D R A T E R:
From Piranesi to Buster Keaton
_The mother of invention (1)
When the 18th century engraver and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi created his remarkable collection of interpretations of Roman ruins from the classical age, the eminent ‘Varie Vedute di Roma’, he established what we might call ‘the postcard view’. A description which rather undervalues the superior nature of Piranesi’s work. But what exactly is a postcard? Well, it’s a clear well-composed image representing an interesting edifice, landmark or view.
The sender wants you to know he‘s been somewhere. He stood his ground in the flow of time. He wants to transport your eye to a certain place and a certain time. He even wants to provoke the thought: “I want to be there too”.
The connoisseur of Piranesi’s work however, will prefer the ‘Invenzione capriciose di Carceri’ series. (1750) These are sketchy images of imaginary prisons with an elaborate architecture. The public was made aware of the fictitious nature of these images, hence the words’ Capricious Inventions’ in the title.
_ Ruth is stranger than Richard (2) The D R A T E R work is basically a collection of constructions. ‘Found Installations’ would be the shortest description possible for the work. An important criterion for me to photograph a situation and to select an image was its ‘metaphorical potential’: the power of reference, the possibility to transport the viewer from description to a mental image.
But what’s with this pretentious ‘possibility of metaphor’ thing? ‘Some words, some places, and some people in the background’ might be a tip-top explanation for it all. Then again …………......truth has nothing to do with photographs. It’s a series of choices really.
_ A rose by any other name would smell as sweet (3)
The names of things do not really matter, it‘s all about what they are. Words are used as images. They hover in-between languages and their meaning is doubtful. Yet they tend to alter the interpretation of the photographs.
The words DRATER, ATERRA, RETARD, LONGINGS, TAVOLARA, PORTATIF and UNLICH help to create the ‘mirror motifs’ that resound throughout the book. They do not mark chapters, they creep around and ooze meaning all around the place.
_ Good intentions, a good siesta make (4)
An ‘ERRATA’ (5) list is an attempt to correct an omission or a mistake. But failure has a beauty in its own right. The image of the ‘Re di Tavolara, Tonino Bertoleoni’ showing the model of his island with his feet in the surf, for instance. His monarchy is an act of faith rather than reality. In fact, throughout the book the few people visible seem to be at a loss. They are displaced, lost in the landscape, lost in themselves. But ……. then again you might eat a great linguini vongole in Tonino’s restaurant.
There is a lot of trying and collapsing in the pictures. Attempts to salvage the situation in spite of decay. Clumsy architecture, burned houses, a car covered in clams, crashed containers and a doubtful fresco restoration. With this in mind the work could be read as a very slow, still form of slapstick. It’s not for want of trying that it all goes wrong. A not-so-glorious past turning into ruin. The stumbling of man.
Suppose you‘d want to transport the notion of disintegration, images of relics, to our day and age. You’d have ‘modern ruins’ consisting of buildings, cars, concrete prairies and battered city trees. You’d have people scurrying about in this landscape, loaded with their purchases. Their good intentions, their plans for the future, betrayed by time.
_ Les siècles decisifs
D R A T E R puts at work a human, a botanical, an architectural and a geological timescale in one photographic work, in one construction.
The timeshifting device is readable in one particular key image: Piranesi made an engraving of the Pyramid of Cestius for his ‘Vedute di Roma’ edition, 1748. It certainly was an installation in all its marble splendour with a height of 36,5 meters when it was built in the year AD12.
And it’s still there on the Piazzale Ostiense in front of the Piramide Metro station in Rome in the hustle of modern day city life as a tribute to imagination.