A PORTRAIT OF EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE
MPX AIRPORT MILAN
11.11.20. < 01.10.21
Before everything that is happening right in front of our very eyes, in our lives, changing our habits, even the simplest daily ones, like buying a plane ticket for a trip, a holiday, work; many intellectuals had reflected on the significance of those places, the airports, that for about a century have been staging the chance encounter between people who do not know they are there. For example in the 1990s, the theory of non-places was very popular.
According to the French anthropologist Marc Augé, at that time we were living in surmodernity when all places would end up looking 11 the same: stations, airports, shopping centers, motorway junctions. Gradually our cities would reduce their typical elements (the centre
with the square, the church, the usual places to hang out) towards a real depersonalization, the consequence of that global process
which, moreover has taught us to travel differently. Lighter, more quickly, to nu-merous destinations, and gradually low cost airlines
have taken the place of national airline companies and we use them like taxis with wings, buying the tickets online at any moment us- ing our smartphones.
When I wrote this text, it was still early 2020 and the world was a completely different place. So I thought it would be a good idea to take another look at the original draft, because Daniele Sigalot’s exhibit at Malpensa airport touches on some urgent current themes that have entered a vortex of change, not to say revolution, that cannot be avoided.
There is however, a historical precedent. In the post 9/11 pe-riod in the weeks and months following the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, it seemed almost impossible to take a plane, what with prohibited items, careful checks, long queues etc... Then the threat of terrorism partly subsided, next September will mark the 20th anniversary of those events, and yet some of the mechanisms imposed at that time have remained ever since: to quote the easiest, many objects and liquids are no longer allowed on board.
So the natural question is: how will the post Covid 19 period change our way of travelling? Do we just need a vaccine to go back to crowding together or will we continue to demand social distancing and the use of equipment to protect our-selves from other travellers, especially when we find our-selves in these big international hubs?
In January 2020 I wrote: and yet it is true that every journey, every move, changes us forever and not just because we head up in the air after having been through those same neutral spaces that we share with thousands and thousands of un-known faces, each of which will have its own story, its own reason for coming or going, to return home or escape. And here I add: will we all be so desperate to travel, or will we be reducing our movements to the purely essential?
But the artwork Daniele Sigalot has installed at Malpensa airport had already been created, and so we start from the facts.
The artist puts the image of the traveller back at the centre of the piece, reflected in twelve supermirror steel sheets ar-ranged in two semi-circles, where he or she will be super-imposed on the maps of as many cities from around the world engraved on the reflective background, familiar places, places close to their heart, that they have always dreamed of visiting, or that they don’t even know. The face and body of the traveller are here, in Milan, and yet he or she could be in any other part of the world: New York or Paris, Tokyo or Peking, Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town or Ja-karta.
Every episode of the twelve sheets which make up the story has the title, Portrait of You, because you, the traveller are the real protagonist. And so you can take a selfie here in front of this artwork, thinking about when you will touch down in the Far East or South America, when you come back to Europe or you are heading off to an exotic distant destination. You, with your clothes that say so much about you, your hand luggage and what you are about to check in. If your image really corresponds to your portrait, you will grasp its doubling, multiplying and breaking into many pos-sible identities. Because if each journey is always different, each place is never the same, least of all you who have en-tered the work of Daniele Sigalot, thus allowing it to live to-day, also in this precise moment.
So in the end, do we just need to see ourselves reflected in Daniele’s work to have completed our journey?