The Door
Guerre des Rêves

BarcelonaGalleryWeekend2022,  Suburbia Contemporary, Calle de València, 345, 08009 Barcelona.

15 - 18 September  2022

During lockdown I went for long walks up and down the hillsides that surround the centre of Florence. I realized that I no longer wanted to take photos to record my findings, since photography is flat and I was spending most of my time working online, staring at a flat screen all day. So I began using an ancient technique, making casts, a technique used since Mediaeval times, to record the features of the dead. Casting for me represents the principle of photography, since it was used to document the times people lived in. It is the base of photographic documentation.

My wanderings took me to little known areas of unexplored beauty and between Porta Romana and Forte Belvedere I discovered the Tivoli Garden, a part of unknown Florence, hidden in plain sight.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century when Florence was capital of Italy under Vittorio Emanuele the second, the king created a pleasure garden like the one in Copenhagen. He wanted to walk to it through the Boboli Gardens from his residence in Palazzo Pitti. And so the Tivoli Garden was created. It only lasted a few years because the king moved the capital to Rome and the garden was dismantled. But remnants of it remain: buildings in Nordic and middle-European styles.

I was struck by the irony of the brief existence and disappearance of a part of Florence, in a city where preservation of antiquity at all costs is the order of the day. I was drawn in by this non-existent fantastic garden of wonders right beside the historical Boboli Gardens and I began to cast objects using damp clay. During the journey home in my rucksack the castings became distorted. The distortion of my casts brings to mind the idea of temporary nature of time and space and the way that time distorts memory.

I made a video of some of the classical Greek and Roman busts in the Boboli Garden. In the background I recorded the voice which echoes round the gardens at closing time, telling people to leave in many different languages. It is as though the Boboli Gardens are disappearing and the statues are protecting the entrance of the imaginary Tivoli Gardens.

I took photos of the same classical busts, deleting the bases under the statues, so that they appear to float in the vegetation, already introducing the idea of the disappearing Tivoli garden.

© Robert Pettena 2022