Behind a powerful man hides a pretty woman.
As a reflection on the current onslaught of news, social commentary and various scandals, the new series ‘Recto Verso’ employs vintage black and white images to bring back to its origins the topic of ‘politics as entertainment’.
The vintage magazine pages at the core of this work can be described as ready-made by their very nature. No digital manipulation or the artistry of collage is involved. The sheets were originally part of an Italian weekly publication probably issued in the late 1960s concerned around themes of political satire and erotic photography called ‘Le Ore’ - although the source is not certain – magazine that later fell into the more profitable business of straight-on pornography. Addressing interests and needs of a strictly male audience, the two sides of the printed pages depict and consistently repeat, throughout various issues, the entertaining layout of political commentary/satire on one side and aspiring young starlets on the other in a succession of images that make the sense and scope of the publication ever so ambiguous. If anything, the publication appears to set – or follow - the standards of what has since become the representation of women in relation to male power in popular and populist tabloids.
Scandals involving escorts, would-be models and starlets are as old as politics or at least as journalism itself. But in 1961 the Profumo affair, and the obsessive media coverage that followed, changed the way the press covered political sex scandals and shattered the illusion of politicians being roles of integrity. It opened the door to an age where anything was possible and nobody was safe, where people’s attention was diverted towards sordid personal stories. Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. From Bill Clinton’s extra-marital affair to the bunga-bunga parties in Berlusconi’s sexed-up regime, it seems like powerful men just cannot stop themselves from grabbing the headlines as well as grabbing “female beauties”. Vulgarity entered the stage as a sign of dissent in the pop culture of the 1960’s as a protest against the establishment, as an anti-bourgeois gesture and since then the entertainment culture has helplessly surrendered itself to it at the cost of women’s integrity.
When does too much information become misinformation? ‘Recto Verso’ is not set to provide answers but acts instead as a commentary by suggesting different narratives. In combining random pages from various issues of the magazine and with the help of a backlit/double exposure effect created by the light box, the works seem to enter the realm of surrealist imagery. Young attractive women and political male personalities merge into unexpected and formally deceiving compositions. Making sense of these overlapping signs is in the hands of the artist and in the consciousness of the viewer.
Front page for the 'Profumo Affair' - © Daily Mirror