review

Pietro D’Agostino’s photography

Can it be presumed that there is an automatic relationship, albeit concealed, between objects of reality and the architectural randomness in the way light acts? Is it plausible to conceive of a dimension which is other, one that enables the observer to detach himself or herself from the strictures of visual meaning in order to accede to a perception of reality that eschews interpretation in favour of poetry? Can photography reveal to us that which our eyes are capable of intuiting but which our brain processes and thereby eliminates for the practical purposes of everyday life?

The answer to these questions is yes and proof can be found in the research work Pietro DAgostino has been carrying out for several years now. Defining the scope of what his field of action/perception constitutes as mere photography would be a tad reductive and, moreover, misleading. His procedure of enquiry is as much methodological, i.e. prompted by rational intelligence, as it is irrational — underpinned by an urge to investigate that is instinctive and so much more in keeping with poetry and meaningfulness than with any thought of formal theory applied to the realisation of an artistic object. This attitude is free of contradiction and if anything, the impression that ensues is one of fundamental consistency that is rarely accomplished by other contemporaries. If an adjective must thus be found to fit Pietro DAgostinos work then perhaps philosophical is more appropriate than the overused and trite artistic. What transpires in his work is a kind of all-encompassing vision, a perceptive need that induces him to source, wherever it is already to be found in real life (and everything is already present in real life), the unavoidable architecture of light. The fact that he draws away from content and veers instead towards recording that which our psyche deletes in order to keep us sane is, in and of itself, an act of unconventional creativity — an act that casts off perceived wisdom to focus not on explaining but on acknowledging our surroundings which we are no longer capable of understanding, caged in as we are by the relentlessness of codified messages.

The pseudo-abstract photography of DAgostino is therefore the flipside to the depiction of nature which has shown a come-back in recent years as a field of interest and study. He is not pushing it when he places a casual image side by side with the lush vegetation of the Roman countryside; he is showing us, rather, the power of the multi-directionality and receptivity of his gaze, attesting to the presence of the photographer in the world and to his need to become a radar beaming on the existence of what can and cannot be seen. Its not as if he is out to interpret, to represent or even search if anything he comes across the same architectural elements whether it be in light acting upon objects or in the senseless whirl of nature getting tangled up in itself. His approach could even be termed musical for his images are to be read exactly the way one would a musical score, as the symphonic blending of various elements that come together to summon a theme in which certain shapes, trails, shadows and light act as a reminder to our sight that its field of action is quite limited and that in nature everything already is and is ready to be photographed. Given all this, it was a foregone conclusion that DAgostinos work itinerary should lead him to languages that run parallel to photography. Video, first and foremost, which in his world goes beyond the connotative meaning of mere device and ends up being a new linguistic terrain. And secondly in the construction of objects whose aim is to portray in three-dimensional form an architecture of light that does exist but is not visible.

It is as if DAgostino were enveloped in a realm of quasi-scientific research whose aim is not to discover but rather to direct ones gaze on what convention deems to be taboo, on what a particular culture may have rendered sacred by snatching it away from human sensibility. There is something quite subversive about his work and the way it tends to reveal whatever it is that draws us closer to the enigma of existence. His gaze is fixed directly on the real existence of the visible/invisible effects of light, knowing full well that his attitude lies at the heart of a paradox, of a healthy contradiction. Undeniably, the creative procedure of this photographer from Lazio is the offshoot of doing away with what is sacred and finds expression in recording events that the gaze of an individual perceives automatically. It is equally true, however, that the intellectual line he followed to end up working this way is replete with his humanity, his exploration of inner sensations through the medium of photography, his ingrained need to share. The bottom line is that his way of photographing uproots the artist from the god-like status of demiurge or maker who can create something out of nothing, and paves the way for the artist to be regarded as an individual who manages to forge a physical shape for whatever experience and events are encompassed by a given intellectual process — and in doing so, the artist morphs into a malleable and organic matter that belongs to nature itself.

DAgostino reverses the dehumanising process of art by humanising the creative procedure and does so by re-allocating pride of place to the individual, who is seen as a receptive being and laden with cultural accoutrement, at the centre of the meaning of making art. To put it in paradox, one could state that it is not the photographer who is at work here capturing light and portraying nature but that it is light and nature, instead, that are photographing his gaze. The images, the videos, the transparent cubes that inhabit his world of expression are extraneous to time and space. They speak to us of the relationship between human beings and nature, between what the eye sees and reality, between rationality and the unconscious, between an idolising way of doing things and a humanised way of doing things. His works simply are and nothing more, as are those works that are not perceptible, invisible to our eyes, those that DAgostino might chance upon along his path but that, for unfathomable reasons, he will never retrace. In his photographs, light ends up becoming the object, one that is both subject to explanation through technical and scientific evaluation and, at the same time, impervious to explanation because it is a hidden away indication of the extreme stratification of the meaning of any thing of nature, of life itself. A destabilising and piercing poetry lurks about in such a complex visual approach, painful even for the mind to grasp, a visual poetry that discloses a disconcerting pathway could in all likelihood lead nowhere.

Maurizio G. De Bonis