Those who have had the opportunity to talk to photographer Matteo Piacenti and curator Leonardo Iuffrida are aware that the solo show Nel giardino dei corpi svelati (“The garden of unveiled bodies”), inaugurated last 26thJanuary at Senape Vivaio Urbano in Bologna in collaboration with A.N.ITA (Italian Nudist Association), treads a shared need, albeit hidden at times, to want to bring the attention back to authenticity. What is the most effective and immediate tool to achieve this? Nudity. This gesture in the eyes of someone has often been judged as a superb attitude, and even snobbish. The skill to interpret some types of artistic choises is very often focused only on some aspects by some. What is certain is that the history of art has been the protagonist of many works considered “unseemly”, when contextualized to their time, think, for example, of the famous Luncheon on the Grass by Édouard Manet, to the Maja Desnuda by Francisco Goya, or Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy by Caravaggio.
The intent of the above is certainly not to compare the three works with each other, however this triad manifests a common thread that brings us back to Piacenti’s solo show: the alleged rupture of some aesthetic canons not in line with the thought of that time. Why did the three depicted women of the above-mentioned artworks create so much discussion among the critics? Perhaps did these subjects propose a “costume” or a vision of reality which was different from the contemporary one? The fundamental aspect of Piacenti’s project is obviously nudity, the latter is however presented as a tool to break a categorization that attempts to divide society in a always neater way. The alleged denunciation, or affirmation, of social and gender diversity has always been an element of discord for many. In the obviousness of the question it is not by emphasizing that very same diversity that it vanishes but, paradoxically, it happens the opposite, creating an exclusive attitude in the mere meaning of the term. Matteo Piacenti, with Iuffrida, brings back the attention to the choral act generated spontaneously by the same exhibited project, not for a voluntary political denunciation, but bringing to light the simple spontaneity and naturalness of the gesture.
Starting from the beginning, reconstructing the facts and then moving towards a critical analysis, Piacenti’s project was conceived after the request to present a performative nudist and participatory act within Senape Vivaio Urbano. The request by the artist was concretized on 4th December 2022, with the spontaneous participation of one-hundred people. The choral act, documented, photographed and filmed, is shown in the exhibition currently on view in the form of eighty black and white photographs mounted in series along the perimeter of the first room, flanked by a video of the performance, as a clear testimony of human identity.
Piacenti, whose academic training is sculptural, considers the nude in the same way as classical statuary art and its traditional aesthetic canons. The body, for the artist, becomes tactile matter to be investigated and shaped, alternating additive processes with subtractive ones, an exercise that voluntarily excludes color in his images, in line with the interest in marble material. The artist replaces plastic manual skills with digital re-processing. Through the photographic medium, Piacenti captures the individual identities and then paints the light digitally, removing brightness and adding contrast. In his images to prevail is the frontal framing and a neutral atmosphere made of grays. What changes, therefore, are the faces and the natural shape of the bodies that, if in the first room are arranged in series, enhancing the detail in sharpness, almost obsessively, in the second the identity becomes instead a trace. The alternation between epiphany and memory is underlined by the threshold between the concrete act and the memory, where in the second room Piacenti idolizes its manifestation and, like a simulacrum, is separated from the first one by a veil, the same that separates reality and memory. Through a process of assembly, the artist manipulates the images by joining and telling a unique and different dream, where the bodies come together without being aware of it and where the memory of a loved one appears with the face covered.
Matteo Piacenti, Nel Giardino dei corpi svelati
curated by Leonardo Iuffrida
26/01/2023 – 18/2/2023
Senape Vivaio Urbano
Via Santa Croce 10/abc, 40122 Bologna
Graduated in Architectural Sciences at the Sapienza University in Rome, with a master’s degree in Contemporary Art and Management at the Luiss Business School, she currently works as an intern and project manager at Untitled Association. Graduated in Photography and Art Criticism in Bologna, she currently carries on her personal projects and is part of the team of the Forme Uniche cultural project.