“Nothing really exists except for what has been documented.”
(Maurizio Ferraris, Documentalità)

Men have always tried to leave a mark of their very own passage on Earth. It doesn’t matter if they did it through radical actions or unseen writings on a suburban wall; the aim has never really changed. We’re all afraid of not being remembered. We know it’s ultimately useless, but it’s something we need to believe in. It’s an essential part of our immutable yet temporary human nature. 

Photography has brought this process to an even more sophisticated level. With its birth, everyone thought it would have been able to capture the truth, and images became an irrefutable proof of lived moments.

The very existence of reality gradually started to be certified by its visual duplicate.

But it wasn’t only about reality itself. It involved also our presence in it. Again: our passage. ‘Leave on the walls a photographic trace of your fleeting visit’ is an experimental installation by Franco Vaccari, who strongly anticipated today’s trend in 1972 Biennale. The artist placed a banal photo booth inside the exhibition space, leaving the walls around empty. Everyone wanted to say: “I’ve been here”, and the walls filled up quickly.

But is that still a proof? Today there are infinite ways of compromising an image. From Photoshop to Deep Fakes, nothing seems to be reliable anymore. However, this doesn’t stop us.

We keep trying, mostly unaware of what we’re really looking for. 

First of all, we could assume that we’re just trying to catch time – maybe to stop it. To convince ourselves that our life is made up of differentiable moments, and not just a continuum of random experiences. These steps are a rational way to organize, control, and ultimately understand what’s happening to us. And this could be the second point: we save for later, what we can’t get now. We postpone, and we delude ourselves that one day everything will be clear – all the points will link, one to the other.

However, if everything has already been represented, what is the aim of taking part to this endless visual flow?

Here it’s easy to fall into the paradox of the map of the empire (Jorge Louis Borges), in which skilled cartographers soon end up drawing a map coincident with the empire itself. But social networks like Instagram are making this map becoming larger and larger, exceeding even its original scale. 

Under this light, the very format of photography appears to be a little bit outdated. It requires you to stop and discern. It’s not live streaming, it doesn’t include quiz/dog/big eyes filters or other special effects. And again: what is the point of traveling, if Google Earth allows you to go anywhere while comfortably sitting at your home’s desk?

But there must be something to save – an alternative way to look at this “sold out” world. 

‘Accidental Icons’ is an unexpected attempt of finding an answer. Going against the new self-archive dynamics imposed by social media, the project gives life to a collection of anti-icons, in which the precious research of out-of-place accidents is opposed to the predictability of mass images. 

This is the starting point of a very intimate research. Shifting the focus from conventional beauties doesn’t mean to refuse them. It’s more about acknowledging that they’re already under our domain, and there’s no need for confirmation. The new monuments of this visual Renaissance are common objects, weird situations and hidden details. Anything that interrupts the eternal visual flow of the “already-seen” becomes part of this personal quest. And it’s by linking those fragments, that you discover your part in the place you’re visiting – that you finally find yourself in a red car advert breaking up the poetry of a boundless Jordan desert.

‘Accidental Icons’ is a project by Filippo Elgorni, Christian Kondic, Riccardo Orsini.
Text by Riccardo Orsini, Natalia S. Moroni Grandini.
Milan, September 2018 – March 2019.
210 x 297 mm, 60 color pages.
Limited edition of 70 copies (buy here).