THE STORM IS PASSED
In the field of psychology, trauma is a laceration of the connective tissue of experience. A fracture that works its way into the fabric of life, standing in stark contrast with the normal flow of time and of existence itself.
It’s a phenomenon characterised by a violent force, to the point of shattering the ordinary linearity of events and sapping the life force of those subjected to it, unable to understand the sense of it, let alone metabolise it. A consequence of it may be a sense of estrangement and dissociation from reality. When we do not deny its very existence, we defend ourselves from trauma through the removal of all that which might lead us back to it: objects, images, atmospheres, places and people which would otherwise evoke the memory of it. In the attempt to empty ourselves and reality of every new possibility of relating to it.
In the moment in which a trauma takes place, the perception of time collapses; before and after are frozen in an apparently insurmountable void, trapped in a perpetual, immobile present.
It is in this space-time limbo that Stillness takes place, the first serial project by the Italian photographer Valentina Loffredo. Her photographic research, begun around four years ago, originates from her light and curious gaze, and from an interest in the ways in which the form and contents of what surrounds us are mirrored in one another, triggering unexpected relationships and tensions which alter our perception of reality, transforming it.
Driven by a key moment of her own life, the artist immersed herself in that peculiar dimension that was to give life to the eleven images of Stillness, produced on a beach – one strangely dotted with trees stretching down to the shore – over a number of days in September last year, on the island of Hong Kong, where the artist lives.
The way in which Loffredo works is rooted in illustration: the upshot of a long planning procedure, the images follow painstaking preparatory sketches. They are the result of the artist’s attempt to give a visual form to the mental process that allows human beings to arch over a traumatic event towards a return to life, in a visual-narrative sequence of photograms with a pictorial feel to them. Every shot is underpinned by great compositional rigour, in which the recurrence of certain elements takes on a central role, inviting us – over the course of the telling – to ponder every change of scene.
The seascape that we are faced with is a metaphor for life: the canvas on which a few essential elements are positioned, each endowed with a precise meaning. A storm has just passed, without leaving traces on the relentless ebb and flow of the sea (the eternal flux of time and of events) and on the beach (symbol of our existence, made up of infinite grains as invisible as they are indispensable to one another). A constellation of plastic orange buoys has been washed up onto the sand, cast by the waters onto the shore: these are our values, our points of reference that have lost their purpose. An anonymous human presence, blending in with the landscape like in a form of camouflage, from paralysis, slowly manages to re-establish the order of things, to reconquer its place in time.
Bereft of spatial or temporal connotations, inhabited by enigmatic presences, these photographs bring to mind the age of the avant-gardes of the early 20th century, Surrealism and the use of collage. They are presented as the visual translation of a mental space, which transports us into a dreamlike, metaphysical dimension. They inhabit a space on the verge between autobiography, imagination and reality, each one overlapping into the others. Opening up its expressive strength to a shared, empathic human dimension.
A trauma is capable of revealing a world which we had not previously considered: the very same destruction which may lead us to madness might just as well throw open the doors onto alternative and distant realities, and break paths towards new and unexpected forms of freedom.
Art curator and writer