Desolation

Via dei Chiavari 4, Roma
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Desolation // Anonymous Witnesses

 

2018, ongoing

 

photography, black and white negative film

 

Vast amount of roman heritage is located outside of the archeological sites, on weird and unexpected places in European cities. For centuries sustainable structures of ancient buildings have been reused. Embedded Roman columns can be found in many residential areas in Italy and especially in Rome, incorporated in later buildings. The huge columns can be found in Christian churches and the smaller columns can be seen in the walls of residential houses. They are not makred by plates or inscriptions and are unnoticed by tourists as well as by locals. Furthermore, these pieces of Antiquity are surrounded by traffiic signs, posters, vehicles, even trash bags. Unlike Baroque syncretism and appropriation of ancient columns and obelisks, which mixed styles intentionally, building up its specific style, these reused columns have unintended (in artistic terms), but unique afterlife of chaotic recontextualization.

I was intuitivly attracted and fascinated by these objects, because they are like anonymous, unsignificant, silenced witnesses of a past and its destruction. The columns bring the feeling that peculiarities from the past have survived and imperceptibly infiltrated our contemporary daily life in the busy city. By chance I run across “Desolation” - the fifth painting in the series “The Course of Empire” by Thomas Cole, containing a depiction of a huge and lonely Roman column as a symbol of the past. As a juxtaposition these small columns scattered in the contemporary city, hidding behind the corners, happen to represent a metaphor for contemporary human desolation in crowded spaces.

Although in the popular view these columns are all around Italy, in my purposeful search that went on for several months in Rome I found approxiamately sixty locations inside the Aurelian walls. I prefered to use artistic rather than merely documentary approach, so I visited these locations many times, to see them in different light and traffic conditions. Adhering to the desire to show these "anonymous stones" as a sustainable pieces of historical significance, with dense presence, although easy to overlook, I chose to capture them in the classical way, on a black and white negative film, mixing characteristics of variety of approaches: from Eugene Atget and Brassai to Lee Friedlander and Zoe Leonard.