Capital of an endless empire, Rome is a city rich in history, culture, beauty and charm. You have to live it day after day and it will fascinate you with its magic. Not far from Piazza di Spagna and Via Condotti, in the historical, cultural and economic heart of the city we find Palazzo Borghese, the historic residence of the Borghese family in Rome, also called the Borghese Harpsichord because of its unusual plant. Walking through the streets of the center of Rome, one sunny day in June, I arrive at Palazzo Borghese and I stop to admire the magnificent frescoed rooms of the earthly gallery, the Galleria del Cembalo which hosted a beautiful photographic exhibition: Mare Omnis by Francesco Zizola.
I met the Galleria del Cembalo thanks to a dear friend, Norma Waltmann, testifying to the fact that contrary to what you think in Rome there are places dedicated to contemporary art to envy in New York and that certainly deserve a visit or a trip. The Cembalo Gallery was opened on the initiative of Paola Stacchini Cavazza who thus made visible the rooms on the ground floor that Marcantonio IV Borghese had decorated at the end of 18th to house his collection of works of art. The exhibitions, curated together with Mario Peliti, revolve around photography often in dialogue with other forms of artistic expression. As I said during my visit I was able to admire the works of Francesco Zizola, a Roman photographer who for over 30 years has photographed the main crises and conflicts in the world. His passion began very young when he wanted to know what the Shoah was but all the explanations he received did not convince him completely. Then he sees the photo of a concentration camp and immediately understands. He also understood the importance of images, and how much a picture can say about many words. He documented the migrants trying to get to Europe, the Maldives submerged by water, the children of the favelas...
In this show at Galleria del Cembalo Zizola showed 22 large-format photographs that look like “remote constellations, but actually are tuna fisheries, fishing gears in the open sea photographed by a drone: gears installed by the tonnarotti – those who take care of the slaughter – to catch the tuna in their migration towards the coast. The white points are buoys and the silver threads of the strips of water are the tops that secure the floating parts to the seabed.”
I was reminded of Hemingway's words from The Old Man and the Sea: “The line rose slowly and steadily and then the surface of the ocean bulged ahead of the boat and the fish came out. He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides. He was bright in the sun and his head and back were dark purple and in the sun the stripes on his sides showed wide and light lavender. His sword was as long as a baseball bat and tapered like a rapier and he rose his full length from the water and then re-entered it, smoothly, like a diver and the old man saw the great scythe-blade of his tail go under and the line commenced to race out.”
But let’s return to the show.
The images have been taken in the southwest region of Sardinia at the Tonnara di Portoscuso, which is in activity in that area for a very long time. Mare Omnis anthropologically documents life being lived thanks to forms of local, sustainable and manual fishing, following centenary traditions, exploring through an articulated and complex visual language the relationship between man and nature and his influence on the sea world. Building his own working tools, casting the nets, passing days and months waiting for the fishing season, being subject to the laws of nature: these actions form the knowledge and the heritage related to the proximity to the sea and a kind of life connected with it, nowadays substituted by industrial intensive fishing methods. The images in the show strongly reveal the feeling of a symbiotic relationship between man and nature as opposed to what happens in contemporary society: the seawater becomes an abstract landscape, and fishes are caught in the dense fishing nets immersed in the deep blue.
A dreamlike and fascinating journey where the detail of a network opens a thousand sociological reflections to anthropological suspended between past and future.