Vernissage: Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 18.30
Workshop is delighted to announce the opening of ʻFotografie 1974-2013ʼ, a retrospective exhibition of work by Letizia Battaglia, her first in Venice. The exhibition will be open from 20 April until 18 May 2013.
'Fotografie 1974 - 2013' is divided into three distinct sections, Cronaca, Rielaborazioni and Gli Invincibili, a panorama of Italian life spanning the past thirty years, as seen by Letizia Battaglia, who has borne witness to a series of events where political corruption and mafia have always played a significant role. Thirty years worth of work, of which eighteen were spent without even a
zoom, only a wide angle lens separating her from the death and degradation that surrounded her.
ʻItʼs been quite some time but these are still the images which disturb me the most. Whilst preparing this exhibition I get out the negatives and take them to the printer. I tell him which should be darker and which lighter, I need to see into the blackness. I try to take my mind away from the subject matter, ignoring the nausea, the open mouths and the rivulets of blood.
There was never any revolution against all this. There were just photos and unlikely funerals with corrupt politicians, more mysteries and betrayals, and lots and lots of words.
Whilst choosing the photographs for this exhibition, I realise that Iʼve forgotten those of Giovanni Falcone. He should never be absent. As I think of him, I should also like to remind everyone to the anniversary of his death, the 23rd of May. Every time I have to choose these images, itʼs the same exhausting ritual and I feel weakened by the nausea of it all. Judge Terranova, he should be in there, Bagarella, the boss, whose monstrous glare still manages to
affect me albeit from a photo taken years ago, he should also be in there.
That 23rd May, to which I have already alluded, was a beautiful spring afternoon. Giovanni Falcone was returning from Rome with his wife Francesca and his bodyguards, Vito Schifani, Antonino Montinaro and Rocco Dicillo, as I sat watching a documentary on the television with my mother, her hands in mine. I would usually go to see him of a Sunday afternoon but this time I was unable to do so. At a certain moment my programme was interrupted by the news that something had happened to Falcone on the motorway. We were unable to move for a few seconds, then panic hit me. I just lost it. The only thing I could do was to telephone my studio to warn Franco and Shobha. I wasnʼt about to go to the motorway, in fact I was never again to take photographs of the dead and all that goes with it.
Eighteen years later, I realised that I had taken photographs of just about everything I could have done, in Palermo, for my then newspaper, LʼOra.
Even football matches. But most of all I took pictures of misery, of dead bodies, of those being arrested, of bombs, of court cases, of litter, of the wounded, of fascists, of children, of women, of demonstrations and of the humiliated. Whilst taking these photographs, I compartmentalised every possible civic outrage as the anger just grew and grew in my head, in my heart and anywhere else I could fit it in. On that fateful afternoon whilst holding my motherʼs white and soft hands, something inside me died and I took the decision to never take another photograph of another dead body, of any more pain and certainly of no more mafiosi.
Today, after exactly twenty years, I can only deplore my weakness or
indolence or whatever you want to call it. It blocked my courage. It was my duty to resist, to take more photographs and to consign them to a future memory. These photos, which I never took, actually hurt me more than those that I did. They are all still here inside my head and I canʼt show them to anyoneʼ.
ʻI often dreamed of burning my negatives during the 70s, 80s and even into the early years of the 90s. Out of disgust really, or out of desperation. I just wanted to get all that was foul about Palermo out of my sight.
One day in 2004 as I was examining a large photograph of a mother with her three, poor children trapped as they often were in bed through either the cold or through hunger, it came to me in a shot. I could destroy it. That is to say, I could make it into something else, I could give it a new life. So, from 2004 were born Le Rielaborazioni and I started to turn my reportage shots into
something different. I still use these old shots today, but only as the background to something else, no longer as the primary image. In front of a body I could insert a positive figure that breathes life into the image without overpowering it, a woman, for example.ʼ
Gli Invincibili (The Invincibles)
ʻFour works from those produced in 2013, never exhibited and never before seen.
Pier Paolo Pasolini,
Crocifisso di Santo Spirito, 1493, di Michelangelo,
Giovanni Falcone e Paolo Borsellino.
I donʼt think that they require any further explanation, they speak for themselves.ʼ
Letizia Battaglia, Palermo, March 2013.