On 10 and 11 September, the Italian Cultural Institute of Lisbon will present the photographic exhibition by Valentina Vannicola entitled ‘Ulisse. Approdo Santa Clara’ (Ulysses: Landing in Santa Clara) for the 14th edition of the Festival Todos.
.Vannicola uses the art of staged photography: the contemporary trend of presenting scenes constructed according to cinematographic dynamics as real situations. The project started by studying a chosen bibliography and analysing the social and regional fabric over a period of residence. During this stage in the creative process, the artist was able to learn about the landscapes and people of Galineheras and Charneca and to implement the dynamics that characterise her research: the relationship with the community and the involvement of the local population in the creation of the photographic narrative that involves the staging of meticulous tableaux vivants.
The project is inspired by the founding myth of Lisbon, which stars Ulysses as a figure who embodies the idea of travel understood as a form of exploration, pilgrimage, abandonment, challenge and landing. With this in mind, the metaphor of the journey is used to tell the story of the village of Santa Clara, a crossroads of many ethnic and social groups, but the tale is extended to the whole of Portugal, a land on the edge of the Earth and a gateway to the sea.
By staging the myth, historical episodes or traditions, the photographs offer a fresco of the Lisbon suburbs in which each element becomes a symbol and the mark of memory. The story begins on a hill set amidst social housing blocks that becomes Ulysses’s landing place, and then continues through the alleys, the vegetable gardens of an old castle and the houses where the walls, laden with signs of historical and architectural stratification, become the subtext for the story of a community full of nuances, complexities, stories of exploration, relocations and landings.
The artist also welcomed the suggestion of including in her work the poetics of Pier Paolo Pasolini, for whom the notion of outskirts was the most fertile ground for inspiration, often working on the transformation of marginality into value. It is precisely this idea that forms the basis for Valentina Vannicola’s work, using staging and the involvement of local people to create a fresco of the community and its intangible cultural heritage.
Valentina Vannicola, Rome 1982, graduated in Film Studies from the Sapienza University of Rome and later graduated from the Roman School of Photography. Her work has been exhibited in various galleries and museums. Her photos have been published in books, newspapers and periodicals such as L’Espresso, D di Repubblica, Philosophie, Il Manifesto, La Stampa, Marie Claire, Aracne and Insidart. In 2011, she published L’Inferno di Dante (Dante’s Inferno), edited by Benedetta Cestelli Guidi, with the publishier Postcart. Her work of the same name became part of the Photography Collections of the MAXXI Museum in 2021 together with some of her other works.