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i© Adriano Zanni

«It's too simplistic to say, although there have been many to say it, I make an accusation against this inhumane and industrialised world that crushes the individual and makes them neurotic. On the contrary, my intention (although often one knows very well from where it begins, but has no idea where it will arrive) was to do justice to the beauty of that world. Even factories can be equipped with great beauty. Straight lines and curves of the factories and their chimneys can also be more beautiful than a row of trees that the eye has already seen too many times. It is a rich world, alive, useful»

Michelangelo Antonioni*

Time. Space. Possibility.
Elements connected and interconnected. Abstract in form, to the point that it cannot be perceived if not in an indirect form. And yet they gather consonants and coincide in the visual expression returned by the images. The subject is materially industrial structures of the A.N.I.C. (Azienda Nazionale Idro Carburi), a Government chemical plant desired by Enrico Mattei at the turn of the fifties and sixties. In the petrochemical plant at Ravenna and its surroundings, in the early sixties, Michelangelo Antonioni decides to set his ninth film: Il deserto rosso (The Red Desert). The place is a symbol of modernity and progress at that time. The pollution problem is still far from common awareness (1). The soundtrack of the film – in which the sounds of the factories have an alienating effect on the audience – marks the film in a powerful way.
And right from that sound starts the fieldwork that then evolves into an image. What today, half a century later, is that place of production that at the time of Antonioni symbolised in some way the contemporary evolution? Human presence is always more reduced compared to the past, but the smoke remains, the geometry of the structures, and the sounds of the machines. In a synthetic work, the sounds and the images we have carefully, culturally separated making (except the cinema) art strictly separate, are reunited.

They do not do it, however, using a single support, but propose them again as separate elements that contribute to the story of a place. Simultaneously, however, they return the dimension of time elapsed, one that it has yet to reach, but also the one photo and that without which the sound would not be possible. And still the space that prevails, exalting the awesome power of the metal, the residue of an epic of conquest of man over the control of the laws of nature. And finally the possibility, indeed, the infinite possibility that is revealed in front of the passing of time and careful consideration of how much surrounds us.

[ The Editorial staff ]

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(*) - Free translation from Jean-Luc Godard, An interview with Michelangelo Antonioni (November 1964), ildesertorosso.it.
(1) - Valerio: «Why is that smoke yellow» Giuliana: «Because there’s poison.»
Valerio: «So if a bird passes there in the middle, it dies?» Giuliana: «By now the birds know and don’t pass there any more. Come on.» (Michelangelo Antonioni, The Red Desert, 1964; mins. 1:52:00 - 1:52:28)


Audio taken from Piallassa by Adriano Zanni


Click here to pause/play

i© Adriano Zanni.
THE CHRONICLES OF THE RED DESERT

The photographic project was born as an appendix and continuation of the work of investigation and research on mutations, which happened up until today, the territory in which the film director from Ferrara set his film more than fifty years ago. Work started as sound research based on field recordings, made in the original location of the film. The assembly and the electronic manipulation of these recordings that ended with, in 2008, the publication of an electroacoustic composition in the form of a CD entitled Piallassa (Red Desert Chronicles) released by Boring Machines. Subsequently, the research project has turned into a photographic survey. Antonioni's masterpiece remains in the background of a vision focused on the relics of the past, the mutations occurred in these decades and the wounds left open by the wild industrialisation of the sixties, in the search for what remains of the atmosphere described by Antonioni. The images and suggestions that derive from that become part of the photographic work Red Desert Chronicles (Postcards from Ravenna) also made for the record label Boring Machines, here though as a Publisher, which published it as a cardboard box and screen printed it by hand. It contained 61 black and white prints on recycled paper (Free Life Vellum 215 g) at the end of 2014.

i© Adriano Zanni.

THE RED DESERT - Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni in 1964, it is a film that lends itself to controversial interpretations. While the director himself denies that it is a film against the industrialisation and its consequences, on the other it is undeniable that the human and social landscape that is offered seems rather compromised and dehumanised. The story unfolds around the story of Giuliana, wife of an industrial manager. Severely depressed, so much so she attempted suicide resulting in hospitalisation in a psychiatric clinic, Giuliana is unable to adapt to a world that feels alienated and deprived of real values and the absence of her husband aggravates her illness. The only person who seems to understand her is Corrado, her husband’s friend and colleague, who is also in reality unable to fully adapt to the world around him. During an outing with a group of friends, Giuliana, in a claustrophobic hut, perceives the huge gap between her and the environment that surrounds her. Yet another crisis occurs when her son pretends to be sick apparently so as not to go to school, but it is really to get his mother’s attention. Upset, Giuliana runs for Corrado, but remains disappointed by his departure to Patagonia. The film ends with the beginning of the acceptance by the woman of the world in which she lives. As you can see, the reading level can be layered in various shades ranging from the sinister romance to the work of denunciation of a society in dissolution. If Godard’s interview leaves little room for interpretation of the intentions of Antonioni, it is anyway hard not to find without effort other reading levels far more critical with regard to the contemporary world.

i© Adriano Zanni.

i© Adriano Zanni (4).

i© Adriano Zanni.

i© Adriano Zanni.

i© Adriano Zanni.

i© Adriano Zanni (4).

i© Adriano Zanni.

© Adriano Zanni Adriano Zanni - Photographer, sound artist and field recorder, Zanni began his career with the publication of music and electroacoustic compositions, working with various record labels in Europe and frequently performing live. He has made a number of publications in photographic papers and web editions, collaborates with local media magazines exploring the area of its territory through photography and works on a daily photoblog on an information website ilPost.it. His works have been part of contemporary art exhibitions; individual and collective web art projects, as well as audio and video installations.

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