RADIO ONE : Rattlebag

Transcript of extract from:
Programme: Rattlebag
Subject: Sodom & Gomorrah exhibition
Station: Radio One
Date & Time: 28.08.2001 - 2,45 PM
Duration: 7 minutes, 25 sec


MYLES DUGGAN - PRESENTER
Now anyone, walking or driving around Dublin in the last few weeks, will have noticed large scale images of a distorted female figure with wings, hanging from billboards and adorning public facades. The image is entitled 'Portrait of a Girl who looks at herself in the Mirror' and is part of an exhibition which opened on Friday at the Guinness Storehouse, called 'Sodom and Gomorrah - a Reportage from the Lost Cities'. It combines photography and painting with 2d and 3d computer generated images, and Gemma Hill has this report.

* * Italian voiceover

GEMMA HILL - REPORTER
The question of whether the Biblica] cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, actually existed, has never been completely proved or disproved. But their mythical significance and powerful imagery provided enormous scope for Italian artist, Alessandro Bavari, to explore an imaginary journey through the two damned cities. And as soon as Paul Murnaghan, Artistic Director of Storehouse, came across the resulting images, he was intrigued.

PAUL MURNAGHAN - STOREHOUSE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
What attracted me actually, was the very first image that I saw on a CD, which was 'Portrait of a Girl who looks in the Mirror'. And I just thought the construction and the use of digital photography and the actual content were amazing; because when you get past the original image, within title background, there are always other elements, and symbolic elements. I thought the way he's using modern technology in an old style, was unique. And then, as I went through, and found more elements of the work, I found that each one became even better than the last one that I saw. So much so that I ended up going in Italy. And we lay all the images out on the floor in a much smaller format, and discussed ... maybe, an idea of how they could be displayed in lreland; the idea of the twelve images and blowing them up to large sizes and hanging them within the Atrium. And we came upon the exact images, which we would choose, and all that. But I was intrigued by the work from day one.

** background music

PAUL MURNAGHAN
People within the images are actually real people. The most famous one, which has been seen all around town, is 'Portrait of a Girl who looks in the Mirror'. And her body was used for that image, though obviously there are other features within the face and the body, which have come from othur areas. The same going for 'Nymphomaniacs in the depths of Gomorrah'. was a photograph that Alessandro took in, during the Gay Pride March in Rome. And he brought, these . . a certain group of transvestites posed for the photograph, but then he would take that image in and change it and develop it, using different textures and scenes and people that he has brought from areas of his travels.

GEMMA HILL
When people talk about 'Sodom and Gomorrah', it's usually in a sense of, you know, people, you can`t get any lower than 'Sodom and Gomorrah'; but here the images are quite beautiful. They also suggest that there's something quite spiritual about 'Sodom and Gomorrah', which maybe wasn't recognised before, or wasn't seen as a possibility before.

PAUL MURNAGHAN
Very much so. There is a religious element to it, and a fetish element to it. There are different .. within the images, you'll see there are, like the, kind of like Lot, the followers of Lot. who would be, the one person who was saved by God, and his people still live within the cities of 'Sodom and Gomorrah'. Now they may dress in a more moderate fashion, even in a masochistic fashion, because they are doing penance for other peoples' actions really.

** background music

PAUL MURNAGHAN
We're getting a glimpse of a scenario of a scene that is going on, you're getting a, it's very voyeuristic in a way, you're looking into a scene that may be in a private room where there's a rituai talking place, as in one of them. Or you're looking at somebody's own moment when they're looking in a mirror by themselves, as in 'Portrait of a Girl who looks in a Mirror'. You could view them in a lot of different ways. Even, there are three voyeurs, which is one of the images, where they're, again it's voyeuristic, they are looking down into somewhere that we don't see. So quite a lot of the time you are getting suggestions of what is actually happening, but you are not being shown what is actually happening, which makes it more intriguing in a way.

GEMMA HILL
With something like this, it would have been quite easy to show something much more sexually explicit, because that is what we all associate with 'Sodom and Gomorrah', but yet there's a huge amount of suggestion. And some of it is quite disturbing, like this sadomasochistic masks over faces, and things like that, but you don't actually see anything that you could go, 'oh that's disgusting because'.

PAUL MURNAGHAN
Well, I think that shock value is a trick that is overused by a lot of artists. The way Bavari does it is he suggests it with symbolism. He brings in scenes where sometimes, as you say, the mask there The mask is more disturbing than, you know, genitalia in your face, you know. You see that something is about to happen, or something has happened, and it's almost a 'Hitchcockian' air of unease within the images, but you don't get the full on thing, like as some people would do. Which I think would not work in the way that Alessandro works, it's much more subtle, it makes you think more and it is actually much more aesthetically beautiful to look at it this way.

** background music

GEMMA HILL
Though none of the figures, well with the exception of one or two, they're quite androgynous, the women have a lot of male traits, the men have a lot of female traits or no traits, no sexual genitalia traits. And also, like the 'King of Sodom' has one, two, three, four, five, six pairs of breasts. What's all that about?

PAUL MURNAGHAN
Well in the image where we see the 'King of Sodom', there's a lot of symbolism going on, cross cultural, cross religions, even across the centuries as well. I mean, the several breasts could be symbolic of suckling the people and the cults within his city. Also of the reproductive element of the different cults within the city as well. The androgyny of the actual elements in male and female, I think, one is to do with not going totally for the sexual elements of the body. Two, is the cross breeding within the people, you can see that there are not just elements of male and female in the people, there are also elements of animals and insects and angels within the people as well. So, it's creating a whole new race almost.

GEMMA HILL
And do you think that it will cause a major controversy; so far, what have people been saying about it?

PAUL MURNAGHAN
There actually has been no negative feedback at all. I don't think that there is anything within this exhibition that a normal broadminded person couldn't take on board and understand completely. I think you would see more offensive things on an ad for shampoo, half the time, or half the ads we see where a woman is draped over the bonnet of a car showing as much of here body as she possibly can. I think that's far more offensive than any of this work.

** background music

MYLES DUGGAN
Paul Murnaghan there, talking to Gemma Hill about 'Sodom and Gomorrah - a Reportage from the Lost Cities', which runs in the Storehouse until the 5th of October. And in case you were wondering what the accompanying soundscape was, it's a piece of music called 'Requiem for a Fly', which was written by Paul himself, and features the actual sound of thousands of flies.

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