The Immaterial Landscapes by Antonio Ottomanelli
The Open Talk by Antonio Ottomanelli, hosted by the Open Design School, begins with a quote by Gabriele Basilico, noble father of Italian architecture photography, and ends with a statement on the origins of his way of interpreting photography: Luigi Ghirri, Guido Guidi, authors of a photograph that apparently excludes the singular man from the objective to privilege the study of the territory and its size.
All that has been in the middle may have seemed to upset the common idea of photography, in a work of deconstruction of the sense of the same, which can displace the most but invites a path of conceptual reflection on the multifaceted power of the image. Photography can then be different things, never just one. An instrument, for example, not the only and perhaps not the most important, with which to investigate the territory, not so much in terms of landscape or urban landscape, but as an indicator of social dynamics and geopolitical forces.
The last map of the city dates back to 2003, a map at a scale too large made by the U.S. Army for military and strategic purposes. Mapping Identity is an attempt to redefine a map that has a human scale and is made from memories. This is what configures it as a map of identity, a map of space understood as a concept deriving from movement and memory. The memories are those of ordinary boys, in this case students of the University of Baghdad - Fine Arts Faculty, who during a workshop are resumed during the double operation of verbal narration and drawing of the possible paths for them, mixing the memories before the war with a present in which freedom of movement is not a possibility and the control of a public force is the boundary within which one can move. The result is a series of partial maps, a path of topographic reconstruction, in which the direct and daily experience is grafted onto the abstract body of the pre-war map, giving life to authentic snapshots of the ordinary and the invisible.
In connection with a movement of architects, urban planners, artists who in those years in Baghdad discussed freedom of movement within the city, removal of security controls, photography, video, are a call to action, a Visual Activism, able to be a piece of a broader social process.
The Big Eye, American airships, monitor with their electronic sensors almost every city in Afghanistan. Through a series of images Ottomanelli observes the observer, investigates the investigator as he travels through the city. An overturned view in which a momentary reversal of roles takes place through which to investigate the relationship established between the desire for emancipation of the Afghan people and the control strategies disguised under the pretext of public security. The big white devices, with their striking visibility, fly over the Afghan territories day and night, even when the cameras are not active. Symbols of the supremacy of the West that incessantly remind local populations that can not yet be free.
If Luigi Ghirri had lived a year in Kabul, his skies would have shown a white point in the middle of infinity.
Anis Amri, the author of the 19 December 2016 Berlin attack committed to driving an articulated lorry, was killed by police in Italy three days later. Ottomanelli addresses this case in a work called Santuario Europa. The term Sanctuary is used to indicate places of worship of the highest symbolic value on the level religious, political, of popular culture. In a more recent sense it is the place where those who escape justice for crimes or political reasons can find safe and inaccessible refuge, or even a foreign country that offers refuge to those who perform guerrilla or terrorist actions. The Santuario Europa project is an architecture of video and photographic works to be realized site specific.
It consists of 3 works. The first consists of a series of large images created using LIDAR (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) technology that take the landscape from Piedmont to Germany, through this detection system used by vehicles, the "weapon" used by Anis Amri for the attack.
The second consists of a series of short videos produced by applying data mining processes related to activity recognition on the site of the attack, starting with extracts from
recordings of the cameras present in the area of the attack and of private registrations broadcast on the web: one wonders about the interpretation of the events by the machines.
The third consists of a series of 14 portions of asphalt, corresponding to the number of victims plus the bomber himself, varying in size depending on the representation of data on terrorist attacks in Europe, broken down by matrix and place.
The debate that all the photographic works of Ottomanelli express is a political debate, which investigates an alternative (immaterial) human landscape, which apparently excludes humanity but which in fact sublimates its presence through the expressions of activism, politics, society , of which the lack of historical consciousness and political awareness are denial.
These projects reflect on the concept of identity, understood as the knowledge of the forces economic and political factors that determine a particular social condition of the individual in relation to the community. This degree of knowledge is closely linked, for example, to the relationship between control strategies for public safety and individual and autonomous drives for the search for ever higher degrees of freedom and emancipation.
Public space is the place of this conflict.
But public space in the broadest sense is also the site of a broader conflict, between material landscape and digital or immaterial landscape, in cultural, political, economic and social terms.
Technological change in the last 20 years has allowed us to identify new ones frontiers of definition of reality, this leads to new landscapes in everyday life placed at a greater or lesser distance from the real as we know it.
So there is a need for a return to reality? Theoretical and operational trajectories arise in able to analyze and synthesize these elements? What stories, forms and events are now defined as "landscape"? In this completely new version of what we live, what should be the role of the visual arts? What are your political responsibilities? How can its value be determined? Which approaches are adopted and what are the disciplinary reciprocity? Have architecture, design and visual arts developed practices and devices to investigate and design this new digital reality in relation to a real community? These are the questions posed by Antonio Ottomanelli and therefore the meaning of his photography.