by Gianluca Marziani


SODOM & GOMORRAH: written like that, with the & which brings to life the dynamic apocalyptic spirit of the two biblical cities. Their narrative begins in the Book of Genesis, in the first inklings, already definitive, of a more advanced intellect. Lot and the two angels, the punishment wrought on the forbidden cities, fire and brimstone brought down to destroy sinfulness, Lot’s wife who looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt, Lot’s daughters who conceive their first born with the seed of their own father…we know much, maybe very little, about those places where excess is transformed into daily virtue, of those strange worlds where races and species have become mixed in a complete mutation of cross breeds. Forbidden cities where lust is the king, a paradise of vices where morality gives way to the rampant freeing of the senses. Two ideal spaces that have become archetypes of tolerant, courageous and liberating thought. Centres of gravity that boast of a radical past while tracing the electrocardiogram of an everyday apocalypse.

SODOM AND GOMORRAH is the title Alessandro Bavari has chosen for his loudly contemporary project. He has however left the words with their classical conjunction, giving us a precision that doesn’t reinterpret the title but, using honest and veiled means, allows for an astounding cerebral re-reading. A dense mass of memory, layered down towards the bowels of the past while at the same time regurgitating the technology of today. The & (mine), on the other hand, underlines the distance between the literary heredity of the biblical chapter and the artwork’s overturning of it. Almost to reiterate the task that the artist carries out, a task that goes well beyond the boundaries of the sacred texts, well outside the rhetoric of everyday discourse, towards mental images that are effective in their liberating qualities.
A licence (literary) on the & (licentious) which affirms a project of a universal grammar and an international lexicon.

Bavari undertakes a visionary iconographic excursus that, through the centuries, hypothesizes a future following an adventurous ethic. It is the journey of the extreme body through a landscape that reflects the unleashing of perversion, of sexual lechery, of the shining instinct that becomes a crazed law of life. All this in order to extol, by means of an impeccable style, the dignity and the energy of modified bodies, that have become hybrids, abnormal, half way between man and the skeletons of bizarre animals. Their gestures narrate a world of domination and submission, radical satanic ideology, medieval rites, an atmosphere redolent of science fiction. They move about in a Calvino-style city where the urban landscape mixes visionary skyscrapers with a flora mutated in a similar vein, desert-like landscapes with imposing and totemic bodies, cathartic gestures together with consciously degraded spaces. Places in which the figures carry out their rites and recreate the sexual gestures powerful lyricism, exciting the beauty of an “other” world while being conceptually real. Mentally determined. Almost mathematical in the balance of power between the subjects portrayed.

To help us we have the most conceptual of Italo Calvino’s books, “The Invisible Cities” that has for years contributed to architectural visionariness from archeology to the future. In one chapter he writes: "Finally the journey leads to the city of Tamara. You penetrate it along streets thick with signboards jutting from the walls. The eye does not see things but images of things that mean other things: pincers point out the tooth-drawer's house; a tankard, the tavern; halberds, the barracks; scales, the grocer's...” The distance is situated between that which exists and that which we perceive, between the physical truth and its mental projection. Sodom and Gomorrah remain biblical archetypes that many have interpreted, and often and at times understanding its clear metaphoric nucleus. For Bavari the two cities embody the luxurious impulses from which all moral judgments are banished. A space where appearances hide timeless truths, outside the boundaries of time, plausible yet fantastic.Out of the ordinary yet not too unreal: because if the interpretation of a of a biblical passage opens the limits of the image, then Bavari is showing us something that exists.
Buried in the ancestral memory, held in chains in the visionary mind.
A something that reveals its own subliminal presence, in the same way that Calvino-style cities are being built around us, ever more similar (radical architecture, mega polis, suburbs, skyscrapers, geodetic domes…) to the visions that Marco Polo related to Kublai Kan. An example? In the piece entitled City of Sodom there are a number of mounds in the ground within whose warrens live the population of a ghettoized underclass. In the background there are skyscrapers and organic obelisks that emphasize the contrast between the social classes. On one side sprout Paleolithic forms similar to those found in Turkey or the Sassi di Matera; on the other side metropolitan prototypes that includes skyscrapers and urbanized greenery, recalling scenes found in Singapore or certain Indian cities.

The narrative density and its semiotic complexity are the sign of an author who possesses a continual intuition, an inventive eye for composition and for digital manipulation, and a perfectionist in the production of “multicoloured” black and white photography. The artist incessantly photographs subjects and details both indoors and out. He gives preference to the studio set when the depiction of central participants requires it. Otherwise he roams cities, towns and medieval villages, abandoned spaces, suburbs, social events, streets and crevices.
Once he has selected the material for his compositions he digitally reworks his work and prints it on photographic paper, maintaining a chromatic perfection in which black and white is modulated into multiple variations of grey, metallic tones, dense whites and blacks which push the limits of their malleability.
The work, with maximum formal mimesis, brings out the digital potential of revealing pictorial forms: on the one hand creating a juxtaposition of figurative levels able to give life to the image, while on the other overlaying contrasts, burning, fading, graphic marks and deformations. The final image captures an atmosphere with an extremely powerful impact, coldly perfect but emotionally boiling, as if aging or soiled hands had left their dirty marks on a story of pure directly transmitted life.

This visionariness belongs to an immediately recognizable universe where things that are held in common outweigh any individual diversity. A cultural space that mixes visual radicalism with extreme formal experimentation. It is a creative zone in which expressions feed a harmony that elsewhere would be difficult to believe. Here music, cinema, visual art, literature and video feast together at a banquet that emphasises a digestive harmony found when there is a basis of common ingredients. Every author has different aims, a different vision and different values; however we are always left with an intense exploration of the moral content, of the liberating instinct, of unleashed perversions, of the overindulgences that become insights into one’s (ab)normality. Fear of nothingness doubts about dogma, the courage of madness: elements of the shared escape from the linear rhythms of everyday life. The love felt for a precarious body, the changing landscape, for a contamination that mixes categories and social classes: other elements of a common energy in the face of a restless world. It is from this that we saw the birth of the industrial sounds of Einstürzende Neubauten, the sonorous sounds of Aphex Twin, the mechanical sounds of Autechre, the heavenly sounds of the Boards of Canada, the enigmatic sounds of Radiohead, the amniotic sounds of Portishead. And thus the magical realism of James G. Ballard, the hyper technological writing of William Gibson, the acid writing of William S. Burroughs, right up to the outsiders; Jim Goad, Peter Sotos, Monte Cazazza, Hakim Bey. Thus the prophetic cinema of David Cronenberg, the chemical cinema of David Lynch, the mutant cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto, the deformed cinema of Ciprì and Maresco. Thus the magmatic videos of Floria Sigismondi. Thus the visual arts of explosive artists like: Mark Ryden with translucent children who burst into subtle intimate horrors; Joel-Peter Witkin and his freakish and pictorially masterful still-life studies; Enrico Corte with his cerebral autobiography that journeys through symbolic languages and references; Andrea Nurcis with his familiar yet foreign subjects; Rinat Baibekov with a vampirism of a bodies belonging to a Nordic fable; Yoshifumi Hayashi and his cerebral eroticism; Filippo Scozzari and his ironic irreverence; Daniel Lee and his portrait of an animal-like humanity; Camille Rose Garcia and her fairly tales of a malign undergrowth; Eric White with his grotesque deformations that, in the final analysis look like us…
Alessandro Bavari spins his thread in a giant web of common sentiments. He weaves his thread in between the thread of others; he touches them or knots them, leaving other to embroider their own threads in his autonomous world. Yet doesn’t change and in the end resembles only himself. But inside the spider’s web he accepts the flows of wandering ideas where the aforementioned artists confer in an invisible yet powerful dialogue.

Bavari is interested in the dilation of the body as though it were a prismatic mirror reflecting the mind. He follows a wave of hard-edged thinking, of the extreme contemplation that comes with delving deep into one’s own habits, until he manages to transfer his own identity onto the image: that does not mean, “to be” that which we see but “to feel it” without any dishonesty.
If we then consider the talent from whence all this springs, it is hard conceive of any other outcome, so disquieting and cathartic, we are in the presence of an imagination that exceeds the simplified limits of the everyday pragmatic mind.

She is always there behind the narratives of “Sodom and Gomorra”, that magnetic sexual perversion that clutched at the adventurers in that primordial anarchy. It is obvious to say this in regard to the themes that bind the images, less so when there is nothing pornographic in the images, or at least nothing recognizable. The naturalism of the sexual act is transformed into a serial multi-breasted queen, into coprophilic bodies in giant crinoline petticoats, into nude voyeurs who peek through holes in the floor, into cut up bodies, of feminine figures with wings and the faces of insects, into a bald woman locked into a pillory, into a king suspended in the air, into nymphomaniacs in gaudy dresses and stupendously perverse expressions. They all have faces that disturb, wildly overloaded eyes, sinuous and savage movements.
Emblematic, in this sense, is the piece entitled “Coprophilia Hall” with busts with life-like muscles supported on the exposed framework of giant crinoline petticoats.
Under these bodies in the covered pouch of the wooden framework, tiny human figures move about, some kind of dominated masochists who await their coprophilic lessons, the material anointment with faeces of their personal liberation. The whole series doesn’t reveal the usual well noted sexual postures; it doesn’t follow the classical standard background or even the fluent notes of the sexuality of the ancient orient. Here the egocentric nature of sexual desire is opened up to unknown gestures, to the unleashed instincts of those who have no moral binds. The actions condense the power of nature with the complete liberty of a social utopia. A wonderful anarchic flow that anticipates ancient Rome - imperial and perverse, Gabriele D’Annunzio’s decadent Fiume, the Sixties with their all too small dreams, Fellini’s “Città delle Donne”, the luxury micro-worlds of Marchesa Luisa Casati, of the Marquise de Sade and of the Barone von Masoch… right up until the prosaic flesh found in present day saunas devoted to sexual congress, in the German fetish clubs, in the hidden microcosms of sexual freedoms. The first limbo in human history was founded in Sodom and Gomorrah, a fluid place for long lasting souls and well prepared bodies. Almost an abstract of living: and like all extreme things, destined (unfortunately) to finish under the black sky of the Apocalypse. The entire human race, in the final analysis, crosses those two cities in the length of a lifetime. Some people are aware of it, others live the crossing only in their dreams, and too many convince themselves that the rot is in another place, distant from their nose and their eyes. But Sodom and Gomorrah are not that far away. On the contrary…

And so lets conclude with a look at the aesthetic qualities of the works. The images are an intricate development of the compositional elements.
At first sight rich beyond expectations, they underline a synthetic harmony where everything has a meaning and a sensual release. To do this, the artist doesn’t improvise anything but has developed a solid knowledge of expressive techniques, from painting to photography, from drawing to advanced digital graphics. He has portrayed, during a life’s work of minute experimentation, human and animal subjects, specific architecture and landscapes, according to an elastic curiosity that we can recognize in the multitude of languages used in this project. “Sodom and Gomorrah” speaks the language of our disquiet, of our interior brothel, of the poison that runs inside us. He recounts the normality of the absurd but also the absurdity of normality.
Creating an impossible space (?), within a cerebral geography that exists and becomes adult. Plausible. Absurdly real.

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