Adam Chodzko

The British School

Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, the last film by Pier Paolo Pasolini, was released shortly before the writer-director was murdered in 1975. Violent, at times unbearable, sorrowfully poetic, the film explores the psychopathology of Fascism. Salò is no longer widely (if ever) shown, but those who saw it at the time cannot have forgotten it. This writer, for example, is left with an indelible memory of the scene in which sixteen adolescents, subjected to torture by Fascists, sat at a long, elegantly set table, where they were forced to eat steaming human excrement served on splendid porcelain dishes. The film evidently also made a strong impression on Adam Chodzko, an English artist who would have been little more than a child when Salò was made. Taking a conceptual direction similar to that of his previous works, researching the film and placing ads in newspapers, Chodzko attempted to reunite the sixteen people who, under Pasolini’s direction, had played the roles of the adolescents who were tortured to death. But it was as if the young actors had been traumatized by the extreme sadism they’d staged; none of them responded to Chodzko—except one, a woman who is now a dentist. Curiously, she was the only one of the teenagers who didn’t “die” in the film, having asked Pasolini to spare her that particular acting experience. Given the lack of response to his ad, Chodzko decided to travel around Rome, looking for girls and boys who resembled Pasolini’s actors as closely as possible. In the end, Chodzko’s exhibition was limited to documentation of the project and its implementation (explanatory texts, photographs of the “doubles,” a video that captures an encounter between them and the original actress).

For Chodzko, the artist is someone who creates by giving life to real situations, utilizing real tools, but always at the boundary between fiction and fantasy. Indeed, he shows us how real life, with its innumerable everyday coincidences, mingles with fantasy. Reunion: Salò, 1998, also deals with the repression of a shocking experience, an experience—one would hope—drawn from the imagination. The actors did not respond to the ad, presumably because they want to forget. Chodzko, the adolescent viewer of that film, now an adult and an artist, decided to expand on that experience through his work. As he has often done before, Chodzko strives to create, however briefly, an ephemeral, completely noninstitutional community, based on chance, on the contingencies of life. For example, in From Beyond, 1996, he reunited some extras from Ken Russell’s film The Devils (1971). One of them, in a death scene, had “acted” the role of a corpse. In The International God Look-Alike Contest, 1995–96, Chodzko created a virtual community of individuals who responded to his ad seeking people who believe they resemble God. The artist limits himself to creating connections among parties who have something in common but are divided. At the borderline between fact and fantasy, Chodzko makes chance connections seem like a simulacrum of necessity.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.