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Takashi Homma “La città narcisista. Milano e altre storie” at VIASATERNA, Milan

For the first time in Italy, “La città narcisista. Milano e altre storie” presents an appraisal of the work of the Japanese photographer Takashi Homma, operating on the international scene since the early 1990s.

The exhibition revolves around three main themes which recur throughout the entire corpus of Homma’s work: the city, the encounter between nature and human intervention, and the acts of seeing and representing which lie at the very heart of the photographic process.

The city is the protagonist of the series that gives the exhibition its title, one created by Homma especially for this occasion. These are photographs of fragments of Milan in which some of the most iconic architecture may be identified: the Cathedral, the Branca Tower, the Tower in the Park of Vico Magistretti, as well as some of the more recent skyscrapers that have taken their place on the urban skyline over recent years, including buildings designed by Zaha Hadid and Arata Isozaki. Homma takes these photographs using a camera obscura, drawing not only on the history of the medium he uses and of perspectival representation in general (many painters, from Leonardo to Canaletto, from Caravaggio to Vermeer, made use of this technique while painting), but going even further back: this is the city which, like Narcissus, is reflected in the water, finding itself upside-down and thus offering itself up to rediscovery. The metropolis suddenly winds down in Homma’s photographs; the hustle and bustle of the streets is replaced by the slowness of the ritual: at last every detail may be explored.

Homma’s interest in architecture is clear from a further section of images produced over the years featuring buildings by great architects around the world, such as Alvar Aalto, Pierre Jeanneret, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer. Homma’s photographs do away with all forms of technicism: instead of towing the line of the most commonly accepted codes of the genre – such as perfectly orthogonal straight lines, soft lights and the exclusion of any form of distraction – the Japanese photographer shoots all kinds of constructions as if they were any other object. The architecture is embedded in a perfectly democratic manner within the flow of his work and overall vision. With a special interest in windows, meant here as elementary devices for looking: both inwards, lighting up the rooms, and outwards, opening up onto the exterior.

Nature is part of the exhibition itinerary through a selection from three series. Waves have been a favourite subject in Homma’s work since 2003, when he dedicated an entire publication, New Waves, exclusively to this phenomenon. Scientific rigour is thus coupled with impressionist sensitivity. Here it is, however, a sequence of waves appeared each year after the tsunami of 2011 and the ensuing nuclear accident. The beauty of the sea is marred by mysterious darkness. The power of nature blends with that of the projects of human artefacts. Likewise, the mushrooms featured in the series Mushrooms from the Forest (2011) were photographed exclusively in the woods surrounding the Fukushima power station. In this sense, they are genuine portraits of survivors, apparently free from contamination and yet laced with lethal poisons. Trails, 2009, again brings together man and nature through an inexorable short circuit of beauty and violence: these are photographs of the traces left on the snow by deer wounded or killed by hunters. Along an icy journey through rocks, streams and isolated trees, Homma uses the land as a white sheet and the blood as his ink.

Beyond the specific subject matter of each single project, a metalinguistic reflection runs through Takashi Homma’s entire production, constituting a fundamental common thread. Trails, in this sense, is first and foremost a matter of writing. The waves are a perfect example of difference in repetition, a phenomenon very dear to whoever deals with photography. Mirrors (of Narcissus) and windows (of architecture) are furthermore among the most common and meaningful metaphors adopted to refer to this medium. And in Homma’s work, there is space for all of this. These are double-edged images: like a pair of glasses with silver-coated lenses, they may be used to see better but also to reflect.

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at VIASATERNA, Milan
until 26 May 2017

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