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Yesterday we were all talking about the misunderstood geniuses who thought up those embarrassing plexiglass booths to improve the chilly summer for Italians and other beach visitors. If you read my feed, you will have seen that in 2007 a German artist made an ironic statement about the emotional distances which separate us, even from people we are physically close to, distracted by electronics and a sense of individualism from traumas and childish thinking.

The image, an architectural rendering of these heated cages, immediately became a part of our collective imagination. Do you understand what I mean? It’s the power of meaning, the return to something we’ve already seen, but with a different take. Another possibility. We are faced again with great artists’ ability to foresee the future, and of the power of photographers to divide spaces so that we can better understand them; here is an example of a famous masterpiece by the most important living Italian photographer (important both culturally and within the art market, from his museum presence, and the galleries which represent his work). Certain photographers create an architecture which in turn originates from art, the art of managing space as if we were in a work of art. Would you prefer to live in an artwork or in a neighbourhood of bleak high-rises? Yes, I thought so.

In this photograph the architecture becomes anthropology, and we can see that the distance between people is not only visible in the image, but is underlined conceptually by the white space between the two pieces of the photograph. A neutral space, impartial, amorphous. It is the same neutrality, the same “non life” which we create when, 12 cm apart, we live with our neighbours but do not “see” them. They do not exist in our lives. And the same is true for the sea and the beach. We go to the sea, most of us at least, for what it represents and not for what is truly happening. Millions of people in the same two thousand square meters, and yet we stay only with our family and friends, not using the time to explore or meet others. There is no communication with anyone else, we don’t even touch. We take selfies as if the people who will see them on social media have never been to the beach, we reach the highest peaks of emptiness while remaining at sea level.

That emptiness is far more vast than it seems, so as to separate us from one another and allow the real enemies, the solitude of the crowd, emotional distance, and space not experienced, to enter and destroy our world.

Comments

Alessandro Alessandri:
Francesco… my reflection may be a bit off topic..somewhat romantic which this photo brings to mind. Up until 100 years ago the beach was for fisherman… the mountains were for shepherds. Nowadays nature has become a giant playground instead of a part of our cultural and scientific heritage. Once again I would like to see the beach without swimmers and the snowy mountains without skiers… but this is a romantic vision, and thus out of context.

Francesco Cascino:
No, you are exactly right. […] We should entrust the vital spaces of certain public gathering places to those who can manage and imagine harmony. At that point, we would all be free, safe and respectful of these very places. Your romantic vision would thus be possible. For example it would be enough to respect the architectural canons of Venice without trying to turn it into Las Vegas…

Azzurra Immediato:
“Would you prefer to live in an artwork or in a neighbourhood of bleak high-rises?” In the social media efforts of many important museums, asking people to reconstruct or stage well-known artworks in the spaces of quarantine, the results have been more comical than thoughtful – why does it seem interesting or meaningful to remove the purity of a historical work, or a modern or contemporary piece – your question makes an enormous leap, defining cultural limits within which we can joke and laugh without understanding. That said, a sense of irony can be conceived thanks to works of art, viewed from a contemporary perspective and removing them from their context. Even the Lithuanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which won the Leone d’Oro prize but was widely criticised and mocked, illustrated a certain veracity which today seems rather prophetic. Could it be that art arrives at the right conclusion first? Yes. Could it be that thinking through the lens of art, its equilibriums and its harmonies – which are certainly not solitary expressions – could help to reshape an improvement? Yes. Do we all understand this? No. Should we understand this together? Yes. Sooner rather than later.

Michela Bennici:
A few years from now if someone asks me to describe this period, I will show them this photograph. And even when I will want to remember this moment, I will think about this photograph, so immediate and full. My brain has always worked visually with images: I need to reason through a problem? In my mind I can see a ball of black thread. I think about my family? A chessboard with four rooks in the corners appears. A situazione already resolved? A dam appears. I nourish myself daily with words, for choice and for my work, which contribute to create images. But this process is nothing when compared to the lucid representation of artists, the result of sideways views necessary for the understanding of society.

Tommaso Capezzone:
Francesco, in this post you have successfully explained, even to me, how art can help – because it is viewed in the state of the present – the future. The next step, which we must take, is to build the future in the sense of creating our future world. A future which – I think for the first time in history – is already here in the present. And thus to begin to design, to write down in this expanding present, the multiple future scenarios which we imagine, which we desire, plan and fear… is truly the work of an artist.

Francesco Cascino, published on Facebook on April 16, 2020.

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