I have never been there but I can say that, symbolically at least, the thirty-year exile from my home town, the never-ending voyage of my existence have been possible thanks to Morocco, on account of a leather suitcase that Leonardo, my brother-in-law, had bought whilst visiting Marrakech. When Patrizia Posillipo asked me to write about her stunning artwork, this essential travel accessory immediately came to mind, as if to help carry the profound poetry of her photography, of which I’d like to tell without breaking the spell lest I damage the message revealed by the image.
I do not know Morocco but travelled through many Tunisian cities, enough to realise that the passages and electric bazaars of Paris, in the famous arcades evoked by Walter Benjamin, are nothing but an attempt to recreate the maze of the souk, the Arab word for bazaar. Within lands stolen from the two deserts of sand and sea there cannot be “main roads”…and what, after all, is the desert? Edmond Jabès, the Jewish Franco-Egyptian philosopher, writes:
“An extraordinary thing about the desert is that one hears before seeing: you hear a noise and half-an-hour later there comes a jackal, a camel […]. The time of hearing and sight are not the same. Here, we hear and see everything in one go, though not in the desert, in the desert there is a long silence between one and the other”.
The works of Patrizia Posillipo, she confided, always rely on two shots, one to anticipate, as when hearing something coming, and one upon seeing the vision that comes into the frame, the only one able to capture the moment. As we enter this territory where flânerie isn’t a political or philosophical act but it is the only way to exist in the world, we can grasp how essential, as well as natural, it is to attune ourselves to Walter Benjamin‘s words: <<we only see what sees us. We only have power where we are powerless>>. And yet, suddenly, that something or someone, simply looking at us, reveals to us what we are, or will be and therefore it has power.
In a serial world none of this happens, something quite obvious to someone who strolled the grand boulevards of Paris, the parallel grids of Turin, the roads and cross-roads of Caserta. Patrizia Posillipo uses the digital, serial, in the analogue mode of the single shot, aided by the benefit of an opening salvo, the sort of run-up that is necessary for a clear jump. If we observe carefully each of the pictures in this polyptich of the instant, we can almost touch with our hands what comes to pass in this double act of shooting.
The game. In the town square, the gambler appears to bamboozle the spectator — we might have expected the boy’s hand covering the face in self-defence, a wish for something to stop — but it is in the dual gaze of the player and the played, the boy in the foreground, that we freeze, unable to move under the cross-fire of two expressions, so different yet so profound in their humanity. Eyes that render us manifest to ourselves.
In this picture and possibly even more in The last supper, such inversion of roles between spectator and actor reveals itself in the utter distraction of the crowd, be that of the Madonna/Christ at the centre of the scene with her little apostles, or of the people busy cooking food or staring at something in the background. Nobody is looking at the lens, but all seem to see things that the camera will help discover.