The book Mario Giacomelli. Under the Skin of the Real (Ed. 24 Ore Cultura 2011, by Katiuscia Biondi, with Catia Zucchetti and Marina Itolli) in a certain sense came from my need to mourn the loss of my grandfather and the desire to keep him alive, or bring him back, encore. A desire, then, favored by my own studies in philosophy allowing me to set out to deconstruct Mario Giacomelli’s body of photographic work to find its hidden, secret structure with the knowledge that to find my grandfather again I would have to look for him in his art.

So just like from a Derrieda-ian script, from inside his body of photographs and the resulting technique, flow repetition and différence – a certain ritual directing the lots cast by his entire photographic production. A continuum, with its internal false notes, opened up for me the meaning of a Giacomellian universe: “Language becomes the place where the picture breathes. The picture is a product of a faceless internal force exploding within space. I change reality to make sense out of the subject. To mean, I decompose and recompose.” (Mario Giacomelli in the 90s, from a document preserved in the Mario Giacomelli Archives in Senigallia). Giacomelli’s method, or approach to photography, which is a mix of his own life and autobiographical data, lead me to say that he is above all a Performer – searching for a new order he sets into motion a chain of signifiers, the circular meaning of eternal return into which he can penetrate to find himself: the circle of the desired, and yet never to be found (hence the repetition), dimension of intrauterine unity and with it the finish of any spatial or temporal distance between the artist and the world.

This re-created space is marked by the powerful gestural expressiveness seen for example in the variations in those shots (from the series-container Poems in search of an author from the 90s shown in the “Philological Room” of the exhibition Mario Giacomelli. Under the Skin of the Real at the Ducal Palace in Senigallia from 1 June through 31 August, 2012 curated by the author, Katiuscia Biondi), of the crusty old wall of a building in ruins where twisted, rusty scrap iron and other discarded objects hang and which from shot to shot, have been moved or “manipulated” by the artist. Giacomelli is a Performer when, after a lifetime of having put his own imagery and symbolism into the Real of photography at the end of his artistic-existential itinerary, he himself enters the picture to be photographed, physically, and places all his self-expression in one unique and immense photograph fragmented into 40,000 pictures, like in a film, or Richter’s long dada rolls!

For the artist, his worth is in the whole of his production and not in each single picture; it is creating that counts, the moment of the creative act, the long “while” (as Heidegger would say). “I am interested in a reality that breathes, that keeps moving, so I tell “something”, and this “something” is important in so long as it can be separated from my intentions and put into a place controlled only by feeling or sensibility, and where everything is imbued by a new flux.” (Mario Giacomelli in Mario Giacomelli. Under the Skin of the Real, p.19 footnote 43).

In this long operation of transforming reality that happens during the artist’s “act” or performance, by using photography, the Real, or the photograph’s subject, is emptied of its peculiarity and made into a place of new connections – those of the artist that fill the Real with his own imagery. “The photographer – to get out of the human body and the the Real’s conditioning into the synergy of the whole, of the scene’s geometry, in the first place uses light (taken to extremes by contrast) to escape from realism. The blinding light of the flash even during the day, or burning light when printing, both make it impossible to recognize and position the photographed subject in a precise time or place. High contrast eliminates that which is human in a subject (characteristic traits and the folds of skin on a face disappear, bodies are mere silhouettes, black or white or filled with superimpositions and overlaps) – that which is left is a subject reduced to a mask that then, in the final creative stage, arriving at an “exasperation” of the mask, is made up of inanimate figures (a mannequin, a rubber mask filled with cloth, fake dogs, plastic birds) where the subject is literally figure/mannequin or marionette just like in Bauhaus theatre” (Katiuscia Biondi in Mario Giacomelli. Under the Skin of the Real, p. 21).

Giacomelli’s own copy of the book Minor Manners (Achille Bonito Oliva, Minori Maniere Feltrinelli 1985) preserved in the Mario Giacomelli Archive in Senigallia is heavily underlined with numerous citations and thoughts jotted down by the photographer himself. Here, I would like to quote Achille Bonito Oliva: “The primary question coincides with biological life and like it, has the same continuity of breathing, presenting itself as the natural practice of existence. A faculty that sets into motion language, infinitely. The artist makes his mark, puts himself inside the circle traced around his oeuvre along with the necessity of repetition which is the very mark of existence […]. The creative activity of art itself can be understood as the recovery of layers of memory and as the acting out of one’s own existence, inscribed by the shape of eternal return”.

It is for the closeness of my “living” Mario Giacomelli’s art to Achille Bonito Oliva’s speaking about it, that this book’s introduction bears his signature.

Katiuscia Biondi
The Director of the Mario Giacomelli Archives © Rita Giacomelli

in «Arte Contemporanea», October/November 2012

Mario Giacomelli. Written Lands / Written Landscapes, edited by C. Benigni and M. Zanchi. Texts by Corrado Benigni, Mauro Zanchi, Katiuscia Biondi; interview by C. Benigni with Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Silvana Editoriale, Milan 2017

M. Andreani, Photo-poems: Visual Impact Strategies and Photo-story in the Work of Mario Giacomelli and Luigi Crocenzi, in G. Alù – N. Pedri, Enlightening Encounters. Photography in Italian Literature, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2015, pp. 141-168