Laura Viale, 2002

Alessandra Galletta
SEISECONDI di separazione, i nuovi scatti di Laura Viale
(SIXSECONDS of separation, new photographs by Laura Viale)
In Laura Viale, Gallery, Turin - Giancarla Zanutti Arte Contemporanea, Milan, 2002

The artists, the faithful and the scientists should combine their forces to give a more human color to the world, a different luminosity.
Yves Klein (1957)

Six seconds can be a lot of time. In six seconds you can get a flat tire, make a hard-boiled egg in the microwave, you can miss a plane, or decide whether or not to answer the phone after two rings.

In six seconds reality changes and color shifts into another one of its possibilities. Six seconds are enough for the lens of Laura Viale to create a scenario that has never been, and will never be again.
She changes the color of things, of people, of flowers, the pupils of eyes. Reality is invaded by a rainbow saturated by unrestrainable color, which floods and blends into different tones. This has happened to a lotus flower, a cactus, ponds, water lilies, a wave in the sea, a snow covered hill, her friends, and also to me.

The nature of the artificial

In her photos, the natural and the artificial are exchanged with the same indifference that we have become accustomed to seeing in other images. The first example that comes to mind is of postcards made with colored filters, (made so popular twenty or so years ago). Those in which Mount Vesuvius becomes ultraviolet and the roman sunset glows with a red closer to the lights of a discotheque in Moscow rather than a Mediterranean twilight.
Then there are healers and witchdoctors who use a Polaroid camera to provide you with a silhouette similar to your own, but surrounded by a transparent halo that reveals the state of your "aura".
It seems crazy, but it is much better than finding oneself before your own "thermal photo" of the actual state of your skin, a very unique portrait that isolates in a strong, unmistakable orange, your cellulite and excess fat.
There are also color effects even more dramatic such as the photos of enemy zones taken at night from helicopters. So appropriate is that mesmerizing military green/black that pervades those bomb-destined deserts.
Photos taken at night, underwater, in flight. Zoom, graininess, screens and photo lamps. Computer graphics, Adobe Photoshop, color and Chroma Key. From TV to the printed image from postcards to magazines, from cinema to scientific texts it is really too difficult to discern how much of reality is in these images and how much is created by special effects or fiction.

In the photos of Laura Viale it can happen that a tranquil beach suddenly changes into a different color and becomes readable like a zoom taken from the "Nino" nearing that island, moving through the Pacific along the Equator in a graphic of Planet Earth.

Glancing towards Silicon

In front of a beautiful bouquet of flowers we are undecided on how to express our emotion. Perhaps "These flowers are so beautiful, they seem real!" or the opposite, "These flowers are so beautiful they seem fake!"
Fiction doesn't negate reality, nor is it necessarily a lie. A false breast is a synthetic breast, but it is definitely real. Some contend that it is "hyper" real. Fiction is not the truth but it definitely is a reality.
Is chemistry natural? What about the atomic bomb, cancer, nail polish? We don't know any more. For us the weather report is a graphic description of the weather, but it is also a photo of the planet in movement, and the clouds seem to be represented in live footage. Spots and gradations indicate population density and the depth of the sea. The fetus growing in the womb is gray, its world is blue, its stomach violet blue. Rheumatism is in red orange as it waits to be treated by a pain killing ointment in a TV ad.

Luminous knowledge

Today we find it perfectly normal that in the noted insert of a daily paper, the article that condemns genetic manipulation of food is illustrated by an image of a gigantic purl of wheat turned green on a blue background.
We are accepting perhaps more than ever before the foretold concept of John Weir Perry " the psychedelic state, is so often associated with hallucinogenic substances that we forget that the human nature possesses its own means able to let us sample the thrill of a trip."
The artworks of Laura Viale do not resemble reality. They are neither photographs or paintings, or even graphic design. They are not real, or virtual, or special effects. They are moments of luminous knowledge. They are the psychedelic without hallucinogens, the trip with out the drugs, collective imagery without the image. They could have perfectly decorated the "Retinal Fetish" the club out of "Strange Days". It is the equivocal nightclub where pushers deal-out the products of SQID, the cerebral video recorder that enables you to relive others' experiences.
Laura Viale lets us relive experiences not experienced by anybody. Places where no one has walked. Ponds that have never existed. Flowers without nature. Portraits that don't portray the sitter.
Hers is a staging of the psychedelic; it is a covering. Laura knows well that fundamental experiences of expansion occur in a search that brings us more inside the form as apposed to outside.
This is why her visions assimilate and describe scenes of a freezing clarity. Her landscapes are scenes from thrillers, science fiction and video clips. She uses a pop rainbow to transform and readapt it into a microclimate of a scientific lab.
If she is working on a face, the eyes are yellow, the lips green, and the forehead blue. She describes and encourages a new temperature for seeing.
It is like the view from inside an aquarium, a discotheque, a prime time program, or a TV quiz show. It is like a plastic gardenia inside a bubble of violet glass, or under uv rays in a beauty center or in the parking lot of an auto grill, like a toll booth on a highway, along a fashion show runway or a club illuminated in wood.
Like swimming in a pool or stepping up to a peep show. Red light, naturally.

Of all colors

The lessons on color for our generation began in a simple, but rather disenchanting manner, and of certain things, there was no doubt: ice was always ice; agreed, However: Green=mint, brown=cola, Pink=strawberry, and Red=cherry. Every once in a while strange incidents occurred along the way, like the alarming discovery of the existence of chicks and rabbits in colors like pink, orange, green and light blue-but these were passing phenomenon. Detergents tried to make the wash "as white as possible" before "color savers" burst on the scene.Do you remember the two twins wearing identical dresses, but one was horribly faded? And in a few weeks a detergent called LipNoir will appear on the market, created especially for punk clothing, dark and S/M.
The defense of colors has entered into everyone's conscience. It isn't a fluke that many today still lobby to save the Green, consult Blue book prices, dread hot-line red telephones , let fingers walk through Yellow pages or rent red light video cassettes.
At this rate, high school students study the Pantone colors, and make the most out of it whether it is painting, literature or photography, it doesn't make any difference.

Just past six, the lights of the bars became fainter, it was cocktail hour. The lights of the city on the other hand began to shine more intensely.. On the cranes, small red lights came on. As the twilight lowered, small needles of rain became improvisationally visible.
Haruki Murakami from "Sotto il Segno della Pecora" (A Wild Sheep Chase)

Laura Viale understands images, light and color very well. She deals directly with their truth and with their lies. Like every artist she goes beyond the already done. She experiments and gives rise to questions while always alert to premonitions. Synthesizing luminosity and contrast on the world not for how it is but for how it is transforming itself.
Here lies the importance for the artist to work within a paradoxically natural context for the optimal result on the image.
"Outside, during summer, a few minutes before sunset is the ideal context", she claims, smiling at the idea of being an "en plein air" artist in her own special way. Her realism is that of a set rather than nature. It is indeed a realism that is verified in front of the lens and not through a natural process. As is, by the way, a weather report or the air that you breathe in an airplane despite the fact that you are flying through the middle of the sky.

Photographic memories

The photographs of Laura Viale, with their brutal sweetness, are that portion of reality that we happen upon every day, but that we don't know enough about. Behind the apparent light heartedness of a photograph in which we don't understand how its color was changed, she makes us look high, but hits low. Her images speak to us of a distance from things that makes them much more metaphysical than their being wrapped in our chilling habitat that we like to call "contemporary".

Concerning the frightening results of possible effects on a body hit by light, much has led to Science Fiction with its piercing laser rays and luminous swords. Kevin Spacey the alien in K-Pax awaits a 5:40 AM light ray that he believed would take him back to his native planet. It actually does allow him to go back, but he gets lost at the same time. Because to return and stay, be true and false, real and artificial, "looking inwards" in the psychoanalytic sense or by way of an ultrasound, are all options that we must prepare ourselves to choose from contemporarily.
The neon sign of a restaurant glows like daylight. It transforms us into the protagonists of some psychothriller film . We wait, unaware that Laura Viale is taking the six seconds that she needs to make one additional moment- A moment beyond -to allow, as she says, "for things to move".


AAVV, "Bruce Nauman", show catalogue, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1994
Hannah Weitemeyer, "Yves Klein 1928 - 1962", Taschen, Cologne, 1998
Germano Celant, "Andy Warhol: a Factory", Kunsthalle, Vienna, 1998

Essays, Novels, Poems
Haruki Murakami "Sotto il Segno della Pecora" (A Wild Sheep Chase), Longanesi, Milan, 1992
Franco Bolelli, "Le nuove droghe", Castelvecchi, Rome, 1994
Karl Taro Greenfeld, "Baburu, i figli della grande bolla" (Speed Tribes, Children of the Japanise Bubble), Instar Libri, Turin, 1995
Antonio Navarra, "Le previsioni del tempo", Il Saggiatore, Milan, 1996
Brian Eno, "Futuri impensabili - Diario, racconti, saggi" (A Year with Swallen Appendices), Essays Giunti, Florence 1997

"Il deserto rosso", Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy 1964
"Blue", Derek Jarman, GB, 1993
"Exotica", Atom Egoyan, Canada, 1994
"Strange Days" Kathryn Bigelow, Usa, 1995
"Breaking the Waves", Lars von Trier, Denmark, 1996
"Eyes Wide Shut" Stanley Kubrick, Usa, 1999
"K-Pax from another World" J. Softley, Usa, 2002

Ugo Castagnotto
Scatto e stile
(Shot and Style)
In Laura Viale, Gallery, Turin - Giancarla Zanutti Arte Contemporanea, Milan, 2002

The artistic passing of the photographic shot from the seventies to today paradoxically began with the ascertainment of the limits of the photo's capacity to document reality.
In the epoch of information and of multimedia the inflated image seems to hide rather then to reveal the actual nature of things represented.
The importance of photography in figurative art following Pop Art is linked to the minimalist questioning into the nature of true significance, which would remain outside, always reneged by linguistic tools. The look, as opposed to the window, is the barrier that prohibits a complete panoramic vision. The photograph in the nineties pulls out these consequences by telling the banishment of the image. Sometimes with elegance, sometimes with hanging irony, like the person who explains a joke.
The challenging of the legitimacy of art, philosophy that becomes life saving and unsinkable like a cork, comes floating back to the surface with a new generation of artists who formulate the problem of the linguistic construct in the work of art while standing outside of it. A position like an alibi that resembles more an arbiter than a player. Instead of constructing an object, they tell you all of the reasons why you shouldn't have it. These reasons are often found outside of the research of style. They come from a social analysis of languages.
Demonstrated by the fact of their speaking of the negated art object, as if dealing with a hidden God who is never revealed, they find more adaptable terms in "extra-artisic" fields, from the sociology of symbols, from Lacan and Kristeva, as opposed to the philosophy of esthetics.
Thankfully the art object placed outside the door of esthetics comes through the window of the social sciences, from semiotics to psychoanalysis.
Wasn't it that by looking in the direction of imagery of dreams that the psychoanalyst was enabled to propose a solution to the problem of reality expropriated or cleared away? Why shouldn't the artist do this with they imagery of art? Poetry hides itself in the thickness of the walls that divide the languages.

What does Laura photograph? Language, the object as convention, its casing.
Colored light, as opposed to dressing up, relentlessly swallows landscapes, flowers, and faces, with the determination of a mechanical law. She places fields outside of the borders and of the scaffolding that supported them in front of her lens. Instead of citing reality, Laura Viale descends deeply with a work of architectural deconstruction.
The deconstructive photograph becomes entincing for its sensation of lightness and relief of the glance, freed from the forces of gravity that generally constrain it to a forced landing upon the object. The impact of her work is also found in the non-existence of a ground floor in her composition. Many artists in the past have been wedded to the challenge of removing the laws of gravity from painting. It is a freedom that we are now familiar with. If the same flight is attempted by the photo we remain incredulous by the fear of falling, for the heaviness of real things or such retention. This explains very well what the camera is trying to do in Laura's research-it is a specific language and her actuality.

As in experiment of illusion, the object has already disappeared when we are convinced that it is still there, beneath the cloth holding its form. Only the scarf that keeps it hidden takes flight. However, without the scarf, we cannot consider its illusionist presence. In this way it is of form, dematerialized ornament.
In the moment in which it becomes art, the photograph should surpass the same obstacles as painting and sculpture: the opponent being academism. The challenge is to represent and make people see more what has been carved out rather than what is left. The artistic challenge of Laura lies there in the doubt of the viewer, in the fact that you never know if it is the object an alphabet of the object you are looking at.
Ornamentation, a frightening word, is called into the foreground to substitute the assumption of objectiveness. Color substitutes the flower. In portraits it is the lens itself that buries structures of material in the sand. The faces loose their significance it their own thickness. A little bit like carving a rocking horse into slices to make steaks. You find paper mache, the material of the sign. These faces are not the sublime of the conventional, portraits in the style of Boldini that not by chance made an impression on Andy Warhol. Laura's portraits are style, style without the heavy burden of things.

Texts © Alessandra Galletta, Ugo Castagnotto, 2002, English translation: Jeanette Lynn Hall, Ronald Victor Kastelic

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