Wednesday 28 May 2008

Guy Bourdin casts a long shadow over the world of photography. Hundreds if not thousands of photographers are heavily influenced by his work. They emulate him or try to copy him. But nobody succeeds. In all their work something is amiss. They may reproduce his lighting, the poses and his iconography. But if you look at their work it always looks devoid of life, somehow stilted and dull. Why is that so?
Guy may have been a photographer. What people forget is that above all he was an artist. He may have developed his very own photographic techniques and his unique style. They became his alphabet. But what he wrote composes his work not his alphabet.
All those who tried to step into his shoes have failed miserably. They may have learned Guy Bourdin’s calligraphy. But what they are writing does not make much sense. You cannot cut out musical notes, throw them into a washing machine, spin them around and hope to extract Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Freedom’.

When Marcel Duchamp flung his Urinal into the lake of art in 1917 he produced a tsunami that has sodden all art ever since. The waves that he produced are still rolling today. And the background noise of this event will be detectable for as long art will exist.
Guy Bourdin was born eleven years after this Big Bang and very close to its epicentre indeed. He soaked up its energy by osmosis. He was befriended by Man Ray as a young man and thus possessed intimate knowledge of Dada and Surrealism, what they mean in art and how they apply to life. Without understanding these seminal art movements one cannot understand Guy’s work let alone try to reproduce it..

Friday 23 May 2008

Guy Bourdin

Having tried for many months to meet Guy Bourdin I finally gained access to his studio in Rue des Ecouffes in November 1976. ‘Gaining access’ should be taken literally. All sorts of obstacles were put into the path of those who wanted to meet the great master.
Guy was a phenomenally private person. To approach him was no easy task, for he did not stand fools gladly. He protected his world as an enraged bear would protect his den. To penetrate it you would have to be as simple as a child or as cunning as Mazarin. I don’t know why Guy let me into his presence, perhaps it was his court who looked upon me favourably.

To give you an example. Every day I spent in his studio I was amazed that I survived his constant testing me. At the end of every day someone from his entourage would give me a hint that perhaps I could reappear the next day. It felt like being on probation. So it continued for about two months.
In all this time Guy never spoke to me directly. I was passed his instructions by Heidi or Valentin or Katia or Sybill or Pierre. Only slowly it became clear that I could hope to become his assistant one day.
The first time he ever addressed me directly was when I was standing on a ladder ten feet off the ground trying to fix a backdrop to a pole. I started loosing my balance and the ladder started to wobble. I called out for help, at which Guy, who until then was giggling and laughing with someone, made a loud comment which flew through the studio implanting itself in my back like an arrow: “Icare, un assistant ne demand jamais de l’aide! (an assistant never asks for help)”.
It hurt and I regained my balance and composure. But these words meant that finally he had accepted me as his assistant.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Che follia!

Tutto cominciò col nascere dell' idealismo verso la fine del '700. Se non ci fosse stato, non si sarebbero forse sviluppati movimenti nazionalistici durante '800 che portarono alla disintegrazione dell' impero d' Asburgo all' inizio del '900. Dopo il trattato di Versailles la creazione di multeplici entità nazionali utopistiche seguito dagli antagonismi delle forze politiche che pensavano poterle manovrare a loro piacimento culminò nella deflagrazione della Seconda Guerra Mondiale.
Mio padre non avrebbe avuto l' idea, a dir poco originale, di dovere espatriare dalla Slovenia per insediarsi a Roma nel 1941 seguito da mia mamma. Si portarono dietro tutto il bagaglio di problemi culturali irrisolti dell' impero Austro Ungarico. Mio padre esponente della classe
dell' alta borghesia e mia madre figlia di contadini. Mio padre convinto delle sue idee di destra e mia madre tendente ad un anarchismo di sinistra. Si combatterono come soldati di due eserciti opposti per il resto della loro vita con il solo scopo di vedere chi alla fine avrebbe avuto ragione. Noi figli saremmo stati le loro armi e le loro pedine e ci usarono con estrema intensità. Rimanemmo tutti e tre profondamenete colpiti e feriti da questa interminabile battaglia e cerchiamo disperatamente ancora adesso all inizio di questo XXI secolo di elaborare una pace sana e duratura in noi stessi, tra noi fratelli, fra noi e gli uomini e fra noi e il mondo che ci circonda.