Phom

© 2013 Antonio Armentano, Montebello Ionico (Reggio di Calabria), Saline (salt evaporation ponds).

© 2012 Nino Cannizzaro, Palermo - Messina.

© 2014 Claudia Corrent, Isle of Burano (Venice).

© 2013 Benedetta Falugi, Follonica (Grosseto).

© 2013 Mauro Thon Giudici, Milan.

© 2009 Salvatore Lembo, Rome, Testaccio.

© 2012 Andrea Lombardo, Genoa.

© 2011 Gaetano Paraggio, Battipaglia (Salerno), Coastline.

© 2013 Giancarlo Rado. Diego Rizza, his wife Anna Zurek , his son Tomek and Savanna photographed in Malga Fossernica di Dentro , Caoria, Trentino, before the ending of the summer mountain pasturing.

© 2014 Giacomo Streliotto, Cartigliano (Vicenza).

The perception Italians have of their home country is as fickle and multifaceted as the country itself. And yet one can still perceive its boundaries, limits and desires to some extent.
Thirty years after Viaggio in Italia curated by Ghirri, Questo Paese attempts to describe the perimeter of our peninsula and its isles once more. It is an exercise of domestic geography, a sort of travel diary of our “Inland Empire” - which is as utterly different from the first “journey” in 1984 as it is incredibly identical to itself.
It displays a country made of margins, boundaries, subtle spaces and people - that are absent at times, but that we can still sense as they pass us by.
Starting from such a volatile and shared space as the Internet, “Questo Paese” navigates within these margins and assumes a physical body in the form of an exhibition and an editorial project.
We met up with its creator and curator, Fulvio Bortolozzo, who told us about the genesis and development of this project.


Where does the idea of the project originate from?

From the acknowledgement of what I had seen flowing exactly thirty years from the very first and last collective editorial project (that I know of) with the ambition of gathering photographers around the iconography of the Bel Paese. I am referring to the cult “Viaggio in Italia”, conceived and curated by Luigi Ghirri.

The project untangles in the Web within the prolific and bustling WDTR group. What role does the Web play in this project?

A crucial role. It is the expertise in the Web (which for me started in long-gone 1998 with my first personal website and, before then, with civic BBS’s and acoustic modems) that hinted me to consider the possibility of a different approach to the theme of the Italian iconography of places. The Web didn’t exist in 1984 yet, and the distribution channels of photography were connected to the editorial world - namely the sectoral and periodical publications - and to extremely rare exhibition spaces. Before then and for a number of years, the only space of this sort was Lanfranco Colombo’s Galleria Diaframma Canon in Milan. That is a traditional facility, with all its implications in terms of selection and distribution of the exhibited work. As Web 2.0 comes along, together with the techniques of digital production and distribution of photos, we face a pivotal resetting of all technological and “relational” barriers - at least on the surface. However, in the ocean of billions of photos that are taken and looked at constantly, there is a urge for rediscovering not so much barriers, but a channelization of flows. That is the reason why I resorted to opening “We Do The Rest” to my Facebook contacts in 2013, a closed group where to publish and debate photography without being submerged by the tsunami of words and images that is typical of other social networks. The interesting thing is that I did not choose the first names myself - in time, each of the participants brought people they esteemed to the group, and that is how a small yet cohesive and quite vivacious community came to life. Towards last spring I realised that a number of photographers were shooting in the locations of their life by following their own research path.
It proved an excellent opportunity to make a selection without having it imposed from the heights of of personal relationships or medals being pinned by some institution - rather, it sprang out directly from the mutual discerning of people who observed and felt reciprocally drawn to images as they browsed through the group. It was a short step between this and the the idea of releasing a photo book On Demand, strictly using blurb.com in order to stay coherent to the basilar structures of the Web.

Questo Paese has already had a first public leg as an exhibition at the Corigliano Calabro Festival  and we know it will be released as a book. What future developments do you see for this project? Are you planning on a comeback to the Web as a dedicated product or do you deem the exhibit and book forms to be the most coherent ones?

Corigliano Calabro arrived as an unexpected gift, a really special one. The condition I posed to the photographers I selected to take part to the photo book project was that I would have taken my time to make it - without receiving pressuring of any sort. Therefore, the opportunity of displaying at Corigliano Calabro threatened to push everything towards a much too rushed conclusion of the project. Fortunately the great intelligence and sensibility of Gaetano Gianzi (head of the Festival) allowed us to experiment with the exhibit of a “work in progress” of 10 out of the 25 photographers participating to the photo book, with 3 prints each. During the festival days there was an integration with my presentation of the project with a slideshow of all the photographers, still with 3 photos each. The video shot by Mauro Thon Giudici testifies for it on my You Tube Channel - it’s also visible on Camera Doppia's blog. As for now, I think the formula of one book On Demand and collective exhibitions is the most balanced. I always think of the Web as a place for meeting and interweaving exchange opportunities, that in turn achieve their ultimate point of expression in the real daily life of every participant.

What does “Questo Paese” indicate and what does it reveal of our home country?

The title derives from my intoxicating habit of exposing myself, on an almost daily basis, to news, talk shows and other tv shows on domestic affairs. In the often feisty and disconnected debates one often comes across the interjection “questo Paese” [“this Country]. It is a way of referring to Italy that I deem simultaneously as annoying as an active emotional detachment and yet quite effective in highlighting the current crisis between citizens and democratic institutions. Hence it is not about taking a new “Viaggio in Italia”, because the Italian entity as perceived in 1984 no longer exists. It is more about embarking on an extremely private and intimate journey of 25 people who shoot what surrounds them for solely personal needs. That is why my tagline is “observations on the places”. It’s a performance that is the object of observation itself, before turning into a tool to observe.

The majority of photos are dedicated to places. Only a couple of then turn the focus on to people. What’s the reason behind this choice that pushes the project towards a direction that is somewhat different from traditions?

This is where my dissatisfaction with the subdivision of the photographic act into “genres” kicks in. I no longer deem it useful, not even on a didactic level, to divide photographers and photographs in to subcategories that are defined by their prevailing subject or sphere of action. For me, all that exists is what is “photographic”, which is primarily an act, a direct and concrete psycho-physical experience. Whether this occurs in one place rather than another or before an object, a person or an animal does not count in the very least. If one were still compelled to create a categorization of some sort, in the name of the usual, unsurpassable needs of divulgative simplification, then I would  agree on taking into consideration other currents - that I call “traditions”: i.e. passing the baton from one photographer to the next in real life or because of a spontaneous legacy. In such terms, for instance, I do see an American tradition that was born in Europe and that returns here. I feel like I belong to it and it is on these grounds that I acknowledge my counterparts in photographic terms.

What kind of feedback did you first receive from the the first public display of the project?

It was extremely flattering. Corigliano Calabro welcomed us with much interest and appreciation. An esteemed journalist such as Michele Smargiassi later wrote about us on his blog, “Fotocrazia”, with highly appreciative words - which exhorts us to give the best we can in not disappointing the manifold expectations we have aroused. Actually I did hear of a few rare negative critiques, but I figure they are more of a misunderstanding of our project - which I hope will be dispelled once the work is finished.

Your next step is the book. Could you give us any sneak previews on the editorial project you have embarked on?

I would like to anticipate one thing. Within the We Do The Rest group we not only boast photographers, but also bloggers and writers who spread words in an array of forms and in both physical and virtual spaces. I asked them to contribute to the collective enterprise with a freely written text. This is why I wish for the project to remain as open to wide participation as possible, beyond the role of curator and editor I have taken on. Perhaps this way it will become something much more enduring. Time will tell.

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