Emanuele Ponzio – Immagine in tempo reale – Storie, pratiche, teorie per un’introduzione alla performance audiovisiva


Mimesis Edizioni, ISBN-978-88-5754-212-6, Italian, 304 pages, 2019, Italy

In many contemporary artistic practices, the consequences of some experimentations now temporally distant are still able to set new meanings and to trigger unprecedented developments and stylistic fronts. The fact that certain ideas come back again and produce unpredictable developments, sometimes in an explosive way, is evident in the relationship between music and image, especially in comparison with what the different technologies in each era can offer as an instrument to improve concepts, theories or aesthetic impulses. The evolution of technological supports and the definitive transition to digital are what allowed a “next level” in what concerns the sophisticated mixing and processing of images in real-time. Nevertheless, the charm and the nostalgia of the transition phases, when video mixers, computers, VCRs and suitcases full of VHS cassettes stood out on the console, remains – and will remain – strong. Emanuele Ponzio experienced this passage toward the art of manipulating images in real-time, that is to say in live performances, exploring its several facets: from the most direct and immediate VJing – as dance music element – to live cinema and videomapping, not excluding video installations and art exhibitions. His “Immagine in tempo reale – Storie, pratiche, teorie per un’introduzione alla performance audiovisiva” unfolds in the form of an intriguing historical analysis of the relation between sound and image, which is accompanied by an original exploration of the techniques of visual expression that have marked the last two decades. It does not matter that some of these forms of live show are perhaps nowadays experiencing a moment of rethinking and reflux. This is inherent in every artistic form of postmodernity, and now it is maybe the right moment to deal with the past and to prepare for what awaits us, that is to say for a next epochal leap into the inevitable crossroads that the generations born with TikTok will experience once grown up. The collision between music and image is always very lively and the bearer of historical and theoretical reflections, documented in the book with effectiveness and meticulousness, starts from the early Twentieth Century, and moving from the first experiments of the historical avant-gardes to optical poetry, from art in cinema to video-music, from Nam June Paik to MTV, without forgetting the psychedelic light shows of the Seventies and the oblique cinema of Andy Warhol. Starting from the sixth chapter the book deals in detail with the merits of the rise and affirmation of Vjing, which is the focus of Ponzio’s interests and perhaps the seminal spark of the book itself. Ape5 – this is the moniker used by the author in his performances – stresses how digital technologies at the beginning of this century gave the people the possibility to overcome the status of passive consumers for becoming active producers of contents, under the banner of the neo-situationist motto “don’t hate the media, became your media” which is a political attestation of the re-appropriation of the mass media. The transition to digital technology and the explosion of the Internet coincides with the years of protest of the “no global” movements from Seattle 1999 to Genoa 2001. Live visuals, especially in Italy, develop in these counter-cultural contexts and raves and occupied spaces become exceptional places of experimentation where the first Vjing collectives come to light. In this first period of experimentation, the hybridization between different performative contexts in Vjing is very strong because there is a large amount of aesthetic-formal references available to artists. Only after the complete transition from analogue to digital technology we arrive at a more minimalist aesthetic which, in parallel to the advent of glitch music, will produce works even more abstract, hieratic and also of great artistic value. The documentation of performances, projects, conventions and events – relating both to the Italian and international scene – is truly impressive and particular attention is also paid to the settings implemented, both in terms of equipment and software used. Ponzio with extreme intellectual honesty also describes a certain saturation of the phenomenon nowadays, the excessive formal standardization, the absence of a wide-ranging project, but believes however that such a rich artistic heritage will not be dispersed but will contribute to give life to new artistic forms and new collisions between sound and image.


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