The photographs were hung on the wall, in the corridors and rooms of the International Women's House of Trieste, with pins like alphabet book images in old time's elementary schools.
It wasn't about beauty or vanity, it was a reference. And in the end, incredibly, they ended up having the same function.
Two authors, a woman and a man (possibly the first man exhibited in that institute, he said jokingly): Elisa Biagi and Francesco Chiot.
Two visions that mix and talk to each other, all around seven words. Here they are in alphabetical order: to abandon, to exclude, to hug, to listen, to show, to support,to trample.
Seven verbs donated to photography, usually lacking verbs. A challenge to the relation between verbal and visual : to give verbs to photography, to tell the verbs with photography.
Seven verbs chosen carefully. They express the human relationship. The good and the bad of it. The harmony and the clash.
Four diptychs for every verb, twenty-eight diptychs, fifty-six photographs. Laid out on a cheap news paper tabloid named "R as in Relation". The pages are loose: you can separate them, recompose them, like elements of a conversation. Spread out on the walls or available for taking a copy home (sold out now, obviously).
And not just that. The tabloids were used as material in the communication workshop. After all, instead of in the white cubicle of a gallery, the work has been shown by choice in a lived and active space. between desks and chairs and bin and boards.
The idea was "to bring to light the non uniqueness of language" especially when language is used to describe, but also to communicate, to start, those human actions that deal with social, relational life, says Daria Tommasi of the Women's House.
Words like "to hug" or "to exclude", bring with them expectation and fear. They also bring to mind in all of us a vision, an image, of something we lived. Nice or painful. Someone gave us a hug. Somewhere, one time someone excluded us. We remember, we almost see it.
The photographs of Elisa and Francesco are not descriptive.They are evocative, allusive, metaphorical. Sometimes reading them seems easy.
You can abandon a wet towel on a nail. "I feel like a rag, she adandoned me"..
Two walled windows can define well in negative what it is to hear. "He wouldn't listen he had walled hears"..
You can emarginate the beauty of a flower bouquet, put it inside a fence, make it unreachable. "I feel in a cage"..
But what is the symbolism where a hill of parched ground shot from a car window means "to support"? Can the sea waves really hug a reef?
The emotive resonance of every word is different for everyone. The words and ideas that a verb can spark inside the private movie theater of our mind are unforeseeable and undefinable.
So is really an alphabet book what Elisa and Francesco composed? Can we say that photographs can have verbs?
Or, didn't we just prove the opposite, that the dictionary of photographic language is not communal , not completely shareable at least not all its elements, that if we stick to words and adjectives ( rag, reef, window, wet, parched..) maybe we can share vision and meaning at the same time, but not with verbs.
Do you remember? The alphabet books we used as kids represented the reality in nouns. F as in Flower, B as in Bee.
Then something happened. Elisa tells us that after the show ended, the Women's House kept using the tabloids. Not for the exhibition's workshops anymore but for their normal teaching activities, that usually relate to basic literacy for foreign women.
They used those images to teach the Italian verbs. And looks like it worked out fine, unexpectedly. Looking at the photographs, women started discussing not just about the translation of the word itself, but on the meaning. The emotive translation.
Because words are not aseptic lego blocs we can use to build anything. They are pieces of lived life. Especially verbs that are efficient, active words used to express the relationship between subject and object. It's not enough to learn a language to understand all that comes with chosen words.
Verbs are the same for everyone: not the action they describe. They can be good or bad, just like those who speak them. Photography is the same.
Nell'abecedario della fotografia ci sono i verbi?
Nei corridoi e nelle aule della Casa internazionale delle donne di Trieste le fotografie erano appese al muro, con le puntine, come gli abecedari nelle aule delle elementari di una volta. Non erano un vezzo. Erano un riferimento. E alla fine, incre