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Falling Icons, 2007-2009
Falling Icons, the artist’s last series after Lost in Space, Dead in Turkestan and Moonscapes, is a poetic narration of “ the art of falling”, in which a contemporary woman obsessively confronts herself with foreign and distant places loaded with symbolic stratifications and cultural, historical and geopolitical implications. In these images space takes over the human figure transforming it into a mere pawn swept up in the processes of transformation of these territories.
The term Icons evokes the religious and sacred connotations of some of the places the artist chose as a backdrop for her “performances”. It also refers to the sense of inspiration she felt upon encountering the various icons she came across during her travels.


About Falling Icons by Elena Agudio
At the turn of the XVII century, way back in 1593, an erudite “Description of universal images drawn from ancient times and from other places”, the Iconologia of Ripa was published in Rome. The author was an eccentric abbot from Perugia whose exact identity is still uncertain. He frequently visited bizarre literary academies – like the Accademia dei Filomati e degli Intronati di Siena and the Accademia degli Insensati di Perugia – and loved the finest oratory. His talents led him to a brilliant career in the courts of the Roman cardinals and he became no less than Pope Clemente VIII’s personal adviser. His work was and still is an alphabetic encyclopedia of the visual representations of human qualities and defects, a meticulous anthology of personifications of abstract concepts. As the manual’s subtitle explains, this collection was for centuries “necessary to poets, artists and sculptors to represent human virtues, vices, affections and passions”. The xylographic pictures decorating the volume were in fact followed by Ripa’s explicative text, one of the first iconographic readings of history of art. Apart from the simple description of the images (the iconography), the erudite abbot went deep into their interpretation.

Giada’s homonymy with this mysterious narrator of allegories, makes her work immediately intriguing: this errant woman photographed during her travels in the depths of Central Asia, between the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, along the ancient silk road, this figure unable to keep her balance in this world too dense with symbols, this image could be the missing figure that cavalier Ripa would have liked to insert in a contemporary reprint of his enciclopedia. It could be found under the letter “i” representing the contemporary human condition of instability, in alphabetical order between the vices of incertitude and intolerance.

Young woman draped in veils and portrayed insolitary places in the act of falling. The colour of the veils and the nature of the territory will each time provide clues to decipher the causes of the figure’s instability.
In fact the woman could incarnate the allegorical figure of fragility, the archetypal image of an individual facing the gravity of the world. A pawn risking to succumb to a force which is both gravitational and existential at the same time, a veiled enigma condensing itself with cultural, social and geopolitical implications. In fact it is no coincidence that the artist has chosen to set these images in lands that are in transition, in places still searching for a specific identity and in countries where tolerance (and respect for women) is a somewhat delicate issue. What is universal however also reveals what is particular: the protagonist also incarnates Giada herself with her own schizophrenic division, in ‘transit’ through an analytical dialogue with herself. “My work started as research on the religious minorities hidden away along the oil route – the old silk road. The research on the stories and origins of these people slowly led meto reflect on my personal identity. To do so I could not but use the same medium”. The result is a series of documentary-style photographs which are however at the same time silent and obsessive works. After the series of Lost in Space, Dead in Turkestan and Moonscape, where the artist took the path of self discovery through ambiguous places, desolate lands and desert spaces, with Falling Icons her language becomes dramatically clearer.

Her encounter with the world of icons in Georgia, a sacred epiphany far from the mystic tones of Pavel Florenzkji, opened an “odighitria” path, a direct route to her experimentation. The initiatory journey from Bildungsroman that the woman has completed is a journey of thousands of hours, a journey that has served to bring her to the point where she faces her incapacity to bear the weight of the background, the burden of history and the presence of the spaces.

All Giada Ripa’s work takes the audacious path of research, the thirst for knowledge, the uncertain virtue of curiosity, that curiositas which in ancient times was already considered asrisky as it was formative and which in Apuleio’s Metamorfosi led the protagonist to fall repeatedly and then each time get up stronger than before.
The ambiguity of the uncertainty of a final fall or of a sudden swing of the hip to return upright makes these Falling Icons images in the making, in movement in the mind of an observer who can at any moment become judge and creator of the destiny of that woman.
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