(To all those that have at least once followed a football)
As I suspect what I think happens to all of you, when you look at a photograph, especially someone who is mature in years, I can’t begin to imagine the before and after of that instant which is fixed on film.
It almost like an instinctive reaction, as the mind automatically attempts to reconstruct that puzzle of reality from which the photo has been captured.
I would say that it’s an instinctive feeling, and I think to help us to under stand in Roland Barthes’s words, one of the many key points of the “The clear room”: “in Photography, contrarily it is for such imitations [it’s refers to the painting], I cannot never negate that the thing has been there.
There is a double combined position: one of the present and one of the past. And because this construction doesn’t exist in itself, it must be considered for reduction, such as the essence, like the noema of Photography.” (pag. 78).
Reality and the past therefore are two elements that form the substance photography, one which imposes that we see it with the instinctive reaction, which I mentioned at the beginning.
Of course you can decide whether or not to connect that reality and that past to our present. To do it without doubt means a transformation of that image, meaning that try to put together that reality with our reality, trying to find some affinity in the manifestation of differences. It is exactly what Cristiano Chironi did with the GAP and what he forces us to do. It is a work, which has got at the same time an important visual immediacy and inevitable conceptual complexities.
The GAP story starts from the life of Vittorio Vialli a lieutenant and passionate photographer, who with his Voigtlander/Vito 35 mm documented the military camp’s life of prisoners in German, in which he lived about 20 months after the 8th of September 1943. An extraordinary documentation for the images and also for the difficult conditions in which they were kept. Can you imagine the scene of a boy who hid a camera covered with potato peelings, then suddenly pulled it out and clicked. It was like stealing and more than once he must have risked hard punishment, or even his life.
It is not difficult to imagine his gasping breath and his eyes looking around quickly after he took a picture of the guard tower or of the other prisoners.
A risk so great as unwise, given the real needs that Vialli certainly had. Why he took pictures every day instead when it would have been much more sensible to take the risk for a blanket or for warm soup?
But those pictures are for us a precious thing today, for the acquaintance. Indeed more: the possibility of being able to watch what Vialli and the other prisoners watched. And above all to pick beyond those images, the odours, the misery and the fatigue of men who decided to be free in the imprisonment, to not be any more accomplices of that terrible madness that had destroyed populations and nations.
After all that Vialli certainly was convinced while he took the photos and also a few years later when he added some explanatory captions to his pictures. Today Cristian Chironi is convinced about Vialli’s ideas and when Chironi looked those pictures tried to put his eyes literally inside those photos.
As of this then Chironi, made the necessary substantive differences, it is a choice that one can say is unwise, or at least difficult to reconcile with the condition in which we are and leaves no room for other times, be it past or future and with this reality joins the not secondary difficulty of negotiating the collective memory with the fragmented individualization in the different levels in which reality is articulated.
Chironi wears a football strip with a striped shirt and white shorts, I would say a classic, which echoes also the typical prisoner’s uniform and in this uniform fits into a coherent, but chromatically and by definition digital clearly visible as in the images of Vialli. Why? The thematic choice of football is the “trait d’union” between that time and our time, between that extreme situation and our comfortable present, maybe it is the simpler thing to understand.
Chironi in looking for a common location, an element which allows the conjugation between the two space-time situations and found it in the passion for the game of football which was a way to escape the drama of the situation asserting the persistence of life, of hope and of freedom into the passion for a football game.
Maybe only few people know that in a lot of prisoner camps, there were football games, and they created a small championship, it seems an astonishing thing but it is not so difficult to understand.
Malnutrition, fraught people who decided to forget for half an hour their conditions and leave their prison camp pitch and re-enter on the pitch behind their houses screaming for a goal.
That was the proof to themselves and to the jailers that they were alive in spite of everything.
Chironi in the football uniform like a real football player becomes one of them, he supports them and he put their flame in his life.
Amongst other things, and not secondarily, it is not the first time that Chironi has used football and he put himself in the football strip.
He has realized performance, video and photographic work, in which the central element is just as iconic in meaning. A choice that is known deeply in western culture, the subject of reflection and absolute passion for many people. According to Sartre, football was in fact a metaphor for life, but even more, for Sergio Givone life was a metaphor of football; the latter statement is so sincerely true that it’s paradoxical. I want to at least remember the love of Pier Paul Pasolini for the soccer memorable, and his clear thinking he has dedicated to this game. Among the most interesting is that one of football as a system of complex signs and so can be defined as a language. About this subject you can found memorable pages in the second book of “Tests on the literature and on the art” publish to you from the Mondadori.
But if this, Chironi-footballer is precisely the visual aspect friendly and easy, the operation makes it plausible that conceptually this inclusion, rather well, this identification, is a real reversal of his (our) eyes, and then his (our) position in this than in the past, and in this extended the same against the past.
Chironi looks to us from Vialli’s photos but the important thing is that we are looking our present from the past of Vialli’s photos.
A reversal which is similar to the one of the most important production of the Art History of the second half of twentieth century, of the younger looking Lorenzo Lotto” Giulio Paolini of 1967.
The subject of inversion and the consecutive look is then the crucial element of the entire programme. Chirone is in the photos but forces us to see him not only from the position in which we are but above all from the perspective of the person in the photos. It is a technique similar to that of Paolini’s work: the boy is looking at Lorenzo Lotto but we “the viewers” see not only this boy but also from the similar perspective of Lorenzo Lotto because we are under the eye of his look.
Looking at the present from the past is for us an extreme technique made possible in a narrative dimension such as in film, but not as simple as an isolated picture, which imposes an acrobatic contortion on our exclusive relationship with the present.
A contortion which Chironi continues through manipulation of the battle schematics between the partisans and the Germans, retracing memories years later from Ferruccio Montevecchi.
Drafts done on geographic paper which retells the story of the battle of Monte Battaglia, combat between Cà dei Gatti and Cà di Guzzo, between Cà di Malanca and Purocelo, become thanks to the variations of chromatic signs, of words and symbols and the rectangular perimeters in which the plans are in the centre, like a true football tactics schematic, that are drawn up by the coaches before the match.
By modifying the essence of the symbols, the meaning and consequence of colour change. Chironi concentrates on the delicate task of the interpretation, that a small variation can make substantial changes on the valuation about what has happened. But the visual- sound apotheosis of this work of the resetting of the temporal GAP and of the overturn is with undoubtedly the video GAP 7.
A series of aerial images of Italian landscapes afflicted by destruction of war.
Valleys, rivers, streets and mountains which alternate according to the rhythm of the Champions League, the most important football competition in Europe, and it is the most followed event in the world.
The football players say that when they are deployed next to the others on the football pitch and hear the music they feel one of the strongest emotions of their professional lives.
I think is the same feeling that they felt when they played football on that pitch behind their houses, and I think it is the same emotion that they felt in the prisoner camp or maybe not.
For some things it is very difficult to understand through images and is more difficult through words in the untouchable present, in which the emotions are so widespread that it is hard to prove the authenticities of the emotions. The present as seen from the past by Raffaele Gavarro, 2008.