Waiting for the return of giants
by Martin Cole
This work is the practice-based outcome of my ongoing PhD research. It consists of a series of photographs taken in the Historic City centre of Palermo between the years 2014- 2018. I was interested in investigating through my photographic practice, the influence of a Baroque mode of thought expressed through architecture, and extended throughout an urban space. In particular, I was interested in the possibility that a “Baroque environment” in this specific location- now at the Edge of “fortress Europe” but once at the centre of a different world order that stretched into the Orient as much as the Occident, could contribute to different readings, or manifestations, of Modernity. I have been visiting Palermo since 1994, and one of the things that has consistently struck me about this ancient, beautiful, and troubled city, is its markedly different relationship to time compared to most other European cities. This relationship with time is reflected day to day, but also across historical time. It is not a linear teleological version of time, measuring out the steady and ineluctable advance of progress, but circular. It is full of strange reruns and co-existences where past and present mingle in the same space. It is a place dominated both by the figure of the ruin, central to Walter Benjamin’s conception of the Baroque, and of the labyrinth, a trope of 17century Baroque thinking indicating cultural anxiety, and uncertainty about the outcomes of human endeavour (analogous to the postmodernism of our own time). With this series of photographs, I have attempted to engage with these ideas. I have used something of the visual rhetoric of the Baroque through the use of Chiaroscuro, which is both a cultural construct and the result of a collision between nature and culture in this environment. the idea of the shadow and what lies behind it (dietrologlia) is a part of the Palermitan psyche; The writer David Williams in his essay on Palermo in the book Performing Cities, puts it this way- “a melancholic obsession with “what lies behind” (dietro); behind surface appearances, received “truths”, language, silence, history; behind cover-ups and walls of all kinds.” I have also used the juxtaposition of the interior/exterior the one folding into the other. The Baroque church interiors giving way to the street which is itself a type of interior.
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About the author
Martin Cole studied theology at Exeter university, Documentary Photography at Newport school of Art and Design, BA in Photography at the West Surrey college of Art and Design and is presently finishing a PhD in Photography at Plymouth University under the supervision of professors Jem Southam and David Chandler. His exhibitions include New contemporaries 96 at the Tate Liverpool. Evident, New landscape Photography at the Photographers Gallery 1997 with Axel Hutte, James Welling, and Catherine Opie. New British Photography Stadthaus Ulm Germany 1998. Mediterranean, between utopia and Reality Photographers gallery 2004. Floral Portraits Print Room Photographers Gallery 2009. Offsite projects for the Photographers gallery at Liberty in Regent st and Coutts bank in the strand London 2009/2010. Publications include Wine Dark Sea, Photo works monograph 2003. His Work is held in the permanent collection of the V+A museum London. His current working in Palermo Sicily and lives in Brighton.