Five scenes for a backdrop (with an impatient man, a retired woman, a delivery man running late, two bored children and a couple in crisis) is the latest video by Francesco Pedraglio, conceived for MACTE museum on the occasion of Giornata del Contemporaneo 2021.
A painted canvas with a portico and three archways accommodates a group of people from Termoli, who are engaged in carrying out common gestures in their daily lives. The subjects listed in the title appear without uttering any words one after the other (and in some cases reappear in the following scene), each one negotiating with their own reality.
The faux painted architecture used as a set by Pedraglio is reminiscent of Donato Bramante's faux stucco choir in the Milanese church of Santa Maria at San Satiro –– or rather, it recalls thetrick employed there. In that expedient, a deceptively beautiful artifice suggests the illusory expansion of a space of only 90 centimeters, the ornamental decoration thus contributing to the making of reality. The representation of space is produced by the fusion of real and imagined structures, like in this work.
Storytelling is a central tool in the artist's research. Exercised through different media –– performance, video, artists' books –– it allows the possibility of decoding intimate spaces and facts linked to historical events of a past. By inventing short stories, Pedraglio stages, as in this specific case, a format based on interconnected brief narratives that emphasize the importance of the frame: a support architecture that creates the setting where the five scenes intertwine.
The initial moments, while the setting is being prepared, are marked by indications given by the artist, outside and inside the videomaker's field of vision and to the actors; later, we see Pedraglio reappear in the frame after having entrusted a character to each actor, in order to position or give them directions. The subtitles at the beginning of the video allow Pedraglio to provide the work with a broader context and a clue for interpretation.
In the subtitles Pedraglio admits that he has been reading for months the work of only one writer, whose name he does not mention but whom we know to be Natalia Ginzburg. What makes this new interest and method of approach even more unexpected to him is something that happens in a television interview, where the writer presents her autobiography and rediscovers the pleasure of no longer having to invent anything. Establishing a connection to this anecdote, before scene one, Pedraglio leaves open a doubt in the minds of the viewers: we are not told whether the video is a mise-en-scène or is reality.
The opening of the action in the video in medias res enhances the idea that the location of the portico is not built on a fixed intention but allows for a suspension that stands out as the most powerful feature of the work.
Five scenes for a backdrop (with an impatient man, a retired woman, a delivery man running late, two bored children and a couple in crisis) 2021
HD video, 10 minutes
Participants in order of appearance: Alfonso Mucci, Carmela Milito, Antonello Ragni, Pascal Arnaldino, Viola Arnaldino, Ilaria Basciano, Daniel Cuadros Mendez
Backdrop holders: Marta Federici, Ylenia Regia Corte
Video shooting: Alfredo Mangione
Casting and logistics: Amalia Vitale, Nadia Vitone, Caterina Riva
Produced by MACTE and shot on location at the museum