Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89. Practices of Memory
Critical text by Luca Panaro
un'apparizione di superfici (Apm Edizioni 2017)
The so-called "years of lead", a period of extreme political dialectics that transpired into the violence of the square and in the armed struggle, are closely investigated in the work Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89. Practices of Memory. Moving backwards, like an archaeologist looking for tracks, the artist photographed the finds still kept closed in courtrooms, far away from the eyes and the memory of the Italians. He could access to the archives and motors depot where the bodies of crimes seized in the caves of terrorists are kept, where the personal belongings of the victims found, where the cars assaulted during the ambush stored. He investigated the remaining signs that nobody had ever looked for before, had them experimented and documented. With deliberately narrow shots he synthesized them through photography, he abstracted them, waterproofed to the judgments, sculpting them indelibly in the collective imagination and transforming them into icons to be used slowly, out of any narrative or logic of destruction. "An appearance of surfaces", Luca Panaro (Apm Edizioni 2017)
FAR. Political Terrorism as news from a distant star: “Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89” by Gigi Cifali
A narrative exhibition curated by Gianluigi Ricuperati
(Turin, November 2015)
Curator text by Gianluigi Ricuperati
FAR - Practices of distancing
In the novel “The Dispossessed - An Ambiguous Utopia”, the superbly literary science fiction novelist Ursula K. Le Guin imagines a double planet system divided by an insurmountable wall: on the one hand, there is Urras, a technological, florid, capitalist society based on money and work; the second planet, Anarres, on the other hand, is ruled by anarchism, based on the adhesion to Nature and on a strong suspicion for the machines.The novel was published in 1974, when the world was indeed divided into two parts, and such brutal separation has (also) resulted in decades of political violence in both the European and South American countries.Italy has been one of the countries where such violence has more powerfully shaped the collective imagination and the political destinies of all the next and post-1968 generations.In the work “Images and Signs: Italy, 1969-89”, the Italian photographer Gigi Cifali has portrayed, with the permission of the competent authorities, the corpora delicti - objects, garments, bullet-riddled cars, an unexploded device, weapons – regarding the trials related to the violent acts of murder and ideological terrorism that ravaged Italy for twenty years.However, the experimental exhibition FAR. Political Terrorism as news from a distant star - curated by the writer Gianluigi Ricuperati - is not focused on the undeniable historical and artistic value of these documents, whose absolute patency and necessity has already emerged.It is rather taking a look from a distance, a practice of distancing, rethinking through these extraordinary images, displayed on the desks of an office, not different from many archives and sorting centres that overflow the bureaucratic system of every country, like vestiges and stations of a dark anthropological fairy tale. A sadly true fairy tale, but which nonetheless has the narrative features of a celebration turned into an unfathomable tragedy.Like in the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, also in the History of Western civilization in the Seventies, two totally opposite views of the world and of life clashed generating very similar results, along with their specific differences: the resulting ordeal is therefore told by comparing the corpora delicti, completely based on documents, with the visionary prose of the novel, which in some points discloses deep and revelatory convergences and assonances.Moro's murder, the massacre of Piazza della Loggia in Brescia, the garments, the guns, the wrong and delirious sentences of the terrorists’ cyclostyles, resound thanks to the fiction in their more absolute truth. Thus, the splendid, terrible, images of Gigi Cifali appear as the final consequences of a leitmotif that goes beyond the, albeit fundamental, historical reconstruction: the brink of the precipice on which everyone walks when we allow the world of human beings to become subordinated to the world of the ideas.
Absence of Water
Critical text by Viktoria von der Brüggen
“la Collection", Fondation François Schneider, Wattwiller, February-May 2015
With its documentary sobriety, Gigi Cifali’s work reveals the transformations and ephemeral nature of our lifestyles and the places we spend our time. In his series Absence of Water, the artist captures the decline of English public swimming baths through meticulous portraits of derelict pools. With the lavish, exuberant details of their architecture, these baths built in the late nineteenth century reveal the optimism and aspirations of Victorian society. They contain memories of places full of life, laughter and collective well-being. These buildings enjoyed their glory days in the first half of the twentieth century, but have been abandoned over recent decades, following sharp declines in visitor numbers, as the public were drawn to more modern facilities.Always taken from the same central, frontal viewpoint, Gigi Cifali’s perfectly framed photographs with their cold colours develop a typology of leisure facilities that have lost their function. They recall the systematic documentation of an industrial archaeology undertaken by Bernd and Hilla Becher since the 1960s, in which the different types of buildings seem to be the self-representation of a specific period and society.