“We will live in this world, which for us has all the disquieting strangeness of the desert and of the simulacrum, with all the veracity of living phantoms, of wandering and simulating animals that capital, that the death of capital has made of us—because the desert of cities is equal to the desert of sand—the jungle of signs is equal to that of the forests—the vertigo of simulacra is equal to that of nature—only the vertiginous seduction of a dying system remains, in which work buries work, in which value buries value—leaving a virgin, sacred space without pathways, continuous as Bataille wished it, where only the wind lifts the sand, where only the wind watches over the sand.”
― Jean Baudrillard
What is it with our obsession with money, with going constantly forward? In the current late stage of capitalism, we consume excessively with the thought of pleasure, that we will be dead before having to face the consequences of our actions. This ignorant blindness has pushed our ecosystem to the brink of the abyss; our planet is exhausted. What once was paradise, has now been destroyed by our neglect. Ruminating upon the things that no longer exist, Gian Marco Sanna brings to the forefront the ecological urgency of our times in his latest monograph Paradise (published by Artphilein).
Starting his journey in 2019, he traveled to Jordan—a sacred place that has witnessed the emergence of three monotheisms, giving shape to the natural order of the world. During his travels, he photographed immersive landscapes void of human presence and combined them with images of humans, animals and sculptures. A notable visual feature is his use of red colour, which in the process happened to be a red filter he originally mounted on a car headlight to demonstrate the idea of Earth’s weariness. After, it became a repetitive element in the book that sets the viewing atmosphere filled with tension and ominousness. Throughout history, red has been referred to as evil, it’s also a warning, to stop as we for instance associate with the color hierarchy of traffic lights. Simply, it’s evocating urgency of the now and when combined with his black-and-white images that can be associated with timelessness, the juxtaposition creates a temporal fluidity.
Sanna’s photographs communicate in the language of symbolism and metaphors. Be it the religious symbolism or the relationship of humans with nature, he provides a reproduction of reality that has become a representation of “what has been”, “what is now” and “what is about to come.” Consequently, Sanna’s body of work can be understood as a simulacrum— a representation or imitation of a thing, in this case, our planet and our relationship with it. As semiotician Jean Baudrillard explains in his book Simulacra and Simulation (1981), simulacrum is not necessarily a direct copy of the real as it can become truth in its own right. According to him, the copy might not have an original in the first place or the original no longer exists. If that is the case, he calls such instances hyperreality—a cultural state of confusion between signs and symbols created to stand in for reality. What is seen as real and fiction is blended, there is no beginning nor end. The fragmentary way Sanna combines his photographs provides this undeniable reference to reality while obscuring it at the same time, turning Paradise into something new through its longing for what has been lost, how that might affect our future and our current positioning.
Paradise presents a fragmentary nature of reality, its meaning is constantly produced and reproduced. There is this innate search for the origin through its oscillation between human and non-human traces. The book turns into a bleeding mirror for self-reflection about our exploitation of the environment which can hit us hard as a boomerang, and slightly already did. In the haunting aftermath of Sanna’s visual narrative, Paradise stands as a testament to our relentless pursuit of progress and pleasure, an elegy for a planet pushed to the brink. As the pages turn, the red-filtered urgency becomes a call to awaken from the illusions of late capitalism, echoing Baudrillard’s simulacrum—where reality and representation blur, leaving us in a perpetual dance with a future shaped by our past and present choices.
Born in 1993 in Italy, Gian Marco Sanna is a visionary photographer who fearlessly tinkers with a fusion of digital and analogue techniques in his craft. Not only is he an integral member of the L.I.S.A. collective, but he also holds the pivotal role of curator at Discarded Magazine. His photography is a deep dive into the entwined realms of ecological and social consciousness, unraveling the points where myths collide with reality. Sanna’s lens not only captures breathtaking natural landscapes but also uncovers the subtle yet impactful footprint of human intervention within these settings. Notably, ‘PARADISE’ marks his third published monograph, following the success of ‘Malagrotta’ and ‘Agarthi.’