Giovanni Fredi “Scrolling among pictures” at SMDOT/Contemporary Art, Udine

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In keeping with his research into the ways our habits are changing as we increasingly use new digital technologies, this new project is a reflection on photography, on its use and on the photographic object. The use of photography has now become a daily event, our mobile phones are full of images, our photo galleries are extensive. We take pictures, often convulsively, we pay attention to many things at the same time without selecting them, we collect information and archive it in a cursory way. In this context it is interesting to consider the theory described by Roland Barthes in “Camera Lucida.” Barthes describes two ways in which the “spectator,” the person who watches, makes use of the photograph: studium and punctum. Studium is the rational side, concerning the wide field of information that we record, it is accompanied by a “sort of vague, slippery, irresponsible interest”. Studium is an extensive, additive and cumulative kind of reading, it resembles that which we easily sum up with “like” and “dislike”, it lacks anything magical. The punctum interrupts the studium, it pricks us, it pricks the flow of information. It has to do with the emotional aspect, it characterises it, that impossibility of defining the feeling of being moved or giving it a name.
Barthes calls these photographs ‘unary they get exhausted at the level of studium, that is they carry only information that is easily comprehensible. The daily hoarding of images, surrounding ourselves with fast information, risks making our truth uniform and of low symbolic value.
Giovanni Fredi operates in this synthetic conceptual plane, which I’ve attempted to describe. Using a mobile app he’s designed; he attempts to give new re-enchantment to some of the images in the photo gallery on his mobile phone. That which for many of us is an album of, often too crowded, memories. He does this by touching the images, swiping with his fingers on the screen and preserving the traces of these gestures. The fingertips are used like the hand of a painter, and it is through this brush that he sees, marks and discovers his emotions on canvas or paper. He creates connections, and does so by building a path: a path that is emotional and rational at the same time, a path made up of a set of emotions, instincts, memories and information, leaving a trace. This tapping marks a beginning and an end, these unceasing points and lines that cross the surface of the telephone screen unite through touching and swiping. At the same time, however, this increment of attention towards things coincides with forgetfulness, with a distancing from oneself and an opening towards the other. These touches and traces, reflecting the artist’s intentions, take on colour and become vector files, images that can be magnified or reduced without losing quality, a technical detail in line with Giovanni’s goal. And it is here that the punctum arises, to use Barthes’ term. The images that have inspired and attracted his attention in the past and in the present and that are stored in the photo gallery disappear from the background, and only the taps, the swipes, the traces, the colours and the magic remain.
Magic, silence, contemplation, eroticism of the image, as opposed to a pornographic character, are presented as an art object. In the space of SMDOT/Contemporary Art five Things materialize, plus One. Six objects. Five lambda prints on an aluminium base, mounted under acrylic. Here too, as in the vector files, the technical choice is not accidental, as it makes it possible to create chromogenic prints in the same way as one might in a darkroom, recovering the magical process that involves the capturing of light, but starting from digital images.
Japan 2020 (Lines — series), 2020–22, are the title of three b/w 100x70cm works. These are the only works to leave a written trace of their origin: the others two, both entitled Untitled (Lines — series), 2022, 140×100 cm, provide us with no reference, and neither does Untitled (Lines — series), 2022, print on adhesive vinyl, 150×340 cm. The goal is to provoke an enigmatic and silent delight, built on presence, on physical contact, on thingness. All these words and the use of Your attention and time are here to report the impossibility and the renunciation of trying to explain, with either spoken and written language, Giovanni Fredi’s work “Scrolling among pictures” and “Lines—series”. These works create a new relation with the world and reality. They try to create a new magical and individual dimension using contemporary instruments. They do so through the aesthetics of art objects that can simultaneously contain the single and the multiple, the form and the content, the style and the technique, in a continuous movement that does not neglect the statement, the rational meaning, while allowing the sensory dimension to prevail. Photography is certainly the medium of modernity. Like cinema, its digital dimension has accelerated and facilitated its use, probably consuming its symbolic dimension. Being present before the works of Giovanni Fredi—which jealously hide their information, but are full of touches and traces—offers us a rewarding exercise to reactivate our aesthetic abilities, based on sensations and our ability to recognize beauty.

Stefano Monti

at SMDOT/Contemporary Art, Udine
until June 18, 2022

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