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Lampedusa, photographic installation, Durst Lambda prints on paper on Dibonds panels, each dimension cm. 50×70, total dim. cm. 110×900, 2005.

How To Reach Lampedusa (with Takuji Kogo), Shockwave Flash Movie 7’50”, 1024×768 pixel, 2005-07.

Migration is a thing of all ages. Where Europeans once colonized various continents and emigrated en masse to other lands both in and beyond their own continent, movement from the opposite direction has now taken hold. Capital, goods and information circulate freely in the late-capitalist, globalized world economy. For people, however, mobility is arranged somewhat differently. Borders and territories are still the primary expression of national sovereignty, however multi ethnic populations may have become. For Europe – which permanently shifts between regulating, even attracting, and then repelling strangers – these are the outer borders, the so-called Schengenland regions […]

Installation view at the group show 'A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Fear and Terror' at the galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

Installation view at the group show ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Fear and Terror’ at the galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

Federico Baronello and Takuji Kogo indicate how, on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the reality of tourism runs hand in hand with that of asylum seekers, being repatriated or otherwise, without the two worlds ever touching […] Lampedusa is Italy’s most southern holiday resort-island. In recent years there has been a massive, non-stop stream of North-African refugees trying to illegally reach the island/Europe by boat. The CPTA (Centro di Permanenza Temporanea e Assitenza) is an expatriation centre close to the airport. It functions as an arrival hall for tourists, as well as a departure hall for repatriating rejected asylum seekers to Libya. Part of the island’s cemetery is reserved as a final resting place for refugees who do not survive the Mediterranean crossing. In their work both Kogo and Baronello resist the temptation of ideological criticism, looking instead for the best possible way to express the existing reality. All of the political messages which spring from this must be seen as inherent to the original material and the cultural situation. Their art is rather a testimony of a realistic, or ideological picture of the future.

Installation view at 'A Philosophical Enquiry into...' at the galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

Installation view at ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into…’ at the galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

This work shows the discrepancy between the idyll of Lampedusa as a holiday resort and the raw reality of the island as a final destination for the bodies of African boat refugees. By arranging alternating images of both, formerly “innocent” ideas of beach and sun, usually associated with easygoing fun, are given a wry undertone. The existence of another landscape (nameless crosses) urges the viewer to think things over. Therefore the island can also be seen as a prototype of an all but apolitical leisure industry. How To Reach Lampedusa indicates the transformation of Lampedusa from a fishermen’s island to a port of migration for refugees and tourists, the signs and the change in the landscape brought about by their transition. Images were recorded during a visit to the island in 2005.

Paul Willemsen text for the exhibition catalogue of ‘No Place – Like Home. Perspectives On Migration In Europe’, Argos Centre For Art & Media, Brussels 2008.

How To Reach Lampedusa (with Takuji Kogo) View of the video installation at the exhibition 'A Philosophical Enquiry into...', galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

How To Reach Lampedusa (with Takuji Kogo)
View of the video installation at the exhibition ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into…’, galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

According to Plato and Aristotle, philosophy came into being with Thauma. Usually this Greek word (and its verb, thaumazein) is translated as ‘wonder’, but it has various different meanings, and Plato himself made reference to them. Thauma is also speechless wonder, shock and also, finally, fear and terror. Philosophy started with wonder (the shock but also the fear), which is a pathos, and ends up being speechless, beyond words. Commenting on this initial fear-wonder of philosophy, Kierkegaard said that what was involved was an experience of ‘no-thing’: essentially an experience of nothingness. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) by Edmund Burke talks of the ‘beautiful’ and of the ‘sublime’. This important ‘physiological’ treatise (as Kant described it) also, indeed above all, ‘speaks’ of ‘fear’ and ‘terror’ as speechless wonder. Burke (and subsequently all the writers on aesthetics) offers us an artistic visualization of this experience (pathos) of fear. With the historic avant-garde movements and with modernism, which shifted the geography of art from the beautiful to the sublime, fear became a central aspect of artistic language. Fear (terror) became a linguistic element of artistic experience; an experience of nothingness. The 20th century and the contemporary age thus ‘adopted’ fear (and terror), both as structural elements of ‘practicing and thinking art’ and as a ‘reflection’ of a general psychological, social and political condition (general intellect). In another psychic-physiological treatise, ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920), Freud describes three types of ‘fear’: fright (Schreck), fear (Furcht) and anguish (Angst). If anguish constitutes a kind of protection and preparation in the face of danger, fear and fright describe a condition of ‘wonder’ in the presence or absence of the object that causes apprehension. In this case psychoanalysis is a parallel world to the philosophical and artistic one, in which fear is, in the final analysis, an experience of ‘no-thing’. From a social and political point of view, one only has to think of the various derivatives of the word ‘terror’, including ‘terrorism’. The aim of the exhibition Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of Fear and Terror is to show how fear is ‘an expressive form’ of the language of contemporary art (starting with modernism and modernity), and, at the same time, how this specific language engages with that of society nowadays, in which ‘fear’ and ‘terror’ (and their manipulations) are key aspect of our being in the world today.

Helmut Friedel and Giovanni Iovane, text for the group show A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Fear and Terror at galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

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