Valparaiso

Francesco Merlini

2016 - 2018

Italy

For many years I have tried to narrate a valley where I was born and where I’ve spent a lot of time since when I was a child even if I grow up in a big city like Milano. This valley is a place that I loved and hated, a place I’m tied to by an emotional link that involves me, my father passed away when I was fifteen and my mother disappeared one year ago.

At a certain point I decided to put aside any kind of documentary approach with the awareness that I have never been interested in the beauty of natural scenery or in the objective reality of this place. I was interested in giving a voice to a place that changes, protects and destroys people, through its existence in our lives.

In my work, memories of the time spent in this valley are mixed with dreams, nightmares and visions that my mind has set in this familiar and at the same time distant place, drawing on a sort of magical realism.

In a time where people look at photographs faster and faster, I decided to use a photographic language that would induce the observer to linger, to move closer and to squint in order to get used to the darkness of these iridescent images that conceal a personal journey towards the reckoning with this valley.

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  • A smoke signal in this part of the world is unlikely.
    It is the cord that joins the earth and sky like yolk and albumen or maybe it’s just the wake left by something that has abandoned the valley.

  • The lump in the throat is sharper, like a knife in a sack, ready to suddenly tear it apart.
    Her greenish and gray irises seem to pulsate, as chrysalises on the verge of opening up to reveal something wonderful but at the same time closer to death.

  • The rust around the windows and the sealed doors make the uninhabited houses look like blood-stained fortresses after a long siege.

  • Many people live their entire existence where the solid earth is distended, ignoring these restless valleys that drag towards the sky.

  • The wide open spaces of the valley have always given me the feeling that I can lose balance at any time and fall down from the surface of the planet.

  • Each year, the same day, the small settlements that sting the valley light up and spark.
    Disordered clusters of wood with the appearance of primordial huts are burned more or less clumsily, almost to prevent an unwelcome guest from returning.

  • The same places have changed, new rock formations and new cracks appear, like a body at the mercy of a disease that causes deep wounds and deforms what was familiar.

  • Everything I encounter on my path acquires senseless and extraordinary appearances like the thoughts of those who can not escape.

  • I drive by car the road that crosses the valley.
    As I proceed, at each meter, the overhanging mountain profile changes almost imperceptibly, revealing new elements and hiding others.
    The valley narrows and widens.
    I’m inside the chest of a huge creature breathing.

  • My father spent a lot of time on the mountains collecting minerals.
    He used to spend whole days smashing rocks with a hammer, like a sentenced to death, and eventually death came.
    Its stones remain to adorn its tomb and our home.

  • Only in the late adolescence I started hanging out with other youngsters who used to spend holidays in the valley.
    So far I had walked these paths exclusively with my parents, my first love, partners in a relationship that was about to end too soon.

  • Rocks fill and stifle the most hidden cavities of the valley as clotted drool at the corners of a drunken giant’s mouth screaming against the heavens.

  • When you grow in the city, You start to think that the streets have no end.
    Here I expect the road to end after each hairpin bend, after every tunnel. You leave the car and proceed by foot. After the initial enthusiasm the forest becomes intricate, the landmarks are lost and then you look down towards the valley looking for the road before night falls.
    My eyes linger on the cars left in the lay-by where the road ends, covering themselves with dust after their owners in the woods lose hope.

  • The history of the world is the story of a duel.

  • Before I was ten, I often dreamed of a landslide that, after wiping out the mountain side, struck our house. It was summer, my family and I were sleeping, we were sleeping in that house.
    At that time I did not like to spend the holidays in this valley and I woke up almost relieved.
    A few years later in a nearby country, a huge boulder broke off from a ridge and dropped on a parked car. They could hardly see colored strips of the car body popping out under the monolith. The engine was hot. It took several hours to find out if there was someone inside the car.

  • Although the trail is impervious, I would like to try anyway, to get to touch it.
    It’s solid, immovable, like the water of a diorama.
    I would like to see the ripples produced by the touch of a finger, chasing up to return the appearance of a lake to what appears superhuman and synthetic.

  • Every night the trees along the road are awakened by the lights of the cars climbing the valley.
    At every hairpin turn, cones of light moves frantically in the forest as flashlights of guards seeking a fugitive.

  • If once scored, the trees began to bleed, relics would be carved instead of cut.

  • The sun casts through the mountains, light clusters whose sharp edges faithfully reproduce the profiles of the highest peaks.
    Clear stains of light and shadow emerge from the ground, without any nuances and no misunderstanding.

  • Plastic sheets disguise pieces of house and iron shreds.
    Metallic shrouds swing because of the wind that shakes the trees making the boundaries of these forgotten mausoleums spark.

  • No one saw the exact moment when the monoliths touched the surface.
    Like the rain in the sea, the comets joined their earthly equivalents, going to feed the rocky tides shaking the hillsides of the mountains.
    Nowadays men are sedated, immovable in front of any event, even in front of the instant when heaven and earth join together.

  • One day I started building an object with branches and pieces of wood found in a clearing.
    It hurt me to look at those unused branches, motionless, without any chance of joining.
    I painted them white in such a way that, once separated from time and negligence, it was evident that they had been part of something unique and unrepeatable.

  • Every time I look into one of the holes that tire this land, I find inside, broken, the spear of a man.

  • It says here that man was created for heaven but the devil then broke the ladder leading to it.
    Because of being so high and near to the sky, the ladder was much shorter than in other parts of the earth, but not more resistant to the blows of evil.

  • A swarm of crosses animates the side of the mountain.
    They should protect human beings from the unpredictable nature but appear as trenches pointing to heavens in order to defend us from what can not be understood.

  • In the long-time abandoned hamlets, I come across a multitude of houses bent under the weight of their roofs. Broken beams under the weight of huge legs that at night climb up the slopes of the mountains to escape from the darkness that inhabits the bottom of the valley.

  • Only in this place I enjoy the privilege of contemplating from above the clouds people look at from below. I and a few others before the celestial orogenesis that mutates temporarly nearby peaks into distant islands.


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