March 16 - May 29, 2022

curated by Maria Laura Cavaliere

The exhibition is promoted by Roma Culture and Azienda Speciale Palaexpo with the collaboration of the French Academy in Rome - Villa Medici. Thanks to Institut Francais

Organized by Azienda Speciale Palaexpo


French artist and filmmaker Clément Cogitore treads the boundaries between cinema and contemporary art, video, installation and photography, staging his complex and innovative devices.

For the first time in Italy, the exhibition Notturni presents a selection of Cogitore’s most notable videos, in which he explores the contradictions and ambiguities of contemporary images in a juxtaposition of truth and falsehood, direct accounts and ready-made film images, calling into question our perception of the real and of history.

Cogitore’s works are made up of a variety of visual elements, non-linear narrative forms mid-way between documentary and fiction that never configure themselves as a single representational form, in which fiction itself becomes a kind of “theatre” of reality. As Orson Welles quoted from Picasso in his celebration of mystification in F for Fake, “art is a lie that makes us realise the truth”.

Night occupies a central role in these tales, evocative of all that is unknown, irrational – dreams, darkness, the Northern Lights, chiaroscuro moods punctuated by artificial lighting. The interplay between shadow and light is emblematic of the antinomy of existence itself: good and evil, night and day, mortality and immortality, visible and invisible. Cogitore is attracted to archetypes, to models, elements of an alphabet of archaic and powerful images that are both modern and poignant, charged with a strong symbolism precisely because they reconnect human beings with their most authentic and ancestral nature.

The sacred and the figuration of rituals are two central themes in Cogitore’s work. He regards the sacred as an ancestral sentiment which concerns the mystery of human existence and to which he attempts to provide an answer. He does not replace existing dogma with his own, however. Rather, he offers a poetic representation that combines spirituality with elements from everyday life. His visual language takes its cue from the films of Robert Bresson, whom he describes as being the “absolute master of the sacralisation of inglorious everyday existence”.

Through his manipulation of images, Cogitore highlights their potential and polysemic nature, which he declines by reuse of pre-existing footage (Tahrir,

Assange Dancing), mise en abyme of the image (Travel(ing) and Elégies),

“theatricalization” (with the mise en scène of a tableau vivant as in Memento Mori), “remake” video as in the opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes.

Night evokes the intimate and reflective dimension which the video explores as a place of transit and transformation of images, from expressive codes of the past (painting, photography, cinema) to the creation of images that reconfigure new categories of the visible.

Cogitore's nocturnal visions bring to mind the thought of Giorgio Agamben, who defined contemporary "he who keeps his gaze firmly in his own time, to perceive not its lights but the darkness" (G. Agambern). In line with the neurophysiological approach to vision, the philosopher argued that darkness is not a privational concept stemming from the simple lack of light. It is, rather, the consequence of the activity of the peripheral cells of the retina which produce a particular aspect of vision we call darkness. "Only those who allow themselves not to be blinded by the lights of the century and manage to see in them their part of shade, their intimate obscurity, can term themselves contemporary" (G. Agamben). Likewise, in Cogitore’s Notturni the systematic “fictionalising” of images challenges their immediacy, their function as mere tools for reproducing reality. In them, the night is a metaphor for that which is not immediately visible, and which the imaginary of the spectator is called upon to interpret.


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