Cristiano Volk – Mélaina Cholé

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Review by Gerhard Clausing •

Mélaina cholé in the ancient Hippocratic medical approach to the body represented black bile, one of the “humors” or vital bodily fluids, generated by the archetype of the earth, a fluid that was thought to cause problems when in excess. One can indeed observe that when things go wrong and blood coagulates (inside the body or externally), the dark portion is certainly the least appealing part of the presentation. We have derived our word melancholy from this concept, and related to it the condition known as depression, a ubiquitous phenomenon, regardless of its various causes.

Cristiano Volk is not only an innovative photographer, as I have shown shown in my review of his book on the declining city of Venice, Sinking Stone, but is also a deep thinker and conceptual artist who is able to find connections between the minute and the universal.

The appearance of this photobook is most timely, especially in view of yet another global virus outbreak already in progress, supposedly transmitted by miniscule droplets. The visual narrative of this book relates minute elements and other parts of the body to our environment and to the gigantic elements of the immense universe out there, and it establishes links between our inner constellations and the structure of vast outer space, as well as our immediate world around us.

Volk uses found photographs and newly photographed work to take us from the particular to the universal. In this visual journey we see views of body cells, natural scenes, spacescapes, and everything in between. At the end of the photobook we are presented with pictures of people that are not the expected depictions; some of them are out of focus or otherwise “out of sorts,” others are turned away from the camera or pointing at nothing in particular or showing other nonspecific gestures. Note the sample pages shown below and the fold-out collage in image 6. We notice alienation effects, such as enlarged raster-type pixelization, or faint, unsaturated or muted colors, which seem to indicate a less than happy mood.

We get the idea that things are not as great as politicians would have us believe. There is widespread dissatisfaction, along with widely divergent opinions. What is fake and what is real? What is safe and what is dangerous? People are insecure and searching for meaning and solutions to problems having to do with health and the inner and outer environments. Maybe we should stop hunting for precious stones (gold and silver hinted at by the cover and the front and end matter – the almighty economy) and start cooperating in looking for solutions for cleaning up our planet and our health instead.

Congratulations, another interesting artfully conceived and executed project that gives us much to think about!

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Cristiano Volk – Mélaina Cholé 

Photographer: Cristiano Volk (born in Trieste, Italy; lives in Staranzano, Italy)

Publisher: Yoffy Press, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; © 2020

Hardback with illustrated fabric cover; sewn; 64 pages, paginated, including two fold-out collages; 6 x 8.5 inches (15 x 21.5 cm); printed and bound in Italy by Musumeci S.p.A, Quart (Aosta)

Production Consultants: Michele Abrigo; Carsten Humme (Leipzig)

Photobook Designer: Federico Barbon

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