Giovanna Petrocchi

Magic Lanterns 2020 (ongoing)

Magic Lanterns is an ongoing series in which I construct collages using discarded glass slides from museums and institutions across the world, beginning with a collection from The Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey. The staff were disposing of these objects, as they had been in the process of digitising the whole collection, and so the slides no longer had a purpose. Each of them depicted an archaeological finding or sculpture with its corresponding description on one of the sides. I scanned each miniature plates, enlarged and then collaged onto, to playfully accentuate the mysteriousness and fragmented nature of archives. In building my own (archive), unbound by external perspective, I seek to destabilise the linear narratives that have dominated our thinking around the past, and the approaches prevalent in its institutional presentations. I mutate these thought-obsolete objects, halting their deterioration by re-cataloguing them, assigning them new story and meaning while drawing them back to our present context and in connection with my practice. The slides become figments of imagined histories, remnants that have been pushed to the margins, distorted, and drawn back to the centre.

Other than the actual magic lantern slides, I have been adding to my collection some digitized slides downloaded from different online sources and started to include documents with natural elements and landscapes too. Some of my assemblages are made by scanning the original documents along with some abstract puzzle cut-outs, while in others I would rework a digitized document directly on photoshop by erasing or adding new elements onto the original file. The result is a collection of finds from the past where statues, vessels, artefacts and nature are all brought together to form a revamped historical categorization. The one element that brings consistency throughout the whole archive is my insertion of abstract cut-outs. Hence, the recurrence of these fabricated elements in almost every slide represents the main criteria under which my classification is recorded.

By putting in dialogue real data and imaginary visuals, I aim to emphasize the fluidity and metamorphosis of objects and meanings as well as to stress how narratives from the past are not always indisputable. To me, this ‘updated’ archive has a dual purpose with respect to preservation of memory: on the one hand to treasure testimonies from the past (ancient imagery depicted), on the other hand to expose these vanishing objects (magic lanterns).The slides are in fact on the verge of disappearing. They have lost their scope as functional objects since nowadays most museums are digitizing archival documents. They are on the threshold of becoming artefacts themselves, to become part of our collective memory of the past.

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