Ethereal clouds of corpse-gray with violent reds, and puke yellow smiles strained with greed, these are Luca Baioni’s Demons. These are not the angels who god did not spare, imprisoning them in chains of darkness, held for justice. They are free, and human-esk. Though, perhaps, too are sinning angels. Where these scenes are is another great question. For they are not “reproductions of reality, as ‘altered’ as it may be.” Instead, Baioni creates “new pieces of reality, which then interact with reality itself.” They and their world are fragments, perhaps realities that exist in the corner of your eye before you look, dwellers on the threshold. In a way, that is what all pictures are. Still these demons are unique, their frightful maws and shadow eyes perverting of any prayer, these fringe beings feel filled with fiery aspirations.
His artistic output, his style, is not unlike the photos he produces. It “is the result of a modus operandi, which is based on different non-hierarchicalised elements: world fragments, cameras, digital and analogical post-production, paper.” The process is all encompassing and discontinuous in the pursuit of a uniform density, and emotional punch. It’s hectic and experimental, but most importantly, it is fiery. The images are perverted, demonized, under smothering waves of process.
Like a fever dream, the demons knock and swirl in illogical ways and terrifying peeps. Their visual music proves deathening to the real world around them, of which they were produced. Their faces and non-faces made nuanced and full of pain, dirty and as a man grown blackened, with flat eyes and irises only suggested. The photos feels mixed up and unpaired, but distinctly their own, the same subject matter sometimes repeated but never truly so. What was once or perhaps still is a human torso has been coalesced into the mud blood black colours and desaturation.
Interestingly, the process that creates these images, which all differ from each other, but feel strongly alike, is one “driven by a rigorous indiscipline. The method is just a way to the final result. This is true of the single images as well as the books.” This perhaps lends itself to the levels of distortion found throughout Baioni’s work. It is the mark of various, often differing, processes interacting and fighting with one another to do what less painterly photographers expect them to do. However, in Baioni’s hands, their interplay proves volatile, stretching the limits of their intended purpose, towards his own twisted perfection.
Yet what is the message of these works Baioni has produced. If it is not immediately obvious to you, relax in that it is not, so much, for you. He explains that he does “not try to communicate to humanity, to my fellow human beings, but to reality as a whole, and I want the things I produce to be ‘things among things’ and that they become works of art only when they deeply interact with reality.” He tears “the world into pieces and deconstructs, rebuilds, dismantles its fragments, without ever losing faith that what I produce is already in the world, though in another form, as a potential.” Much like these slimy demonic undercurrents which appear at the edges of the frame of life, Baioni is convinced that he is unfolding powers already hidden in the world. His work is “unfolded potentials”. Thus if one feels frightened or disgusted by his creations, we must remind ourselves that he does “not create ex nihilo, out of nothing.”
Demons from the old black, serpents and silence are a concept seemingly as old as man. Whether they are sinful angels, or halloween faced ghouls, the concept of them has always been very human. As subjects they are a discussion of imperfection or perversion, of change for the worse, the horrors of mistakes or bodily urges. Thus they become a perfect subject matter for an artist like Baioni, concerned not with what doesn’t exist, but with making clear what does exist at least in part in the world already. In a way, the very concept of demons are already an exercise in seeing the possibilities of some aspects of human nature taken to their extreme.
The project and the book Demons was born out of the meeting between Baioni’s photography and Paolo Bazzana’s (No Moire) research and development of printing techniques.
The book does not display the narration of a story, nor a defined content. Instead the photographs chosen are “the expression of “pure” and experienced feelings”. Thus the images are autonomous, “like loose frames, but at the same time they are held together by a particular emotional tone” which conveys a “delicate silence” that passes through the world into the photographic. Though one should not read into such a phrase as ‘delicate silence’ any warmth or grace. The darkest of moods can be vanquished by the flick of a light switch. Like all moods that haunt us, they can hang for days, or mere seconds, just long enough for you to turn around and see that you cannot see anyone there.