“Castaways and Shipwrecks”
The Shipwreck can be a strong and dramatic metaphor, applicable to multiple aspects of the life of each of us, both in the intimate, private and public sphere be they personal shipwrecks or collective shipwrecks: the shipwreck of the West that seems to be looking for a new identity for a new soul; the shipwreck of planet earth that we have not been able to safeguard; the shipwreck of our lives suddenly changed by the pandemic; the shipwreck of an increasingly adrift culture; small daily shipwrecks, or large social shipwrecks.
Yet, leaving aside the game of metaphors thrown to the wind which risks trivializing everything, I believe that even more than our amorous, cultural and social destinies, it’s our bodies which pay the price of a shipwreck.
It is no coincidence that the emphasis in the title of Barbara Pietrasanta’s exhibition lies in the first word: Naufraghi (Castaways). And it is this word that remains most impressive, to the point that the event of the shipwreck itself can almost be overlooked. What matters is the afterwards; the bodies that survive the various shipwrecks, metaphorical or real.
And it is upon these bodies, our bodies, that the destinies of the world are drawn, like tattoos that we did not want, like something imprinted on our eyes and in the furrows of wrinkles on our faces. The shipwreck as destiny remains marked on the bodies of the shipwrecked.
This is what the works of Barbara Pietrasanta evoke in me, with her collection of “Castaways and Shipwrecks”; bodies of women emerging from the sea or on the sea abandoned; women without any clothes or with only a petticoat made transparent by the water; women on blinding beaches as blinding as the sea; calm faces of women that appear to me as indecipherable hope. And there is only one man, perhaps, the only one who did not survive the shipwreck.
These images lead me to think that nothing counts beyond bodies, our bodies; those of real castaways, or those painted by Barbara. And so it no longer matters what happened before or no matter how far the sea has pushed us. The reason, the dynamics, or the tragedy of the shipwreck does not matter. What matters is the condition of the person who has been shipwrecked. It’s the afterwards that matters. The afterwards becomes a great opportunity that we cannot let slip through our hands.
One of the questions Barbara asks me in the video for the exhibition is, ‘what happens the day after the shipwreck?’
I believe that the day after the shipwreck is entirely different because the way we now perceive things around us is different. The shipwreck obliges us to look at the world with a new gaze. And by changing our gaze, our perception of reality that surrounds us changes.
What happened before no longer counts the day after the shipwreck, nor does the shipwreck itself count. The only thing that matters is the condition in which we are, each of us, all shipwrecked, each individual with our own unique and personal history, each one different but all in the same condition; a condition that makes us, if only for a moment, more similar, and that may perhaps be the only way to understand or to feel each other.