carla cerati

Senza titolo (Milano. Antonio Gades in camerino dopo lo spettacolo), s.d. (aprile 1969), stampa fotografica in bianco e nero su carta al bromuro d’argento © Carla Cerati

Senza titolo (Milano. Antonio Gades in camerino dopo lo spettacolo), s.d. (aprile 1969), stampa fotografica in bianco e nero su carta al bromuro d’argento © Carla Cerati

Guardare la metamorfosi

curated by Sandro Parmiggiani

times and locations

Chiostri di San Domenico
via Dante Alighieri, 11
42121 Reggio Emilia

friday 3rd may open from 6.30 pm to midnight; saturday 4th and sunday 5th may from 10 am to midnight; from 6th may to 16th june open on friday from 7 pm to 11 pm; saturday from 10 am to 11 pm, sunday from 10 am to 9 pm


For Carla Cerati, a woman – a specificity that should not be forgotten -, the practice of photography is also the answer to existential questions: “Who are others and how do they live? Do they work? And if so, where do they work? What are their trades, professions, and the places where they work? How do they spend their leisure time?” For Cerati, this has meant crossing a border to go towards others: nature; the “rising city” during the economic boom, with growth that for years seemed magnificent and unstoppable; the persistence of age-old ways and traditions in rural and agricultural Italy; people, anonymous or famous, bearers of a particular face and a body; changing social aggregations determined by the pleasure of being together, the desire or the illusion to be part of a “magic circle”, or shared political and trade union ideals; inmates in places of pain, mental hospitals; and the magic and mystery of the theatre (where it is staged, in the inescapable relationship between those who give voice and body to a script and those who are the spectators, the representation of the eternal dramas and vicissitudes of the human condition); the daring constructions of modern architecture.
Carla Cerati approaches others with endless curiosity, the desire to investigate and to see. Her photographic work has become, on one hand, a complex and articulate account of the changes that marked Italian society during the second half of the 20th century – the incessant passing from the old to the new, the metamorphoses that changed the face of the city and the lives of people who lived there (in “Milano Metamorfosi” she assembled 217 photographs, divided into chapters like a novel) – and, on the other hand, attention to the pure relationship between the forms and volumes of the female nude inside the light and space, and the unfolding of architectures in the void. In Cerati’s work there is both the anxiousness of the photojournalist to capture an event before it is swallowed up by the jaws of the time, and the formal rigour that she has always pursued and fixed in her images.
In the photographs taken in psychiatric hospitals, there is a tenacious thread that connects those desperate people to the figures of the theatre: the Inferno-esque contortions of the bodies and faces of Living Theatre are evoked in those of the hospital inmates. Only there, the suffering and pain, the contortions and the screams, did not end with the conclusion of the performance but were the permanent condition of a denied existence.

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Carla Cerati was born in Bergamo in 1927, and has lived and worked in Milan since 1951. She began taking photographs in the late ‘50s, moved by a desire to know others. This curiosity and this constant need to document the changing society explain many of the themes on which Cerati focussed. She captured images of individuals and groups of people, as well as changing landscapes in various parts of Italy, especially in Milan, where she portrayed writers, architects, artists, and musicians. In 1966 she went to Florence to document the flood; in 1968 she photographed in psychiatric hospitals and published a book, co-authored with Berengo Gardin, called Morire di classe (Dying of Class), which revealed the terrible suffering of patients in mental institutions, thus playing a key role in changing the collective consciousness. She continued to be involved with theatre (Living Theatre, Bread and Puppet Theatre), dance (Antonio Gades, Maurice Béjart), and photographing the forms of the female body and its positions while dancing. She visited Spain a number of times and portrayed the anti-Franco resistance fighters. In the early ‘70s she documented the world of Milanese cocktail parties, and photographed the student protests and workers’ struggles, as well as the funerals and court trials of those troubled years. In the ‘80s, Cerati became engaged with the new architectures, yet another manifestation of a changing landscape.
Since 1973, Carla Cerati has worked as both photographer and writer, publishing several novels, a number of which have been chosen as finalists for important literary prizes. Her latest novel, L’eredità, was published in March 2013 by Marsilio.