells in this small finished section of the enormous complexity of the memory of the recent Italian political past during the so-called anni di piombo or years of lead. He captures it by the artist’s lens, offering a less servile and freer look, therefore quicker, even though possibly less specific, than a scientist’s look, in particular of the social scientist. The corpora delicti, or bodies of crime, of relevant judicial events related to the terrorist attacks in Italy are real practices of memory, substantiated by material culture, which sediment in the narration of our (as a national community) memory. They stand out against the dark background of stories that struggle to find their bearings among the historical and the legal truths, between reticence and suspects, ports of shadows, armoires of shame, old and new beams of light. It is no coincidence, in fact, that, where the corpora delicti have disappeared only a black background remains.I was born less than a week after Moro's corpse was found in Via Caetani. I have no memory of the Moro case. I know him thanks to Leonardo Sciascia, to the school, the television, the cinema, the radio, the Internet, the newspapers’ historic archives. Mine is a generation that can know everything about the past of their own people, having the possibility to choose how to discover it. Yet, I had never seen the shirt that Aldo Moro’s blood had spattered few hours before my birth. I clearly feel that this object - this corpus delicti - tells me, more than anything else, that this came about, that in that image there is me as part of an undeniable us (bear in mind that the us is both the victim and the executioner, the saviour, the external - more or less interested - observer; we are this and the lens of Cifali’s camera on that shirt, as well as on the other bodies of crime, paradoxically focuses the same observation point of the man who shot). In so doing, The body of crime tells me who I am and who we are and it reminds me of my identity. Finally, the fate of these scattered finds brings to my mind an image of suspended bodies; suspended halfway along the fine edge between memory and oblivion. We do not need much to provide them a suitable location and a space, Gigi told me as he was talking about his work and the “memory by chance” that it represents. And I add: it takes little to forget everything. More than the mutually exclusive alternative between remembering and forgetting, between keeping perforce and losing as a result of negligence, what frightens me is the idea that one day these objects may stop to talk about us. It won’t happen, whether we will see them or they will be lost. The corpora delicti will be dwelling in us and will inform our identity, even if we cannot see them, until we name and go through them. Cifali’s work is powerful also for this reason: it gives shape, name and substance to objects that we would never have seen. And by showing them, he provides us with the space to let them go. In our memory finally pacified. Verona, October 2015
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Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89, Gigi Cifali, 2013-15