THE PHOTOGRAPH AS STAGE - ESSAY BY DUYGU DEMIR
Duygu Demir is an independent Curator, Writer, Art and Architecture essay's writer, working at the M.I.T, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She worked as a programmer at SALT in Istanbul. She received a combined BA degree in Art History and Visual Arts from Columbia University in 2008.
According to Foucault, “history is that which transforms documents into monuments.” Alessandro Rizzi’s new series titled Theatre Translation exist within the fissure of document and monument. Teatro Sociale di Gualtieri, a small gem of a theatre that survived fire, water and neglect, then reinvigorated with grassroots efforts, is captured in Rizzi’s photographic series as memory-images. The story of the theatre depicted in Rizzi's photographs bear the imprint of time; images are mute and motionless only on the surface; the spatial setting, which is itself the protagonist, carries inertia, it is demarcated with change.
Multiple registers of time co-exist in these frames; the once grandiose proscenium arch, the peeling paint of the decorated box seats, the bricked-up door with the ‘caffée’ sign suggest an aging, abandoned structure of a late-19th, perhaps early-20th century glory. While the stories behind this layer are almost inaccessible to the reading of the contemporary eye, they provide enough to project fantasies on. The light fixtures suggest later additions; the discarded stage props look outmoded, while the contemporary speakers hint at recent performances. Yet another layer of time is instantly recognizable; the cardboard box of a Bosch vacuum cleaner, the toolbox on the stage, the beer and wine bottles as well as the plastic cups on the worktable give the sense that someone was just there. Perhaps not every phase of the theatre is translated into spatial and visual terms; however, Rizzi’s photographs function as an archeological excavation into multiple layers of time. They carry an intense awareness of the theatre's past and present.
The photographs mimic aspects of theatre itself: while the chromatism in the series mirrors the dramatic lighting of the classical theatre stage, the photographic surface becomes the two-dimensional plane for the play to unfold; the surface of the photograph itself becomes the stage. The lack of a hierarchical distinction between the various levels of depth turns the mundane into the dramaturgic; all is equal on the stage, every object is there as part of the story, their placement part of the stage design. In Rizzi's photographs, the theatre does not provide the setting for a play to unfold; it is itself the story. The function of the theatre is transferred to the photographic print. The Heineken container or the paint can are just as significant as the architectural detailing. Every object becomes a prop, or every prop becomes a witness. The stage extends to the whole architectural space of the building, as the theatre is staging itself, staging its story through itself. The lack of a focal preference leaves the eyes wondering the picture plane, the almost egalitarian treatment of the multiple subjectivities in the photographs allows the eyes to travel to the depths and return to the surface.
The series Theatre Translation documents a monument while monumentalizing an archival memory of that very monument - the theatre. In bearing witness to a moment of transformation, Rizzi’s photographs perpetuate this fleeting transition, making the transition itself the story.