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3. The time of photography
To J. Kounellis

Between the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970 Kounellis took part in
the exhibition Vitalità del negativo in Rome. A piano was placed in a wide neutral space and, two times a day, a pianist played a partly modified piece from Verdi's Nabucco for some hours, the music thus becoming an obsessive motif. To take a picture of the pianist while he was playing seemed unimportant, at most just a mere documentation for Kounellis, so I placed myself on the musician's opposite side and, from that fixed position, I tried to photograph the hall. My intention was to convey the feeling of obsession produced by the recurrence of the music as well as the sense of the musical time which is antithetic to the photographic time. Photo after photo, while the image remained motionless, for I always maintained my position and the pianist's movements were so small and then hardly perceptible in such a wide space, the music kept coming and going, closing me within a kind of circle. The result has been an entire roll of thirty-six almost identical frames. They are thirty-six not because of my choice but because the film allows only thirty-six shots. In the contact print the numbers on the edge of the film follow one another along the still image: if not for their presence you could think these are thirty-six repeated photos. The only thing that changes are the numbers: not a convenient sequence but a linguistic reality. Time acquires an abstract dimension. In photography it does not run naturally, as it happens for cinema and literature: different times are simultaneously present on the same sheet, in the same moment, apart from any concrete observation. It is the stillness more effective than any actual movement, it is the obsession of the repeated image that makes the dimension of photographic time come out.