For the third solo exhibition of Italian photographer Lisetta Carmi (*1924, Genova — 2022, Cisternino), Ciaccia Levi presents a selection of previously unreleased works form her series dedicated to the monumental cemetery of Genova, titled “Erotismo e autoritarismo a Staglieno” (1966-76).
After an introduction of Carmi’s practice through her most celebrated and controversial series of “I Travestiti” (1965-71), pioneering the documentation of the LGBTQ+ community in Italy, the presentation of her work continues with a gaze on death and its magnificent celebration. Equally conceived as a politically engaged and anthropological investigative tool, Carmi’s research is now directed towards the rich Genoese bourgeoisie of the 19th century, who used to commission monumental sculptures for their tombs to talented sculptors, in the desire to leave eternal testimony of their material wealth and values for posterity.
« I found these tombs incredible and so I made a series of shots and called them Erotismo e Autoritarismo a Staglieno, because rich 19th century Genoese families before dying would have a tomb built in their likeness, with their face and maybe even a naked woman next to it. For example, I remember a tomb of a young husband who had lost his wife and had her sculpted half-naked next to him. »3
Anti-rethorical and anti-conformist, her camera captures an iconography entirely based on the contrast between the morbid sensuality of the female figures and the “verist” descriptiveness of the wealthy male patrons, the exaltation of the devotion and the loyalty of women towards men (often the deceased) through erotic references, sometimes only suggested and sometimes more explicit. A true sociological analysis, in which the author succeeds in capturing aspects of these lives trapped in oppressive family and religious rules, standing out for her freedom of interpretation and feminist denunciation.
Initially proposed to the Italian magazine “Domenica del Corriere”, it was refused by its director on the grounds that if published it would cause the loss of half their readers: «People are conformists, they don’t want to see things they value being ridiculed.»4 The reportage will be finally published by Swiss magazine “Du” only in 1974, and later by the Italian “Bolaffi Arte” in 1975.
Lisetta Carmi : Erotisme et autoritarisme à Staglieno
March 16 — May 13, 2023
Ciaccia Levi, Paris
34 rue de Turbigo
75003 Paris, France