Panem Et Circenses | Bread and Circuses
“I think my work has a certain political atmosphere, even though, perhaps, it is not immediately detectable. I try to put the same emphasis on both the subject of my photographs and the way in which it is photographed. I am interested in the point of view of the excluded, the marginalised. Often one is forced to have only restricted views, in awkward positions, difficult to maintain. Nevertheless we could take advantage of this apparent fault to observe and understand things in a different, unexpected way.”Gianluca Cosci, 2006
Gianluca Cosci is a contemporary artist and one that we have been asked to research about his series Panem Et Circenses, litearlly translated into ‘Bread and circuses,’ for his usage of shallow depth of field. I have really enjoyed researching on various artists and have been able to relate to their works also on several levels, this one baffles me. Being a great fan of shallow depth of field, I was really looking forward to studying more about him. But there is not much information about the concept behind this work or what his aim is, except for one interview that I found and I am going to try to understand his work a bit, if I can.
In this series, below is my favourite photograph which I like because its pleasing to look at – like a painting. I cant really make much sense of the other works to be honest.
“With my photographs I would like to insinuate a subtle sense of violence in our deeply hierarchical society. I am interested in the point of view of the loser, the marginalised. Often we are forced to have only restricted views, uncomfortable to maintain. In spite of this, I believe that one can take advantage of this apparent fault and use it to observe and understand things in a different, unexpected way.”Cosci (2006)
From his explanations above, whatever little I can decipher is perhaps that the focused area in his images represent the marginalised sections of our society, that are forced to withdraw into a limited space in time, to be forced to have an uncomfortable or limited approach to understand the way things are. The focus point in the image can at best be described as a sliver whereas the rest of the image being completely blurred out. Apparently he does not like to speak about his work lest he spoils it. I am not reading the interview yet so I can have a chance to study and understand the photographs without having a background provided. After all, isn’t an image supposed to speak a thousand words, on its own, without having a background provided with words?
Coming from a country like India, where people are marginalised not for one but several reasons at several levels, including a caste system which is still prevalent not only in the rural sectors but equally so in the cities and not only restricted to the uneducated or underprivileged but well within the rich and elite. Examples of it are seen in everyday lives and it boils my blood. Does his vantage point of being extremely low at the ground level in this series be representative of those sections of society?
The highlighted sliver in the images are weed, some fallen peanuts, some trash, cracks in the pavement – basically representing something “fallen” or again representative of the “discarded.” Could it again be representative of how the marginalised are treated like trash against the blurred background of things that are beyond their grasp? Beyond their world – the world of the rich and powerful, the world of the big corporates and industries?
Am now going to read the interview.
Moving to London from Bologna, Cosci had quite a culture shock (he should come India!!) with the authority, power structure, confidence of everything around him seems to have fascinated as well as repulsed him. As per him, he felt quite an outsider, feeling like an alien observer and most of his work during that time was largely based upon that notion. It was quite a contrast from the humble and rural settings of the Marche region he belonged to, which according to him was humble and modest. A misfit at best, he feels that it has something of that in his work too. Well, thats all I got from his interview. I did look at some of his other works as a lot of students had mentioned “fragments’ as a series of photographs he made, in the opposite style of Ansel Adams, but I could not find it anywhere, even the page on his personal website I got from another blog has been taken off.
“ I guess we have just to pretend to know what we are doing and put a veil of rationality to something that defies words and linguistic explanations.”(Cosci, 2016)
I did have a look at some of his other works like Appropriations, Old Masters, Whitewashing but I believe he says that he is not a photographer so I will take his word for it. I have tried my best to interpret his work in my limited understanding of other’s works. I am not very inspired by looking at his work and even after reading about it, somehow it doesn’t appeal to me much.
Key points and learnings from Cosci’s works-
- Usage of extremely shallow depth of field
- Create doubt
- Different point of view
- Confuse the viewer
- Unique vantage point
- Use of art as a means to point out the political, economic, and social issues.
- Let the viewer try to figure it out!