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THE NAKED AND THE NUDE
GRAFICHE DELL’ARTIERE BOOK 2013
Antologia di fotografia internazionale sul nudo
Curatore Peter Weiermair
graphic design project by Gianni Giulianelli and Maddalena Gracis
The experimental works by Grafiche dell’Artiere referred to as “Project” are characterized by the extremely high level of skill and expertise involved in the making of the finished product. This year, the Project series has reached its 10th edition, with Project No Ten.
In order to lend these works a definite character, the last eight editions were all produced by the same project team, which is made up of: prominent international curator Peter Weiermair, who chose the subject and the images included in the work; designers Gianni Giulianelli and Maddalena Gracis, who created the work’s concept with great sensitivity and elegance, trying to reconcile the needs of the curator and of the artists with the technical requirements of the production; and finally, the whole staff at Grafiche dell’Artiere, in which every department always comes up with additional, innovative ideas and hints – which is what has made these Projects so special.
For Project No Ten we chose to tackle the most classical, and at the same time most modern, of printed products, the book. We strongly believe that, in the future, books will continue to hold their place in the varied landscape of new media, but they will have to reinvent themselves, drawing inspiration from the past.
This product is meant to encourage reflection on the way books will be made in coming years. We chose top quality materials, using natural papers with a high-cotton content, to make sure they remain unaltered throughout the years. The pre-printing, printing and binding techniques were tweaked to enhance the concept and design of the creative team. All this was made by a company which, throughout the years, has worked to reduce its impact on the environment while harnessing the best in scientific and technological innovation – and by a team made up of strongly motivated people who truly love their job.
A heartfelt thank you to all the people who have contributed to the production of these first, wonderful ten Projects.
The naked human form is among the favourite and most traditional subject in visual arts and one of its principal iconographic categories.
For three thousand years, since the Venus of Willendorf, we have known the depiction of the naked human figure. Sir Kenneth Clark dealt with the history of the unclothed human in a seminal work on the history of art and culture, The Naked and the Nude, which I borrowed the title of this text from. In English the distinction between the unclothed body (naked) and the artistic expression (nude) is much clearer than in other languages. In photography, which took over some of the contents of painting and sculpture, the depiction of the human figure, be it female or male, is very popular too. Photography in all of its detail and precise accuracy frames human nudity more directly than the idealized classical forms in painting and sculpture.
Since the middle of the nineteenth century, photographers sought for,
and found, reasons for justifying nakedness. They provided the painters with studies, while also catering for those who were motivated by
nothing but the desire of looking. Dance and sport, just like natural scenery, were opportunities for seeing the human figure out of its wrapping, and for capturing it. Towards the end of the century, scientific and ethnological interests, on the one hand the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge, on the other the protocols of exotic nakedness, fascinated observers, just as the homoerotic, staged pictures from the turn of the century by Wilhelm von Gloeden did, referring for justification to antique motifs, or the unglorified nudes of Photosezession. In the twentieth century, the photographic nude played a central role in the works of modernist, avantgarde and surrealist artists.
The works from the immediate present – I gave preference here to the classic, mostly frontal nude – are the fruit of the achievements of a time of political change, when the naked body became the canvas for new ideas of gender identity and sexuality, from the revolutionary nineteen-sixties to the arrival of Aids in the nineteen-eighties. The nude portrait reconciles the depiction of the face, i.e. the portrait, to the body, while the self portrait also is a self-questioning and an enactment of patterns from the past, that could be taken from painting as easily as from photo history. The 72 artists assembled here, from the United States and Europe, but also from India, Japan and China, avail themselves of very different aesthetic strategies, from the documentary image to the perfectly choreographed scene. Erotic and sexual motives play as much of a role in their work as do the idea of beauty and the formulations of an up-to-date body language and contemporary body image.
Georges Bataille, in the context of his reflections on eroticism, speaks of the role of shame, both on the part of the model and the one taking the picture. Let us not forget that in the dialogue between model and photographer two elementary modes of human behaviour are coming to the fore, of the one who likes to be looked at, to exhibit, and the one who likes to look and who documents this process. Shame – which, as the Bible tells us, is connected to the guilt of original sin, “and they knew that they were naked” – according to Bataille is also subject to time. Much of what the images in the book show could not have been shown in this manner some years ago, just as Egon Schiele’s watercolours originally could not be shown publicly. The book follows a very careful structure, both as far as the grouping of the pictures and the combination of quotes from poets, philosophers and artists are concerned, themselves dealing with the subject of nakedness.