A dialogue with Paolo Ferrarini.

We are often used to reading images and considering pictures, at least “ordinary” ones, as a recollection of lived moments that we try to freeze in a timeless dimension, or even as a “realistic” or ideal representation, with the use of physical and “mental” filters of our reality. A beautiful face, a landscape, the memory of a beloved one. However, can a picture penetrate the most remote places of the soul? Can it generate philosophical reflections and make us think about our human condition?  Can it show what is not visible to the naked eye and confront us with the behaviours of our minds that usually go unexplored and / or underrated? The photo project “On the margins”, by  the young Veronese artist, Paolo Ferrarini, purports to tackle this kind of questions.

Paolo Ferrarini

It is difficult to relegate Paolo Ferrarini to a precise expressive context; an eclectic, multifaceted artist, he pours into his creativity the whole of his cultural interests, from his linguistic studies, particularly focused on the philosophy of language and cognitive science, to his music efforts, which come together to create a new kind of rock music that he defines cognitive rock. It is an art that leads to knowledge and not only aims at vibrating the heartstrings of the audience, but also sets brain mechanisms in motion. I’d venture to call it a treat for both the mind and the heart. In between his many journeys through Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Paolo turns his attention to other passions as well, such as short films and music production. In our long conversations he leads me by the hand through the intricacies of the human psyche, accompanying me in a tour of his rich inner world. Talking to him is like starting an endless table tennis game, where the playing field is constantly put into question by different points of view. One just has to be careful to define the rules: you run the risk of going astray while trying to follow parallel tracks.


Paolo, the strong homoerotic charge in your images bears a resemblance with the photographic works of punk-porn artist Bruce LaBruce.

I think in my photos one can find a similar level of sexuality and death that can be found in BLaB’s Polaroids, however I stop short of entering the territory of porn art and gore. In my work there is more strongly oriented towards sensuality.

Going through the images, I see bodies that present themselves to the viewer in all their fragility and strong eroticism. They are left abandoned at the “edge” of a railway with tied hands, in a living room with other objects or asphyxiated in bags of cellophane. The focus falls on themselves. Between the visible and non-visible, in a subtle play between presence and absence, lawful and unlawful, they sometimes evoke the exuberant physicality of the Barberini Faun, who in his candour and complete nakedness becomes an object of pure aesthetic contemplation.
However, the fact that the bodies presented in this work are totally defenceless pushes the voyeuristic eye of the viewer beyond aesthetic contemplation. They are unable to respond because either dead, or helpless, or in a state of unconsciousness, and in this state of vulnerability, they become prey to the eye of the observer.

In a way, helplessness makes ​​them much more attractive. Their sorrowful predicament can generate in us a sort of sexual fantasy, a desire to possess them. Sometimes, finding a helpless guy, perhaps in a situation of danger, instead of inducing in the viewer a sense of solidarity that moves to help him, sets in motion the darkest, predatory mechanisms of human nature. The body, reduced to a simple, non-reacting object, becomes the subject of our sexual instincts.


When the sexual instinct takes over the empathic afflatus, we might cease to feel sympathetic about what happened prior to the shooting. We are facing a post-hoc fact. These bodies are abandoned, and as we watch them, we take advantage of their objectification. This is what interests the artist. It is a window into our human nature, a way to confront the basic a-morality of our passions, and the choice is whether or not to possess these bodies and let our “weaknesses” come through, whether or not to invoke the highest functions of our brain to curb these instincts.

There are circumstances that can give rise to these impulses, vestiges of our ancient struggle for survival, which nowadays only few of us are prepared to openly admit to possess. Concealed beneath our institutionalised education lies a thin veil of sadism, that can always emerge as the desire to make a harrowing experience and to give free rein to our cruelty.


A succession, I add, between being a victim and a predator that we unconsciously face all the time. It’s the acknowledgment that good is an accomplice of evil, to the extent that the opposite is true.

Taking these photos was, to an extent, a way to tackle head-on these aspects of my own nature, not necessarily in a therapeutic sense, but to analyse them and observe them as a sharp observer “on the margins”.

And Paolo Ferrarini continues to be an artist “on the margins”, working on the less explored aspects of creativity and fighting for the rights of social minorities. In doing so, he remains far removed from the mainstream narrative context, where he only occasionally makes an appearance, taking a break from his eventful life split between tsunamis and stasis. It is in these moments of absence that he prefers to reflect and to produce. He is an artist who continues to live “in brackets”, eclipsed in his own absence, as he likes to symbolise by the way in which he signs himself, with the first and last letter of his name and surname (pi). The art he produces in absence returns to the users in the same way his bodies become the object of our manipulation and interpretation. The artist invites us to benefit from it and exploit it to the point of abusing it. I do not know whether this is a new way of being of a contemporary artist, but surely the work of Paolo is very progressive in its approach and seeks to be a “generator” of new fantasies.


A proposito dell'autore

Giancarlo Napolitano si è laureato in lingue e letterature straniere presso la facoltà di lingue dell'Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, discutendo una tesi letteraria di natura sperimentale sugli spazi e i tempi nell'Assommoir di Emile Zola, rivisitando il romanzo in chiave psicanalitica. Ha sempre nutrito un vivo interesse per l'arte, in particolare per quella rinascimentale. Vive da anni a Londra e ha potuto coltivare questa passione con continue visite alla National gallery che ha sempre considerato come una sua seconda dimora. Di carettere inquisitivo si interroga sulle opere degli artisti, continuo assertore del progresso, vede in ogni opera contemporanea un ponte con il passato con il quale rapportare ogni sua esperienza quotidiana.