It was already Thursday
‘It was already Thursday’ is the incipit of the work The Object-Lesson by Edward Gorey; the ‘Object Lesson’ was a teaching method popular in the Victorian era, a method by which children capture the world by means of their senses and the object itself asks them for an actively investigation trough a material touch, smelling and weighing it in order to take such categories as shape, color, size, consistency, fragility, flexibility, duration into account. It was already Thursday is a formula which brings us into an exact point of the story (and of the reality), giving the monotonous sensation of the same Thursday repeated to infinity and referring to a portion of the world just made of events and relationships where time is not relevant anymore.
For several years, I visited a Mediterranean southern Europe city – a sort of way station of migrants as new pilgrims – recalling the old American border towns. In the city, I followed processes of stratification of raw materials of objects, together with the net of events, in a scattered, diffused and non-orderly registration of the changes. I made a brand new reality emerging from the fusion of these elements, a certain folktale appearance, something impalpable, a pale-outline cloud mysteriously enveloping the environment. It is a dreamlike tale of hope related to the unexpected, which emerges to the light from the net of events. The connections between different portions of the world gathered in this place show in their unique and unexpected shape.
In an indefinite urban space full of pastel colors and fairytale atmospheres, Alvaro Deprit describes about his encounter with a city and with a community of immigrants, of contemporary pilgrims, who live there. His gaze combines the unadorned lucidity of the New Topographics with a surreal melancholy that reminds of Tim Burton and the residential neighborhoods of Edward Scissorhands, depicting a sense of impalpable strangeness that emerges from the banality of everyday life, the feeling that something is out of place. Time appears frozen, static, repetitive: it is always thursday. Time, however, also shows the sediments and traces of its passage in the city, in the material stratification of objects, superimposed posters that come off, letterboxes that are too full. Just outside the perimeter of the city, in the variable afternoon light, nature and green areas seem to regain ground from urbanization.
This series is the last chapter, after Suspension and Fiesta, of a group of works that the photographer has titled Rendez-vous, Things that happen. All these projects speak of community, of the search for identity, of a feeling of vagueness and uncertainty linked to the movements, encounters and flows of existence. We asked him to tell us something more about this contemporary tale and the imagery that characterizes it, between the oneiric and the documentary.
Montesilvano (Abruzzo) is a city representing one of these transitional realities that developed in a disorderly manner in the 60s. It includes shopping centers and unauthorized building areas; it consists of a main street dotted with a myriad of commercial and entertainment shops of various kinds and short duration. Today it is one of the cities that gathers the different immigrant communities of the region. During the period in which I shot, I was hanging out with a Nigerian evangelist community, attracted by the contrast between the world they recreated and the external context. In a moment of transition in my life I felt comfort in their contact, in observing them and perceiving the lightness in their relationship with the vicissitudes of life.
This work is associated with two other projects, Fiesta and Suspension, under the title of Rendez-vous, Things that happen. Rendez-vous refers to the idea of intersections of materials, landscapes and people's lives, as well as my own discoveries in these encounters. I realized that the common element was precisely that of strong life experiences in which the characters find themselves, and this existential abyss that opens up in relation to their future. In all three stories, but above all in this one thanks to the component of faith, the protagonists paradoxically and unexpectedly manage to feel light and find a vital impulse. This place gave me the idea of a bordertown, where new pilgrims arrive, with a strong religious view, and have to deal with the context.
Highlighting the coexistence of these two levels of reality, the physical-material one of the city (which behaves in a certain way, stratifies and has specific times), the mystical one of the community (fluctuating, floating) made me ponder upon the emergence of a transitory level, of an aggregate; something complex, born from a network of reciprocal information that we can only describe. The elements that came into contact in this place sparked my curiosity, a movement beyond symbolic and cultural stereotypes. My initial idea was to tell and describe this fairy tale, which emerged from the union and encounter of a place with the protagonists, who seem out of place. A feature that interests me about Edward Gorey, whose work inspired the quote of the title, is the way of narrating in which time seems to vanish, does not flow, the backgrounds are indeterminate and an unnatural calm is perceived. An approach that seems a surrealist and ironic distortion, but which actually comes close to a vision of reality proposed by current physics, where time is not so focused, as well as the relationships between the elements that come into contact.
My way to get to know a place or a city is, in practice, very spontaneous: I wander around as if I were a child, who has an immediate and naive look at the objects telling him something about place. Later I traced some superimpositions, material overlaps, it seemed to me that certain objects synthesized the dynamics (stratification and passage) and the static (its repetition) of time. From a purely visual point of view there are situations that brought me back to a fairy-tale imaginary (the images of the dwarves, the castle, the magic sphere, the swan etc.) and it seemed interesting to me to insert them in contrast with the context of a border city. In certain images I have pasted cuttings of objects from brochures and advertising magazines found in mailboxes, an abstraction of the idea of movement underlying the story I wanted to present, as if it were some remaining dust. This process of decontextualisation seemed to me a way to leave a question mark regarding the nature of objects, relationships and time.
Concerning references and visual cues in my photographs, I have been influenced by American visual art in my practice and the New Topographics are certainly among the references I prefer from the point of view of photographic style; even the English version in authors such as Paul Graham and Jem Southam. I am interested in places of passage, which apparently appear bare and light, but with attention you can observe the traces and the stratification of the stories. I am also a big cinema enthusiast; I wanted to study it at the university, but it was not possible. The cinematographic structure influences me a lot in the way of telling, because for me the environment or the mood in which each story is submerged is essential, it serves me as a guiding thread, as the backbone of narration.
ALVARO DEPRIT - BIO
Alvaro Deprit was born in Madrid and has been living in Italy since 2004. He studied German Philology in the 'UCM' of Madrid and 'Otto Friedrich' of Bamberg (Germany) and Sociology in the 'Università D’Annunzio' of Chieti (Italy). He focuses on the idea that the weave of the world comes from relational processes -the idea that reality is less solid than it appears. He is therefore interested in the narrative nature of identity seen as an emerging process and of the individual that exists as a relational pattern. Alvaro is the author of three books and his work has been exhibited in festivals and galleries in Arles, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, London and New York and his clients and publications include New York Times, Newsweek, Playboy, Internazionale, Vanity Fair, Das Magazin, L’Espresso, National Geographic, The Fader, Riders, Bulletin, L’Espresso, The Guardian, El Pais, NZZ, DLaRepubblica, British Journal of Photography. He won the British Journal of Photography Award, PHotoEspaña Human Values Award, Viewbook Contest, Fotocanal amongst others.