Chilly January mornings tend to lack the natural sunlight of the warm season. They hide the details of the neoclassical rationalist architecture outside the train station in the artificial shadows of the pre dawn lights. It’s 7:10am. Our connection to Bologna leaves in 2 minutes and we try to lay out the itinerary that awaits us at the Artefiera. We’ll be spending a good amount of walking time through the stands of the galleries. We’ll try to meet some of the “real” maestros of artistic avant-garde and classic re-enactment in the crafts of oil on canvas, sculptures and photography. Following a crowded bus ride from the main station to the exhibition area, our first impression is, that the fair has witnessed an astounding growth since its last year’s edition. A clear index for an increasing interest from collectors and galleries. In between all the spaces presenting and representing their artists we choose to concentrate on works of photography, a rather circumscribed array of inspiring endeavors with a strong link to contemporary style performance. The themes span from hyper realistic set designs defined by a dehumanizing gaze from Yuval Yairi (Podbielski contemporary) to the documentary photography of Mattia Zoppellaro (Traffic). His subjects include, among others, contemporary youth subcultures in seemingly lost – for a certain type of youth subculture – regions around the world. In one of his series (CCCP) he depicts/captures a small group of young punks from St. Petersburg. In our perception they look like outtakes from a London documentary from 1978. But what’s special about these photographs, is the fact, that when they were shot, this kind of subcultural movement has already been officially banned and illegalized by the ruling powers in Russia.
In fact, after the Pussy Riot performance, organized gatherings of a certain number of people without previous authorization, were banned from the public spaces. It’s a recurring motive in the history of youth subcultural movements: publicly displaying their will to renegotiate mainstream culture through their styles and clothing, their music and attitudes, they impart fear and rejection. Mr. Zoppellaro’s accounts on the genesis of this series of photographs is a fascinating story, with anecdotes and fearless faith in one’s mission. Starting by train from St. Petersburg Mr. Zoppellaro had to reach the border to Finland. From there on he followed strangers identified by passfrases as the connecting link to reach an abandoned farm equipped with the Soundsystem for the small event he planned to capture in his photographs. Mr. Zoppellaro’s photography condense all of the details we’ve already sublimated as belonging to an uniformed group from the streets of London in the mid 1970is: the studded leathers, the carefully erected Mohawk, pink or in a similar shade, the jump boots with the white or red laces. This group in the pictures though is not re-enacting a subcultural moment they witnessed in some sort of mainstream media. They perform what in their world is forbidden, a style grown out from an immanent need to become subjects, autonomous individuals, in negation and open antagonism to the surrounding. In this sense their performance has morphed into a simulacrum (Baudrillard, 1981). Identifying their attempts as such, we, the bystander and mere observers, survivors from an era of unlimited creative freedom, have the obligation to rethink our contemporaneity and unveil the simulacra.
“Such would be the successive phases of the image: It is the reflection of a profound reality; It masks and denatures a profound reality; It masks the absence of a profound reality; It has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.” (Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 1981, p.6).