Azucena, Milano
Luigi Caccia Dominioni is the architect of dialogue, of synergy, of continuity, of integration. His buildings interact like the voices of a choir, or a countermelody. Significantly influenced by the the environmental context they are in and its history, they try to complete it rather than dominate it. It is a question of fine tuning, which Caccia Dominioni does not just seek in his instrument, it concerns everything which surrounds him, and it originates from a constant listening process. When Federico Clavarino photographs the objects designed by the Milanese architect, he applies a similar principle. Tables, chairs, lamps, armchairs, are juxtaposed with his architecture in search of a series of assonances and recurring elements. They blend together to produce a coherent and unitary whole.

If photography is an instrument often used to disrupt reality and split it into an infinite quantity of particles, Clavarino uses this instrument in reverse to create combinations of different elements. Dense, concentrated images come to life, in which all elements participate in forming a perfectly homogeneous and balanced organism. In order to amalgamate and hold the subjects of these photographs together, the author uses two strategies in particular. Firstly, formal relations. The square profile of a table, for example, perfectly matches the geometric pattern of the floor on which it stands; the upholstery nails outlining the silhouette of an armchair reflect the metallic details on a passer-by’s clothes. Secondly, the same connecting function is carried out by the light, with its drawings of glare and shadow invariably appearing in every image. The result is a legitimate microcosm characterised by the absence of interruptions: fluid,liquid, without edges, like the sinuous lines of Caccia Dominioni’s objects, soft and sharp at the same time.

Clavarino’s universe has a fundamental characteristic: despite being populated essentially by static objects, it appears vital and full of energy. The spell photography casts on the objects is both antithetical and complementary with respect to what is normally expected from it: rather than immortalise (as in reezing each movement and each breath of life forever), it revives them. Inert matter such as iron, brass or glass, is softened. This is the sex appeal of the inorganic. Things become main characters of an impromptu theater designed specifically for them.

Volumes become bodies. The bodies heat up. Clavarino acts as director. He does not restrict himself to catching what is spontaneously happening in front of him, he fully stages it. He uses a free and flexible canvas, the product of continual improvisations, which of course require his direction on the set. He will place a chair in the middle of the sidewalk, a table in a courtyard, or flip an armchair over in front of a building, transforming it into a hefty guardian for its facade. His work is reporting and reinventing at the same time. We may look at each detail of the represented objects without necessarily falling into the trap set by the neutrality of photography. Everything appears plainly and clear, yet filtered through the machine’s subconscious and the photographer’s awareness. Among his recurring choices is that of moving close to his subjects. His images are often minimal details, a look straight into the heart of things. It is here that signs of history reveal themselves with greater intensity. And from here, we set out on a journey that is as epidermal as it is sensual to the discovery of a city, of a great architect, its objects, and the fascinating dialogue with the photographer who put all of this into images.
Concept and Art Direction: Juma
Photo: Federico Clavarino
Photo Assistant: Mattia Parodi
Text: Francesco Zanot