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iWim Wenders, Western World Development, Near Four Corners, California, 1986.
© Wim Wenders: Wim Wenders/Wenders Images/Verlag der Autoren. C - Print, 124,6x142,2 cm.

«Landscapes give form to our lives, they mould our character, they define our human condition and if you pay attention and sharpen your sensitivity towards them, you'll discover that they have stories to tell and that they are far more than simple places»

Wim Wenders

It was not just the simple story of the different forms, which the landscapes of North America can assume, that narrated by the exhibition Wim Wenders. AMERICA, which was on display until 29 March at the Villa Panza in Varese. The exhibition in honour of the famous German director and photographer – proposed by the FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano (Italian Environment Fund) and curated by Anna Bernardini, Director of Villa Panza – in fact, it left space to a different reading, much more interesting, able to stimulate reflection on the different ways in which you can stand in front of a landscape.
Between the late Seventies and 2003 Wenders crossed the United States, and above all the legendary West, with the spirit and attitude of the nomad, recording photographically, environments open spaces, streets, landscapes, architecture and places more or less forgotten or abandoned. A kind of long road trip, done at intervals several times, often alone, along which he let his sharp and deep gaze open up to the contemplation of the immensity of nature and the power of light. A slow and meditative observation that allowed him to define his photographic identity and return visions able to unhinge, sometimes thanks to the complicity of a panoramic camera, the normal perception of the landscape.
Shot after shot, from the exhibition wanted by the FAI emerged so inevitably his personal reading of that fragment of America, but also his iron will to lose himself in it to open an intimate and deep conversation with all the different environments crossed. A fruitful exchange, which visually translated, the peculiar tendency of the German director, listen to places.
In the images on display – a clear tribute to his friend Dennis Hopper and Edward Hopper, his steel artistic reference – there were landscapes dominated by the silence in which, often, no human figure appeared. And if it appeared it was marginally and/or completely merged into the surrounding environment.
Yet, the presence of man was never as evident and, as often happens, thanks to his unmistakable imprint cementification, which, changes, distorts and sometimes wounds the nature that surrounds him. Buildings, shop windows, doors, windows, debris, means of transport and signs, frequently accompanied by writing – that the author did not hesitate to define real and true haiku intended to help the viewer in the reading of the images – following along the surface of landscapes that seemed to clamour not so much to be looked at, much less admired, but heard.
Because this is the purpose of Wenders photography: bring in those places that still know how to tell their story, turning them into multiple first-person narrators and enables us to listen to their feeble voices. To do this, it was necessary to cancel one’s own presence beyond the lens, in other words fade away in the folds of the landscape and to listen, so that they were the same places to use him to tell and narrate their relationship with us. «What we are ready to listen to is basically the story of their meeting with us, with individuals, with the human race. Although I photograph places rigorously, in the end, my interest points towards humanity. I want to know what the planet can say about us that live on it, who use and abuse it. Leaving traces everywhere, and it is these traces that I try to witness with my photographs.» (1)

[ Stefania Biamonti ]

(1) - from the interview with Wim Wenders by Francesco Zanot during the exhibition Wim Wenders. AMERICA

iWim Wenders, Joshua and John (behind), Odessa, Texas, 1983.
© Wim Wenders/Wenders Images/Verlag der Autoren. Lightjet Print, 124x164 cm.

iWim Wenders, New York, November 8, 2001, II.
© Wim Wenders/Wenders Images/Verlag der Autoren. C - Print, 357x142,4 cm.

iWim Wenders, Woman in the Window, Los Angeles, California, 1999.
© Wim Wenders/Wenders Images/Verlag der Autoren. C - Print, 124x151 cm.

The weather and the scenery in the photography of Wim Wenders

«As a photographer, I usually watch a place, be it a road, a house, a landscape or whatever else. More often than not there is nobody in the frame and if there are, I often wait until they are gone. If I decide to include them, they are small figures, distant, merged into the landscape. But the main thing is the place itself. In my book (Once, editor's note) The place is a character, and as such also a storyteller. This place has a history that tells other stories. These stories are visible, they are transcribed so as, to be seen or heard. These stories are revealed both in detail both in the overall appearance of the place. You only need to be willing to let the place make its stories known. Photography positions the place outside of time, as you say, but also allows you to study its relevance more accurately. The act of photographing raises the place and its stories in eternity, where its own temporal condition can be enlarged, studied and witnessed forever. Thus the photographic image does both: unveils eternity and at the same time makes it obsolete, it shows it only to have it disappear immediately after. (...) It is this inherent contradiction in each photo that makes the act of photographing so attractive in my eyes, so unique and sacred – it is hard to find other words. In each of these images you feel the nature of time, the essence of mortality and immortality. Cinema is different in the sense that the film imposes its own time. Each film is an architectural in time, and is equipped with its own rules. The film work imposes a control (...) while photography is free from that».
Wim Wenders

(*) - excerpt from the interview with Wim Wenders made by the curator and photographic critic Francis Zanot during the exhibition Wim Wenders. AMERICA.

iWim Wenders, Street Front in Butte, Montana, 2000.
© Wim Wenders/Wenders Images/Verlag der Autoren. C - Print, 178x447 cm.

iWim Wenders, Used Book Store in Butte, Montana, 2000.
© Wim Wenders/Wenders Images/Verlag der Autoren. Lightjet Print, 124x234 cm.


Wim Wenders. AMERICA

curated by Anna Bernardini, Director of Villa Panza & the Panza Collection.
16 January 2015 - 29 March 2015

Villa e Collezione Panza
piazza Litta, 1 - Varese (Italy)

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am - 6 pm.
Closed on Mondays (open on public holiday Mondays).
Entry fee: 12,00 € (10,00 € Tuesdays and Wednesdays); students (up to 26 years): 8,00 € on working days and 10,00 € on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays; FAI members and children (4-14 years): 6,00 €; family (2 adults + 2 children): 30,00 €.

Wim Wenders - Born in Düsseldorf on August 14, 1945, Wim Wenders first studied medicine and philosophy in Freiburg and Düsseldorf before moving to Paris in 1966 to follow his vocation and become a painter. But instead of entering the École des Beaux Arts he enlisted as an apprentice in the studio of german painter and engraver Johnny Friedländer and spent his afternoons and evenings at the Cinématèque Française. This «crash course in the history of cinema» became a key period for Wenders' intellectual formation. He started to write about film and saw this newly discovered art as a «continuation of painting by other means». But his career as a filmmaker only began when he discovered that in Munich the University for Film and Television was about to open, the first of its kind in Germany, and he was accepted for the Directing Class as one of the students of the first hour. From 1967 to 1970, parallel to his studies at the HFF, Wenders worked as a film critic for the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the magazines Filmkritik, Twen e Der Spiegel. In 1970 he finished his studies with his first full-length film, Summer in the City. In 1971 he founded the company Filmverlag der Autoren and then his first own production company Road Movies in 1977. One of the most important figures to emerge from the New German Cinema period of the 1970s, he obtained international success with films like The State of Things (1982), Paris, Texas (1984), Wings of Desire (1987) and the documentary Buena Vista Social Club (1999). Alongside directing atmospheric auteur films the artist works with the medium of photography, and his poignant images of desolate landscapes engage themes including memory, time, loss, nostalgia and movement. His long-running artistic project, Bilder von der Oberfläche der Erde (Pictures from the Surface of the Earth), began in the early 1980s and was subsequently pursued by the artist for the next twenty years. Since the 1980s Wenders’ photographs have been exhibited at an international level in key artistic venues such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1986), the Venice Biennial (1993), the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin (2001), the Guggenheim Bilbao (2002), the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome (2006), the Museum of Multimedia Art in Moscow (2012) and Villa Pignatelli in Naples (2014). The numerous marks of recognition received during his career include membership of the Academy of Arts Berlin since 1984. He was awarded honorary doctorates at the Sorbonne University in Paris (1989), the Theological Faculty of University of Fribourg (1995), the University of Louvain (2005) and the Architectural Faculty of the University of Catania (2010). He is presently the European Film Academy president and a member of the order Pour le Mérite. Currently he is teaching film as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg.

Photo: © Donata Wenders.

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