In the southwestern part of China, in the Sichuan province, about fifty kilometers from the city of Chengdu, you can still visit one of the oldest sites of the country and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dujiangyan and its irrigation system built around 250 BC. This place and its intricate system inspired the architects of the X+Living studio to design a library for the city of Dujiangyan. This is not the first time that we have visited X+Living‘s bookshops, we had in fact talked about the one in Beijing and also the one inspired by Escher‘s works.
This time, however, it seems that the architects wanted to overcome all their previous projects. The bookshop develops horizontally, but thanks to the creation of lofts and small terraces accessible by spiral staircases and, above all, a fully mirrored ceiling, in the store seems to go on forever.
As far as the shapes of the bookcases and the furnishing objects are concerned, X+Living has taken its cue from the shapes and characteristics of the landscape in the area. The columns full of books are reminiscent of the bamboo forests, while the black floor is a tribute to the Min River and the wooden benches in the corridors and rooms are reminiscent of the typical boats that populate the waterway.
For the love of God is an expression that expresses an image of religion understood as a solution to salvation, often associated with a sense of dissatisfaction or impatience. It is in common use, embedded in language as much as religion itself is pervasive, for multiple and complex reasons, in society. “For the love of god” is also the title of the photographic series by French artistBriceGelot, which Collater.al is publishing in full preview. The gaze is toward religion – the Christian Catholic religion in particular – understood as a social-cultural system of behavior, which exceeds rational explanations by tending toward transcendence. It is perhaps in this never running out of meaning in the real world that the success of religious art over the centuries lies, called upon to interpret and depict symbols that are always the same but take on new meanings from time to time.
Photographing faith becomes for Brice Gelot an expression of the reality. Observing how people face the challenges of nature and photographing them means living a life of faith firsthand, which becomes a tool for understanding and analyzing what is sacred and profane. In Gelot’s shots, it emerges how religion is part of the human experience and how it represents a force that can shape the world around us and its aesthetic representation. Tattoos, statues, icons, niches for the veneration of saints, the artistic imagery in these photographs is not metaphysical but real, living along the streets and on people’s skin.
The haze of uncertainty, which came with the advent of the pandemic and the subsequent Ukrainian war, swept over photographerTetyana Maryshko, so much so that it led her to create a long-lasting photographic project in which she relentlessly searches for her own essence. Through a path made of honesty to herself, the Ukrainian photographer explores her inner self by making self-shots in which she blends personal and relational elements. “There is me, the camera and the truth,” says the artist. Each photograph captures a reflection, a conversation, a still moment in time that dialogues with her soul. The shots, in black and white and color, attempt to go beyond the aesthetics of the subject by applying a veil of blurring that prevents the image from being clearly read, or by inserting textured surfaces in front of the lens, such as wet glass or bubble wrap. At other times, however, the photograph is clear and sharp, such as her shot in the bathtub, which hints at suffering. The gaze is lost in emptiness, the flushed eyes exude weeping and despair while the tight lips communicate helplessness, that feeling that every human being feels in the face of war.
An element that recurs often in Tetyana Maryshko’s is the flower, placed in dialogue with the body: placed along the spine or in front of the eyes, to cover the gaze, symbolizing a desire for rebirth. Tetyana tells how it was a long, difficult and troubled journey: “When we turn the camera toward ourselves, we embark on a journey of self-discovery that requires introspection and vulnerability… In the end, this project was not just a personal journey, but a universal one. A testimony to the human experience.”
Inhabiting a body means perceiving it, recognizing oneself in it and being recognized. It means feeling familiar to oneself and to others, relating to the World through nerve endings, fat and senses. The body is the core center of our own identity and will, and the nude has long been a favorite subject for photographers since the birth of the photographic medium. However, speaking of male nude, its diffusion is lower, except for some particular cases, since it has been considered less interesting (if not disturbing) by the dominant “Male Gaze” (or the representation of the female universe, in the visual arts and literature, from a male and heterosexual point of view, which represents women as mere sexual objects aimed at the satisfaction of the male audience). Only since the late ’70s, thanks to the birth of the homosexual liberation movement and the advertising market, we have witnessed a new life of nude male, able to transform the male body into an erotic subject open to hedonistic contemplation.
An example is the iconic body of works by Robert Mapplethorpe, attracted by the male nude since childhood, which recalls classical nudity and gives dignity and beauty to a considered degrading category of people, or the most recent portraits by the photographer Florian Hetz who, through tight close ups, immortalizes the true essence and innate sensuality of the male body.
And it is precisely on the border between art and eroticism that the narration of “Bodies” is played out, the latest project by Francesco Paolo Gassi, a young author from Puglia who investigates the physicality of the body in his practice. Francesco is literally obsessed with imperfections and the naturalness of smudging, far from the glossy aesthetic clichés: hair, skin and body fluids are his playing field, details are his favorite points of view. He moves carefully around the male body, that is at the same time, something familiar to him, but also a source of shame for a community he has had to hide his sexuality for years.
Art, pornography and taxonomy dialogue in the photographic space. The poses, meticulously studied, just as the illumination and the relationship of the body with space, suggest and allude to an eroticization of the body that is never explicit, they orient the human anatomy to emphasize the insignificant and the banal, elevating it to the object of desire. It’s an almost scientific approach that, through the photographic image, aims to make eternal the organic matter of which man is made and to reach the essence of every portrayed subject. Thus, the male bodies become the ideal playing field on which to renegotiate identity, free from social superstructures and free from conditioning, presented to the eye of the observer in its total, disturbing and ambivalent authenticity. The project combines digital photographs with snapshots: the unrepeatable body is perpetuated in the uniqueness of a Polaroid, as well as the quality of the digital image reflects every single detail of the epidermal specificity of each photographed body.
Why do we feel we belong to some places and not others?Danish photographerLise Johansson (1985) questions herself. This reflection is the starting point of her research, based on an analysis of the relationship between humans and the environment they inhabit. Very often our homes represent who we are, they are a reflection of our soul and character. Minimal or baroque, total white or colorful, full of objects or aseptic; in any case, we build environments tailored to us, in which we feel comfortable and which shape our person. But when we go outside the home and find ourselves relating to other environments, such as the workplace, a doctor’s office or our friend’s house, external factors come into play that we cannot control and with which we are forced to interface. Lise Johansson reasons about these unconscious dynamics that govern unconscious psychology.
In the series I’m not here, the photographer makes a series of selfies inside an abandoned hospital. The environment is aseptic and a disturbing desolation in which the white dominates relentlessly. The daylight enters through the windows, sometimes in contrast with the artificial one, accentuating the chromatic power of white, highlighted even more by the milky complexion of the photographer and her long candid dress, typical of hospital patients. The relationship between the subject and the environment is not relaxed. One perceives a melancholy tension, typical of subjects locked inside a place. The figure almost seems to wander like a spectrum, its face is never visible because of the photographic framing and, in other cases, it is hidden inside or behind an object – like a sink or a mirror. This detail allows the woman to be present in space but at the same time not to inhabit it, as if her mind tried to escape in other directions, looking for a way out. Like the subject, the environment is vulnerable, stationary in limbo and undergoing transformation. The place exists, like the woman, but they are forgotten entities, without status and completely emptied of a soul.