ATEM (Yard Press, 2015)
Massimiliano Tommaso Rezza’s visual research is based on the randomness of the process of making images, the impossibility to select them and the research for an instant that would not be Cartier Bresson’s definitive moment, but its opposite.
At the very core of his book ATEM, published by Yard Press, is the theme of “survival”: all those states, people, conditions, events and atmospheres that are ignored or neglected by the standardized and conservative practice of the society of merchandise. ATEM is a pulsing container of images where what is systematically neglected, pulverized, shattered and eliminated by the idea of ‘contemporary’ is kept alive.
Looking at the video footage and reading the book as a fluent sequence of instants that are randomly selected and sticked one besides the other, the reader is called upon to fill the empty spaces, to put together the fragments and to look for their meaning depending on her/his personal view.
The volume is not following the formal and conceptual balance of an ordered sequence and an aesthetic research, but it has been obtained through a purely random process lacking any type of selection refinement.
In the same way the video is searching for this fading instant, the meaningless made photograph, all the photos in the book rigorously respect the original numeric order of the photographic source and are presented consecutively respecting their original format regardless of the book’s page dimensions.
Paola Paleari: In your practice you often deal with the concepts of everyday life and neutrality. How is it possible to register the informal aspects of life without distorting them?
Massimiliano Tommaso Rezza: The ghosts of objective representation, honest registration and a straight point of view still somehow haunt photography. As for me, I have never believed in objectivity. In any form of language, as photography or writing, distortion (if I have understood well your use of the term “distortion”) is not only inevitable, but it is the true character and nature of the camera. Using a language means that the speaker has dealt with the limitation of it and knows more or less all its pros and cons. This awareness is the prerequisite, other than knowing general syntactic rules of photographs, to speak and therefore also to present/represent an idea. The question is not if there is or not objectivity/distortion in the photographic language, but it is how to create a work in which the formal aspects present a consistency with the subject that is surveyed by the author.
In my case, I wanted to focus on everyday life and all those presences that tend to be ignored or neglected by the usual themes of photographic works. I am talking about all those minute occurrences, minimal events in everyday life that could never end up being published because they are considered weak, too humble, insignificant or boring. While doing this I was aware of the translation from real life into photographic form and all the details and empirical data that may get lost in that translation. As I said before, this loss is part of any linguistic activity.
PP: Once registered, the phenomena coming form the world at large become data, elements of a collection. What is the relationship between the rational logic of archives and the fuzzy logic of existence?
MTR: There is no relationship. An archive is a collection of data that needs to be taxonomically sorted out and offered to the public. Both the public and the taxonomist have to share a common logic so that the use of the archive can be fast, easy, predictable and reliable. Existence/experience, on the other hand, with its mass of contradictions and its appearances that are so often incoherent, does not follow any logic. In fact the logic (formal logic and the public/political use of it) was invented to find, within the flux of existence, a simplification that could offer us some firm ground upon which we built our certitudes.
Up until recently, photography adopted a logical common language to convey ideas, especially because photography was aimed at a general public for educational, moralistic and didactic purposes. Something has changed in the meantime and today some of us are using the photographic language also to present ideas that are more complex, entangled and even cryptic. This complexity mimics, somehow, the impossibility to reduce reality into a linear logic.
PP: What kind of photographic language can be used to describe the open and never ending field of observation you survey through your camera?
MTR: I have relied on a variety of styles, so that is impossible to feel at ease while looking at the work; I did not shoot photos to represent a subject that can be identified with certainty; I accumulated a quantity of photos the sum of which is enormous and therefore impossible to handle; my work was not accurate and did not rely on linear storytelling; the work includes incoherent matter, contradictions; often I inversed the old and consumed associations between certain forms of representation / the type of camera used / the subject portrayed (for example I used a 35mm camera to take photos that are generally shot with large format cameras according to the most trite combinations of format and subject; I used reportage language to portray subjects that, differently from conventions, are non-political, poetic or inert, and so on: I played with this type of confusions/inversions).
The whole work is a linguistic game but thanks to its broken language it may offer the vision of a world that stands against classification. To answer your question, finally, I think I just offer a complex visual cluster that needs decryption from the viewer.
PP: How is it possible to make a liquid matter visible? How to translate this “anti-archival” type of research into a finite object such as a book?
MTR: The “book structure” presents another set of rules: the pages, the order of the photographs, editing “for” the book, etc. Making a book means facing a series of habits and traditional rules that, if we have followed, we would have ended up losing the chaotic and liquid matter of the work. That is why I approved the solution Yard Press suggested, that relies first on mechanical order and then on the intervention of accident. The photos – once put one after one according to the order given by me as the result of a rough selection of more than 350 photos, as a strip from page 1 to page 300 – were shuffled randomly in inDesing just by changing the position of one of the pages. This shuffling rearranged all the photos in an order that was not predictable and expected, and, on top of that, it fragmented and created overlapping of all the photos.
This chaotic result satisfied our team since it rendered well the impossibility to adapt complexity to such a highly connoted object as a book. And in the book as well, it is the viewer who is called on to go through all the visual matter without any instructions or a recognition process based on habit.
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