Laura Serani - Catalogue for BGM Biennale Giovani Monza 2013 - June 7th, 2013
One step behind you
Maurizio Cogliandro concentrates his attention since years on the society, studying collective and private phenomenon with the same intimate eye. In works like La Carezza di Dio, plans a project on the religious life in a Cistercians Monastery, or on a diary, like the project that has originated the book Lidia, il cielo cade, intense and sensible, on the last years of his mother's life in which we punctually come across unique and tremendous images of abstraction and poetry.
Which an approach which we could call meditative, Cogliandro observes and transforms reality in visions and metaphors; emblematic his elaboration of the evolution of expressive codes and the possibilities of photographic language.
The images here presented take part in a vast project, One step behind you, started in 2006 and still in progress: "What once was born as an escapism, has revealed itself to be a necessity after some time: to narrate Italy trough my personal story. An Italy alienated and dreamlike, beyond geographical indications or precise periods, besides the history and the tradition, where it is not chronicles or social questions and politics to define a world, but the life of today, made of faces, stories and suggestions.
A very personal travel which brings me in the daily life of cities and provinces, places of the soul in which details become signs of an existence. Fortuitous meetings, urban landscapes, intimate relationships which could be with the beholder. Glimpses of a city becomes stories of life lived leaving space to the most different states of mind; bodies shown with pride to affirm the proper existence or hidden for a common and not reality clear sense of shame. Ostentations of which we think we are used to. And it is beyond that exhibition where my eyes rests. An intimate diary in which every moment lived, and each person is tented to reveal something more. Which is often hardly visible is what reveals the real nature, which I have seen and that what I see. That what I have lived and what I live. Simply one step away from that what is most obvious..."
Machiel Botman - www.machielbotman.com - June 22nd, 2012
Lidia, the sky is falling
Lidia, the sky is falling. It does not happen often, but when it happens it is great. You take a photobook in your hands for the first time and, without opening it, you know it is a special book. It happened to me only a few times: with Children of Europe by David Seymour, the small ring bound paperback from 1949, with the yellow, imaginary band around the cover and the children's drawings on the back. It happened when finding A Dialogue with Solitude by Dave Heath, from 1965, with inside the blackest of inks showing an obscure tale of beauty and pain. With A Loud Song by Daniel Seymour, from 1971. The title and it's typography, the image on the cover and the last picture of the book [which so often we see first] of the church, made when Seymour was 10 year old . . . it was all there.
When, in the spring of 2010, I saw Maurizio's book first, it was from that "first feeling" that I bought it right away. Contrary to what people believe of me, I do not buy many photobooks. I never have. It is just that over the many years I have constantly looked for and gotten, my favourites.
Lidia, il cielo cade is most of all a brave book because it shows losing a parent in a soft and quite "normal" way. The emotions are unmistakably there, but they remain between the mother, the father, the son and other family. We are left free to follow them all, quite close and in the most intimate moments, but we are never forced to feel the same pain. Of course when one carries similar pain, and both pains meet, then our breath is taken away and we face our own history. The sharpness of that confrontation, it's character, indicates to what extent we dealt with it all. Different stories from one to the other. But, at a certain point the acceptance stops, we need the pain, if only not to forget.
Miyako Ishiuchi photographed the skin of her mother not long before she passed away. And after her mother died, she photographed many objects in her mother's house. It was a gesture of saying farewell to her mother and this brought photography many icon images: the red and blue lipsticks, the hairbrush with still her mother's hair, the clothes. I saw those images more than ten years after my own mother died and they helped the pain still inside me, to shift to a safer place.
There is a sequence of four images in Lidia, il cielo cade: it is a simple story, Maurizo's mother takes her wig off, she places it on a headstand, she look at herself in the mirror and she has left the image. Perhaps she looks at the photographer, who stands behind her. Perhaps she sees her son, who stands behind her. I saw these images twenty years after my own mother died and still they helped the pain inside me.
Miyako Ishiuchi walked a solitary path where it concerned her mother. They hardly spoke until at the end of her mother's life. But then she passed away. My own mother's passing went too quick and was too unexpected, there was no shared path concerning her death. Maurizio was lucky. [Sorry Maurizio!]. There was some time and there was an understanding between him and his mother, to travel in the idea of making these photographs. Maurizio was fortunate in another aspect as well: he had around him some people who supported him and who helped him not to fall into the possible traps: of self pity, or of making something too "right" or too "easy". I do not know everybody mentioned in the book, but I do know Laura Serani, Lorenzo Castore, Isabelle Darrigrand and Michael Ackerman. That is quite a group of mothers, sons, daughters and fathers.
What determines that first moment of meeting the photobook? Perhaps my favourite book of Anders Petersen is Ingen har sett allt [Nobody has seen it all] from 1995. It's got his photographs made in a psychiatric home and they start halfway the book. The first half has a text by Göran Odbratt, in Swedish. I can't read it but I am convinced the text is as good as the photographs. One of the reasons why I am convinced about that is how the book was made, the object. Surely there is nothing light about this place, or about the images. And probably there is nothing light about this text. But this book object is totally light: the white cover, the dark blue typography, the spacing of the words on the jacket, the design of the text and the duotone printing: deep and transparent at the same time. Just like Anders.
Maurizio Cogliandro must have thought along the same lines: Lidia, il cielo cade's cover is white linen with a small photograph on the front. The layout of the images is very simple, one never feels a designer at work. Also this book breathes a certain lightness. Unusual is what is folded around the back cover: a stiff text band that is fixed together with tape on the inside of the cover. It first looked to me as an irritating invention of the publisher. But I got used it and kind of like it.
Lidia, il cielo cade speaks of the inevitable loneliness we meet when someone we love is dying. It does so in a sober and quiet way, with respect and without anything sentimental. The book is strong when the mother, in her eyes, comments on this son, the photographer. It is one of the first images in the book, she sits at a table, there is an apple lying there. If we assume this is in Rome, then it must be winter. An apple in winter. She has lost her hair and looks at the son with a beautiful intimacy. This image gives direction to the whole book, to the whole idea of the book and it stands out in Italian photography: it is truly personal.
The book is non-linear, with the images are no names, no dates, no places, no chronology. In that way it also stands out: it does not attempt to spoon feed us what is obvious. After opening the book's cover the lights simply go on, and when we close the book, the lights go off. In between are mother and son, keeping the light on for those around them, and for us. Until we close the book.
Christian Caujolle - Review on Internazionale - May 28th, 2010
Lidia, the sky is falling is a small, simple, carefully made book that a brave and demanding publisher printed only six hundred copies. But above all it is the expression of a moment of emotion, truth, respect and precision.
The author is a young Italian photographer, Maurizio Cogliandro, who accompanied his mother for five years along the painful path of her illness, cancer, until her death in February 2005.
Cogliandro manages to say everything without showing anything, or very little. He describes the dignity of a woman who wears a wig to hide the baldness caused by chemotherapy and the apparently very calm relationship that develops between mother and son. In the depths of black and white, lights shine. Bodies are there, but are not imposing. We never feel that we are curious onlookers. There is no giving in to sympathy. There is only the sensation of time that we do not know if it has stopped , but we know from the beginning that it will eventually stop. We turn the pages without making any noise, following a story without words, without any visual embellishment, with a rhythm that is marked by white pages and sequences of pictures in groups of three. And when it is finished, the book leaves us with a feeling we have rarely experienced before.