FRAMES FROM THE ELOQUENT CITY
Inauguration of the photographic exhibition
presented by Giancarlo Pauletto
with the participation of William Klein
William Klein has an amazing capacity to communicate an event, an immediate piece of information, the essence of “being”. His photographs highlight instants in daily life which, as a result of the sequence of the frames, appear to follow the occurrence in its unrecoverable and undistinguishable multiplicity – here everything is contemporaneous, everything happens at the same instant in every part of the world.
Both Auster and Klein focus closely on this metropolitan humanity, which is for both a “problem”, a complex subject for examination with so many stories and destinies to be recounted.
Frames from the Eloquent City
(from the presentation of the exhibition)
The title of William Klein’s exhibition – “Contacts” – clearly makes reference to the technique contained in the term itself: we know that a photographer produces his initial prints by direct contact between the negative and the paper, and these ‘contact prints’ are commonly used to make an initial selection of the material that will later be used for the finished photographs.
But if the photographer should instead decide to use the “contact print” technique for the final product – in Klein’s case, large-scale prints which he fills in with bright enamel colours – it is because this method holds a great deal of significance for him, as further demonstrated by the fact that the term – “contacts” – has been chosen as the title for the entire exhibition.
Going beyond the mere technical sense of the word, “contact” also – or rather, primarily – has a meaning that is closely related to our social life: our relationships, meetings, moments of attention. In the field of psychology, it may also refer to a moment of sensitivity, surprise or interrogation: It is thus a word that can convey a wide range of human experiences at the moment in which they start, or perhaps the moment at which they end; at that instant in which between ourselves and the world surrounding us there comes into being an identifiable, not simply unconscious, relationship.
Naturally, the perfect location for these “contacts” is the city. The city, where the pace of life is frenetic, where the scenarios change constantly, where life seems to acquire deeper meaning and greater weight, since our lives are based on relationships, meetings and confrontations, that can introduce unexpected contradictions and unexpected changes into the lives of each of us.
William Klein’s prints have an extraordinary and intense power, one that is able to communicate the event, the immediate piece of information, the instantaneous “here and now” which in some ways impacts our entire existence.
If this is the message that Klein wants to transmit, then it is essential that his prints do not convey a sense of formality; rather they must be taken on the run, as it were, in an apparently random fashion. But of course the photographer is well aware that each shot inserts a kernel of reality into a confining but necessary rectangle, and that all this randomness, temporality and instantaneousness, masks an attitude that requires decoding by the viewer.
It is equally obvious that, in this context, the dating of the images is not overly important for their interpretation and that, in the case of an exhibition such as this, the sequencing of the images may be based on criteria other than chronology: whether a print was shot in New York in 1955 or in Paris in 1992 changes nothing in the way that the event emerges: in either case, it is the circumstance that counts.
Some of the characteristics of these images perfectly demonstrate this: the close-up highlighting a small detail – a hand, a pedestrian crossing, a daisy on a jacket, the muscled chest of a bodybuilder, the sequins on a bullfighter’s costume, doves in flight –; the fact that these, almost without exception, are images in motion – student marches, political rallies, sporting events, Gay Pride, dancers, people simply walking – in other words, always situations of movement–; the fact that almost none of them are posed, even though on very rare occasions the image is similar to a portrait, but with irony – that is, a movement that lies within the subject rather than the object – good examples are “Americans” or “Club Allegro Fortissimo”–; and yet again the fact – banal but significant – that there is no sign of the countryside, nor of mountains nor the sea, no “nature” at all, since this would halt the eye and interrupt the movement, forcing the viewer into a form of static contemplation.
In many ways, Klein’s perception would appear to take on a sort of superior impassiveness, an “indifferent” eye reflecting all that is sees, as if from the banks of a pond or a lake.
But then the pictorial element comes into the picture, and radically changes the situation. These are ample splashes of colour – a sort of chromatic timbre that is vivid even if the colour selected is not red or yellow, but perhaps black, white or purple – which, to me, serve a dual purpose, as both signal and structure.
A signal in that it indicates, circumscribes, and gives purpose: in other words, it captures the eye, though not of itself, but rather for the photographic image around which and as a function of which it is structured.
The structure is given by setting the image in a kind of web or cage, in a “form” which calculates and balances spaces and, in the end, gives the whole what we have defined as its “temporality”, its “instantaneousness” – the “being” of the image, an overall consistency that is strong and definitive.
Thus we find ourselves facing the paradox of a photograph made up of “instant images”, which is locked, not (whether symbolically or metaphysically) within itself, but within an explicit and highly evident external element: the chromatic strip, the “frame” which encloses and halts the passage of time.
So what significance should we attach to this operation?
I believe that it serves to affirm that it is the subject, his movement and his decision that gives a sense to the flow of reality.
This position is without doubt problematical and risky; but it also imposes a sense of responsibility: nobody who finds himself in this situation can justify himself by claiming – as so many others have done in the past, and continue to do – that they were simply “obeying orders”.
At this point, if the reader should ask himself what is the link between this William Klein exhibition and the presence in Pordenone of the writer Paul Auster for “Dedica 2009”, I believe that one could reply with two short quotes from The Locked Room, the third story in the renowned The New York Trilogy: “In the end, each life is no more than the sum of contingent facts, a chronicle of chance intersections, of flukes, of random events that divulge nothing but their own lack of purpose”. A few pages later, Auster writes “Every life is inexplicable, I kept telling myself. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling”.
It would be tempting to quote many other excerpts, or even summarize entire passages of the book to demonstrate that Auster, too, is fascinated by random occurrences, the imponderability of events that in the end go to make up the life of each of us, though it would not be possible to come to any rational conclusions that summarize this way of being. The underlying sense may thus be identified with the choice of the author, with the sequence of situations that he decides to bring to the stage: Auster’s “plot”, his “sequence”, therefore coincides, according to this interpretation, with the strips of colour, the “frames” with which Klein recounts the provisional nature, the mobility – in other words, the “temporality” of his photographic images. In this respect, the close affinity between the artists seems to be evident.
photographer, painter, film director from New York, studied painting in Paris, and worked with Mangiarotti, Gio Ponti and Zanuso. In 1954 he created a biting photographic “diary” of New York which was published under the title Life is Good and Good for You in New York and brought Klein world-wide fame. This idea spawned a series of major works describing other cities: Rome (1956), Moscow (1961) and Tokyo (1962). He was fascinated by the Cinema, worked with Fellini, and later produced his film Broadway by Light, which is considered to be the first Pop Movie. He has written films, documentaries and numerous books, receiving many important prizes. His works are exhibited in major museums and galleries throughout the world.
an art historian and critic, has written numerous publications, and collaborates in the visual arts sector of the Centro Iniziative Culturali (“Centre for Cultural Initiatives”) in Pordenone. He has edited and coordinated exhibitions, catalogues and monographs for the Civic Museum in Pordenone and for numerous other public organizations.
Saturday 28 March, 17:30
Sagittaria Art Gallery
Pordenone - Via Concordia, 7