I have never met Simone Motta in person, but I like to imagine him in the Venetian plain mist, taking pictures and complaining, sometimes, about what is happening around us.
I wrote to him on March 27th at 3:33 pm, during my silent lockdown in Bologna. I wanted to talk with him about his ambitious project entitled Listen to me – part of his 4-years-long work Habitat – a peculiar collection of photographs about global warming and its effects on the Venetian countryside.
When I heard about his work for the very first time, I immediately thought about that song by Le Luci della Centrale Elettrica that plays “in the deepest Veneto, when the sky is clear, where the sun is as pale as you are”.
I decided to write to him because I was both curious and I wanted to stop that song to play inside my head over and over and over again. Because the whole point is that: in the deepest Veneto the sky is not clear anymore, and that’s because of pollution, global warming and a series of unfortunate events caused by the anthropogenic changes.
When I saw his pictures, they made me thought about the Ruhr landscapes photographed by Albert Renger-Patzsch which I had the opportunity to see at the “4th Biennal of Industry and Work Photography” organized by the Fondazione Mast in Bologna (2019).
I believe that the reason why I procrastinated for so long before writing to Simone Motta is because nowadays global warming is a scary and painful topic. In fact, not only we try to deny the problem, but also to lessen it. Unfortunately, at some point we have to face the reality and deal with all the things we did to our planet.
This kind of awareness coincided to me with the 3.33 pm on a Friday of late March, when I decided to ask to the photographer from Treviso a simple question.
“I want to talk with you about this big mess we have made. Can you tell me more about your project, when you have started it, what has given it the edge? I want to know what the Venetian countryside was like before, and what has become now. How this geographical area was and how it was seen by your eyes. You can freely write what you want, your feelings, your scattered thoughts. Let’s speak like normal people; I am ready to listen you.”
“I would like to discuss about a topic you have pointed out. I believe that describing the objective reality through the photography is the ideal way to fight this fear you mentioned before and make people more aware of the problem. In fact, this problem exists and we don’t have to hide it, but quite the opposite, we have to included it in our everyday life so that our awareness could spread its “radius of action”. Unfortunately, the sensitive people to the problem are still a minority.
I can’t tell if it is possible to set these photos temporally, but I have conceived them as part of a project, started four years ago when I decided to move in a town along Piave river.
I usually follow seasonal and climate trends weekly, therefore you can imagine how much this situation is important to me. Another thing that has influenced me is my propensity to the foggy and cloudy days. Things that I miss the most about the “old” venetian countryside are linked to my childhood memories and, unfortunately, to this topic we are talking about. During the winter days it used to snow at least twice. I greatly miss that pure white landscape! Not to mention the daily walks into the woods.”
What’s behind the photography of Listen to me? A suspended time, frozen like drops. Pictures that show an unspoked reality with the aim to let people start an introspective journey which can lead them to a new kind of awareness on their fragility as human beings but also on their guilty.
These photos leave us in the middle of a misty street, without any reliable direction or destination, making us struggling and hoping at the same time. In the meanwhile, all we can hear is the far and slowly change that bounces on our lives. An unhappy change this time. It is like a creative force that dominates and scares us. As the creation, the destruction is unstoppable but this time we are its authors because of our actions and silence. We need to talk about it as to stop this flow and generate a productive force more powerful than the destructive one in order to change the route. This is the only way to save ourselves.
I believe Simone Motta’s photography is similar to the “New Objectivity” trend. In fact, as Neue Sachlichkeit’s artists, he reproduces a disappointed and accurate reality.
More than New Objectivity paintings – politicized against the Nazi regime and characterized by the expressionist style, the marked lines and the distorted colors of Grosz, Dix and Beckmann- we look at the photography of Albert Renger-Patzsch.
Specifically, Motta’s project is very reminiscent of the work of the German photographer on the Ruhr Landscapes and concerning the great European industrial substrate. Chimneys, identical wooden and brick houses, snowy landscapes, trees arranged in long rows or alone in the middle of nothing, torn metal nets, frozen grass, cows grazing with industrial fumes in the background. All these things, are covered by a light layer of dust, consequence of the enormous pollution of the area.
It is not a coincidence talking about Renger-Patzsch, not even compare the Ruhr region of the 30s to the Veneto of the 21st century. I say that because today what has been one of the most important mining basins in Northern Europe has become an open-air museum. In fact, after the reclamation and decontamination of the soil, a very important redevelopment of the landscape has taken place, transforming what had been industrial in places of culture.
Maybe we will change our mind, lifestyle and behavior towards the world around us. Maybe the Ruhr model can guide us until we also will be able to exclaim Die Welt ist schön, the world is beautiful.
Simone Motta was born in Treviso in 1987. He has always lived in the countryside and a few years ago moved to Saletto, a small village along Piave river. He has been a photographer for ten years. He loves the nature and silence.