Multiplicity in Rèves by Alessio Delfino

by Nicola Davide Angerame

Going beyond photography while remaining in it. Concentrating multiple moments in time and space within a single frame. Tackling the multiplication of bodies with a “frontier” spirit. That’s how Eadweard Muybridge in his experiments involving dynamic photography at the end of the 1800s paved the way toward a new dimension, that would then be developed by cubists and futurists in the attempt to fully render, in the bidimensionality of the pictorial (and photographic) image, space and time within their dynamic and three-dimensional nature.

These avant-garde intuitions are contemporary with the origins of cinema, meaning the art of the moving image (sound and body). But cinema is something that flows: it reproduces that truth seen by the eye that flows over worldly things, tracking shots, enlarging, cutting and editing with sound. Instead, the avant-gardists want to capture this dynamism in the static nature of the picture, forcing the body to become fragmented, to reproduce, and to reiterate in the sense of being equal to and yet different from itself. Thus, they attempt an alchemy, an “impossible” synthesis of different moments, based on their seriality. They want to create an improbable “contemporaneousness”, bringing time to a standstill and refracting space into multidimensionality. These artists are alchemists and magicians of painting: from Balla to Picasso, and from Boccioni to Braque. Even Marcel Duchamp, at the beginning of his conceptual career that coincides with his demise as a painter, painted his renowned Nu descendant un escalier (Nude descending a staircase) in 1912. In this work, the father of ready made will realise how the synthesis of time, space and body is “impossible” and will choose the conceptual path, i.e. an approach to art and to perception that remains naturalistic and that will lead him to transfer real objects to the unchangeable timeframe of the museum.

Today, in an era in which the cinema has embraced the third dimension and has begun to discover 5 dimensions (involving the additional senses of smell and touch), photography is still relegated to the gilded cage of bidimensionality. Famous schools, like those of Düsseldorf, ensure that photography has its own potential documentary and an inexorable force acquired thanks to its reproduction of reality as it is/appears: pure, simple, frontal. This alleged objectivity imperceptibly slips instead toward the status of an icon. Today, we celebrate a cooling tower by the Beckers, or a view of a supermarket by Andreas Gursky, as if they were not only images taken from a reality placed inside specific a space and time, but as if they were everlasting visions capable of synthesizing the meaning of an era or of a civilisation. These images are not only a document of our living qui e ora but are icons of a world: they are “the part for everything” that attempts to summarise a bountiful and complex life as it flows, often spilling over its own embankments. Photography attempts to construct these banks, deciding what we should see, in what moment and in what place.

Alessio Delfino’s photography, that in the artist’s latest series of works is teeming with all the previously mentioned issues, intuits, with a last minute aesthetic change free from conceptual or conformist concerns, that time and space of photography can be much more than that which the simple definition of the medium, as a reproducer of reality, makes it possible to obtain.

And so he dives into a blend of different moments in time and space, using the body as a viaticum, as a guiding image that leads him into a multidimensionality in which it is possible to demolish the rigidness of reality in order to carry out the alchemical undertaking of synthesising not reality but its conditions of possibility: those “pure forms a priori of sensitivity” that the German philosopher Immanuel Kant describes as the conditions of the possibility of perception. Space and time.

In his principal work The critique of pure reason, Kant dedicates many pages to these pure intuitions of the internal sense (time) and external sense (space). All our knowledge can only start from them and their “continuity” is the specific form within which we perceive all things, while also guaranteeing that something can be accomplished.

Delfino’s simultaneous, bent, layered and merged photography opts instead to exfoliate the temporal and spatial planes, thus creating impossible images of bodies. His construction of an unreality is not a simple overlapping but a blending of time and space, hence of different movements, positions and morphologies of the body analysed as if under a magnifying lens by a magician or an alchemist seeking a philosopher’s stone capable not of transforming pewter into gold but of synthesising the flow of time and the unidimensionality of space into an incandescent image that can tear down our common sense founded on a priori forms of our perception.

Present-day quantum physics is proving, through the theory of strings and superstrings, the existence of parallel universes and that the same subatomic particle could easily have two or more positions “at the same time”. And this is something incomprehensible for us, used as we are to the “exactness” of time and space.

Its superiority (in this case of photography) is the prerogative of being able to give “body, image and figure” to something that strictly speaking is for us “incomprehensible”.

Our access to the world of imagination becomes a way to represent the inconceivable. The chaotic bodies constructed by Delfino are like those recent “photographs” of the Higgs boson. A theoretical image that attempts to give a visible body (in the common sense like in quantum terms) to a reality of which we have no direct perception but that must almost be indispensable to be able to conceive of its existence.

With this series of works, Delfino poses another theme at the centre of his multi-year reflections of the feminine body that, from a traditional view, is understood as a canon of beauty, harmony and, with respect to the other series of works prior to Rèves, as the symbol of fertility, divinity, fate and destiny. This theme focuses on the plurality of the body.

Is one body also a single body? Perhaps not, if we accept the hypothesis according to which our own identity is, in reality, a stratification and blending of different Selves, that are situated in a subjective environment, such as inside a photograph by Delfino or inside a quantum framework. We are ourselves to the extent to which we reflect first one and then another of our natures. Often the coexistence of different Selves is problematic. The stratified structure of the Id, Ego and Super-Ego is an initial decoding of this ubiquity of the Self, which constantly shifts between its own drives, the moral imperatives introjected with education and taboos and the decisions that must be constantly made while in the waking state. Also in this case art lends a hand by giving a body to this paradoxical situation of dynamic stasis. Like the subjects portrayed by Delfino, even our interiority is constantly shifting. Calmness is not part of our Ego, since its multiple nature rests only in very few situations which, moreover, are never definitive. And the body, that first thrives and then decays, offers us a refuge that is forced to share our destiny. Perhaps the body itself is our destiny.

While philosophy mortified the body, treating it as a waste product of spiritual and intellectual life, art has celebrated it as something divine (just think of the portrayal of the body of Christ over the centuries). In the twentieth century, body art put it in the spotlight once again as a work of art tout court. There’s nothing but the photography of bodies: the condemnation and the delight of photography. Delfino’s photography is that of the body to the nth power, of a body that extends beyond its own confines and demonstrates to itself its own power: for which each body is plural. An assembly of organs, a symphony of functions, a sum total of expressions.

Bodies that look like rocks, divinities and trees. Bodies that Delphino’s photography cools off after the volcanic explosion of movement. Defigured bodies without their natural profiles and redesigned according to the typical polysemy of Delfino’s poetic system of beliefs. Photography offers refuge to the value of a proposal that plays with space, time and the body like a juggler or a prestidigitator. Like an alchemist or a magician: to tell us that the Ego is an Us dancing in perpetuity. And, perhaps, in different dimensions.

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