Mauro Restiffe: History as landscape
Curated by Nicola Ricciardi
Architecture, and Modernism in particular, has always been a source of inspiration for Brazilian photographer Mauro Restiffe. In his career the artist has traveled and captured the oevre of well known architects around the world, from Philip Johnson to Oscar Niemeyer. In his photos Restiffe reveals the unexpected combinations between architecture and landscape, indoors and outdoors, focusing on unobserved details and traces of human presence: architecture serves as stage for history, may it be public or private. Restiffe’s images are often embedded with historical value and present intimate perspectives on a Country’s history, such is the case of his well known series Empossamento (2003) and Oscar (2012). For his show at OGR Restiffe has taken his survey to Italy, researching the projects of Carlo Mollino, Piero Portaluppi, Franco Albini and Carlo Scarpa among others.
Consider this exhibition as a novel about architecture – a novel in the Proustian sense (that is, of the writer who more than anyone else wanted to make his literary work coincide with an architectural work). In a famous passage from the Temps retrouvé, Proust sustains that “literature that is content with ‘describing things’, to give us only a miserable extract of lines and surfaces, is the one that, although it is called realistic, is further from reality, one that most impedes us and saddens us, since it abruptly cuts all communication between our present ‘I’ and the past”. In a similar fashion, Restiffe – on the surface moved by the desire to recount the adventure of Modernism – do not describe palaces, houses, rooms, but rather translate for us the experience of living inside them, today as yesterday. It is a game of focus, in which the contours of the history of architecture slowly lose clearness while bringing out the details of the many and minute personal histories of the people and object that are pictured in the photographs, as well as of those of the observers. Those portrayed by Restiffe are fleeting geographies: his pictures are not a meticulous and scientific account of the places he visited but rather the transposition of environments that originate from collective memory and that are constantly shaped and re-shaped by personal reminiscences. Just as the name Parma in Proust does not merely designate a city in Emilia, situated on the Po river, founded by the Etruscans, but rather evokes “the essential oil of violets and all the Stendhalian fragrance”, likewise the cities of Turin, Milan, Genoa portrayed by the Brazilian artist do not materialize through their description but emerge due to hints, situations, circumstances. These glimpses of architecture and life, collected and neatly arranged on a large wall inside OGR’s Binario 2, visually and ideally represents the very concept of a landscape — a “literary” landscape, where the visitor is invited to match the lines of modernist structures with the silhouette of his or her own interior space. In the end, one could say that – just like any good novel – Restiffe’s wall is nothing but a mirror.
Mauro Restiffe (São José do Rio Pardo, 1970) lives and works in São Paulo.
Link to exhibition page: https://ogrtorino.it/en/events/mauro-restiffe