Achille Bonito Oliva

The Look of Stone


In the sphere of Italian photography, Luca Campigotto represents the grafting of an illuminist sentiment of art, a line whose hinterland may be found in the sphere of culture. The image is the result of a short circuit between disorientation, typical contemporary art procedures and conceptual clarity; an exact derivation of the illustrative illuminism of photography. Campigotto builds the image like a constellation that is open but also interrupted by numerous imaginative flows.
The conceptual lucidity is highlighted by the constant use of a designed light, by flat and closed forms that restore the references to the outside reality in the round: the pyramids of Memphis, Saqqara, Cairo cemetery and night market scenes; numerous traces of an anthropological territory – that of Mediterranean culture – with thrusts toward other references meandering in a universe of clarity and bright creativity.
Such clarity, of course, clashes with other factors deriving from the cultural turbulence of an eye that brings extraneous elements, sudden imaginative flows and foreign objects into contact. In this way, Campigotto inverts the linear sense of things, the traditional relations between them, provoking an attack on common sense.
The surface of the photograph becomes the site of a conceptually prepared collision, subsequently verified by means of the deft, sensitive control of its internal tensions. The use of shade refers to a tradition of painting ranging from the Renaissance of Florence to that of France, with the further adoption of a typically German anxiety. The stylistic eclecticism and cultural nomadism, typical of the trans-avant-garde, are confirmed through a work that does not subside into easy hedonism or severe conceptualism. 
Campigotto’s work is typically pithy, precisely in the mannerist sense that, by way of the elegance of the images, puts the melancholy world of the artist on stage, though always tinged with an augmentative sense of mental doubt and existential attention; on the edge of an intentional lightness, intended to cross over feeling and establish the precarious nature of a moveable meaning in the consciousness of the observer.
While art traditionally disturbs and frightens with the alteration of current meaning, Campigotto’s seeks to exorcise simple dramatic spectres that produce only an emotional leap, to bring about an opening of the consciousness. The ‘affront to things’ made by Campigotto’s photography is not frontal but lateral, in line with the dictates of contemporary culture through the contribution of behavioural sciences, particularly psychoanalysis in this case, which has created in the artist and the intellectual of our century a healthy sense of perplexity mixed with an awareness of the impossible frontal use of language, which is not suited to frontal denominations.
This is why Luca Campigotto sets out fragments of images related to one another by new connections, producing an obvious complication, a conflict of relations played out on the superficial nature of a space intended as place of projection and inversion toward the outside, toward a scene flowing in all directions.
Campigotto’s neo-illuminism lies precisely in the wholly modern knowledge that acts of iconographic correction cannot be made, that the mobility of the fragmentary elements of the definitive image cannot be enclosed in an impossible static order. All this is done beyond any apocalyptic mentality, without any nostalgia for a centre point, precisely by using an intentional stylistic lightness – the result of a cultural attitude that does not seek to remove the complexity, but rather to stage it in the essential nature of the image. Because art is not a ‘companion of reality and reflection’, it is not a party to the outside reality, rather it is the tool that enhances their conflicts and highlights their aporia. 
The acceptance of all this implies the need for linguistic tools that show its adhesion, that enhance its definition, steadying it in the direction of the paradoxical place of a clarity charged with perplexity. Perplexity in Campigotto is not the symptom of a pessimism of reason so much as recognition of the impossibility of choosing between the lucidity of the intellect and the obscurity of the profound. Only art can, like a hinge, inhabit the ubiquity of the dual possibility, or rather the only possibility offered by the merging of imagination and intellect, of the analytical drive with the synthetic.
‘The absurd is distinguished from the obscure not simply because it is not allowed to become completely clear. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that it is closed to all rationalisation: it may be interpreted, but not explained. In this sense, every work of authentic art is absurd. Each one remains irrevocably mysterious. Shakespeare knew as little about whether the extraordinary relationship between Hamlet and his mother had its origins in something like the Oedipus complex as Beckett knew who Godot was’ (A. Hauser, The Sociology of Art).
Campigotto’s modern ‘absurd’ consists of accepting a constituent absurdity of things. 
This causes him not to force the image with material impetus, but rather to organise it by playing up that residue of inexplicability in art corresponding to that of life. But while life at times puts man on the attack in attempting a rationalisation, the artistic creation replaces such an attempt with the possibility of an interpretation that always respects the inexplicable remainder.
In order to prop up such duality, Luca Campigotto moves the clarity of this concept into the glimmer of the image; he adopts the faint sign of a description of the figures, objects and nature in a design without flesh, where the visual nomination does not replace the things but produces a hint of them.
In this way art is not a dogmatic and assertive practice; it abandons the role of a potent recreation of the real to take on that which reminds us of the transient nature of appearance and, at the same time, the definitive nature of its underlying conceptual system. A kind of disillusionment and irony sustains Campigotto’s compositions, lit by an internal glimmer that signifies a path of augmentative elaboration, in that it moves not only the location of the real from its own initial stability, but also enhances its ability to relate that only the creative, uninhibited imagination of the artist is able to infer.
‘The inherent mystery of art expresses its openness to appropriation, that which, despite all hermeneutics, remains inexplicable and incomprehensible in it... Mystery is imposed on art by the non-artistic nature of reality, and the artist, being alienated from society, imposes the hermeticism himself...’ (A. Hauser, The Sociology of Art).
The respectful sense of perplexity corresponds to an awareness that neither the mystery of art nor the mystery of life itself can be appropriated. The only possible direction for the artist is that of starting from the clarity of all this, from 
the apparent clearness of things, to approach the glimmer of the image that, in the half-light of its own evidence, represents the staging of the feeling of perplexity.
Luca Campigotto’s temporal perplexity produces an iconographic universe that betrays insecurities, at most that ‘passion unleashed in detachment’ indicated by Goethe to define irony. 
It is an effective weapon for gently controlling the deep impulses invoked by every creation, while also non-assertively protecting the conceptual grid required for every operation involving the intellect and the hand.
The work of Luca Campigotto acts on the conscious cultural front of the inevitability of the form, the only one able to cut out the flows of imagination within the frames of the photographic image.


from the book The Stones of Cairo, Peliti Associati, Rome 2007

copyright © 2013 Luca Campigotto

Luca Campigotto