Nei deserti aspri battuti dal vento nascono i set di Diego Brambilla per film che non girerà mai. Perché il film è condensato in un solo frame. E i frame sono i sogni dell’artista con impronte visibili di altri girati: “2001 Odissea nello Spazio”, “Star Wars”, “Interstellar” e di pagine di letteratura fantascientifica.
Ogni foto dà adito a un’ambigua interpretazione circa la propria veridicità posta sul crinale tra vero e falso.
Brambilla immortala distese che potrebbero essere di altri pianeti con colori, atmosfere, luci, qualità minerali e dettagli plausibili. Gli unici paramenti dimensionali riscontrabili negli spazi completamente vuoti sono relativi alla figura umana: una sola, unica, inarrivabile. Un pioniere, un astronauta o l’ultimo uomo. Una nostalgia primigenia si diffonde nell’assenza di oggetti e costruzioni. La foto, formalmente perfetta, a volte rivela l’inautenticità del soggetto, altre volte lo mimetizza nell’ambito della società-spettacolo. La tuta spaziale non è quella di un vero astronauta ma è opera dall’artista stesso che, con luci angolate e fosche, rende l’immagine veritiera in parte.
Egli lavora infatti sull’alterazione e la costruzione artificiale della realtà, ad esempio il particolare di una scultura diventa l’immagine della superficie di un pianeta lontano. Tuttavia, la sua prospettiva concettuale e poetica non ha impedito che le immagini – molto pubblicate su riviste di fotografia – fossero usate a corredo di un’intervista televisiva fatta all’astronauta Paolo Nespoli. Al di là dell’aspetto visivo, le opere di Brambilla, secche ed essenziali, sono paesaggi dell’anima, stati d’animo, atmosfere cariche di mistero e disagio, lontananza e solitudine. Potremmo riassumere la sua opera con le parole pronunciate da Yves Klein sessant’anni fa: “L’Uomo non realizzerà la conquista dello spazio con razzi, sputnik o missili, perché in questo modo resterà sempre un turista dello spazio; ma abitandolo con sensibilità, cioè non iscrivendosi in lui ma impregnandovisi, facendo corpo con la vita stessa che è questo spazio ove regna la forza tranquilla e formidabile dell’immaginazione pura e di un mondo feudale che, come l’Uomo, non ha mai avuto inizio né fine….”
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to visit another planet? Thinking beyond images, what would your senses tell you? What sounds would you hear and how would the ground feel, the food taste, or the odors smell?
Most of us don’t think about space settlement in this detail as it is hard to imagine the reality. All we know about space is mediated by narratives from those who have been to space and depictions in pop culture.
The hazards and risks of space are real. Physical hazards may involve sleep problems, radiation, bone loss, and eye problems, just to name a few. Basic needs are an issue as well such as oxygen, food, and shelter. Death is certain if these complications are not addressed in detail. Therefore, romanticism plays a large role in the drive to visit other worlds. Because of our imaginations and how the media interprets space exploration, we envision off-world settlements as somehow better than where we are now. We watch these environments unfold on a screen, made by a team of creative individuals. The recent film, The Martian depicts what might happen if one person was left on Mars to fend for themselves. Can we really know what that would be like? And can we really portray that experience in 2-3 hours? Television offers a more lengthy and in-depth imaginary of space travel. The Star Trek franchise has produced many series and episodes that focus on how humanity interacts with other life when exploring space. Our reality and our imaginations inform each other. Technologies created for Star Trek, such as the Tricorder are currently in production for us to use in real life. Alternatively, docking sensors used on the International Space Station have been adapted to be used in laser eye surgery. The liminal spaces between what we imagine and what seems to be real not only influence one another, but they create an ambiguity that puts us in a place of the unknown, and of unease. We want to know what is real, but we simply don’t have the evidence yet to make an informed decision on what deep space travel will be like. Space exploration is more of a cultural product than a realistic perspective.
And who would be the ones who could travel? There are only a few people who would be considered to settle on Mars as the first Martians. The people chosen would most likely come from privileged positions, supported by people in privileged positions. Even the language we use screams of power. We might want to rethink using the term colonization. It may not be a good idea to use a word that is associated with violence and subjugation, so a more appropriate term might be settlement. Many people on Earth do not have the luxury of food or shelter, which are necessities. It would be a long time, if at all, that heading out into space long term would be inclusive.
Those who have the means to go to Mars, may also be motivated by their legacy. Many people create meaning in their lives by thinking about their death. Knowing that our presence is fleeting, some of us strive to do whatever we can to have monuments in our name, have many children, build mausoleums, give monetary contributions, and perform amazing feats so that we feel like we have something of ourselves to leave behind for others to remember.
We see these as ways of immortalizing ourselves. This individualistic approach to memorializing, who we are and what we accomplish in life, is not inherently negative. What we do need to be mindful of is how our actions are impacting others. How are we implicated in what we do? What are the consequences of our actions in our striving for immortality? In the case for Mars, is getting there as fast as possible the right thing to do to claim “firstness?” What impact will our presence have on the planet and how will contamination factor into scientific investigation of Martian history? If there are ways to lessen or mitigate any negative consequences to us rushing to Mars, then perhaps that is something worth exploring, not only for ourselves, but for future generations. Immortalizing who we are does not need to come in the form of firstness, or making our names as big as possible; immortalizing ourselves can be living a great life while we are here, appreciating and passing on values and ideas such as love, compassion, respect, and equality.
What about the feelings involved and the psychological aspects of deep space travel? Astronauts have seen the earth from space, but what happens when our pale blue dot can no longer be seen with the naked eye? Communication lag times with earth, isolation, homesickness, anxiety, depression, and risks of psychosomatic issues are all factors that need to be well researched before we send anyone into space. Are you with a crew? How are those group dynamics coming along?
Venturing into space isn’t all bad. We can also anticipate feelings of wonder, elation, a global consciousness, perseverance, and self-reliance. However, we can only speculate. Diego’s images of space worlds unknown are constructed, yet they offer a realism that is lacking in the public discourse of space exploration today.
My First Dream helps to bring us one step closer to understanding what space exploration will be like: the desolate harshness of imagined space environments coupled with solitude. The miniscule human within a deserted expanse gives us an intense feeling of isolation. There is a beautiful dichotomy in the astronaut, as she appears to be constantly wandering and exploring yet at the same time seems so confined. He allows us to enter these visual worlds to evoke those feelings of loneliness within us.
This project offers a visual journey that everyone can relate to. Young or old, the photographs give impressions into the relationship between humanity, the environment, and ourselves. The images make us wonder and become inquisitive. Where are these planets? Of what are they composed? Did life exist there at one point? If so, what type of life? Are we really alone in the universe?
We can take Diego’s insights and incorporate them into the real or imagined ambiguity that is life. My First Dream gives us something tangible and elusive, daring to portray a quiet and isolated experience of space that goes beyond what pop culture has typically dictated to us.
Brambilla has an MA in photography from the London College of Communication. He also did a BA in sociology and a diploma in film and television direction in Milan. 'I am working on creating something that is not strictly photography. I spend a lot of time thinking and planning every single shot. I choose a character and give them a backstory, but I do not always tell that story in the artwork. I am exploring the relationship between humans and nature. Our relationship with nature has completely changed. People have a romantic idea of nature. My idea is to create fake nature, or shoot something that looks fake but is real. I am working on the balance of what is real and what is not, the blurred line between what is forged and what is original.'
Diego Brambilla is an Italian artist, based in Zürich, who graduated from the London College of Communication with an MA in photography in 2015. Previous education includes a BA in Sociology and a diploma in Film Direction.
Deliberately mixing real and imaginary, he stages fictional scenarios and experimentally combines photography with sculpture and installation. Drawing upon contemporary narratives about nature, his work challenges it as cultural product and investigates its ability to reconfigure the meaning within a constructed imagination.
His work has received the Life Framer - World Travelers award in 2019 and the PhotoX award in 2017 and it has been selected and shortlisted for several competitions such as Athens Photo Festival, Voies Off Arles and International Photography Grant and it has been exhibited many times in London and in Milan with a solo show at the Mudima Foundation in 2018. His work has gained the attention of the media and it has been featured in many magazines, printed and online, such as Fisheye Magazine, GUP, Wired (US and Japan), Dailybest. It has been published in the Paris Opera booklet and featured on Rai3 (national Italian television).
Committee member of near. swiss association for contemporary photography