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Frozen Frames

Frozen Frames
by Alessandro Trabucco

“We observe a fragment of the process, the trembling of a single string in a symphonic orchestra of supergiants, and on top of that we know - we only know, without comprehending - that at the same time, above us and beneath us, in the plunging deep, beyond the limits of sight and imagination there are multiple, million fold simultaneous transformations connected to one another like the notes of musical counterpoint.”
Stanislaw Lem, Solaris

The planet of the two Suns, described in such detail by the great Polish science fiction writer, has a single “inhabitant”, an immense “plasmatic” ocean, a “thinking” expanse of liquid which is able to create gigantic shapes, ephemeral constructions and anthropomorphic beings, whose duration in time depends on their own laws of physics. The characters which live in the space platform orbiting around Solaris are at the same time privileged spectators and victims of these continual creations and transformations, eyewitnesses of events whose nature and truth are impossible to fully comprehend.
In Andrej Tarkovsky’s 1972 film adaptation, through a character in an episode not included in the original novel, the great Soviet film director also underlines the difficulty of documenting these particular phenomena with photographs or filmed images, so that doubt is cast on their very existence.
This is probably because the photographic image has always been attributed with a value as objective evidence, the undeniable certification of the visual truth of the event it represents; a trace, an imprint which marks the surface of the film and the photographic paper.
An example of this is in Louis Malle’s film noir Lift to the Scaffold: the guilt of the protagonist (accused of murder) and the complicity of his lover, denied by both of course, are proven without a shadow of a doubt by photographs showing them together in unequivocal poses.
However, in the past few years photography has at last shaken off this peculiar characteristic of being an index, a duplication of external reality, and has ventured into territories (both physical and mental) which are unexplored, and above all non-existent. Or rather, their existence is reformulated according to creative requirements that cancel out objective empirical information in order to achieve views or visions of thoughts and of the soul.
In the second half of the 19th century, in Europe and America, landscape photography developed as an activity related to travel, exploration, knowledge, and architectural and topographical documentation, with reference to archaeology and geology as well as to public commissions for searching for areas suitable for industrialization. In any case, it is the idea of physical movement, of the discovery of interesting, exotic places, which lies behind the activity of landscape photography; this dynamism comes to fruition through the sense of research and observation of the wonders of nature. The landscape, then, has been one of the most popular subjects for photographers of every era, and along with portraiture, it has sustained its aesthetic development over time; this has also been encouraged by technological innovations which have been adopted and used as soon as they appear on the market.

“The smoker puts the finishing touches to his work.
He seeks unity between himself and the landscape”
André Breton

The images of Aqua Aura in the “Frozen Frames” series are part of the “traditional” category of landscape photography, of nature above all but architecture too, and the final quality of each image transcends the purely formal and realistic aspect in order to active brand new “discursive spaces” (Rosalind Krauss), which derive from mental processes first and foremost.
This statement is, naturally, intended to refer to what US criticism defines as “aesthetic discursive space”, therefore “The space of an autonomous Art and of its idealized, specialist History, which consists of the aesthetic discourse”; the idea which the practice of Aqua Aura introduces is precisely that special relationship with the objective real fact, which undergoes a sort of gradual rarefaction until it reaches the status of a pure, interior image, the projection of a psychological state, of a metaphysical space.
Even the choice of certain subjects, such as desolate plains, misty mountaintops or stretches of glacier, is symptomatic of a vision of reality which is bound to particular states of mind and interior projects which are reflected in the surrounding environment, imbuing it with silent brightness and limpid introspection, transforming these real places into territories of the mind, emanations of the soul.
The way these “natural hybrids” have been created, using various sections extracted from different realities and recomposed to make up new images, might recall Victor Frankenstein’s creature described by Mary Shelley in her early-19th century masterpiece: a living being made up of several parts generated by a demiurge seeking the perfection of life.
It is as though Aqua Aura was seeking to form the perfect landscape, extrapolating the best parts from individual visual entities in order to obtain what might be defined as the “ideal” place; one not located in a precise spot, but purely imaginary, conceived from an idea, although this does not coincide with a traditional concept of exterior beauty or comfortable habitability.

“Anyone looking at my photographs is observing
my thoughts”
Mimmo Jodice

The Frozen Frames series is subdivided into themes, which examine these reflections on the contemporary landscape through images which are linked together by recurring natural elements: vapour, ice, astral objects and manmade insertions such as architectural constructions, or their remains.
The desolation is accentuated by the complete lack of human beings, whose presence would be useful as a gauge for understanding the precise physical size of every space depicted.
In this case, the sentiment of the sublime, the mathematical sublime in the Kantian sense which describes the profound sensation felt in the observer due to the immense size of nature and its temporal immobility, is seen as a consequence of the idea of nervousness caused by the loftiness of the mysterious and the unknown. The photographer seeks to find a way through this unfamiliar obscurity, venturing forth boldly into the thick mystery of a sacred place, desecrating it, seeking therefore to project his own force and spiritual being into it, imposing his own bright creative spark onto it.

These images lack a chromatic reproduction which is true to the exterior aspect of the subjects portrayed. Each of them appears to be printed in black and white, with slight monochromatic variations in some cases. This aspect further reinforces the idea of a mental, dreamlike image, one derived from a reflection of the outside world and experienced as an evanescent, ghostly apparition.
We do not know for certain where these places are, there are no morphological clues allowing us to identify their geographical position (“nowhere”, indeed); but what we see could actually exist. Every finished image, the result of an elaborate creative process, is not in fact the documentation of a particular physical place, nor of a precise moment extrapolated from the horizontal, unrepeatable flow of time. Rather, each image holds in itself an autonomous life, fragmented yet effective, which could be located in a place outside space and time: outside these two physical/natural concepts, the environment represented therefore becomes a place of invention. The space it occupies is, above all, that of the mind which conceived it through its own channels and creative flows, and also the virtual place of the electronic data with which the image was composed before being concretized through printing on paper. The time is no longer the linear timeline of history; instead, it becomes vertical, like the layering of different instants piled up together, thus annulling its dynamic connotation of consequential, irreversible advancement.
These images thus become visions, places that exist only in an ideal context, as they represent landscapes the reality of which is not objectively verifiable, but is nevertheless plausible, recognizable. They activate the imagination as they have the potential to trigger mental processes such as memory and fantasy, or to generate visual and emotional associations linked to the concrete idea that one might have of a certain place, even if one has never visited it before; an idea produced by culture, by information or more simply by a deeper, more instinctive susceptibility to the spiritual dimension of material reality.

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