In Extremis (bodies with no regret): an interview with Sandro Giordano

by Laura Luppi

The photographic project IN EXTREMIS (bodies with no regret) by actor and photographer Sandro Giordano originates in an attempt to reflect and prompt reflection on many aspects of our daily life and on the society that surrounds us. He himself had an accident while riding his bicycle. As he fell, he held onto an object in his hand instead of using his hands to stop his fall, ending up being the victim of his clumsiness.

Ancient Greeks used to attend Tragedies in order to experience catharsis, the purification and purgation of emotions and passions. Do you think it’s possible that the beholders of your works can break free from the bondage of their belongings (or perhaps, better said, “the objects to which they belong”) through the healing power of laughter?

Absolutely yes! My work, however, is not just focused on that unhealthy relationship with the material things that “possess us”. That’s what we see on the surface. The “fall” I recount and illustrate is much more spiritual whereas the physical one is just its consequence. And I am the first onlooker who can experience catharsis. The past ten years of my life have been pretty grim: an interior struggle made of crisis, research, physical falls and failures, chasing after futile things, hanging around with wrong people. And suddenly I found myself being almost forty, with no more blood, as it had been drained out by a vampire society that sucks away your life energy. Now, when you fall down… you either die or you get up again, stronger and more aware than ever. Each of my pictures depicts a part of me and this is how I exorcise evil.

In this photo series your main subjects are always lying face downwards, hence their identity is concealed. We can identify their social class, their age, job or leisure activities thanks to the information you provide us as a suggestion to understand their personality or the related stereotype. The beholders can easily identify themselves with each of these photos, or recognize a friend, a relative or a colleague of theirs. How much irony is there – even in the choice of accessories, clothing and positions – in order to achieve the purpose of your artistic research?

 To me the fact that their face is hidden is already a never ending source of hilarity, precisely because my characters do not make the slightest effort to save themselves during falls. If they turned their head thus showing us their face, the comic effect would disappear straight away. I remember when I was a child I was wild about the films of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. Their clumsy falls seemed so real and disturbing that I almost felt a certain sense of compassion at the very instant of impact but moments later I used to burst out laughing in a liberating experience. All the stuff my characters are holding in their hands and the position of their body make the final result even more hilarious (tragically hilarious), as well as clarifying. I mean, these are photos, I work on stasis, and as a matter of fact everything becomes more complicated when we do not know the point of action from which the unlucky one starts. In a movie scene the action sequences preceding a potential crash allow us to empathize with the character more easily. We are prepared, either consciously or unconsciously, we know that something terrible is about to happen: imagine a man who has just got out of a taxi, unaware that the sliding doors of the hotel he’s heading for didn’t open he walks fast and unhesitatingly and smashes into the doors. Moments before the crash our brain is ready to absorb that particular piece of information. In my photos I can only depict the very moment when the collision occurred, and therefore I need to recreate everything that goes before through an accurate selection of some archetypal costumes and accessories. I must embellish the “crime scene” with as much information as possible to describe the character’s background. Furthermore I ask my models to assume a particular position that would reasonably suggest that the action is not yet over. This way I succeed in adding dynamism and spectacle to the scene.

We all laugh when somebody falls down clumsily. This laughter is partly “sadistic”, as there is hardly any immediate assistance to victims without first laughing at them a little. In your works there is no rescuer or Good Samaritan willing to save or help the protagonist. Could it be that the viewers are the ones ethically required to save the fallen person (and so even themselves)? Could the future of your characters depend from the viewer’s reaction?

There is no one there to rescue the victims because we live in a world where compassion has been taken over by apathy and indifference. I don’t want to send out messages but rather denunciations and this is the reason why I am campaigning to emphasize this important matter as much as possible. I think we can somehow exorcise this “fall” we are all victims of (and too often we are unaware victims). Ethical reflection is urgently needed, and I really do hope my works succeed in provoking and stimulating reflection. But in any case I like to think that my fallen characters rise up without any help. That very moment when you are alone with yourself, your body lying on the ground, your soul plunged into the dark abyss… That will be the key point when you decide whether to “stand up” or to let the burden of life suffocate you. It’s a comfortable thought knowing that there is always a lending hand ready to help pull you up to your feet, but unfortunately that’s not how things go, and this is exactly how it should be. We shall take our life back into our own hands and take special care of our essence, rise from the ashes. When you are standing up again you feel you have done the most important thing and nothing and nobody can help you achieve this state of grace but yourself, with your own strengths.

A final question: can you tell us which elements derive from your previous acting experience – you have been in the acting business for many years — and which ones from your everyday life moments in a contemporary world?

I’d say both. My urge to describe and criticize a society which is stifling us little by little originates from my own personal experiences, of course, particularly after the accident I had last summer while riding my bicycle. These also play a fundamental role for any artist! My artistic experience as an actor is important too. When preparing for a photo shoot I plan every aspect, down to the details, costumes and set props, as well as the exact position of both objects and models. When I take a picture I feel like being behind the film camera. The instructions I give to my assistants and models are the same a film maker gives, and it is no coincidence that most of my models are professional actors. I was tired of “being in front of the camera”, I wanted to change perspective. I am also thinking of making a film on this project and the very thought of it makes me shiver with pleasure. Furthermore, before becoming an actor I studied set designing so I can’t believe I can now practice this profession too! In conclusion, I am driven by pictures. For the first time in my life I don’t have to run after my job, as always happened when I was an actor. Now it is my photos that chase me, they never let me go, not even for just one second, there is too much work to do. For the project In Extremis (bodies with no regret) I have produced eighty-two pictures so far, like a father I feel responsible for the life of some wonderful creatures. There is literally nothing in this world that makes me happier than this… My life has started at 41!

Photo credits:
Sandro Giordano

1 |  IL SOSPETTO, model Paloma Arza, Barcelona 2014
2 |  LA PROVA DEL POCO, model Valentina De Giovanni, Roma 2014
3 |  TANTI AUGURI A ME, model, Adelaide Di Bitonto, Roma 2014
4 |  COMPULSIVE CLEANING, model Adelaide Di Bitonto, Roma 2014
5 |  IMMEDIATE BOARDING GATE 22, model Sandro Giordano, Vlissingen 2014
6 |  ROLLER HULA GIRL, model Gabriele Guerra, Roma 2014
7 |  MAMMA MIA, model Adelaide Di Bitonto, Roma 2014
VIDEO |  Behind the scenes __Protezione 65 (Who’s next)

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