I am writing this text while listening to the thoughts of Verner, Alina, Ole, Inna and the others playing in the background.They accompany my writing, they help me loosen the knots of reflection generated by the observation provided by Giovanni De Angelis’ photographs.
The reader should interpret the words in parentheses and written in italic, as a counter melody, a side note, an off-stage voice that joins with this critical writing without interruption.
Those who speak and write with me are the young inhabitants of Riga portrayed in Giovanni De Angelis’ photographs within the ICKU project. Individuals leading a “normal”, in some cases even well-off, often culturally rich and emotionally full life, in a town crossed with strong energies of change: Latvia’s capital city is a zone troubled by the social and political tensions of a country that is metabolizing its own past in order to launch itself into the future and start a new historical phase of change, updating in dialogue with Europe.
These people (a barmaid, a designer, a wine expert and a female student, among others) were asked to hold a firearm, a pistol and aim it at a target bearing their own picture. The same people were then photographed inside their everyday-life spaces, their homes, studies, ateliers, offices...
Between the articulated volume of these pictures and the straight line connecting the gaze in these close-up photos to the target, there is all the deepness of an artistic and expressive research that focuses on identity (I), liberty and power (CAN), the violence coming from the everyday life (KILL) and the relation with the other (YOU). ICKU = I CAN KILL YOU.
(I like to discover the world around me... I like travelling, walking on the seaside, reading books, dancing... I like to be in public and partying also... I’m a manager in marketing and advertising... I’m a bartender...)
People build their identity and their life by acting in accordance with their own inclinations and attitudes. Everyday life is a web of seemingly simple and banal moments and gestures in which the unique and irreplaceable individual way of being condenses.
The actions with which we fill our time, the objects that surround us, the profession that we carry out, they all tell about us and define us, at least to some extent, at least on the surface. At any rate, they are the reality that we build around ourselves, that reality that represents us to ourselves and to others, permitting us to look in the mirror and recognize ourselves. (That’s me). The measure of our space, the pace of our time. I. (Time doesn’t exist. So I spend it doing what I want, what I feel). But in everybody’s existence there are moments of suspended time, pauses in which the Cartesian coordinates of life fade in a blurred horizon of vagueness.
(The problem with my life is there is no background music). As if the reassuring soundtrack of our everyday life turned off, almost an interval of silence (or maybe of a very loud noise) within the score, more or less in harmony, more or less dissonant, represented by the actions and gestures of every day and every night.
CAN (I like to feel the moment). There is something pleasant and at the same time frightening in these moments, a feeling of freedom and independence: to be able to act according to our own will, to excercise our own free will, beyond bonds, influences and self- or hetero-produced constraints. What we do is no longer determined by external conditionings, by more or less flexible or rigid schemes defined by affective and social relations, it is only the result of deep instincts, desire, impulse. Instinct can lead to independent choices, personal and autonomous thoughts, creative freedom, the experience of beauty and authenticity. (I am interested about form and space, their combination and the possibility of expressing a deeper meaning than it seems at the first look). This freedom allows us to go more in depth about things, to look beyond the surface, to overturn structures, to start all over. In a dimension of liberty and free choice, the authentic voice of the individual can be heard in a clear voice. I CAN. It is a constructive and independent instinct that can lead to improvement, growth, change.
(Sometimes we think how would it be to get completely mad). But instinct can also be disruptive, aggressive, violent. What happens if negative drives inside us prevail, if our freedom turns into the liberty to harm someone else or into the possibility to kill or injure him? (I try to be a good person and apparently I succeed, but when do the good person turn into the bad?). Here the firearm comes into play, the pistol that aims - as the second target - straight at the camera’s eye and consequently at the eye of those who look at the photographs on display. I am like you. I am a young professional, a young student, I live in a town in Eastern Europe, have a social and emotional life. I make my choices and can describe myself as free and independent. I Can. I can also kill. This thing frightens, scares, intimidates, elates or disgusts me. Emotions change (as the expressions of the people in the photographs change), but the common factor is that I can. I CAN KILL. Everyone’s personality can suddenly transform itself and, with it, everyday life can quickly make room for a territory in which the relations with the other define themselves following relations of clash and conflict.
(Sometimes I hate people, sometimes I need my own time, sometimes I need to scream to someone that I don’t know, some stranger). In this dynamics of identity building, choice and potential aggressivity, the keystone is represented by the relation with the other. If “you” means companion, friend, confidant, relative, beloved person or is, rather, simply in relation with the “I” following relations of equality and respect, the disruptive instinct remains inside everyone just as an unrealized potential. It is in the relation with the other, in the relation that we create with the people that we interact with that the ICKU knot unties itself. There can be moments of solitude, isolation and marginalization due to depression or simply to a desire for autonomy and independence (I can spend time alone, without anybody, concentrated on my own things and sometimes it can take weeks... Sometimes I love staying at home alone and going into the forest for long walks...). They can be temporary passages or rather inclinations on which we build our way of life permanently.
(I could say that I’m a person on my own). But if I and YOU remain connected anyway, if the look with which they meet recognizes the common identity of two individuals, the negative instincts remain dormant; individual freedom finds ways to coordinate with that of others. And this is the way we create communities, from here we produce their identity and destiny. Giovanni De Angelis, looking in the eyes of these people, analyzing their emotions and collecting their words, declares himself to be like them, to recognize himself in the mirror of the relation with the other, to look at himself as the member of a group of people, so that YOU meets with I. I + YOU.
Text written by Costanza Paissan for the occasion of Giovanni De Angelis’ ICKU exhibition at CO2 contemporary art, Rome, in cooperation with Ines Musumeci Greco and with the patronage of the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in Rome.
All rights reserved by the author, Giovanni De Angelis and CO2.
Many thanks to: Verner Biters, Alina Cvetkova, Andra Andzane, Amanda Boka, Darta Lote Berzina, Karlis Stigis, Ronald Gails, Alvis Nemiro, Astra Kivule, Ole Lahti, Inna Zevalde, Arta Vanaga, Laine Taurite, Zanda Puspure, Evita Pienene, Tatjana Kurakina, Sintjia Niklase for their cooperation