The work of Marco Poloni spans cinema, photography, text and installation. In 2014 the artist established an agency to bring together 15 years of work, “The Analogue Island Bureau.” The agency seeks to build an index of plots, problems and tropes of the Mediterranean Sea. This archive documents and reformulates a number of geopolitical scripts and narratives of this area, focusing on relations between social invisibility and power, subjectivity and ideology.
Poloni’s most recent work, Codename: Osvaldo comprises a number of case studies which are currently juxtaposed at the Swiss Cultural Centre of Paris to form a large-scale constellation.
Codename: Osvaldo fans out from a biographical thread, that of the charismatic and complex figure of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Italian millionaire and Guevarist revolutionary, Feltrinelli founded the eponymous publishing house in Milan in 1954 and was active in the European anti-imperialist movements of the ’60s and ’70s under the battle name of compañero Osvaldo. In his work, Poloni approaches Feltrinelli as a shadow line of a rhizomatic narrative about repressed chapters of the construction of Italian national identity.
The first case study, The Pistol of Monika Ertl, is a large-scale constellation of photographs, 16mm films and texts which narrates the killing in 1971 of Roberto Quintanilla, the General Consul of Bolivia in Hamburg, by a young German woman, Monika Ertl. As head of the Bolivian secret police, Quintanilla had captured Che Guevara in the Bolivian jungle in October 1967, and commanded his summary execution. For the revolutionary underground, Quintanilla had to be eliminated. Monika Ertl, daughter of cinematographer and photographer Hans Ertl, the director of photography for Leni Riefenstahlʼs controversial 1938 documentary film Olympia, settled with her family at La Paz at the end of WW2. The revolver she used to terminate Quintanilla was given to her by Feltrinelli.
The second case study is the atlas of photographs, texts, films and objects titled The Orgosolo Laboratory Project, which was co-authored with Swiss curator Noah Stolz. The work is a visual examination of the events that took place in the late ’60s in the village of Orgosolo in central Sardinia. In November 1968 the population dissolved the City Council and established a Popular Assembly in its place—the so-called “four days of the Republic of Orgosolo,” a unique case of self-government in the entire history of postwar Italy. In June 1969 the population of Orgosolo was able to block a war game in nearby Pratobello, defeating the Italian State and taking a stand against a case of Italian internal colonialism. Visual traces to these events are the many propagandist wall graffiti in Orgosolo, whose pictorial language borrows strongly from the South American tradition of murales, the posters belonging to the shared imaginary of post-1968 militancy, and the many militant booklets published and distributed in the area by Feltrinelli.
The third case study, Una Cuba mediterranea, is a filmic essay, scripted and structured as a feature movie. The film takes as its starting point Feltrinelli’s tentative to transform Sardinia into a Mediterranean Cuba, by handing over weapons and money to local so-called bandits. Una Cuba mediterranea is the film of a short trip through the island: Antonia and her friend Eleonora, respectively filmmaker and visual anthropologist, travel with Giuliano, a Sardinian friend who becomes their guide. The film follows the characters in their road trip in a Citroën DS—Feltrinelli’s car—as they visit a number of historically significant sites, filming landscapes and recording conversations about the island’s problems.
The fourth case study, Not how things are real, but how things really are, is a small set of photographs and text that articulates the opposing worldviews of Michelangelo Antonioni and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli: idealist and metaphysical for the former, Marxist and dialectical for the latter. Both men were attracted to the island of Sardinia, but for very different reasons: Antonioni to build his futuristic villa, a private piece of utopia, Feltrinelli to attempt to put into action his political utopia.
Poloni’s constellation brings together still and moving images, objects, text fragments that together form an experimental assemblage that becomes a comment about visual culture.