Through our childhood:
When do we stop growing? When do we stop seeing things with the eyes of a child? Time leads us to stop enjoying small details of our environment that, during our early years, become motives for revelry. The responsibility, the patina of seriousness that appears on us, the suit that numbs us and protects us from surprise… They take us away from recognizing the world in such an innocent and astonishing way.
That’s why there’s something magical about this project by Matteo Mezzandri. He is able to undress us and tear that patina, giving us back our amazement when we contemplate as small children a carefully made scenery, small cities before us. Perhaps that’s where the magic lies, in awakening this inner self in conditions that are as neutral as they are formal.
All images have been provided by Matteo for use in this publication, all belonging to the author.
Building a city
Matteo to Patio de Sombras
The project “The minimal cities” is part of the research I have been doing for years on the contemporary metropolis and on the dense system of social relations that distinguish it.
The basic idea came to me in 2009, during an artist residency in New York while I was shooting some scenes that had as background the old buildings in brown stone and red brick of the Upper East Side.
Back in Italy I expanded and structured those embryonic ideas and from that work the photographic project came to life as it appears today.
The starting point was a very simple idea: a single brick, the smallest part of a building, is in some way very similar to the building itself.
“Città Minime” is a photographic research on the space in which most of the people live.
An urban space recognizable in its essential structures: the buildings, the roads, the trees, although seen from a different point of view, that distorts and recreates them.
The shots of the “Città Minime” series are the result of a meticulous staging, almost obsessive, a perfect set-up of the model in which the shot is only the final moment, and the picture remains the only evidence of large-scale installations made in the photographer’s studio or outdoors.
The use of Photoshop is minimized, while the atmosphere is recreated with a clever use of technical devices.
The Minimal Cities are the result of the union of different languages: sculpture, installation, architectural project, photography.
The work, therefore, is born long before the shooting that, so to speak, is a simple documentation of the colossal installations that I set up in my studio or in public spaces. I think that the basis of the visual and conceptual effectiveness of the work is the sudden change in the point of view and the displacement effect caused by the small visual short-circuit that happens in the mind of those who observe the pictures. This is, after all, a fundamental mechanisms of a big part of contemporary art: for installations I use common perforated bricks, but it’s as if I invited the audience to use their imagination to see, through those holes, imaginary worlds and possible architectures. Ultimately half the job is done by the observer.
Some photos are dark to enhance the atmosphere of the image, sometimes the pictures looks dramatic because they are inspired by real cities, such as “Cittò minime # 5” which portrays Sarajevo during the war. In general my “Città minime” are hovering between reality and fiction, and this gives the photo a surreal atmosphere despite the starting point is very, very real
A look through our childhood?
In spite of recognizing the scale of these elements, contextualizing them as part of a whole, a prototype city, there is something strict, formal, in the atmospheres that are generated. This leads us to move between contradictory feelings. In a similar way to the enjoyment that the author proffers while conceiving his work, our inner child appears asking us to enjoy exploring. To find the geometry and order on which the city is composed. Where would the ice cream shop be? The park where we would spend the afternoons in a state of self-absorption? What would be the views from the fictitious place in which I live? Do we imagine ourselves as a great Godzilla terrifying the city?
However, these thoughts contrast markedly with the atmosphere created, which places our feet on the ground to put city models in crisis. They seem excessively rigid and hard. Other questions arise. Which city is represented? Are we sacrificing the identity of our cities in favour of standardised models that apparently work better?
It leaves us one last question; what if we recover the look of our childhood, to work with the same emotion and illusion on the new urban projects?