Writings        Events        Courses                                                                                 Open Calls        About        Join&Support 

by Benedetta Casagrande

Since its advent, photography has been a lens through which we understand and map the world surrounding us. Human beings are characterized by an anthropological need to control and master their surroundings, and the photographic medium (alongside new technologies such as satellite images, Google maps, Facial Recognition softwares and CCTVs)  provided a new method to exercise control over space and human flow. With the arrival of new technologies we are provided with an overflow of virtual images of the world which we have never experienced in the history of photography. The accessibility of such materials inspired lens-based artists to explore the potentials of such technologies, commenting upon the impact they have on the way we experience our surroundings. The technical images we are fed with become part of a collective imaginary landscape of time and place; not only is the world being recorded into images, but we begin experiencing it as an image itself. The virtual becomes enmeshed within the actual. Vilém Flusser suggests that “human beings cease to decode images and instead project them, still encoded, into the world ‘out there’, which meanwhile itself becomes like an image - a context of scenes, of states of things.”

The photographic material originally produced for surveillance purposes is today being selected, cropped and rearranged by a multitude of artists which return the material to the sphere of the critique. Amongst these artists we find Matteo Pasin, Italian lens-based artist who works with both moving and still images documenting the relationship between power, landscape and social bodies. Pasin’s research deals with the substitution of the actual with the virtual and with the politics of space, with a reiterated focus on the human-made segmentation of space. Among his latest works we find Weltanschauung (2016), a body of work divided in three chapters which borrow their material from Google Earth.

The first chapter, The World as Will of Representation, is a five minutes looped video composed of 6,000 satellite photos of the world taken from 2001 to today. The images, overlapped on one another, break down and become illegible. The overload of photographs creates a saturation which obscures the world we are supposed to look at; the image overtakes the world. National and natural borders become indecipherable. Yet, the images are fragmented because of a system of still images which attempts to capture a world in constant movement. These fragmentations give birth to new, virtual boundaries which substitute the natural barriers we are acquainted to. Matteo Pasin explains; “the excess of representation of the earth’s surface leads to a general telematic deterritorialization that overhangs and erases orography and frontiers, both national and natural borders. So, above the biosphere, the infosphere unfolds: it’s the new digital and virtual landscape crossed by information highways flows overwhelming in every corner of the globe.” The metamorphosis of the world-as-image culminates in Pasin’s moving-image piece.

The second chapter, Sedentary/Segmentary, zooms closer to specific areas, exploring the on-earth separation of territory. The relationship between man and nature is illustrated by the formation of abstract geometrical shapes which reveal men’s need to fragment and organize nature in order to master it and contain it. This universal practice creates a global design with geographic variations. European territories can be recognized in opposition to American ones because Europeans have historically adapted the segmentation of territory to natural boundaries; hills, mountains and streams defined the positioning and boundaries of the segmented land. On the other hand, the american method of segmentation does not take into account natural boundaries, creating a grid design which is arbitrarily placed over the territory. The title of the project establishes a relationship between sedentariness and the need to segment terrain in order to institute property over the bordered space.

The third chapter, Call of the Void, New York, takes the viewer in an uncanny tour of a virtual replacement of New York City. The moving-image piece records scenes of a virtual New York which appears as a deserted post-apocalyptic landscape. In the attempt of stretching 2D pictures over 3D models of the city, Google Earth’s software deforms the scenery creating an array of pixels and glitches which convey a striking sense of destruction. Exploring the imagery surrounding the events of 9/11, Pasin reflects upon the significance of the destruction of power symbols such as the Twin Towers. Hollywood’s disaster movies created a collective imaginary which was materialized during the events of 9/11. Pasin comments: “The Twin Towers attack has been a hyperreal event in the way that the latent and insistent phantasmatic Image has penetrated our reality [...] That’s why we wanted to see it again and again, with a mysterious pleasure, the same scenes repeated, spectacular scenes already seen in video games and in Hollywood's disaster films, because ‘the question today is no longer to know if the cinema can do without a place but if places can do without cinema’ (Virilio).” The second half of the video takes us to the site of the now gone Twin Towers and virtually penetrates the disappeared buildings, creating a glitch. The glitch is employed as a virtual destruction and deconstruction of the power symbols. The optical illusion created by the glitch creates a dual sense of presence and absence, leaving the viewer pending between two contrasting impressions. Whilst we witness a downfall of elements, the power symbol collapsing upon us, the eye is tricked into believing that it is uprising towards a dark, unreachable galaxy.

Zooming closer and closer into global structures of separation and fragmentation, Weltanschauung creates a complex mosaic that narrates men’s relationship to its surrounding, both physically (on-land division of territory) and virtually (the real world substituted by its image). Through the appropriation and manipulation of virtual material, Pasin illustrates how images have become a fundamental means of constituting the world, inviting the audience to immerse themselves in a face-to-face confrontation with the virtual - but somehow empirical - reconstruction of the earth we inhabit.

Ardesia Projects P.IVA 5950425000