Saturday, May 24, 2014, 2:15-3:30pm
Organizers: Marco Andreani, Macula, Centro Internazionale di Cultura Fotografica, and Marco Purpura, Balthazar, Polo di Studi sul Cinema
Chair: Marco Andreani, Macula, Centro Internazionale di Cultura Fotografica
"Frontal Portrait: Psychiatric Photography, Gender, and the Quest for National Identity in Fin-de-Siècle Italy"
The advent of photography in the nineteenth century became a powerful instrument in the hands of psychiatrists. Photography was used as a scientific tool to attest to the existence of mental illness. The emphasis on facial expression was functional to create a direct link to brain alterations and consequently to the origin of madness. In this essay, I aim to further explore the operation of power that lay beyond the photographic frame. To do so, I will start my analysis by considering the frame itself- frontal portrait- and contextualize the study of psychiatric photography inside a more general study of portraiture. Through a parallel analysis of psychiatric portraits of patients from the San Servolo, San Clemente and Reggio Emilia asylums and the Alinari brothers’ portraits of Italian bourgeois people, I will show how photographs of patients were used to affirm an idea of Italianità that was still in search of definition in the new-born nation. For my analysis I will investigate clothing, hair, mise-en-scèneand lighting. I will show how the notion of Italianità was also deeply rooted in gender identity. In photographic portraits of patients, the wearing of uniform clothing, and in some cases the shaving of the head, reflect the very real suppression of inmates’ gender identities. I argue that through the asexualization of patients’ body these photographs were used to affirm, by negation, the existence of gender roles. Consequently they were used to reinforce heterosexual normativity. The importance of this study is a first consideration of how the body of the mentally ill was employed by the nation-state in the quest to create a national identity. Despite the large amount of studies concerning the exclusion of minorities in the project of nation-making, the mentally ill have been very rarely addressed in Italian studies. Further, the aim of this essay is to show the material violence that was inflicted on the body of the mentally ill. Violence, at the service of the Italian state, operated not only through practices of forced confinement but also through the repression of sexuality.
"Rappresentare gli strumenti del potere: foto-ritratti di mappe"
La relazione affronta una tipologia di immagini fotografiche ascrivibile, secondo un’espressione di W.J.T. Mitchell, alla categoria ‘pictures about pictures’. Si propone qui, infatti, una riflessione sulla carta geografica come soggetto fotografico. La relazione intende evidenziare come l’atto fotografico tenda ad enfatizzare l’associazione tra questo oggetto (tipicamente usato in contesti di controllo, sanzione, predittività, autoritarismo, impartizione) e la manifestazione di molteplici forme di potere. Ciò, in particolare, attraverso l’ambientazione della mappa in interni o esterni (l’aula scolastica, l’ufficio di polizia, gli allestimenti della propaganda, ecc.) che concorrono a connotare la sua funzione di strumento del potere. Il framing fotografico, dunque, costituisce una modalità tipica attraverso la quale la mappa viene contestualizzata e il suo discorso attivato. Gli esempi di foto-ritratti di mappe saranno per lo più legati all’ambito culturale italiano.
La relazione, tuttavia, accogliendo le recenti tendenze ‘post-rappresentazionali’ nell’ambito dei map studies di matrice anglosassone, vuole anche mettere in discussione questa univoca interpretazione della mappa come strumento del potere. I diversi atteggiamenti/modi con cui si fotografano le mappe nei loro contesti d’uso sono in questo senso estremamenti rivelatori. La fotografia degli operatori del Luce, quella del neorealismo o quella autoriale contemporanea (Luigi Ghirri in primis) propongono diversi ritratti di mappe e al contempo diverse percezioni del loro asservimento al ‘discorso del potere’.
"The Photography of Power and the Power of Photography. The Images in Leo Longanesi’s L’Italiano (1926-1939)"
Italian photography in the Thirties and the emergence of a new realist style are often coupled with the name of Leo Longanesi. Photography occupied an important and distinctive space in all of Longanesi’s publications, from the journal L’Italiano (1926-1939), to the weekly Omnibus (1937-1939) and the post-war magazine Il Borghese. Focusing on L’Italiano, this essay will explore the double power Longanesi grants to photography: to reveal what the eye cannot yet fully see—the reality of Fascist Italy—and to satirize and liquidate what the eye cannot see any longer—the persistence of old images, the icons of a “bourgeois” past. Photography plays a complex role for Longanesi (editor, writer, graphic artist, political commentator). As the essay argues, photography not only helps him articulate a new visual aesthetic, but a specific editorial format, and a new aphoristic writing style which relies on figures of juxtaposition, fragmentation, inversion and understatement inspired by the language of the modern medium.
Longanesi’s use of photography brings to the fore an ambiguous relation with power. No image of Mussolini and nearly no image of Fascism appear on the pages of L’Italiano Periodico della rivoluzione fascista. In line with the ideology of Mino Maccari’s Strapaese, photography bypasses the rhetoric of Fascist officialdom, romanity and modernity—what Italy should be—in search of the reality of “what is”—the Italian provinces, the peasants, tradition. Yet the Italy depicted in these images reveals the all-pervasive presence of a political power that dictates the camera’s focus, perspective, framing, close-up. Longanesi’s photography lives in the interstices of Fascism. Occhio di vetro (glass eye) is the title of a column regularly written by Longanesi. While obviously referring to the mechanical tool of vision, the title suggests as well a blind prosthesis, a tool enforcing an inescapable, built-in censorship.