Paradiso, Photography and Video by Silvio Wolf

Laura Ferrari

in Cult Frame, Arti Visive e Comunicazione, for the solo exhibition "Paradiso", Galleria Gottardo, Lugano 2006

This work started from the specific need to connect my projects very firmly to the places for which I create them. When I went to Lugano a number of things happened simultaneously which seemed insignificant at first, but then they took on meaning. The first was reading a name, the name “Paradiso” which I found on a road sign. It was the first thing that I read in Lugano and it struck me a lot. Basically I was looking for a way in. The city made me this gift and well that’s  it…  the game had started, everything was already underway.

In fact on the first day I found the term “Paradiso” and then when I started to expand the circle of my research, while I was going to the little church of Saint John the Baptist at Mogno, I discovered Monte Verità (Mount Truth) above Locarno… that place had a particular meaning in the twentieth century.

The truth fascinated me as a name, because every one of us seeks our  own truth, so I decided to give the corpus of all the photographic works in the project the title “Truth”.

The other fundamental element was the discovery, where they took me, of the deep belly to the bank, the treasure, a place that lies sixty feet underground of which I had no idea, not even any perception of it. When I saw it, I felt that this was the start of everything, it was a sort of spark to the project.

It is a constructed place because everything that is contained in it is also concealed. So it is a place that makes things invisible. The place itself basically has no identity because when you enter this space you don’t know whether you are in a space ship, in a morgue, in an icy place, absolutely… unidentifiable in terms of its function. This place inspired me with the idea of discovery, of travel, of a vision of a possible alterity  through surfaces.

The video work, “The Treasure”, was born inside this deep place along a downwards route. You take a lift, you go down sixty feet under ground and then this journey starts, a journey that is repeated three times according to three different levels of interpretation and stratification in space to achieve increasingly denser, increasingly stronger perceptions of the place.

In the room that I called “Altrove” (elsewhere) I faced the challenge of these images, perhaps not entirely retinal, of the space I had discovered under ground.

I worked on the details or on the fields, that are also broad, of these opaque and reflecting surfaces at the same time . They are images that I desaturated and  reversed to the negative, particularly cold, almost evaporated,  like X-rays of the space.

I liked the images as they were, but at the same time they ran the risk of becoming icy images of architecture. When I was left alone for eight hours working down there in this space, in which I didn’t know what time it was any more, what the weather was like, I didn’t know anything anymore… slowly I started to sense the possibility that these surfaces, so polished, reflective and cold would appear more meaningfully if I managed to reduce their degree of contrast and the shininess. So I gradually started to blur. And when you blur using wide angle lenses very particular things happen, because on the one hand you manage to define the structure of the perspective because it remains almost intact, but on the other hand, it is as if the surfaces started to smudge, they reflect light differently and things change.

It is difficult to say what lies behind a negative image. At times absolutely nothing at all happens. At times the negative image is so similar to the positive, but there is this extra something: when the architecture is in black and white it becomes white and black. The really extraordinary thing is how the lights with the shadows reverse, and it is then that something happens so that curiously some of these architectures, not all, acquire a depth that I wasn’t able to see in the positive image. So in the depths of the photographic language I allowed myself to go further and see how far I could go, and in particular the apse of the little church of Saint John the Baptist at Mogno, a point of reference that I find sublime, that I felt strongly as being inspired by Islamic architecture.

I have studied Mario Botta’s architecture and I have found it has cardinal points:

there is the use of symmetry, the alternating materials, the constant and almost obsessive presence of a binary code, a stroke, a horizontal mark that alternates dark with light, shiny with reflections. This binary code was very important for me because it constituted a form of writing and it became an interface for me between the physical place and also the intangible entities to which I intend to relate through these specific elements of architecture. The place remains on the one hand the same as itself because, photographically speaking, I can only start from the surfaces on which the light reflects, the absolutely faithful surfaces of my vision, and on the other hand, I manage to transform them through the photographic process into forms that are meaningful for me, so that  they become metaphors of architecture.

There are other constituent parts that are very significant for me which are: the “Castle”: “the flying castle” which is a series of images linked to the specific architecture of the bank, which I am not showing because it wouldn’t fit in relation to the exhibition itself. They are basically perspective photos of the balconies taken from above looking down, where  at the post production stage I intervened radically, removing and cutting all the parts that concerned the daily routine of the bank. All that remains are the white balcony perspectives that I juxtapose with images of galaxies and nebulas. I wanted to create almost the sense of a space ship, of a traveling place.

And then there is another important verbal element, a text that I started to write exactly one year before the inauguration of the exhibition. It is entitled “The Factory of Paradise”, a sort of diary of mine, but it is also a continuous reflection on photography, on the sense of things and also on certain important, strongly existential elements of which my photography is definitely full. Photography is really a research tool for me and also a tool for discovery, because when I start to work, I do it from what I find, from what I see and I don’t pose myself very many problems, in fact I absolutely mustn’t pose them, I have to act, I have to act in an entirely intuitive way: collecting, collecting materials that I know full well will be only semi-finished, but I’m at a loss without them. It is a response, it is a response to real facts and it is also a fast, intuitive response and along the way, with hindsight, they manifest as forms of recognition.

I like the surprise dimension when I work with film, in the sense that I don’t know exactly what and how it will turn out. I’m always suspicious of the capture with digital cameras and the consequent urge to look immediately at the resulting image, because there is something… I don’t know how to define it,  almost a sort of sacrilege… of the necessary period of latency, which is so important to me. Waiting for the image to manifest itself, its coming to light.

An then naturally I digitalize the images and subject them to quite a lot of post-production work because changing some of the details of the real space is inevitable to make particular aspects perfect, to take it to those extreme conditions that you would have liked to find in it, or because your new reality is the image. It is not a fact of the reality any more.

Photography before the generation of images, photography in its pure state,  is the constitution of light and colour, autonomous, generative scripts of light on photosensitive material. They are horizons. They are images consisting of the first part of a photographic film which is exposed to the light while the camera is being loaded and therefore they are pieces of photographic film that have not been exposed to the light intentionally by the photographer, but simply because the camera must be loaded before taking the first photo. Some are insignificant, some are special, some are extraordinary: you never now in advance, you can never say, it first needs to occur…