Suburban Base

Gianluca Attoli

2019 - Ongoing

This ongoing project is based on a visual exploration of my local suburbs (Monza/Milan, Northern Italy), with the main goal of isolating and highlighting the feelings of composure, isolation, suspendness and at the same time, unexpected beauty, dignity and serendipity that these types of areas can evoke. I try to keep the images as much universally accessible and relatable as possible by decontextualising shapes and spaces and offering a representation of spaces and places ideally applicable to any, or most of suburban-industrial environments of the Western society – by this I mean for example avoiding as much as I can any local reference (names, people, emblems - unless they are universally recognizable). Reflecting about these peculiarities and this “found beauty” theme leads ideally to a broader reflection on both the recurring architectural and functional patterns that are present in towns and cities, and the cultural models and stereotypes that shape people’s perception of their urban environment.

Urbanism governs the culture, the habits, the relationships and the conflicts between people living in a city area, and yet it responds primarily to political, financial and developmental interests and stakeholders. Modern suburbs are a perfect example of this. In most cities of the Western society, suburbs are planned and built with a very functional approach, as they must first and foremost “function” in fact – either for manufacturing/commercial purposes, of for residential ones (which is nothing but a fancy word for the conservation and regeneration of the labour force). The need for entertainment and distraction gets channeled into an array of specific areas and services, like malls, amusement parks, public centers, or turistic destinations. And I believe that this tight separation of spaces and purposes has a very powerful negative impact on people’s imagination and perception, leading them to “switch on” their eye and sensitivity only in dedicated areas where they have been, so to speak, “trained” to switch them on, neglecting the hints of beauty or wonder (or calm, joy, introspection or whatever other positive feeling) that they may encounter in their daily routine.

On a second, more personal level, this project also started as a personal exploration of "my" places, the places in which I was born and grew up, in a constant effort to see them with new or different eyes. I have a very close and affectionate relationship with my environment, so I find this exercise artistically inspiring, and somehow therapeutic as well. In fact, "me" approaching photography for the first time in my life in early 2019 - and quite out of the blue, actually - coincided with "me" coming back home after a few years living in another city. This was not clear for me since the beginning, but thinking about it and thinking about why I kept being drawn to "my places" as in a sort of closed maze which keeps you gravitating around the same center, I realised that I felt a need to build a new relationship with my hometown and accept the fact that I lost the one I had, instead of desperately trying to find it again. Or, in other words, to re-interpret it and give a new order and a new meaning to the places in order to do the same with my life itself. And photography turned out to be, maybe, the best companion for that.

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