"The ghost, the eternal illusion" Fausto Lorenzi
We should always be on the look-out when we look at a photograph. Try to see who is coming, even if he comes forward hiddenly. With the project "Castles, ghosts, legends", Salvatore Attanasio tries to give a fantastic and fictional soul to the photograph. There is an excess of visibility, today, in ultra or hyper-realistic images that, in reality, don't help to see. The more the eye stares, the more he becomes estranged. We risk of losing the halo that accompanies figures, objects, places. That halo is a reverberation of memory, of life: the mystery that preserves is necessary because something real can exist.
Attanasio comes from a well-established experience of camera that is ideally overturned to catch an own interior movement, among twinklings, flashes and intermittences of the heart. So he has often woven a plot of emotions and wishes, spells and mirages: first in limpid and clear architectures, then goggled, solarized, obscured, as long as drawn traces remained, to which it was possible to anchor vibrating nebulae, trembling to free the energy of the colour; to come in the "Variations on the theme" to a sort of perpetual movement of the vision, in dancing notches pushed to urge the eye and the imagination together in changing and iridescent lights. Those dances of arabesque patterns were already dream evocations.
Now, in the cycle inspired by "Castles, ghosts, legends", this photographer's images are elaborated on the basis of a true screenplay, as if they were created for a film set. Of a melodramatic, sentimental, dreaming film rather than a thriller with the dark and terrifying suggestions of a gothic novel. It would seem to interpret a famous sentence by Roland Barthes, that the photograph is the return of a dead, of something it has been: but in these stories of ambiguous presences, linked to memories, transcended in legend, in the mists of times, it becomes above all the search for something that is briefly passed, that is materialized and it is disappeared at the same time, so the photographer would seem to support the modern conception of images that form, reflected in the consciousness, to probe a memorial reality built by the interior time.
With a determinate and rarefied perfection, the author keeps presences that seem provoked by beats of light, starts of fear and whispers of spell and regret. The photograph is a surface we will never be able to cross and yet it moves from an analogy with an instant of life: in the rooms and courts of Attanasio's castles we can't enter a measurable space only with historical-geographical coordinates, but excited by the geometry of the heart, by the shifting and projection of the image in the inwardness full of affections, tales, day-dreams, historical-fictional readings.
An idea of castle walls as the wings of a theatre of the wonder and marvellous that welcomes a floating space among pulsations and phosphorescences of mediumistic phenomena, or even of abandonment to a childish beatitude, in the soft diffused light of dream, for a childish heart which asks for opening again to the world among sarabands of fairies and sprites, awoken by an ancient enchanted childhood in countrysides, woods and isolated places to explore adventurously. Everything recalled through writing - because so it is, with light - with a torpid and absorbed day-dreaming, where everything is lived again in a simultaneity of mystery and consciousness.
Art is this wish of keeping in the glance something that flees and pierces. The photograph is not a mould, but place of resistance, interior monologue that tries to keep the mood of light between body and absence. A research about dispersing or never becoming knotted in a plot, of the story of many existences surrounded by a legendary halo that transcends in apparitions ancient tragedies, abuses, attempts to escape an adverse luck or vice versa impossible wishes. It is necessary to the photographer the profiles, the ignis fatuus of those heavy burden of life. The natural, clean and shaded light, but thick as a warmish breath, an affectionate and protective enchantment to keep these more faded and vanishing epiphanies, becomes the code of the project, that tries to dissolve the form of the vision in secret murmurs, fairy whisperings and mythological transcriptions that lead towards territories of the unconscious without claiming to lead back the unconscious to an explication.
translation by dr.ssa Francesca Perotti, curator "Museo della Stampa", Soncino
By sliding with the eye, as if it told movements of the heart, he tries to consider his photograph as a language of the experience of feeling, of the flowing of emotions that makes life and that it can only be an enigmatical flicker, a ghostly figurativeness. Organized in the meticulous architecture of Attanasio's glance, here are the escapes of castle rooms, doors and windows as scenic wings, in the contrast with the apparition of artificial illusion, reveal themselves as a maze of elusive and perturbing, fascinating and mesmeric relationships by which it is possible to be attracted as Alice towards the Wonderland, in a walk that is suspended between fantasy adventure and romantic enticement.
The Hotel Fiction setting explains how Salvatore Attanasio puts himself in front of the mirror of the camera as if he opened a drawer of the day-dreams. Careful to what makes visible the things that are not. The term "ghost" has a similar value to the latin "monstrum": prodigy, strange, unusual and supernatural fact. Here, instead of aiming at big effects and staginess, also taking inspiration from stories and truculent legends, he bases himself on enigmatic events of ethereal and restless spectres, but above all on the fable coexistence of men and prodigies, everybody with the same moral substance, to tell the belonging to a world without any borders between visible and invisible, between natural and supernatural. Even certain more frayed lights seem to suggest the trimming of margins, the exceeding the limits of the daily existence. Referring to the popular imaginary, linked to castles, the photographer alludes to specific legends of the different contexts, to previous historical facts misrepresented during the centuries in gossips and idle stories that have contributed to create the local mythology, the charming or repellent fascination of castles. As in the classical theatre, the stormy or pathetic facts are alluded and vaguely recalled , but they happen above all outside of the scene, because Attanasio's photographic legends are inhabited by the nostalgia of a distance that cannot be filled. If it is true - and we return to Roland Barthes's quotation in front of his dead parents' photos - that the emanation of a real past concentrates on the photographic shade, but only for whom can recover it through an affective tension, so the author, evoking that arcane halo, becomes intermediary of existences, foreign and dumb for us, in the name of an art of saving from the nothing of sealing memories in their dispersion, in their eternal enigma.
The photograph is dried up in a powder of light that stares at the past in an absorbed illusion: the idea of never possessing it, that life, so vulnerable under the assault of nothing, but kept in the hypnotic, disturbed sweetness. The interiors, the lights, filtered by doors and windows on the background, could recall certain lessons of the Nordic painting, grinded in the light. Those masters of the ancient Flanders discovered how the analytical observation of the natural real doesn't exclude a mysterious double when it settles down in an absolute imprint of light, a sort of abstraction. What the author is, then, looking for, behind an easier effect of fantasy surprise, is the disturbance of the luminous fine dust, as an internal disposition to the luminous irradiation. Or, if you want, a delicate or restless humming of the light that he emblematizes in the ghost, considering that we see through that powder or light, mixed of obscurity, (the time that has swallowed lives and historical truths, that cannot be dreamt about).
The mystery is participant in the observation of the reality: it is, so to speak, its internal light, that is structuring element of the vision, in the precise cataloguing of the real that also explores distances, wrapped in palpable atmosphere, in the infinity of the eternal existence. The ghosts aroused by Attanasio are patterns, in the execution of an exact score between light and shadow, inferred by the exactness of the light and, for this reason, true because in the force of the suggestion of a naturalistic pathos, associated to states of hallucination, of small ecstasy, become palpitation of a deeper psychological and spiritual privacy without escaping the play of paradox, irony, eternal illusion.
Brescia, January 2021, Fausto Lorenzi