LIFE IS SOMEWHERE ELSE
The world is yours — Part I
The World is Yours, a body of work by photographer Daniele Ansidei, explores the exotification of the foreign in the age of globalization using zoological gardens, natural history museums, shopping malls, and iconographic images as examples.
In the first part of the series Life is somewhere else, Ansidei’s images, equally objective and powerful, show fenced in animals native to Africa, such as lions, giraffes and flamingos, in strange and artificial environments. The contrast between the exotic animals and the seemingly industrial environments where they find themselves deliberately plays with the conflict of otherness and lends the images a sense of strangeness and alienation.
In the second part Time heals everything but wounds, Ansidei is not only concerned with the keeping and public display of animals in zoological grounds, but also with the phenomenon of display in the museum context. His close-ups of preserved animals in natural history museums are like topographical photographs of alien worlds. The cracks and fractures on the surfaces of the lifeless specimens give them the appearance of inhospitable and deserted landscapes, revealing the quiet traces of past occupation and ruin.
The theme of appropriation is reflected completely differently in Ansidei’s images of iconographic pictorial elements of Christ, dating back to the late Middle Ages. In his study of the iconography of the Salvator Mundi (Latin for “Savior of the World”), Ansidei focuses on the orb or globe, which is held in Christ’s left hand, symbolizing his dominion over earth. It is these symbols of power and victory that Ansidei is interested in exploring in his work. Here, the seemingly abandoned and alienated animals in zoos, the damaged skins in natural history museums, and the paintings in art history museums depicting Christ holding the world appear like conquest trophies. In a sense, Ansidei simultaneously challenges the underlying conscious and subconscious colonial gaze, in which the foreign is presented as that which is to be conquered.
In a continuation of his series, Ansidei questions territorial and cultural claims across borders as well. Entering the vast strip between the former East and West, we see gigantic shopping malls that were built shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Thirty years later, these architectural relics remind us of the promises of Capitalism as a replacement for the political ideologies of former Socialist countries. In particular, we see the pursuit of business opportunities that was characteristic of wealthy westerners in the 90s. Through these photographs, Ansidei comments the era’s quest for appropriation and cultural selling-out.
In The World is Yours series, Ansidei reveals how the construct of the foreign, through the process of exotification, is often based on ideas of race in the European context, and is not to be understood as cultural encounter in which all parties are equal. In light of global migration, Ansidei’s subtle yet explicit photography is of particular political relevance and importance.
Text by Lukas Feireiss