Marco Vaglieri

Arte Contemporanea Luigi Franco

In Marco Vaglieri’s video Il tempo che serve—Parte prima (The time that is needed—Part one; all works 2002), the hypnotic image of a heavy artillery shell, rotating in a circle and plowing the sky in an endless trajectory, is linked with a spoken voice. The constant movement of the projectile abstracts the image and thereby renders it atemporal, in contrast to the immediacy of the text, composed of recollections by a soldier at the front, narrated in the first person but in a woman’s voice. A short circuit is created between past (recollections), present (reflections), and a predictable future of destruction to which the image alludes. Comprising two videos, a series of photographs, and three watercolors, Vaglieri’s show addressed the theme of war.

Not just any war, but a historical event that has taken on particular significance for the West: World War I. Because of the dramatic impact it had for modernity and because of its historical distance, the Great War becomes fertile terrain for Vaglieri’s investigation of the relationship between past and present, memory and history, individual and collective destiny. In addition to having collected documents from the era, such as battlefield memoirs, Vaglieri has explored the front lines in the mountains between Italy and Slovenia, where the video Il tempo che serve—Parte terza (The time that is needed—Part three) is set. A long shot of the artist, walking alone within the idyllic frame of the landscape, alternates with close-ups of the helmets, weapons, mess kits, trenches, and crosses that can still be found in the woods. Like flashbacks, historical newsreels are interspersed with these images. Then, as if to block out or obscure these flashbacks, they are layered with texts against a black field, which function as temporal breaks from the passage of time, both present (the artist’s hike) and past (the recovered relics and the newsreels). Outside the dimension of time, these texts, made up of fragments written by the artist, become reflections on the value of memory and connect the contemporary to the past and the universality of destiny to personal experience. The physical act of exposing evidence of the conflict becomes a voyage into memory and brings the archives of history to bear on tragic current events. Vaglieri’s montage of texts and images plays on temporal shifts and on the transition between individual experience and the collective dimension.

In Le sette svolte (The seven turns), photographs of the remains of war (also shot in the mountains along the front) are paired with a poem in seven parts. These scraps testify to war’s disconcerting “banality” (as represented, for example, by soldiers’ plates and mess kits). In contrast, the text, which marks a period of seven days, speaks with growing emotion about a condition of loss, from privation of affect to an ineluctable loss of faith in oneself and in God. The exhibition concluded with Storyboard, three watercolors that constitute the design for a third video. These depict landscapes damaged by battle, but the style, which evokes eighteenth-century landscapes, distances the sense of devastation. As in Vaglieri’s other works, the register is deliberately poetic and sentimental but at the same time incisively clear, creating a tension between the immediate significance of events and historical memory.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.