Annalisa Sonzogni

The Truth of Clairvoyance

by Ermanno Cristini

In the space of riss(e) there coexist on the wall the large photographic image of the former school Lilian Baylis, built in 1964 in the borough of Lambeth, in South London, an institute dismissed since 2005 and about to be reconverted in private apartments, alongside some pieces of furniture in all similar to those visible in the photograph.

The London building presents some curious coincidences with riss(e)'s space: the red floor, the columns, the neon at the top, the industrial conduits of the electrical system. The photography of Annalisa Sonzogni is constructed so as to highlight these similarities. The installation, then, remarks the ambiguity of the situation: an armchair and a table which seem the same as those in the picture, and so the wall clock, the curtains, the intense yellow colour of the main wall, creating a system of continuous references between the bi-dimensional reality of the photo and that tridimensional of the scene installed in space. All this is traversed by subtle “deviations”, tremors of ‘chirality’, like the curtains which evoke the original, yet are different and differ in their length, making explicit the “alienation” of the situation. Then the decoration of the walls, escaping the ‘script’ and presenting itself in two portions alternating references to those in one and the other room. Small elements of detachment from the model underlying its adhesion, orienting us towards an analytic and critical attitude within which, also through a continuous game of chromatic and compositional cross references, the voice of modernist nature of the project culture which we are talking about, takes shape.

Therefore, we call it scene, but not set design, because the sense of the show is, perhaps, in the reconstruction of a ‘crime’: the ultimate murder of the dichotomy between reality and its image. And the question of architecture becomes the question of photography. In the exhibition by Annalisa Sonzogni, the two things blend to the point that any certainties about our capability to orientate between images and things vacillate, as one becomes the other and vice versa, according to the point of view adopted. More precisely, the image becomes an instrument of comprehension of reality, acting as an element which constructs it, elevating its expressive power. Exactly like an identikit.

The point of view, by definition, recalls the role of the observer, that is the eyewitness

The identikit, as an instrument for the reconstruction of reality, is, in fact, based on eyewitnesses. Nothing objective or documentary, only the deposition, with its ‘truth’ outside the document. The ‘feet’ of the identikit are founded, and found the solidity of the body, within the field of memory. They feed themselves of traces, floating like scars of time.

In the realisation of the identikit it's always necessary to “close the eyes” in order to see.

Even when the identikit is a photograph, its level of truth has nothing to do with the beliefs that use to accompany the presumed objectivity of the mechanical image. Still, precisely for that, possibly the identikit is the truth of photography.

Riccardo Panattoni and Gianluca Solla wrote: ‘The absolute similarity that  (photography) promises, unlike painting, breaks into pieces of dissimilarity, because of the absurdity of its truth (…) Thus, although accessible to everybody, photography is always escaping’1

Annalisa Sonzogni, it appears, wishes to live in this constant escape, looking for the truth. Her work is drawn as an interrogation within the specific of photography, paradoxically penetrating the dangers of that spongy edge where reality and fiction are running one after the other, superimposing, distinguishing and confusing one another.

At the end, rubbing salt in the wound of photography, this show conduces to the question of identity.

And, on the other side, that's the theme of the identikit. Identity is that concept that today, at least starting from Hegelian dialectic, has ever more assumed a relational value on the ontological plane.

Loosing the anchor of Aristotelian substance, identity navigates between the fluxes of mutation, far away from the secure harbours of permanence. If so, it is an element in constant construction, or, better, reconstruction. To a certain extent, it is the product of a fiction because it exists as a constant result rather than a given factor. Graspable only in the vertigo of its escape.

It is this vertigo taking form in IDENTIKIT I, at the presence of new eyewitnesses, or, perhaps, eye doctors. Hard not to think, in fact, of the Témoins oculistes of Duchampian memory. ‘Oculistes’ (eye doctors): here, again, a subtle variation in the word charges the text with ambiguity. They are devices of the questionability of seeing, and, according to Octavio Paz, guides to pass through the path that goes  ‘from voyeurism to clairvoyance’ (Octavio Paz, Water writers always in plural). Clairvoyance implies a “psychic” vision, which emancipates the destiny of the image, moving it from the skin of things to the depth of their flesh.

IDENTIKIT I, applying rigorously the practice of reconstruction, is an exercise of “clairvoyance” which, crossing architecture with the elements of photography, situates the reflection on identity at the crossroad of truth and likelihood (verisimilitude).

This way, the circle closes revealing in the back light the identity of photography as the body of identity, and identity as the body of photography, under the careful scrutiny of the Témoins (Witnesses).



1- Panattoni Riccardo, Solla Gianluca, Il corpo delle immagini. Per una filosofia del visibile e del sensibile, Marietti, Milano, 2008