VOGUE reviews our exhibition Tommaso Tanini: H. Said He Loved Us

17 Dec 2014

In 2014 Photocaptionist curated its very first photo-literary exhibition in collaboration with the artist collective Discipula as part of the Month of Photography Festival in Hungary. Below, Maria Pia Bernardoni reviews Tommaso Tanini: H Said He Loved Us for Vogue Italia.

Maria Pia Bernardoni’s review of Tommaso Tanini: H. Said He Loved Us for Vogue Italia

This edition of the Month of Photography in Budapest, during the year Europe commemorates the First World War’s events, focuses on historical memory and forgetting. On the relationship “between the reinterpretation of historiography and historical storytelling (…) showing projects which represent the complicated, inscrutable and painful but liberating ways in which memory works”.

Main entrance of Műcsarnok/Kunsthalle Budapest, 2014

On display a project curated by an Italian team of artists and curators: the Kunsthalle, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest, commissioned the Photocaptionist to conceive an exhibition for the occasion. “The Photocaptionist is an on and off line platform dedicated to explore, research, but also produce projects in which photographs and  words are connected” explains Federica Chiocchetti, the founder, “works in which images are inspired by or combined with texts, regardless of its genre: literature, novel, poetry, letters, notes “. For this event the Photocaptionist selected a work that combines photography and literature: Tommaso Tanini’s H. Said He Loved Us*, a visual research on the effects that life under an oppressive regime causes on the individual’s emotions and feelings.

Tomasso Tanini: H. Said He Loved Us, Installation view, 2014, courtesy Kunsthalle Budapest

Tommaso Tanini, from the collective Discipula, has had an interest on the subject since childhood. His mother is  Hungarian (language the he speaks and understands perfectly) so he indirectly experienced all this through the stories of his grandparents and relatives living in Hungary during the Kádár government. He decided to develop his photographic research inspired by the novel “The man is strong,” released in 1938 as a result of the journey that the author, Corrado Alvaro, had made in Russia. The text, which will suffer cuts and strict censorship by the fascist regime, worried that the novel could in any way be interpreted as reference to the Italian situation, became the universal allegory of despotic regimes. Like Alvaro’s novel, also Tanini’s project has been inspired by a trip. Tommaso, in fact, spent three years researching in Germany, coming into contact and documenting the story of five characters. These five people have all been reported to the Stasi (the secret police of East Germany) by people who were supposed “to love them”, like a wife, a friend, a relative. This is not, however, just a historical record of the life events of the five characters.

Tomasso Tanini: H. Said He Loved Us, Installation view, 2014, courtesy Kunsthalle Budapest

Tommaso offers us his personal interpretation of this experience, through a fictional narrative : the five stories are connected to each other through the notes, the memos, the letters of an hypothetical photographer / investigator (the alter ego of the photographer himself) who got on their trail and tries to reconstruct their life and vicissitudes. Hence Tommaso’s work, as well as the book of Alvaro, becomes an allegory of life under an oppressive regime. Tommaso’s images convey this universal feeling: expression of the sense of oppression, claustrophobia, inability to trust even a friend, that feeling of being constantly kept under observation that are not related to any specific historical moment, or geographical place. It does not matter whether it’s a communist or fascist regime, if it’s Germany or if we are talking about events from the past or still in progress. The relevance and universality of Tanini’s work is also a consequence of the total lack of captions for the images in the  book and the exhibition.  The narrative that holds together the images consists of the notes fictitious photographer / researcher and the excerpts from the novel by Alvaro. […]

For the full version of Maria’s review, please click here.