CRITICS

Title: The hybrid world of Marco Bolognesi: a Cyberpunk Mash-up
Author: Nicola Dusi
Year: 2014

1. The artist as a poacher
Bolognesi’s work is at one with the contemporary post-medial period, in which everything that has been produced and everything that was seen before returns in new forms. It is not, however, nostalgic or ironic referencing, nor is it plagiarism, but reappropriation and transformation from artistic experiences more akin to him and his own, very personal, practical experiences. One is reminded of the forms of “poaching” described by De Certeau to reinterpret and rewrite the authoritarian forms, such as the establishment of the idea of the author. Bolognesi is, first of all, poaching from himself, by fishing for shapes and objects from the archive of his cultural memories, as is the case for example of toys linked to the child universe of “Meccano” (but also with the re-use of games of preceding generations, in the most monstrous and hybridized digital natives), or revitalizing shared media memories. He does it, at least, from the photographic works of the early twenty-first century, that Marco Bolognesi resumes and relaunches, multiplying the meanings, while creating new constellations of visual and audio-visual images. To relaunch, Bolognesi plunges his visions in the construction of a narrative world in expansion, furnishing and reinventing it with incessant new accumulations both thematic and figurative. The “poaching” ranges from our Western literary and visual culture, but also the universe of Japanese manga and science fiction bodies of cyborgs and mutants, between flesh and metal, in the name of a story about the future in which the imagination of Bolognesi stitches together fragment flashes of cyberpunk aesthetics and science-fiction. The Stories and imagination which Bolognesi has nurtured since childhood, and that led him to invent a visual style both unique and autonomous, as for the photographs he uses the collage of parts of objects (technical or technological) “sewn” on the bodies – and especially on the faces in the foreground – of his models. Women-object, in a mockery of capitalist consumerism, which soon turn into women-warriors, post-human cyborgs (or rather “post-mutants”, in the thought of the artist), disturbing and mysterious. In his installations and in his video, Marco Bolognesi resumes and contextualizes these heroines, by incorporating them in a visual world full of the seventies and eighties comics from Moebius, to the Druuna heroine scenarios, created by Paolo Serpieri Eleuteri, or stories of Bill Sienkiewicz and Frank Miller like Elektra: Assassin. A coherent universe in which they coexist in hybrid forms of bricolage, modes of “craft” production, as the spacecraft built with fragments and assemblages of many toy ships, and modes of production allowed by the new software for digital image composition, as for augmented reality that invests a further sense (thanks to the viewer of a tablet), the urban scenarios of the futuristic Sendai city, apparently static and uninhabited. Among technical challenges and transmedia memories, those worlds glimpsed or imagined transform our aesthetic experience in a disturbing way. Marco Bolognesi does not make, however, a simple “variation” or a copy of those worlds, he does not “redraw the theme” of science-fiction, but rather he shuffles and blends to create something new from a shared imagination. For this reason we feel different smells and tastes, not only of the underground comics and fantasy literature of Gibson, Ballard, and Dick, but the cinematic contamination scattered in fragments scattered of “1997: Escape from New York” by John Carpenter, the first of the Matrix Wachowski brothers Trilogy, but also Minority Report by Steven Spielberg, or TV episodes of Star Trek, or John Carpenter’s Dark Star. But the list of influences is, poetically, infinite and varied, and refers among others to James Cameron’s Terminator, Total Recall, by Paul Verhoeven, but also a cult film like Natural City by Byung-Chun Min. Up to the grimmest films, the Italian strand of Nazisploitation (between erotic sadomasochism and post-war imagery), or a little more authorial, such as the Night Porter by Liliana Cavani, each is seen as an ironic pop, seasoned with a pinch of situationist détournement. Many of these contaminants are explicit, in that the artist is proud to show them, others are more implicit and fluid, left to the sensitivity and intertextual memory of the audience. Among explicit films, there is also another kind of cinema, that of Mario Bava and the Italian b-movie, among which the artist prefers the movies of Antonio Margheriti (aka Anthony M. Dawson), which are reworked and repainted, absorbing them to turn them into objects of his Bomar Universe. If there is repetition, in short, it is in the order of rebuilding and creative reappropriation, not of a déjà vu aesthetic. It is, however, a transformation that claims to reset the differences, material and temporal, in a new coherence of materials and techniques. A search for a stylistic unity, allowed by their invention of a new dystopian world of the future. The works presented by Marco Bolognesi are organized around a strong narrative idea, layered in time paths (from the archaeological past and the genesis of the Bomar world until the most recent events), passing through actantial conflicts between subjects, objects, collective heroes and individual characters, caught between deadly weapons, spaceships and parallel worlds. Armies of fighters, mostly female, hybridized and reborn as something that goes beyond machines and beyond humanity. They are part of this narrative world the different units of post-human warriors, beautiful and dangerous, created by Marco Bolognesi. Hybrids ready to suppress violence in all forms of resistance (human or cyborg), at the service of the imperialist plan of the phantom Sendai Corporation. The alterity of these figures should be seen as an uncanny double of man, and develops one of the key themes of literature, comics and science fiction cinema: the fusion more or less formalised between flesh and metal, between humanity and technology, basically for example, the creation of characters on the boundary between the war machine and the android, as in Verhoeven’s Robocop, or in Tetsuo: the Iron Man, by Shin’ya Tsukamoto. The context of this tale of power, between conflict and bullying, is given by the post-metropolitan areas of the city of Sendai (a tribute to Cyberspace Seven by William Gibson), which blends vintage style and futuristic architecture of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Blade Runner by Ridley Scott. A sprawling metropolis, globalized, in which the social logic and mechanical power act very closely to us, given that they compare a general desire to dominate bodies and minds, and the use of military force masked by the propaganda as “Well-being, Order and Security”. The social order in fact is only apparent, well-controlled by the battle-hardened armies of cyborg-warriors, from strict hierarchies and many backgrounds. In the Bomar world and in Sendai City, in reality, an incessant civil war is being fought and an active resistance begins to organize itself…

2. Alien worlds, including remixes and mash-ups
If we were in the world of pop music, we would call this a cyberpunk remix, even better, a mash up. According to a media guru in fashion today, Lev Manovich, that contemporary is the remix culture: “Today, many of the arenas of culture and trends – music, fashion, design, art, web applications, media generated by users, the food – are remixes, blends, collages and mash-ups. If postmodernism is the figure of the eighties, remix is that of the nineties, the 2000s, and probably the next decade.” Manovich defines remix as a practical modification, or conjunction overlap between one or more source texts, and other images, sounds, videos, music, that masses of individual anonymous users share on the Web, searching in digital archives and producing new forms and content, helping to disseminate the current culture of user-generated content and media sharing. We could point out that visual and audiovisual remix is a way to rework the material vision, preceding video or film, taking it in its entirety, to create something different, while mash ups are ways building something new from heterogeneous fragments of preceding visual and audiovisual texts, as Marco Bolognesi does in his world. But beware: everything is new! And, like any lengthy meditated exercise, it does not really need to look back: it holds up very well by itself. Bolognesi challenges the contemporary art audience, because in his world there is need to take a cognitive step forward, that is, to overcome the “test” and become initiates in a complex world. A world articulated narratively and thematically, a series of stories that distinguish shapes and forms (human, cyborgs and mutants) that are not easily understandable. The viewer can then begin to wonder, and then accept getting to work to rebuild the threads and textures of this world both hybridized disturbing. The whole Bomar Universe, according to the author, is inspired from CREMASTER poetry by Matthew Barney which is an art that becomes a constructive experimentation of worlds. For this reason there is a constant remixing of content and expressive forms from different media, but also reworking, the absorption of previous textualities and the creation of “series of series” (Deleuze 1969) of objects, bodies, images, installations concurrent and subsequent, in the multidirectional transition from video to installations, from the photographs to the catalogue, and so on. In the age of digital post-production, including contemporary art replayed in the confrontation/clash with the “logic of software” (Manovich), in a digital design which invests and reconfigures objects and spaces, bodies, and their accessories and functions. In search of realism effects, or of a world (more or less) coherent, in which we germinate the possibility of stories of different genres, from horror to science fiction, and beyond.

3. Creating worlds
What Marco Bolognesi does with his Bomar Universe is a “creation of worlds.” In the field of aesthetics, the philosopher Nelson Goodman speaks of creation as a “starting from worlds already available,” because “to make is to remake.” Goodman lists some features of the operation of these aesthetic practices. “Creating worlds” means, for example, working for “composition and decomposition” of preceding texts (medial and aesthetic); It also means choosing what is important to us therefore giving a “weight” and “relevance” to something, and ignoring the rest, in the “elimination” and the subsequent “integration” of new elements. This brings about a new “order”, narrative even, which changes depending on the circumstances and objectives of the artist until you get that deliberate “deformation”, consistent with the research, that we could also define an autonomous visual style and immediately identifiable. How to tell the recognisability of a strong visual identity, which arises from the forms of the arts remixed from earlier work, both static and popular. Goodman teaches us that even the differences between the various discourse genres and aesthetics are reduced to the question of what you want it to be pertinent (relevant), or a “diversity of emphasis” will be given to their work. And in his manner of manufacturing worlds he reiterates the importance of the “suppression” of the old materials, or parts thereof, to be able to enter and invent new ones. In the BOMAR Universe of Marco Bolognesi what is preserved of the worlds, and textual media, consists as Goodman would say “of significant fragments and clues, which require a massive integration.”

4. Towards transmedia storytelling
In the field of media studies today there is much talk of “transmedia storytelling.” We owe this to Henry Jenkins, who defines it as “a process in which elements of a fiction must be dispersed systematically across multiple devices and media channels, in order to create a unified and coordinated entertainment experience,” in which each medium gives its specific contribution to the expansion of the story. Jenkins thinks of transmedia narrative worlds as linked to the series The Matrix, which includes film, video games, comic books, forums and websites, gadgets, and so on, but the progenitor of these migrations and transmedia expansions is the saga of Star Wars (and the mechanism leads right up to the theme parks dedicated to Harry Potter). We are now in the era of media “convergence”, says Jenkins, an era of transition which defines itself in the cross, diversification and interconnection between the media. In fact, there was no long-awaited digital revolution that would sweep away everything, but we are rather in a hybrid regime of coexistence and constant remediation between media and languages, in which each new medium rethinks the previous ones, and relaunches with new creative and productive possibilities. What does this mean then that the world of Marco Bolognesi is transmedial? It means that it expands and diversifies in different media and artistic media, including photography, video, drawings and installations, and even in a catalogue that opens narratively through augmented reality, with the complicity of a tablet or a Smartphone. In addition to the narrative expansion in different media, each with its own specific gravity, the transmediality of Bomar Universe is also found in its serial form, including video episodes, photographic repetitions and variations, artistic series of different types. And finally, in another of the characteristics of contemporary media convergence mentioned by Jenkins: “understanding to accumulate”. In the era of Web 2.0 and participatory communication, in fact, knowledge circulates in the form of “collective intelligence”, and each understanding completes and deepens only in dialogue with others, people or texts, found thanks to new digital platforms, such as social networks. Here, to understand the project of Marco Bolognesi and to reconstruct its complex and diverse narrative world, we must agree to enter into the literary narratives of the catalogue, and thus learn to map the Bomar world. You learn to reconstruct the steps of its “backstory” between prequel and sequel, and to better interpret the many snapshots of this futuristic universe presented in the exhibition. But we must, further, enter the site of Sendai City to explore other narrative perspectives, or to request interviews with the artist, his answers begin to complete the mosaic, and read the criticism (hopefully) and perhaps expect, sooner or later , to enter into a new immersive world, as in a video game…in short, the narrative world begins to preside over entirely local individual projects, who use different media platforms (web, mobile phones, tablets, etc..) to switch to the construction of worlds and articulated and varied narratives. All guaranteed, however, in their consistency, the encyclopaedic frame given by the directives of the game’s master, namely the artist. And there is still a step missing, or maybe two. The first step claims that this world produces individual heroes, with names and skills and the tasks to carry out, with values ​​to follow and tests to pass, in turn surrounded by aides and enemies identifiable by specific peculiarities, with actions and passions of all kinds to write, photograph, or film. Here, then, appear Stark Special Corps, with fearsome warrior cyborgs such as Josephine de Beauharnais (the Royal Manticore), or Paula Hitler, who commands a division of the Babylon Federation…The second step, why the game becomes truly transmedial, will be when the stories, and the different perspectives of value-tales, will begin to grow and multiply in the rhizomatic growth of the network, through the questions and hypotheses of the fans, and many other forms of participation in the Bomar universe, all still to come.

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Marco Bolognesi ©2020 all rights reserved | info@marcobolognesi.co.uk

Design by Veronesi Namioka