Massimo, unlike Veronica, doesn’t rip life from his coincidental models in order to strip their truth to the bone, but lays out his shrouds on apparently live and kicking subjects who, in reality, are no less than unaware corpses. Like insects trapped in amber, these individuals are protagonists of a script that’s already been written, automatic and interchangeable actors of a never-changing play, characters who are forced, without their knowledge, to reiterate stereotypical gestures and behaviors. Gestures of leisure, of ready-made loisir, of compulsory pleasure. Summer stage. It brings to mind a movie made in 1974: Morel’s Invention by Emidio Greco, based on the novel of the same name written in 1940 by Adolfo Bioy Casares. In this movie, some men and women on a week-long vacation on a small island have been photographed without their permission and, due to this optical abuse, they have been imprisoned in a mechanism of never-ending reproduction. “My abuse consists of having photographed you without your permission. Of course, it is not like an ordinary photograph; this is my latest invention. We shall live in this photograph forever. Imagine a stage on which our life during these seven days is acted out, complete in every detail. We are the actors. All our actions have been recorded”, unveils Morel to his astonished guests. His devilish invention is obviously very different from regular photography, resembling more the moving images of cinema than the fixity of photographic pictures. Nevertheless this coercion to perpetually reenact a play leads back to the never-ending script of holiday leisure: “Well, then, I have given you a pleasant eternity!”, concludes an impassive Morel.

Massimo’s photographs, which clearly lean more towards the crystallization of a collective rite than to the aesthetic skinnings of Veronica, remind us, with an admissible approximation, of the joyful imprisoning of Morel’s guests, but with two substantial differences closely bound to one another. In Massimo’s modus operandi, as much as I could grasp in the short period spent with him, beauty and movement represent opposing forces: the more an image exudes beauty, the more it is static and sterile. In this respect, beauty arises as a fait accompli, as the termination point of an autarkic and self-referential aesthetic experience. Seeming self-sufficient, the image gives the observer the illusion of a direct and non-negotiable fulfillment. On the contrary with movement, it is the concept which injects itself into the photo: an obstacle to the instant gratification that shifts the positioning of the observer. As long as the image doesn’t completely satisfy my aesthetic parameters, it drives me to shift my point of view, to look at it from a different angle. And it is only then, thanks to my mental twist, that even this perpetual ghost play comes to life in the closed space of my conscience. In other words, the swarm of people trapped inside the image spurs me to inhabit the photo in a dynamic way, to move ideally the fossilized figures, to expand the image itself in potentially unlimited (and above all, singular) combinations and trajectories. As such the photo no longer acts as a proof of death, rather it prefigures the virtual movement of the observer: it is no more a frozen stage, but a moving theatre expressly set up for the spectator.

To conclude, these are photographs less definitive and lapidary than it could seem: if our glance persists and explores the images, the imperative leaves room for fortuity, completeness makes way for incompleteness and closure for potential expansion. They lead to an opening (does anyone still remember Umberto Eco’s Form as Social Committment included in his book The Open Work?). Movement now appears as a force contrasting and complicating not only cheap beauty, but also the deadly vocation of the image. “By giving me the absolute past of the pose (aorist), the photograph tells me death in the future”, wrote Roland Barthes in his Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1980). These images instead convey something else: to rewrite Barthes’s sentence, giving us the absolute past of the picture, these apparently frozen photographs tell us of movement in the future. “We are fishers of the future”, I joked, with a suggestion of sarcasm, during the wait between one shot and another. I now realize how that affected wit was misleading and pertinent at the same time: what Massimo was waiting for wasn’t an event to capture in the frame, but exactly that embryo of movement to trigger during the observation of the photo. I was merely thinking about the “here and now” of the image’s production, whereas he was thinking about the “after and elsewhere” of the reception. And if he accepted my insolent externalizations with a derisive and unconcerned grin, only once did I see him become really interested. When I, misquoting Barthes once more, over-spoke about “temporal equilibrium” and pontificated: “the this was so easily defeats the it’s me”. I now have the impression that he was interpreting this temporal equilibrium in his own way: not just a fading of the I (the it’s me posited by Barthes) to the exclusive benefit of the image content (the this was), but a paradoxical projection of his glance towards the following time of the vision. So we were really “fishers of the future”, but less of what was going to happen before our eyes than of what would happen during the vision of the image. His eyes were already in the future. 

Second Part of the Specially Written Contribution by Alessandro Baratti, translated by Kate Collins, September 2017.