Annalisa Sonzogni

Beyond the Threshold

Reflections in four movements
by Ludovico Pratesi


1. The artist and the city

For an artist, there are many ways of interpreting an Italian city. One can explore its memories, made up of visible traces or secret ones, hidden within the patterns of a building's brickwork, or in the fragments of a fresco fading with time in the shadows of an ancient church's nave, or in the ancestral halls of a noble palace. Or identify past and present ambitions by measuring the height of its tallest buildings: towers, belfries or skyscrapers. Or record the income levels of its inhabitants, glancing discreetly at the windows of shops and boutiques on busy high streets. Or observe urban transformations, comparing the more intimate and harmonious dimension of the ancient city centre with the chaotic and boundless growth of the new neighbourhoods, that stretch out until they almost blend with the suburbs, where life's meaning disappears, leaving behind the void of a standardised and unaware existence.

2. Genius Loci

Artists could also concentrate on details, that through their vision acquire specific meanings as part of an itinerary, constructed as a visual diary, a journal de voyage made up of images replete with meaning. Thus, the genius loci appears in a covert manner; it is revealed by a common thread that silently runs through the folds of the urban space and offers a barely sketched image of the city, which becomes sharper in the sequence of images chosen by the author.

This is the strategy chosen by Annalisa Sonzogni, a young artist invited by the Centre for Visual Arts Pescheria to interpret the town of Pesaro using her camera lens. It was not an easy task, and Sonzogni took up the challenge with dedication and perseverance, in order to construct a vision that she could share with each one of us. Her work is perfectly coherent with an artistic style that privileges objective photography, devoid of sentimentalism and excessive descriptivism; the artist suggests a route through the town, concentrating on grey zones and always avoiding obvious self-celebratory platitudes, memories and clich├ęs.

3. Horizons and thresholds

It is no coincidence, then, that Sonzogni's journey starts from the sea, a sea that is never a central element of the picture, but whose presence is merely suggested by the image of the beach, portrayed at night, a silent no-man's land, threatened by the outlines of the buildings on Pesaro's sea front, that look even more intimidating in the dark. A concrete barrier that links the town in the Marches to the Tokyo by night filmed by Sofia Coppola in Lost in Translation, or to the bleak and dull estates in Berlin, backdrop to the wiretappings, halfway between espionage and voyeurism, in The Lives of Others. Constructions surrounded byan eerie silence: a theme that we also find in the series of images that Sonzogni dedicates to the thresholds of villas in Pesaro, in that belt of gardens that links the town centre to the sea. Understated and elegant houses, built in a time-span that goes from the beginning of the 20th century to the 1970s, eloquent examples of bourgeois security, highlighted by some interesting details that personalise the rational and geometric lines of the international style. Thus, the artist leads us through a peculiar series of thresholds decorated with windows, columns, verandas, hedges and plants; even a fragment of an ancient sarcophagus set in a wall, maybe to suggest noble genealogies or solemn links to a remote past.

4. Park Hotel

Areas separated from the public life of the streets by gates, railings, or even reinforced concrete walls: arrogant barriers necessary to perpetuate a privileged status,to protect jealously guarded privacy by building a 2-metre-high concrete wall. The author encourages us to go beyond this barrier, in order to imagine the lives that take place behind the thresholds. Thus, Sonzogni's images become containers of meaning, awaiting our gaze to transform themselves into territories to be unhurriedly and carefully explored. Such as Park Hotel, the video made by the artist for this occasion. Using a famous song by Mina as a soundtrack, the camera shows us an image of modern Pesaro, full of hotels overlooking the sea, which during the summer take on the pace of the holiday-goers, while in autumn they revert to the peaceful daily routine typical of Italian small towns. The music accompanies the unfolding of the day: twenty-four hours during which the only element that changes is the light that falls on a town that bears testimony to a time already past, that lives on in the memories of each one of us.