Laura Serani – We are romantic

In a unique position on the contemporary art scene, engaged in ever new acrobatic feats of poetry and imagination, the artists of ConiglioViola defy classification and come across as the heirs of the Surrealists and Futurists. In the same way, and with the same freedom, they indulge their passion for mingling genres, languages and disciplines. At once creators and actors, directors and performers, they fuse roles, eras, sources of inspiration and forms of expression, exploiting the strange alchemies enabled by the new technologies to give rise to “hybrid and fluid” works, pieces of a fantastic, fantasy, deceptively naïf universe.
It is relatively rare to see constant attention to the past in the works of today’s young artists. Paradoxically that is exactly what we find in the works of ConiglioViola, the most futuristic and technological of all, original interpreters of the virtual revolution, who however draw inspiration from the more or less recent past, ingeniously reworking it. An expression of the zeitgeist, they mix music, photography and video but remain resolutely nostalgic, as all their works confirm, starting with [intlink id=”393″ type=”post”]Romantici[/intlink].

At first glance, Romantici looks like a variation on a family photograph from the end of the nineteenth century, revisited with gentle humour, a tribute to Niépce and Daguerre. But the image is immediately shaken up by imperceptible, then more evident movements of the people in front of the camera. In a sort of semantics each body expresses its discomfort at the long wait involved in the daguerreotype pose. This necessary slowness, which photography has now left behind, is recreated thanks to the use of video, which shows a backstage version of the creation of the final image, an exploration of techniques and media without temporal frontiers.
The filming creates a kind of video clip, with music alleviating the slow passage of time, and words which interact beautifully with the images. The work evokes the complexity of ConiglioViola’s universe, where it is difficult to identify the conceptual, musical or visual genesis of the projects and the ideas that unfold like images in a kaleidoscope.

There is a film of the original version of the song Romantici (a hit at the Sanremo Festival in 1982, belonging to a genre much favoured by ConiglioViola, who are often engaged in rediscovering gems from pop culture). This vintage clip is a long sequence shot of Viola(!) Valentino in front of a fixed camera, performing a series of movements totally out of sync with the lyrics and music. The frontal viewpoint and awkward, improbable moves of early music videos echo those of the daguerreotype, where the result is not down to chance, as it can sometimes be with snapshots, or Cartier Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’, but is rather a question of patience and posing skill, being able to bear the fixed, insistent glare of the camera charged with the task of immortalizing the moment.

To return to the image, at a closer look the resemblance between the people posing appears considerably more evident than the likenesses that are usually difficult to make out in family photos, even when you really look for them. It is the same actor playing the various roles, directly involved as an integral part of the work, as often happens in the collective’s work as authors/artists/actors. Identity, perception, objectivity: Pirandello’s One, No One & One Hundred Thousand all lined up together. Each playing the same shared role: intent on keeping their balance, striking a good pose, trying to achieve an image of dignified composure, and find the right way to hold that troublesome bag. Aware of posing for eternity, all responsible for the end result, except the cat, which must adroitly be kept out of the way, oblivious of the importance of the event.

And these innovative, rare family photos certainly were an event, an important occasion and a ceremony that rapidly acquired the stuff of a ritual. When photos were not taken in sophisticatedly-decorated studios, the photographer would be called to the house and everyone would line up for him in the front room, dressed in their Sunday best. In Romantici, the photo on the wall, where the baby has not yet made an appearance, tips a wink at the repetitive nature of the ritual and mise en abîme.

It is widely held that the best photographs are family photographs. The gentlemen pirates of ConiglioViola know it and do nothing but seek out, invent and reconstruct families to photograph. They are never alone, thanks to cultural and historic belonging, against a background that hops between eras and time periods, linguistic and technological mixing. In a joyful mélange of references to the archetypes of art history or popular culture, from advertising to pop hits, or the realm of fairy tales, they continue their voyage through time with intelligence, wit, the poetry of nursery rhymes, and last but not least, a sparkling spirit of provocation. And their entirely startling evolution lends the distinct impression that they are only just at the start of their journey…

Laura Serani

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