Luisa Lambri

Portraits of facades, interiors, staircases, as if they were personalities—this is Luisa Lambri’s project. The protagonists of her brief tales, “written” with photography, are works of modem and contemporary architecture from around the world, but the names of the buildings’ designers have disappeared and the places themselves have become unrecognizable, even if we happen to know what they are. It's a bit like what happens in certain novels, which can make even the place we live seem somehow transformed, unfamiliar.

What is striking, in Lambri’s pictures, is the feeling of intimacy modestly maintained by these inhabited spaces (in general camouflaged to the point of invisibility) and the peculiar way they work their Proustian magic, eliciting recollections even from those who have never seen the buildings themselves. Lambri digs into these refuges and restores them to us as still unfinished marvels. Secrecy reigns, and it is up to the observer to decide how to move through its rooms, how to listen to its sounds and presences, how to interpret the stories enclosed by these photos, how to complete the miracle and discover its source. Perhaps each observer can reinvent—or let him- or herself be guided to the point where it is possible to detect—the punctum that, as Roland Barthes wrote in Camera Lucida, wounds and grips one’s psychological perception.

In this exhibition, for instance, sixteen photographs shot in Japan (all works 2000) depict buildings designed by Kazuyo Sejima, but one can recognize neither Japan nor the work of any particular architect. Yet one senses that these slashes and transparencies belong to someplace other than the contemporary West. The feeling they communicate is of amazement at a different world, approached through a subjective lens that, obviously, cannot make one forget who one is or where one’s eyes have opened. Still, it takes more than a sense of wonder to enter these real but nonexistent, corporeal but immaterial spaces. Effort must be made to look beyond the surface, just as if these images were a person who is telling us something about him- or herself. The expression grasped is complete, has to do with eyes, face, body, but generally these elements don’t come into focus in the same plane or at the same time. Thus in Untitled (O Museum A) the first thing one sees is a curtain with irregular stripes, transparent, barely tinged with blue, like the light of the morning sky. But only if we disregard the whole for a moment do we recognize a slight rippling that is none other than light seen through trees. In the sequence of five windows in Untitled (M House), minute flashes of light bring to mind the reflections that the irregularities in glass cast on walls. In the end, in Untitled (M House F), space opens up, and the exterior begins to enter into the image, revealing to us an empathic play of mirrors produced, however, only by the light in and of itself. Lambri’s titles, with their letters and numbers, almost like designations for archaeological finds or chemical discoveries, are interesting in themselves: a concise and almost physical way to remind us of the emotion secreted in the protocols of daily life. And they also help locate the recognizability of the external world within one’s own history and consciousness—overturning the images that invade our buildings, squares, streets, and newspapers.

Francesa Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.