Pornoland Redux is the story of returning from a land where battles are fought and epic feats are accomplished, a place everyone talks about and that everyone would at least like to visit. The borders of Pornoland may be broad and hazy – Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Tokyo, Los Angeles or Milan – yet the geographical venue is not one defined by ‘facts’: it is essentially a representation of oneiric fantasies, dreamy hallucinations, details and obsessions, all even more real than reality itself.
Stefano De Luigi – on tiptoe, edging around the film set almost like a shadow – rewrites the dynamics of an imaginary world now crystallised in a long but well-defined series of situations, caught on the cusp between the banality of everyday life and the climax of the heroic moment. The hero does not have a perpetually erect penis, brandished like a gladius, ready to plunge into the body of his predestined victim – here we might see him instead amicably whispering a few words into his partner’s ear. The group of males in their underwear on a spotlighted stage is reminiscent of any group of workers waiting to carry out some strenuous task. Nor are there any heroines, except for a statue of Athena – a warrior virgin, clasping her spear – indignantly surveying the intercourse taking place. An inflatable doll and a set of clothes to wear suggest a comic rendition of the ritual of dressing in armour.
The pornographic image is always evoked but never displayed. In a room reminiscent of a living room, a naked man is holding his penis. To the right of the photograph, a woman observes the scene. Her backlit body is dark, in contrast with the warm yellow light that envelops the room. The man’s gesture is intimate; he does not think anyone is watching him. The woman, on the other hand, observes without being seen. She waits. Waiting for what? we might ask. For him to be ready to start the shoot.
The photographs do not describe or even tell, but rather they elude, or more often allude. There are no polished bodies shifting between Edenic paradises or luxurious Californian residences filled with mirrors and deep blue pools. None of Bosch’s delights appear here. What the images contain and signify is deliberately postponed, almost as if the function of these photos were to protect the bodies of the actors in space, to put off their actions in time. The photographer’s gaze often lingers on what does not appear, on what one does not expect to see.
It is the image of a time in which nothing happens. A time of waiting, of suspension, of emptiness. A time between brackets, between one scene and another, akin to that which is marginal, to something that is not usually seen. De Luigi likes to broaden the boundaries of the reality he observes, both in a spatial sense (since there is always ‘another’ space alongside that which may be seen) and in a temporal sense (since he avoids the quantitative conception of time and its viewing in terms of its pure effectiveness). This is why he photographs time devoid of any value: three women chat among themselves in a room with a meeting table, perhaps waiting for an interview; an actress, lying on a bed, covers her body with a large cloth that she pulls over her face and with which she seems to be wiping her mouth; an actress is given some paper on a roll by a man, most likely to clean her body of organic residues after shooting a scene.
The photographer’s gaze tends to be lyrical, poised between sublimated beauty and bleak reality. One example is the image of an actor shot from behind, holding the back of his neck with his hands as he sits at the edge of a swimming pool, almost like a resigned – perhaps desperate – Rodinesque thinker, while next to him his colleague appears to ignore him, lost in the emptiness of her own thoughts. De Luigi’s photographs bring to the surface what usually lurks in the depths of each individual: their dreams, desires and fears. The actors’ souls appear before their very bodies. The naked actress holding her baby, for whom she is holding a bottle of milk, becomes a caring mother once more, and the young woman curled up in a foetal position in the middle of a circular room is no longer a porn actress but a young girl asleep after a party. A puppet hanging over the bed tells us the truth about the male shadow and the pleasure expressed by the female face beneath him.
De Luigi photographs with the eye of someone who draws close to the people he meets. What really surprises us is the need to illuminate these existences, to colour with vivid shades not so much what is extraordinary or sensational but their absolute ‘normality’.
Using the cross-processing technique, the photographer obtains tones that veer towards yellow, green and blue and give things a dreamlike nuance; hence, a paintbrush seems to have been passed over the images, so some look like watercolours, others like oil paintings. You can sense that the photographer is right inside what he is narrating. He gives visibility and body to a feeling, making his pietas tangible. As happens with the face of an actress juxtaposed with the image of the Virgin Mary with Child, seen in a painting hanging on the wall.