AN ARCHIVE FOR MILAN
Working on the relationship among the structure of the city, of things and people, I thought about a work that since long I aspired to do.
It is a work about the city where I live, about Milan, a city that has lost a great part of its old charm, that is modern without being new, that puts together many contradictions of the machines’ and consumes’ civilization.
My idea is not that of a book but of an archive, a photographic archive of the city of Milan. I thought about Milan because Milan is a city I know little, I know some houses, a few museums, train stations, a few restaurants, some banks, the hospitals from where I have been recovered, post offices, a few bars, cinemas, two or three theatres, and San Siro where I have been a couple of times. But mostly I would like to photograph those parts of the city that are not known; I mean the interiors, the houses, what is not seen, what we do not want to see, or what is not shown, also public interiors that I do not know and even those I know but I have never looked at with attention.
What I would like to do is to photograph all this without people, because what impress us more when we enter in a place is the fact that it is crowded, it is the people that get our attention. Instead I would like people not to be there but I would like a certain fundamental structure that we call city to be the protagonist, an unarticulated structure that carries an anonymous crowd, that replaces everyday, that goes along everyday and that is destined to go along everyday. They are interiors that we never look at, either because we are distracted by people, or because we are not interested in the people that live in them. Houses of workers, of employers, of professionals, of rich people, or factories, companies, markets, prisons, schools. Eventually protagonists, these interiors should have many things to tell about the life in nowadays’ cities. I have understood the importance of photographing some interiors without the people that occupy them some years ago, when I have photographed a public dorm that was in perfect order after everybody was gone.
The image obtained was so terrifying that the addition of the people that usually spend their nights there would have rendered it too vague or too tender, as it happens to some populist painting of the end of the Nineteenth Century. Furthermore I have a certain reserve for people’s armless face;
I do not like to use it for my own purpose. In the last few years, often with scientific or sociological motivations, anonymous faces of crazy men in the grip of their disease, and armless faces of sick people, have proliferated in books and magazines.
I do not think is necessary to resort to these mean. I think there is a way to photograph the shanty where a woman live with her children without including nor the woman neither the children and obtaining anyway an eloquent image of their condition, an image that is at the same time impartial and evocative of that people out of the picture. In ’53-’54 I have done as well my pictures involving as more people as possible, today I would like to start again that subject but with this clearness.
These old pictures of neorealist taste are very dear to me; they are my first attempts to establish a photographic contact with a reality. I wanted to focus on a message of which I felt myself as the bearer. And at the same time, I wanted to identify the most direct fundamental thread that connect people, episodes, facts and places. To tell the truth I was looking what only now I think I have found: a subject very precise in its aims, safe in its mean, of which the only right sample is the dorm’s picture. In the city I have done a series of pictures that afterwards have been used to realize the scenes of Wozzek directed by Puecher.
Puecher set the opera in our days, and dressed the soldiers as political prisoners, thus the military camp in which the action of the drama happens is a lager. It came natural to look for the image to project as a decisive part of the scenography in that part of the city where there is not anymore and there is not yet countryside: there are towers of electrical energy, waste deposit, works in progress on the ring roads, channels that once were ways of communication and today the sewers.
Other images that here do not appear have has Milan as a protagonist. But I wanted to pick up some of them from my archive: a series of the earlier years of my activity taken at bar Giamaica, and it seems to me that it captures an equally important moment of those years: friends and artists who in that local used to meet and established a thin plot in which afterwards I found myself thinking and working.