Camden Arts Centre— File Note 58, Francesco Manacorda — 2011
When Thomas, the fashion photographer protagonist of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow up, accidentally discovers what looks like the trace of a homicide in a picture he has taken, he is haunted by the uncertain evidence of an event that he could only visualise through his prosthetic recording device. He keeps optically enlarging the picture only to obtain half-signs, dotted shapes looking like a body rather than unambiguous proofs. He repeatedly goes back to the location and, one night, finds what seems to be the simulacrum of a dead body. Thomas is ultimately unable to ascertain the reality of the source of the suspicious visual mark in his photograph.
The film ends with a final visit to the murder scene during which Thomas, again, is unable to find any definitive evidence of the murder in the real world. In the final scene, he attends a tennis match, played by a group of mimes in the same park, and ends up participating in the match by throwing an imaginary ball back to the players, which they pretend has gone over the fence in his direction. Shadowing the mystery clue inside the enlarged photographs, the ball is a missing index around which an action is organised thanks to the collective participation in a fictional set of conditions. It is an absence that triggers the complex behavioural pattern of the game, similarly to the way in which missing information is the reason for blowing up the photographic prints.
Anne Hardy’s artistic practice could be described as the metaphorical reversal of Thomas’s unresolved attempt to verify reality from a mechanically reproduced image. Rather than unintentionally recording a perturbing fragment of the real through the camera, Hardy deliberately prepares, in front of the camera, detailed sculptural simulacra to transform them into ambiguous pictures. In order to produce the image she is looking for, she meticulously turns her studio into a theatre set entirely constructed for the camera’s eye only. Imaginary rooms are given three-dimensional temporary presence only to be translated into two-dimensional records and then destroyed. Always empty, they are full of the residues left behind by the fictional actions of a character or a group of people who have seemingly just left them. Comparable to the effects of the absent ball in the mimed tennis game, her photographs aim at the fictionalisation of the world around her through the construction of sets that rotate entirely round absent actors.
While trying to produce the evidence of a supposed action, Thomas unwittingly undermines photography’s truth claim. This is especially palpable when the shapes he obtains from the enlarged prints become similar to abstract paintings in which visual forms are non-representational marks that our eye often tends to anthropomorphise.
2 Iconophilia is the composed word of Greek derivation that combines icono (from εἰκών – eikōn: ‘likeness, image, portrait, image’) and -philia (from φιλία – philiā: ‘love, affection, fondness’) to suggest the attitude opposite to iconoclasm.