Fascinated by the ambiguity of the Swiss landscape, where nature looks well respected and preserved, the photographer found that the landscape reveals its artificiality upon closer look. The harmony of the woods and fields is not a result of nature but of human intervention. Looking at the landscape under a different, more scrutinizing perspective, Andrea Alessio discovered how the edge of the road becomes a land art artefact where coloured fire hydrants compete with flowers. The apparently casual signs on the road become a coded message pointing towards the illegal trespassing of the borders by nature just as well as humans. Covered by nature, a fallen road sign is but one strange marker in the fields that reminds of almost alien tracks. This ambiguity has also made the object of Andrea Alessio’s critically acclaimed Un-Natural Bestiary series, revealing how photography can be used as an instrument of framing and understanding reality through mediated representations.
In Alessio’s photographs, the balanced compositions underline the various natural and artificial markers. They marginally address the functional aspects of everyday indices, which are usually constructed based on general notions of use, orientation, sense of direction, and management. Swiss Signs describes ambiguous, multivalent, and multi-directional relations and artifacts that are acknowledged as objective markers yet fail to reference any specific person or any specific situation of use. Designed to orient, to direct, or to restrict, these are also markers of the forgotten, the neglected, the habitual, the trespassed. Any sense of presence or absence the photographer would seek to highlight here does not concern the immediate physical existence or function of objects in the surroundings, but rather their acknowledged yet disregarded existence in everyday life. Alessio’s photographs are not a question of here-and-now, but rather a question of there-and-how. That the signs now mark unaddressed destinations, unseen relations, or broken restrictions only suggests they simultaneously appear and disappear as markers of everyday life: most of the times, these signs are there without witnessing any presence at all and without anyone attending to their presence.
Questions of everyday aesthetics are also addressed in the series; a sub-discipline of its own, everyday aesthetics is an attempt to circumscribe the nature of the everyday and understand how it affects the aesthetics of everyday life. In Alessio’s photographs, the objects and markers relate to intangible activities, events, and relations; routine relations, memories, and plans – all of which are culturally and naturally informed – ooze with strange, ‘familiar unfamiliarity.’ Nature provides them with an almost neutral setting, accommodating divergent perceptions: the routine and the unconventional, familiarity and strangeness, continuity and interruption, the normal and the aberrant, habits and inquietudes, acting almost as a half-consciousness that allows deep reflections and appropriations. Neutrality displays the remnant artifacts of control, balance, and orientation to give strange, alienated directions. Absent here is any sense of sociality and interaction, as if un-forming conversance and what makes who we are following societal rules and normalisations. While vivid and vibrant, nature itself seems a construction, a plan – and a mantrap too. It is an expression of how life itself is not ours alone, blurring the definite borders between self and surroundings.
Text by Sabin Bors, April 21, 2015