VZL/Contemporary Art presents Giovanni Giaretta, Was it a bar or a bat I saw?, an exhibition that explores the line between perception and imagination. An artist working primarily in photography and film, Giaretta was born in Padua, trained in Venice, and currently lives and works in Amsterdam. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and film festivals; he has also been an artist in residence at the Dena Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris, the Macro in Rome and, most recently, De Ateliers in Amsterdam.
The exhibition at VZL/Contemporary Art brings together a group of new works based on the relation between image and surface, object and memory.The palindrome “was it a bar or a bat I saw,” when reversed, is transformed and yet remains the same. The photographs Giaretta presents bend perception and imagination with similar subtle reversals, exploring the ambiguity of appearance by drawing an analogy between, on one hand, the use of scanners in archaeological research to uncover hidden and invisible information and, on the other, the use of these techniques to expose the past in contemporary objects.
Monochrome screens serve as records of all the traces left by the person who owned the device; every single scratch enters the language of signs, rendering the devices barely recognizable as technological apparatuses. Instead they become ancient clay tablets in an artifactual imaginary.
Encountering something familiar—an image, an iPhone, a mirror, a tablet,—through personal histories and mental associations an impression is already present, leading to a misrecognition that is simultaneously a recognition. Sight is therefore a process of projection, whereby something that is inside of us, imagined and yet real, is projected onto the external world.
A new photograph from Giaretta’s series Everything into something else, also included in the exhibition, explores this perceptual shift further by representing “blind mirrors,” ancient bronze mirrors with surfaces that have been corroded over time, losing their ability to reflect an image. Though “blind,” these objects contain all the past appearances once reflected by their surface. In this work, photography returns light to the mirrors’ oxidized, opaque surfaces, conjuring the reflective surface no longer there. In this case, the mirror appears almost as a mysterious plant that reveals a concealed beauty.
Through photographs, moving images and objects, Giaretta exposes the dialectic of observation and impression, calling attention to the fictive character of the real. But it is in this fiction, this lie, that the truth resides.