Cesare Fabbri. The Flying Carpet

After exhibiting established and prominent photographers, or artists, with a long career in photography behind them yet barely or not at all prominent in Belgium, we are now instigating a third approach by introducing the work of photographers to whom we are offering a first exhibition. 2017 is an anniversary year for the A Stichting Foundation and to start with our guest is Italian photographer Cesare Fabbri. The Flying Carpet exhibition brings together and presents three series of photographs by the artist. There is a literary quote and a specific framing colour, nero, bianco, grigio, for each of the three series.

« We learn alphabets and we cannot interpret trees. Oaks are novels, pines grammars, vines psalms, creepers proverbs, firs pleas, cypress accusations, rosemary a song, bay a prophecy ».
Erri De Luca, Tre Cavalli, 1999

The 21 photographs in the first series were all taken in 2009 by Cesare Fabbri in the Garfagnana forest, a huge area of beech trees located between the Apuan Alps in northern Tuscany and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. Each image in the Orlando series displays initials engraved on tree bark. Over time, the trees extend and the bark swells but the marks remain. This scarification marks a visit, now a scar on the body of the tree it blends with the shadow of the foliage projecting itself onto the tree trunks. This forest of emotions is reflected in the epic poem Orlando Furioso, a stunning kaleidoscope of fabulous adventures, written between 1505 and 1523 by Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) appointed governor to the province of Garfagnana by the Duke of Ferrara, Alphonso d’Este. The brother of the Duke of Ferrara, Cardinal Ippolito (I) d’Este, guardian of Ariosto, questioned the latter about his work: ‘Master Ludovico, where on earth did you find all this nonsense?’ In canto 23 out of the 46 comprising this canto, blending the tragic with the pleasurable and the lyrical with the romantic, the paladin Orlando takes leave of his senses after discovering the initials of his beloved Angelica and her lover Medoro, engraved on the bark. ‘Turning him round, he there on many a tree, Beheld engraved, upon the woody shore, What as the writing of his deity. (…) He would discredit in a thousand modes, That which he credits in his own despite’(Orlando Furioso, Canto 23).>

There is no respite for the fearsome knight Orlando who ends up uprooting the ancient trees with great fanfare. The 46 cantos are truly labyrinthine with events upsetting the status quo and where meaning and narrative become lost like in a dark forest where dreams lurk from tree to tree.

« Like parables and fables, carpets too only deal with what is real, thus touching geometries of the spirit, contemplative mathematics. It would therefore be reductive, to speak of symbolism when discussing carpets, parables and fables, since the obvious meaning and the hidden meaning are indissolubly tied together in the threads of the carpet and in the narratives, and that we may read (…) a message that is addressed to each of us alone and to no-one else ». Cristina Campo, Tappeto Volante, Gli Imperdonabili, 1987

The first image of the second series features on the front cover of the book with the same title as the exhibition, a contre-jour image of a sunny shop window covered by paper and concealed by a blind, whereas the book ends with an image of a fake cloud just passing. The Flying Carpet is a collection of photographic surprises, pre-existing, floating images, curious or funny objects and bizarre situations collected by the artist along paths and roads in Emilia-Romagna and Sardinia from 2005 to 2015. Not only is each image amazing in itself, but the sequencing also intensifies the impression of implausibility and strangeness. A selection of these images was published in 2010 by Platform in a small book called Un Mondo di carta (A World of Paper). Disturbing the world. The flying carpet is a strange drone, a means of symbolic and fantastic transport letting you circumnavigate the world and represent it. With his charming photos, almost satellite images, Cesare Fabbri seeks the appropriate geometry to describe the world, with a certain humour, gathering fragments, slithers and chips one after another.

« The smell of it is in the air: the sun. The smell of pure fire, deprived of any fuel pungency. And the smell of dry stone and heather. And snakeskin. Smells of Sardinia… »
Elio Vittorini, Sardegna come un’infanzia, 1932

The photographs in the third series, presented here with the generic title Sardaigne (Sardinia), were taken more recently on this island in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Corsica and north of Tunisia. In these huge landscapes photographed in black and white, shot with a large format 8×10 camera, the landscapes incorporate a blend of unspoilt nature, traces of the past and new ruins recalling paintings by great American landscape artists. There are megalithic monuments, Nuraghes, edifices in the shape of truncated cones, Giants’ tombs and other burial chambers or shepherds’ huts called Domus de Janas (fairies’ or witches’ houses), rosa di raffreddamento (pink igneous rock), a crushed or shattered rock dating from the cooling of underground lava reflecting the rocks eroded by the Arizona sandstorm, photographed by Timothy O’Sullivan (toward 1871), a huge salt lake, a remote bush or a monumental valley, a disappearing path and a collapsed road. Cesare Fabbri scours Sardinia, a country that has already been explored, establishing a photographic map with a multitude of motifs and narratives.

Photographic documents are always at the boundary of image. Beyond the world as it stands, photography is an act of looking as well as of representation. Whether throughout the pages of the recent account of chivalry, in the immense end-to-end montage of an endless collection of nonsensical shots or throughout a journey across barren landscapes steeped in history, Cesare Fabbri’s photographic images have a discrete and silent appearance with space for the poetry offered by photography, a key to his relationship with the world.

Cesare Fabbri, born in Ravenna in 1971, studied urban planning and photography at the hands of the historian and photographer Italo Zannier at the IUAV in Venice. He teaches alongside Guido Guidi at the IUAV, at the Istituto Superiore per le Industrie Artistiche, Urbino (ISIA) and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ravenna. In 2009 with the help of Silvia Loddo, he founded the Osservatorio fotografico, an experimental platform dedicated to photography that organises meetings, seminars and exhibitions. The Osservatorio fotografico is also behind numerous publications that have enabled the work of many artists to be discovered.

The exhibition at the Fondation A Stichting concurs with the publication of the book, Cesare Fabbri, The Flying Carpet (MACK, London, 2017) and the presentation of a project of the artist by JPB EDITIONS. Jean-Paul Deridder

Fondation A Stichting
Avenue Van Volxem, 304 1190 – Brussels
tel: +32 (0)2 502 38 78

Opening 28 January from 14.00 to 20.00
Exhibition from 29 January to 26 March 2017

Opening hours:
From Thursday to Sunday: 13.00 – 18.00
Closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Visits by appointment outside opening hours can be arranged.

Immagine copertina: Brisighella, 2005 © Cesare Fabbri