Exhibition of Mariantonietta Bagliato and  Julie Grosche at Foothold, curated by Like A Little Disaster.


Mariantonietta Bagliato / Julie Grosche
Curated by Like A Little Disaster
20 October - 20 November, 2018
Foothold / Like A Little Disaster, Polignano a Mare (Bari)

The relationships made possible by communication technologies stimulate the revision of some fundamental assumptions of the concept of presence, as well as of the relationships between body and identity, between individual and group, which become virtual because they disprove the usual rooting of social interaction in the physical performativity of the human body.

With the advent of increasingly complex technologies, and in particular with the development of information technologies, the technological mediation of the flow of communication between bodies and identities has become more widespread and indispensable. Communication technologies, as mediators of the interactions between bodies and identities (or self-experiences, or avatars, or people, or subjects, or whatever you wish to call it), perform the specific functions of creating and mediating spaces and social groups.
The social worlds, the community structure and form can be effectively founded on symbolic exchanges in which the concept of proximity becomes secondary.
Communication technologies undermine our most widespread beliefs of communities and the bodies that inhabit them, beliefs that presuppose that communities are composed of aggregates of individual identities; that each identity is provided with a single physical body as envelope or locus of human action.
The familiar and common nature of the bodies and identities, this apparently obvious and tenacious story that keep saying of the existence of an "I" for each individual body conceals, like the concepts of race and gender, powerful and pervasive networks, whose invisibility serves to authorize and ground intertwined systems of oppression. Not only the individual experiences of corporeity are - as the theories of gender and of the body have shown - social constructs; even the location of identity in the body is socially mediated. The physical location of the subject becomes independent of the body in which the theories of the body are used to root it, and is placed in that system of symbolic exchanges that is information technology.
The monolithic representations of the physical and virtual space are now opposed to the reinvention and the encounter in a technological space conceived as a physical and social environment, as a sort of nature within which multiple subjects are roamed. The multiple subject is the enantiomorph; a being that lies outside the single physical body, to which it has also been associated by standardization. The body in question is sitting somewhere in front of a technological device, while the locus of sociability that should be associated with it happens in a space that is irrelevant to the body itself. The cyborg, the multiple personality, the techno-social subject imply a radical rewriting of the concept of the delimited individual.


If the image is traditionally considered as the re-presentation of a distant presence in time or space, of a "has been" and therefore an absent presence that touches us, but we cannot touch, the virtual image is the re-presentation of an absence, since nothing has been, but absence which, once the distance between the image and the model has been abolished, is always present: an hyper-image, a self-referential image that “can no longer imagine the real because it coincides with it”.

The virtual emerges as a multiple, potential and dynamic structure that, in the incessant timeline, reveals "points of reality", which do not confine themselves in the limit of the specification but are matrices of continuous differentiation, without any original model of reference.


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Relations between people and organizations, interests, stories, communications, consumer products, financial data, judicial and health information; everything is online and recorded in the databases of a few companies and public institutions. It is not only data provided voluntarily by people and those collected more or less without the knowledge of users, but there is a lot of information derived from the analysis of aggregate data from various sources. Once shared, personal data live on their own life. The collection and subsequent analysis of understanding, and in some cases also predicting, the behavior of human beings, both individually and globally; the behavioral analysis algorithms have advanced to the point where they can predict the birth of a child when it is still in the mother's tummy. This would not be possible if it were not for the collection and analysis of user data. Data are the new frontier of the Internet, the measure of the popularity of a service and the bargaining chip of the network. User data is labor and capital, the oil of the digital economy.
Actually, companies (and not only) continuously track users and very often the collection is completely hidden. When it is not, users are generally not allowed to escape. Sometimes the user to defend himself can only abandon the online service, unsubscribing. And it is not said that it is not traced anyway. The citizen today is the object of a vast almost indiscriminate collection of data without any possibility of choice and control.



The puppet: a body-object that explicates a potentiality of movement that can only be actualized by means of a pre-reflective mingling between intentionality-puppeteer and body-matter, in the becoming of the action and in a continuous relocation of the event.
The avatar: the body-image that seems to detach itself from the organic body to overcome its intrinsic limits. It turns out to be a fundamental figure where we want to investigate the idea of a body as an open field of forces and variables, or to examine the persistent dualistic split between body and psyche, consciousness and matter, also calling into question the normative criteria through which we discern the normal from the monstrous, the man from the woman, the healthy from the sick, the natural from the artificial.
The avatar appears as an image of, and bases its ontological status primarily on appearing graphically, through the image of a user, for example; unlike the puppet, it has no direct manipulation. In fact, we can observe the puppet, placed in a corner of the room, amorphous and lifeless, turn it around and study it in its features as an object with weight and extension. Through the use of the puppet, we can perceive ourselves as a lived body and as a reification of material and kinesthetic, and at the same time it is impossible to perceive us unitarily and simultaneously as both, but we will somehow endure the "weight" of the duplicity.

«... I am the spectator and at the same time "stand", as if it were on me, the shell of the puppet, I am his face and his body of pure appearance»

We cannot dress the avatar; make its appearance become ours through our body scheme. If the puppet is a hermeneutical key for a reflection on the structure of the virtual and on the multiplicity of actualization, as action, gestures, the avatar underlies a mimetic discourse.

To control a body, it is not to be that body.

Where the puppet presents an expressive scheme, the avatar refers to the representation.
Puppet and avatar deepen the topology of the body being, the mimetic and representative logic and the concept of surrogate/substitution of a real body. Despite their specificity, both refer to the human features, reproducing the image, stylised or stereotyped, reproduced hyper-realistically or only hinted at in the features. Both are characterized by a certain degree of manipulability, generally designed to be used and handled. A further characteristic that unites them is the uncanny effect that the encounter with these artifacts produces. The uncanny - like the homonymous Freudian work of the same name - is an effect of disorientation in the reading and interpretation of what is offered to us by perception, and is configured in particular as a sense of unease towards a body that, on a cognitive level, it is not possible to discern immediately as alive or dead, real or phantasmatic, a three-dimensional and anthropomorphic - or enantiomorphous - body that confuses our certainties of categorizing reality and ambiguously mixes the notions, necessarily experienced as opposites, of life and of death.


But is the emotional communication of the self at a distance, which then takes place in the absence of the body, remains an amputated relationship for this?

Man's openness, understanding and communication are also realized through the expression of emotions, gestures, facial expressions / micro-expressions, posture and bodily activation. It is these signals rather than words that convey the most truthful meaning of meanings mediated by linguistic signs. As research on emotional micro-expressions seems to have shown, there is a level of motor coding of affective dynamics in the body and face that is inaccessible to voluntary control and therefore not dissimulated.

- Alexithymia is a disorder of emotional regulation and is characterized by a reduced ability to identify and analyze one's own and other emotions. It is also accompanied by an evident inability to express one's emotions and to empathize with the emotional dimension of the other.

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