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Last updated: March 14, 2020 - (Ventôse - Pâquerette)

In another part of the town

The golden age of postcards

According to Wikipedia, the printed picture postcards were born in France before with drawings in 1870, after with photos in 1890-91.

But it is in "1872 that for the first time the illustrated postcards were used to advertise the tourist beauties of a country, Switzerland to be precise, thanks to the idea of ??the German Franz Borich, who collected a huge success and a long series of imitators" (from italian Wikipedia, in english language there is the first one in USA, created in 1893).

Let's focus for a moment on this definition: "tourist beauties".
For a snob, who likes to stand out, it is an oxymoron: if it is "tourist" it is mass oriented and therefore cannot be beautiful. But if for a moment we accept to be part of the mass at least up to the middle class level, we would be clear what that "tourist beauty" promoted by the illustrated postcard means: a decent photograph of the subjects, of the most significant views from the historical point of view or landscaping of the area to be represented.
Maybe it will be a stereotyped beauty: if it is not a "déjà vu" it is sure a "déjà imaginé", but it is a beauty. By definition, when we are taking a picture that is obvious, we are making a postcard, which does not mean that it is ugly, but it is simply "beautiful but obvious, not original".

Until here this is the usual postcards. But we have a book about the Postcards, the ones with capital letter because this was the turning point.
In this Italian phenomenon (I don't know in other countries) it was like going from classical to contemporary art without even going through modern art. In short, how to go directly from the "Trevi Fountain" to Duchamp's "Fountain".
The first has only a decorative function and is recognized immediately for what it is, and is worthy to be on a postcard.
The second originally had only a practical function, as a urinal, then it was decontextualized by the artist and put on display, highlighting how beautiful, at least appreciable, interesting, curious it can be.

What are these Postcards in practice? The book explains it clearly.
They are the result of a well-targeted commercial operation: specialized photographers, following a survey with the tobacconists in the area, captured pictures of residential areas taking care to enhance their intrinsic beauty while involving as many homes as possible. These Postcards (limited edition like other types of works of art!) were then redistributed among the tobacconists in the area to be sold.

Who was the buyer?
For a young man today it will be difficult to understand it, but for those who lived in a time, we are talking until the 70s, without cell phones, without the Internet, without digital photography, to send a postcard that equated their anonymous street to the main monument of the own city was a great privilege.
If their own building appeared clearly and they could write "we live here" with the arrow, then the success was complete. In other words, the target was the protagonism desire of the average citizen which then degenerated, in the following decades, in broadcasts such as reality shows or in mass phenomena such as social networks on the Internet.

So, returning to Duchamp's "Fountain" example, you are faced with masterpieces where naive and ignorant eyes search in vain for the monument, without being able to find it even in the hidden points or far in the background.
The historian's eye, instead, is grateful for a glimpse of the Lebenswelt of those years, of that everyday life (finally) re-evaluated by historians such as Jacques Le Goff.

Some photographers have gone further. So much so as to totally abandon the commercial meaning and arrive at pure essentiality: in "Taranto - Overpass" the predominance of gray, the few lines, the essentiality of the forms, lead to total mental upheaval. In a saussurean analysis we are faced with an almost absence of signifier (the essentiality mentioned above) parallel to an almost absence of meaning. The parallelism of these two absences is obligatory: "signifier and meaning are linked by a relationship of mutual presupposition: the expressive form articulates the content; content can only be manifested through a meaningful form".

Here there is the total absence of both. To what unfathomable abyss can the observation of this image that seems extracted from a story by Lovercraft lead us?
But it is not alone. The "Macerata - The public gardens" or those of "Casa S.Maria - Caprino Bergamasco" which sense of existential solitude do they convey to us?
The latter image seems to be taken from Sartre's "Nausea". And what crazy contrast between the apparent serenity of the prefabricated houses and today's awareness of the mortal danger of the Eternit, of the asbestos that compose them?

Art, it's pure art!
But it's a philological research, too: the author personally moved looking for these forgotten artists in order to reconstruct the events, the techniques, the names, the sensations.
The texts that accompany the images are made with a delicate irony that exudes love and poetry. The final effect can only be experienced by leafing through this volume and contemplating the individual images and finally, like the italian poet Gozzano with "the good things of bad taste", reliving those forgotten or never lived moments.

le tele di Massimo d’Azeglio, le miniature,
i dagherottìpi: figure sognanti in perplessità,

il gran lampadario vetusto che pende a mezzo il salone
e immilla nel quarzo le buone cose di pessimo gusto,

il cùcu dell’ore che canta, le sedie parate a damasco
chèrmisi.... rinasco, rinasco del mille ottocento cinquanta!

(From "Il salotto di Nonna Speranza", Guido Gozzano)

the Massimo d'Azeglio's canvases, the miniatures,
the daguerreotypes: dreamy figures in perplexity,

the great old chandelier hanging in the middle of the hall
that multiply into the quartz: the good things of bad taste,

the cuckoo clock that sings, the parade of crimson damask
chairs.... I reborn, I reborn in eighteen fifty!

Hard cover: 240 pages
publisher: I Libri di Isbn/Guidemoizzi (June 2014)
language: Italian
ISBN-10: 8876384464
ISBN-13: 978-8876384462

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