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in conversation with Alessio Bolzoni
“I found it was a moment of introspection but most of all, it was a moment of survival,” says the Italian photographer Alessio Bolzoni, commenting on his experience as an image-maker during lockdown. Whilst normally London-based, Bolzoni spent months of legal confinement in Milan – one of the first European cities to drastically suffer from the pandemic. “Milan became a sort of symbol that every other country was looking at,” he told A Magazine Curated By. “After two months without leaving my friend’s apartment, we drove through the city one day and I saw many empty billboards. Those empty spaces were saying everything about the loss and the sense of powerlessness we were feeling.”
Alessio Bolzoni is known for his experimental approach to photography, showcasing contorted nature and bodies in his 2016 and 2018 publications Abuse and Abuse II: the Uncanny. The photographer, who also photographed the series Dragon’s Dream inside A Magazine N°20 Curated By Pierpaolo Piccioli in October 2019, was propelled to reflect on human proximity on a large scale to embody new beginnings in Milan and the wider world. From June 11th to 21st, Bolzoni presented ‘Action Reaction’, a satellite exhibition of photographs plastered over twenty six billboards in sixteen different locations across the city of Milan – on Corso Lodi, Viale Forlanini and Viale Venini to name a few. “Every billboard is in fact a post-pandemic ‘scream’. The bodies now speak a different language from their original intention. When I visualized them on the billboards around the city I immediately saw them speaking about us in this specific moment in history.”
The project was the result of a collaboration with Italian curator and art critic Teresa Macrì. “We phoned weekly during the lockdown, and when I had the idea to create the exhibition around the city I called her and said ‘Listen, tell me if I am crazy, but I’ve got this idea…’ She immediately replied: ‘you have to do it!’” As Macrì states: “Bolzoni’s pictures, shot in the aseptic environment of the studio, serve as a kaleidoscope of multiple identities, all caught in the operation of acting/reacting, in the constant pursuit of a symmetry of opposing yet harmonising forces. In this attempt, the bodies can only take unimaginable postures in order to free themselves from a force stored and retained, in order to get rid of a state of stillness.” While the official exhibition lasted until June 21st, the photographs will remain on display as long as they’re not replaced by advertising. “These artworks are disposable somehow, and when removed they won’t exist anymore. Some might stay longer if the spaces are not sold and the rain or sun will make them disappear eventually.”
With this comes the question of producing and showing art in a post-pandemic world where digital experiences seem to be the best hope for many museum and galleries. “I truly believe that the physical experience is a crucial part of creating art, in both the making and the viewing,” says Bolzoni, who has remained in Italy to complete a new cumulative photo book entitled ‘Accumulo’, as well as a fanzine documenting the billboard installations – which will be distributed for free around the world in cities including Milan, Paris, London, Berlin and Tokyo.
Street views by Giulio Ghirardi
Words by Maxime Der Nahabédian
ALESSIO BOLZONI is a London-based photographer. Since 2010, Bolzoni has been working on a personal artistic research to find new ways to represent the human figure. He has published two art books, Abuse (2016) and Abuse II: the Uncanny (2018). Bolzoni is also known for his commercial photographic work for fashion houses such as Valentino, Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Off-White.
TERESA MACRI is an Italian art critic, curator, and author of numerous essays on art and philosophy, among which Il Corpo Postorganico (1996) or Pensiero Discordante (2018).
‘Dragon’s Dream’ by Alessio Bolzoni in A Magazine N°20 Curated By Pierpaolo Piccioli
Featuring Alexander C. and Aramish at Tomorrow Is Another Day, Khadim at Premier
Grooming: Maarit Niemala
Digital tech: Anna Montesi
Photography assistance: Jori Komulainen and Terry Broadbent
Production: Suzy Patten and Lily Breuer at Holmes Production
Production assistance: Izzy Thompson at Holmes Production
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