exhibition | Paolo Simonazzi

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Rediscovered Things

curated by Denis Curti

Over the years, the fact that there is a certain amount of eccentricity to be found in the Po Plains has become something of a legend. Among the stories handed down through the ages, and featuring in the historical memory of this area, the most unusual and bizarre ones are those that tell of characters endowed with extraordinary sensitivity, who could hear voices in full moon nights and capture the words carried by the wind or transcribed in messages kept at the bottom of a well.
These are the tales of the humble, of those relegated to the margins of society due to their extravagance; people who might raise a smile, arouse curiosity and incredulity at the same time; men and women who managed to preserve their own protected space where they could practise clairvoyance, anticipate events and wonder at the world. We might conform and venture to call them “the lunatics” and note how they still inhabit certain areas of the Po Plains, right in Emilia Romagna.
Le cose ritrovate (Rediscovered Things) is dedicated to them. Through Paolo Simonazzi’s photographs, the project delves deep into the essence of a world in which horror vacui dominates the scene of a fanciful obsession for rediscovery as revelation and for appropriation as discovery. The key element is the originality of the multicoloured expressive forms through which the extravagant creativity of outlandish individuals is displayed. Puppeteers, raconteurs, inventors, clowns, painters, photographers, musicians, craftsmen, or even just great little actors, farceurs who love acting on the stage of life, open the doors of their kingdoms; all, without distinction, with an overwhelming desire to preserve things that are destined to vanish, things that make up their world, their feelings, their very lives.

Le cose ritrovate , originally inspired as an idea by Ermanno Cavazzoni’s novel Il poema dei lunatici (The poem of the lunatics) and Federico Fellini’s film The Voice of the Moon, developed in a direct line with the last text written by the great poet from Romagna Raffaello Baldini entitled La fondazione (The foundation). The real spark that set Simonazzi on his photographic path of investigation, however, was Ivano Marescotti’s stage monologue. This extraordinary performance is without a doubt the best tribute that Marescotti could have paid to the memory of the poet who, during the last period of his life, actually bequeathed La fondazione to him with the words “do what you think best with it”. Marescotti himself then suggested various titles to Paolo Simonazzi as well as the entire photographic sequence dedicated to the lunatics, showing his intimate understanding of a world observed from close up, in the green and oneiric mists of the plains.
[…] well, you have to bunch the stuff together, sure, but you can’t have just heaps of things, thrown together haphazardly, the stuff must have its own order, its own arrangement, and the arrangement must be right, it must be pleasing, it has to convey the idea that there is a relationship between you and the stuff, the idea that it’s not just stuff but they’re creatures, and that you have created them[1].
Just like the great artists from Romagna who inspired him, Simonazzi, as a photographer, is interested in the lives and feelings of those highly peculiar individuals who perceive the world from the blurred boundary between the real and the surreal. The settings of his photos are those unpredictable places where things appear unexpectedly, charged with meanings one thought had been lost, while dreams and illusions become stories to be told. The visual explosion of rediscovered things starts off with a chain of coat-hangers dangling from the ceiling of a loft. Through image after image, the overabundance of details arranges the space of entire houses,

garages and storehouses, just as if they were genuine artworks. The innate and obsessive passion of the lunatic is portrayed in photography as an artistic perception which sees beauty where others fail to distinguish anything except bits of scrap metal, discarded items and useless junk.
On this point, while talking about his film The Voice of the Moon, Federico Fellini explained:
“The main character is a madman in the best sense of the word. He doesn’t see things as others do. I consider myself a madman, too, in that sense, and I identify with him”.
The perspective that the film director makes his own is that of Ivo Salvini, the incurable poetic character who spends his nights in a daze, chasing after dreams and the feeble voice of the moon. To his eyes, everyone else, those busy people who rush about and don’t have time to delight in things, are actors playing a part, constantly missing the real essence of life.
Ivo’s fantastical world, so free from any kind of rational limitation, is the same as the one depicted by Paolo Simonazzi in the ordered sequence of his photos. At the heart of this study is the perspective of the artist, who is indistinguishable from the deranged lunatic, not in the least afraid of plunging into the absurd.

Between one image and the other, this very particular demiurge artist appears furtively in the clutter of things, as if he himself were a chance discovery, captured in an eccentric pose of a studio portrait. Around him is a list of the things that make up the vision of a world deliberately deprived of the practical and functional properties of objects. Here, the essence of things, which belongs to the realm of individual sensitivity and perception, is detailed by the infinite list of human feelings and emotions, arranged and ordered on the walls of a room. In this sense, Paolo Simonazzi’s photographs develop as a list that does not stop at the visual line of the frame but carries on undisturbed with the ideal and sentimental succession of things, of their essence and many-sided value.
Like a chapter out of The Infinity of Lists (Original title: La vertigine della lista) by Umberto Eco, Paolo Simonazzi portrays a world made up of things rediscovered in the irrational unconscious and in people’s life experiences. In the serial sequence of his photos, the artist combines figurative lists of objects and perceptions that belong to the order of the innumerable and stop, still incomplete, at the borderlands with the infinite.

[1]            La fondazione, by Raffaello Baldini, stage adaptation by Ivano Marescotti, directed by Valerio Binasco. “[…] e beh la roba la devi ammucchiare, d’accordo, ma non devono essere dei mucchi, così, alla rinfusa, la roba deve avere un suo ordine, una sua disposizione, e la disposizione deve essere giusta, deve piacere, deve darti l’idea che ci stai insieme con questa roba, che non è solo della roba, sono delle creature, che le hai create tu.”