ANTONINO BARBARO

Us, Wounded Stones

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The stream of consciousness inside us is like water descending mountains. When engaging with the world outside it flows steadily through the pebbled soil of everyday life. But when in isolation, it is a dangerous downfall from the tallest heights of our selves to the bottomless pit of our inner void. This project is a personal response to the extreme fall into the self, a consequence of our current times. It is a solid grip onto which the self could decelerate the fall, avoid the impact and be accompanied as gently as possible into its deepest meanders, for a chance of acceptance and personal growth.

Memories, meditation and self-care have been combined into a visual representation of what dealing with our psychological wounds means. US, WOUNDED STONES aims at developing a therapeutical path that involves archival photography, painting and self-analysis to deal with intimate wounds one accumulates in life and never openly confronts.

The project is a mixed media investigation of some personal and often avoided memories, with the mean of meditation exercises involving a specific object of relevance: the stone. Handling the stone provokes memories of the past to gush out of consciousness in all their pain and suffering. By projecting those memories on to the stone’s surface – through the act of writing – a process of healing and self-care unexperienced before had arisen.

Archival images have been digitally manipulated to represent the impossibility of confronting memories with clarity and stillness. This manipulation also works as a metaphoric muscle that contracts and release imagery when actively visiting those memories; representing the blurred, fractured status in which they present themselves to us. Those memories are permeated in colours according to their emotional qualities and spawn feelings often unbearable to the subject. 

The stone – a familiar object part of the self when handled into the meditation exercise – absorbs those feelings both figuratively and physically, for then being painted over white by the subject, in a purification process of the self through stratification of conscious acts. Those wounds, although never completely healed, once confronted and demonised, lay bare under stratified layers of renewed comfort represented by the white paint.

A rotatory movement has been introduced to the stone as a symbolic struggle of the self in steadily holding those wounds wide open to the consciousness. Wounds that are never fully grasped, no matter how often and how deep our inner eye investigates.

The distortive nature of memory is a problematic quality to take into consideration when dealing with such issues. Never fully trustable and always re-shaped, memory carries a malfunction glitch intrinsic to its failing nature similar to any other system the digital age has accustomed us to. In US, WOUNDED STONES it also serves the purpose of teasing the viewer’s imagination in filling in the missing information from their own.

Originally, this project has been conceived to be displayed in a physical space in the form of installation. A semi-dark “Memory Room” would be set up to host artworks on dedicated screens, placed all around on relatively large scale. The documentation videos of the painting/purification process would also accompany the work. The stone would be placed on a plinth and secured inside a glass box that would, however, allow the spectator to insert their hands and interact with the stone. Audio, in the form of ambient noise, may be added to round up the multi-sensory experience of this work.

However, considering the drastic transformation the world has undergone almost overnight, it is believed an online recreation of the physical experience is not only possible but undoubtedly required for the future of the arts, This project has taken into consideration such possibility and it is designed to confront those industry-changing times.

On memory and meditation

“To remember is to have a memory or to set off in search of a memory” (Ricoeur, 2004). Purpose of this project is to confront personal memories in a self-care attempt to heal psychological wounds connected to those memories. Meditation therefore, became the safe space in which an active confrontation could begin. However, “the interference of the pragmatics of memory, by virtue of which remembering is doing something, has a jamming effect on the entire problematic of veracity” (Ibid.). This meant pounding those memories with a more informed and inquisitive attitude.
Memory realms are often pleasant territories when nostalgic of a specific time in our past. However, some territories more than others are often avoided, pushed at the borders of our consciousness because of the emotional distress that comes with them (Freud, 1896). Inside the safe space of meditation, places where pain and suffering is the only noise could now be visited.
Along with meditation, stone writing became the chosen tool for projecting those memories out of the self on to an object (Quinodoz, 2005). Immediately, a sense of therapeutical liberation permeates the consciousness and the healing process is then completed by the meticulous act of painting white over the now wounded stone.

Confronting the stone

Approaching the stone, which happened to be the object I felt more connected after the first meditation exercise, went from unquestioned event to something that urged to be explained. “We would never photograph anything unless we have become attentive to it because we already have a part of it within ourselves” (Sommer, 1984). The stone had therefore caught my attention because somehow familiar to my emotional state of that time.
The act of handling the stone provoked feelings and memories that felt valuable and commanded confrontation. Its tactility, weight and volume sunk deep into the consciousness, shaping a place of comfort and security evidently missed before. It suddenly felt poignant to the point I perceived it as a part of my self. A shelter into which dwell and discover peace. When holding the stone, I was the stone. Avoided memories of the past gushed out uncontrolled, and with them the traumatic pain experienced. Although they demanded immediate attention, with the stone in my hands, they felt much less armful than before.
As a consequence of this experience, an unusual archival research felt necessary. Traces were found of those memories in images I had created without any specific intention. “The presence in which the representation of the past seems to consist does indeed appear to be that of an image. […] we have an image of it, an image that can be either quasi visual or auditory” (Ricoeur, 2004). Aware of this presence, the entirety of my archive could now be read through a different lens.

Antonino Barbaro is a multimedia artist working with photography, moving images and text. He received a BA in Philosophy from University of Milan and he is now undertaking a MA in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism at London College of Communication. A major area of his research is the relationship between image/text within the intimate space of memory, loss and death. His work takes experimentation and cross-media contamination as a starting point for artistic research oriented toward humanistic studies. Previous work includes MAN AND BEYOND, MURPHY, Bye Bye Dedushka and Sigarette Post-mortem. 

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