Loredana Sferrazza – Through his photographic project entitled Suspended, Massimo Cristaldi, geologist and passionate photographer, leads us in an unusual and sometimes surreal journey in Sicily. “The world is big and beautiful, but it is very offended”, Elio Vittorini made his character Ezechiel say in Conversazioni in Sicilia ( 1941)(1) . Just like in Vittorini’s novel, even in Cristaldi’s portfolio the journey prove to be a pre-text to return to the origins, to search for the essence of places, for traces of a personal and collective history, for the intimacy with the genius loci, for the profound relationship between a people and its Land.
However, Cristaldi decides to focus on the discordant aspects of that landscape, on architectures whose proportions are very different from the harmonies of the Greek-Roman temples or the Arab- orman and Spanish buildings, majestic ruins of the complex history of his land. Cristaldi tells about a Sicily ‘suspended’ between past and present, and his images, just like the ‘ruins’ he has immortalised, become powerful metaphor for something else. Photographs and ruins share, indeed, the same value of physical and symbolic space of representation of the present, memory of the past, projection of future potentials. They both are autonomous subjects endowed with great evocative potential, locus of research, ‘admonition’, instrument of denounce and critical reflection on the dysfunctional relationship between men and their environment. Cristaldi’s shots show a disharmonious geology of the landscape, a fragmented and dis-integrated morphology of his territory, disfigured by abandoned and suspended architectures, awkward ruins, spaces waiting for new identities and reconquered intimacies.
Devoid of any nostalgic artistic glorification of the past, the ‘ruins’ and the ‘suspended’ architectures of Cristaldi’s photographs become a new paradigm of our time, of a precarious and uncompleted contemporaneity, that always changes, destroys and re-builds its own spaces, depriving them of their original! identity, turning them into non-places (2).
Cristaldi’s photographs portray ‘in-between spaces’ whose boundaries seem to intertwine: the greyness of the cement meets the blue of the sky, the remains of a Greek small temple receive the presence of a contemporary man, delirious modem buildings disfigure the beauty of the surrounding natural landscape, ancient buildings reactivate the memory of past times. Every image urges the observer to search for the soul of those places, to re-discover a language that we struggle to understand and speak “because an-anesthetized by the un-aesthetic qualities.” (3)
The evocative power of images invites to reactivate the memory of a place, to re-discover its identity, to re-integrate the built space with its environmental background. Every photo has, in the background, the majestic and undisputed presence of silent protagonists (the sky, the sea, Mount Etna), a Nature that, even if violated and spoiled, obstinately resists the actions of men and time and perpetually renews its own life-cycle.
Every photo warns us about the need to gain a deeper understanding of the features of our territory, it warns us against the risk to transform the places we inhabit into ‘ghostly spaces’, non-places, areas without any interiority, identical to many others, extraneous to ourselves.
Cristaldi’s images want to give voice to those places and, despite his sense of awareness on the strong drive towards globalization, uniformity and unrecognizableness, they urge the observer to unveil hidden meanings, profound sense, expressive and emotional potential.
They intend to restore lost perspectives of wonder and seduction, new landscapes of hope and regained closeness.
- Cfr. Vittorini E., (1941), 2003, Conversations in Sicily, Engl. transi. by Alane Salierno Mason, Canongate, Edinburgh.
- Cfr. Augé M., Non-places. lntroduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, Verso, New York and London, 1995.
- Andreotti G., “Rivelare il Genius Loci”, in Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana, Roma, Serie Xlii, Voi. VII, 2014, p. 536.
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