Karen Navarro’s mixed-media photography is a tool through which the Argentinian artist explores sides of her past, her identity and the causes that led to the definition of certain personal traits shared with an entire people. The multidisciplinary artist creates photos, collages and sculptures focusing on the theme of belonging, to a physical place and to another of the soul, using portraits and resorting to the use of the written word. All of Navarro’s artistic production is influenced by her being an immigrant (she now works in the United States, in Houston) and descendant of indigenous peoples of South America.
Migration in Karen Navarro’s work is in fact seen as a process of inner transformation, of the formation of a collective identity that reflexively shapes the personal one. The interpretation of the symbols of one’s own culture is present both in the installations but above all in the photographs, in which the subjects stand out precisely thanks to these details, together with the work of image transformation and deconstruction of the work.
A delicate, almost transparent and imperceptible veil floats before our eyes and filters reality, which becomes subjective and never absolute. The philosopher Schopenhauer called it “the veil of Maya,” that impediment that prohibits man from experiencing reality, that deludes us into thinking we know Truth. Photographer Diego Dominici places it between the viewer and his subjects, transforming it into the actual protagonist of the Atman and Red Cloudsseries. The figures – men and women – are trapped in the veil, struggling with it trying to escape, clinging tightly to it, trying to penetrate it; in other cases, instead, they welcome it, lying down and conforming to its persuading softness. The viewer is only allowed to catch a glimpse of the shapes of their naked bodies and their bones imprinted on the surface, in a dance of light and shadow that convey sensuality and loneliness at the same time.
Diego Dominici attempts to break the two-dimensionality of photography, creating two planes of depth: the one dictated by the fabric and its ripples and the one in which the subject is placed. The viewer’s eye is led to move continuously over the surface, trying to overcome it and thus reach the subject and its forms therefore, in other words, the Truth. The analogy with human psychology is stated by the photographer who wants to “rip apart two-dimensionality to investigate the tangles of human interiority.” As in his shots, human beings can choose to be lulled by the veil of illusion, be caressed by a fictitious reality and stand firm on their point of view, or they can choose to break it, thus reaching the other side and look at reality from another perspective. The fabric, or rather the veil, becomes the emblem of relational barriers, those obstacles that come between us and others, which prevent us from understanding the motives of others and create unbridgeable distances. At the same time, the veil becomes part of us, a kind of wrapping that envelops and shapes us, preventing us from going beyond it. But, as Schopenhauer said, the veil of Maya must be torn down, ripped open like a Fountain’s canvas, human must shed the envelope like a snake changing its skin, in order to open up to the other. After all, what is love if not “the cancellation of the ego, the collapse of all conscious discrimination and the renunciation of all methodical choice?” said Salvador Dali in My Secret Life. Diego Dominici’s works thus invite deep intimate reflection but, thanks to his carefully curated aesthetics, they can also simply satisfy the eye and appear as sensual works, in which the veil becomes a prelude to intimate pleasure.
Isabella Ståhl is a Swedish photographer who found herself rediscovering the landscapes of her childhood after traveling all over the world, starting from Stockholm to New York, Paris and Berlin. The North represents the cardinal point from which she initially moved, returning once she honed her artistic maturity, which allowed her to look at the rural, melancholy landscapes of her childhood in a new light. In Isabella Ståhl’s photos, nature with its vast fields and wild, untamed animals shrouded in fog, which also hides everything else in the landscape like a white blanket, dominates. The extraordinary loneliness of the compositions and the melancholy that enters straight into the viewers’ eyes are two of the main characteristics of the work of Ståhl, an established photographer who has collaborated with some of the most important international brands and publishers during her artistic career. Her ability is not only to be able to build a story behind the moments she chooses to shoot, but also to return like physical sensations of warmth, coldness, and chills that make everyone who stops to look at the photographs a protagonist.
Isabella Ståhl was recently a guest artist in the group exhibition ImageNation in New York, March 10-12, 2023, curated by Martin Vegas.
From an Instagram reel of Canadian photographerSean Mundy, one can sense the complexity of his photographic works. His are not just shots but rather it can be said that his works are the result of great imagination conveyed by photography, technical skills of digital post production, and detailed scenic construction. Indeed, in the reel, the photographer shows the process of making the work Summoning, which depicts a series of bodies plummeting from an opening in the ceiling. The Magritte-esque “flying” characters are actually the same person: the photographer takes multiple self-shots as he throws himself onto a mattress, simulating the fall, and then digitally processes them to create the composition. The result is a striking, conceptual work in which visual harmony accentuates and conveys social messages, with a particular focus on the dynamics of collective behavior.
Recurring in Sean Mundy’s works is the figure of a hooded man whose face is not visible. The total black clothing he wears makes him a mysterious, eerie, and shadowy figure, as if he were a soulless shadow. Very often the figure in black appears repeatedly in the same work, creating a united group resembling a cult, intent on actions that are at times macabre. In some works the group is set in opposition to an individual, as in the 2014 work Elude, in which figures in black chase a fleeing man, who differs in his clothing as an ordinary man in jeans and a t-shirt. In other works, however, ritual behaviors are performed, an example being the work Idolatry, which shows the group kneeling in front of a huge black cube suspended in the air. This series of works is a clear reference to social behaviors in which the individual does not possess his or her own personal identity but rather a collective identity emerges that pushes the individual to conform to the mass, both ideologically and aesthetically. In other series the protagonist, alone or in a group, is placed in relation to elements that dominate the composition such as fire in the Barriers series, destroyed cityscapes in RUIN, and red tarps in Tethered, Sean Mundy’s most recent series. The intent always remains to communicate current issues, especially related to externally induced human psychological mechanisms but with obvious intimate repercussions.
On the International Day Against Racism, Dialogica aims to investigate the ability of images to contribute, through an action of intercultural visual literacy, to the elimination of preconceptions related to the phenomena of migration or cultural diversity. Since Gordon Parks began telling the poverty , social injustice and marginalization experienced by African Americans in the United States with dignity and sensitivity, a new narrative model has joined the assault photojournalism, contributing to outline a new iconography capable of restoring a de-colonized, more realistic and less stereotyped vision of the figure of the migrant or, more generally, of the black communities.
To a merely documentary approach, capable of producing hundreds of images that run the risk of feeding clichés and cheesy stereotypes, the new generations of authors working with images they prefer an investigation that focuses more on the place where they live through the use of more sophisticated languages or a insight on the social implications of the migration phenomenon.
The work “Nowhere Near” by the author Alisa Martynova focuses precisely on the need to return a peculiar identity to the erroneously unified vision of the migrant. Alisa uses metaphors and similarities to tell the stories of young migrants, interviewed in Italy (and beyond) for over three years. The groups of migrants, protagonists of exhausting journeys, are metaphorically compared to constellations of hypervelocity stars, that’s to say celestial bodies trapped on the edge of black holes, a kind of limbo from which they can escape only thanks to a clash between two black holes: an exceptional event that projects the stars away from a precarious balance to reach unknown destinations.
Thus, the Dream of a better life, trying to achieve an Eldorado imagined for a long time, but never really displayed, is poetically rendered through night shots in which light reveals for a few seconds what is hidden, showing fabrics and clothes iconographically linked to Afro/Oriental culture, but captured in other places, where the sea often bravely crossed to reach a better life is often present, or the forest/forest to hide in to become ghosts in a foreign land.
A visual short circuit that reaffirms the presence of another culture in an unknown territory, and that moves a reflection on the inner world of migrants with the intention of arousing reactions in those who look and to emphasize the individuality and peculiarity of each portrayed subject, bearer of experiences and unique and unrepeatable stories.
The project “Black skin white algorithms” by the Angolan author Alice Marcelino focuses on the danger of the black communities’ cultural flattening. Alice, whose work explores the dimension of belonging starting from the concepts of culture, tradition, migration and identity, she denounces the anomalies present in facial detection technologies when they interact with subjects with dark skin. Being mainly programmed by Western Man to detect light skin, these technologies do not equally accurately identify darker skin tones, returning summary or approximate views of the recognized subjects.
The inferiority of the black population is therefore perpetrated not only in such unconscious bias, but it’s also fueled by technologies, programmed by white Westerners, resulting in the provision of potential false statements.
To underline this leveling, Alice replaces the subject’s mug shots with the ASCII code one (a standard character set included by all computers) – which reduces their identity to a binary result, devoid of meaning and complexity: the reading of the face is thus totally canceled and made unreadable by both man and facial recognition system.