Or to change perspective?

In a world with a lack of stable horizons and certitudes, in a state of general disorientation amplified by the multiplication of visual technologies and the multiple perspectives they generate (Google Earth images, satellite views, drone videos) we must remember the artist and theorist Hito Steyerl and his essay In free fall: a thought experiment on vertical perspective (2011) which states that today linear perspective has become a “hostage” of the truth: “The vanishing point gives the observer a body and a position. […] While reinforcing the subject by placing him at the center of the vision, the linear perspective also undermines the individuality of the spectator by putting him under the seemingly objective rules of representation.”

We live in the era of vertical perspective – Steyerl affirms – or better, in a condition of free fall, that constitutes a systematic and rational certitude linked to the linear perspective. But, if the image of the free fall summarizes the idea of the absence of “anchor points” typical of the fluid contemporary condition, how can we read the geometrical construction of a photograph? We are inclined to believe that the representation of this “landscape with figures” by Vitali raises exactly the same questions as Steyerl on the issue of the occult control of the individual by the power and the social control present today in the form of surveillance cameras equipped with Artificial Intelligence. Vitali succeeds in doing the same through the ambivalence of subjectivity and objectivity attributed by Erwin Panofsky to the linear perspective (“the triumph of the sense of a distanced and objective reality and the triumph of the human resolve for power that tends to erase distances”). Such a vision would condemn the complete falsity of the objective world and reveal the illusion of our individual freedom, but it would also presuppose an action: a real body able to escape from the frame, a body as a “land not yet colonized by power”, as Pasolini remembers.

The moment just before the revolution?

Following this interpretation, in my opinion the theatrical equivalent of Vitali’s photography in its most subversive sense would be the play The host (2005) by the company Motus, inspired by the film Theorem by Pasolini.  Confirming the intention of the original author and director, Motus calls into question the conformist bourgeoisie world, depicting it as imprisoned in a reassuring and yet artificial idyllic landscape composed of three giant screens and built, exactly as in Vitali’s work, with a central perspective axis. 

The apparent tranquillity represented by the illusionistic theatrical backdrop conceals a hidden fear: in fact, it will be unhinged by the realities of 1968 in Italy known as the “lead” years, the State massacres.

If our interpretation is correct, what revolution against the system is concealed within this perfect mise en abyme of reality immortalized in Vitali’s magnificent work? 

Anna Maria Monteverdi, Theatrical perspective, July 10, 2019.