Art and Photography
Edited by The Scala Group
ISBN 9781566499651 (hardcover)
Published in August 2012
MSRP $75.00
“The images presented here bear witness to the great diversity of cultures, yet they also reflect the existence of similar needs, practices and activities in all societies. The custom of wearing masks, found at every latitude, for example; but also and above all the everyday character of many objects that bear traces of the people who once made use of them: furnishings, items of clothing, work tools. Objects which offer insights into people’s lives that, above and beyond all the historical, linguistic, religious and cultural differences, allow us to empathize with them to some degree, leading us to recognize a common humanity, notwithstanding the distance that is imposed by our modern way of life. A distance that, when we look closely, is no longer confined to the West but shared by the whole world.” — Ivan Bargna

Is it possible to explore all the civilizations that the human race has created over millennia of history through a collection of photographs? A never-ending task for which entire libraries would not suffice, and one that is made even more arduous by the fact hat all civilizations are in a constant state of flux and cannot be pinned down within the limits of a page. And yet the evocative and emotional power of images and objects can offer us a glimpse of those worlds and open up their horizons for us. Of course taking a bird’s-eye view of Oceania, America, Africa, and Asia means that many things will be left out. Detail will be lost and the general picture will prevail. And we will miss all those aspects of a civilization that cannot be given visible form (music, for example, or philosophy): aspects to which objects, in their materiality and in their symbolism, can do no more than allude.
Above all, however, there is one thing that perhaps weighs more heavily than all the others: the absence of Europe. Here the material and artistic culture of Europe and the West are missing, or rather only appears in an indirect form, precisely through photography as a medium and as a way of looking a culture that makes it presence felt in the very idea of trying to contain other civilizations within a book as well, in particular, as in the contemporary photographs that are interspersed here with the pictures of objects: images that conjure up exotic journeys and explorations, but also stories of conquest and domination. Through them we are offered not just fitful glimpses of the objects in their original context and the people who used them, but also an insight into the gaze that has been turned on them: a gaze that is sometimes sympathetic but more often classificatory, in which the taxonomic aims of science overlap with those of the police file. It is here that the exotic allure of the settings and the aesthetic fascination of the objects reveal their limitations.