In your absence, my presence
In your absence, my presence is a project about memory, a work that moves me deeply from its beginning and that I want to dedicate to my father. I owe it to him. To all the things he taught me; to his silent way of loving me. For the negative thoughts I so often harboured for him, I owe it to the child I was and I am no more. For our being intensely similar. The story of my relationship with my father is wonderful, but also painful and complicated; with these photographs I would like to make peace with the whirlwind of feelings that have affected me during these years. And go back to the beginning. Where you were - where you still are - next to me. In spite of your absence in the last years, you are still present here even if you are not seen. You are present in my gestures, in my passions. In the things I do. My father had a marked presence in my childhood, but after being diagnosed with an illness when I was fourteen, he was often absent in my life. Now, we have found an equilibrium in our relationship - we have created spaces of communication and meeting for ourselves - but it wasn't always so easy. In comparison with my childhood, he is another father. A slightly different person. If it weren’t for this, I probably would not feel the “need” for this work. I probably would not miss him, even if I prefer to consider his absence as a new presence rather than a real absence. I have now reached this consciousness, but for years I felt like an orphan. I felt like I had been unfairly robbed of something. It is only now that I feel comfortable to tell this story. Working on memories is difficult. You never know which are real and which are false memories, images distorted by stories or photographs. My father helped me correct the details I could not remember during the drafting of the texts and he was present in the project from the beginning. The places of memory, of childhood, are the protagonists of this work. In these places my own body, immortalized by Matteo's emphatic glance, becomes both absence and presence. And my father is present even if you cannot see him. I envision this work emanating a light nostalgia. A peaceful showdown. A bittersweet memory. For a person who is no longer here, for a childhood that is not going to come back. [G.]
Reconstruct a memory
The project with Giulia was a leap into the uncertain world of memories. The risk was to turn everything into something pathetic and sensational, making it a banal show. It was a long process, but useful in understanding how complicated it is to focus on someone else´s emotions and represent them. In order to reconstruct a living reminiscence of your life, you need to be patient. Only by exploring the few elements that remain of that lived experience is it possible to find other details and keep you moving forward. During these months Giulia and I have tried to give ourselves roles: Giulia the explorer of her past and I the facilitator. We had to be surgical in exploring and limiting the potential complexity of Giulia´s memories, and had to be precise in creating and sticking to a perhaps rigid structure but one which was nonetheless a necessary guide to prevent losing ourselves in her memories.  The project was developed through e-mail, Skype and a final segment on the field. Giulia chose nine episodes of her childhood linked to nine places, then she started writing. The more details and nuances emerged, the more Giulia could revive them. At the beginning I thought of representing the places chosen by Giulia accompanied only by her texts, but not having her in the photographs was like cutting off the living memory: the person to whom those memories belong. Her presence is fundamental; it is like returning on tiptoe to the “crime scene”. Today these nine places changed, but filled with Giulia´s presence the memories come back to life again, because Giulia was and is the memory. Present in these spaces - before the shooting - Giulia voice-recorded all the words that came to her mind, trying to immerse herself in the place and to perceive as many details as possible through colours, noises and smells. The aim was to trust not only the cognitive memory, but also the sensorial one. The final work is composed of two photographs for each episode. The first photo represents the space where the memory’s story takes place, in which Giulia immerses herself with veiled eyes. In the second photo she physically re-experiences a precise moment of her memory, re-enacting it and thus interacting with the surroundings. The last photograph taken in her father's now uninhabited apartment represents a return to the present, a rebinding with the time of reality. At the same time, it embodies the absence of her father in a house filled with the presence of Giulia. Our memory is vast, subject to change, faded; photography is just an instrument or a way of approaching a memory, to lie to it, to hang on to something that we do not want to forget, to trick ourselves into actually seeing it with our own eyes, to have proof that, in some way, we were there. [M.]
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