We received mysterious postcards, addressed to the citizens of our virulent times. They are visual stories of epidemics that affect our present and recent past on this planet. A message? A suggestion? A warning or a joke of the space-time dimension?
Who cares. Here they are.
As in every beginning of the best stories, Pandemic Postcards was born by chance. During the first lock down, the photographer Nicola Bertasi, in the midst of his research work, bump into an American public photographic archive, in which he found evidence of some significant moments of the Spanish flu (1918-19) in the United States.
The feeling was have suddenly plunged into a hazy and confused dream; those early 1900s images of people with masks, signs with prohibitions and makeshift hospitals, were unexpectedly mixed, not only with the dramatic and daily ones of newspapers and television news, but also with commercial advertisements that social media and banners offered.
In a dramatic moment in which we were witnessing the death of thousands of people, all the images of the products, which suddenly became essential during the emergence of Covid-19, as well as the graphics of the new bans, followed one another at a frenetic speed giving rise a bombardment of out-of-control images like a kind of macabre centrifuge.
As for an ironic game of fate the Pandemic Postcards are based on a continuous parallelism of contemporary elements revealing a strong similarity with those of the past, both visually and in substance.
For this reason their birth was a natural process from which it was impossible to escape: the aesthetic and substantial similarities between the two pandemics (Spanish Flu and Covid-19) and their impact on respective societies turned out to be gradually increasing.
The result is a corpus of works made through digital collages and graphic interventions the author applied to the ten images selected from the most significant of the entire photo archive.
Each postcard intercepts a theme takes place through a century of history and that achieve to an upgrade in 2020. From the use of masks and their scarcity, from social distancing to issues related to the capitalist-industrial world, from the role of nurses to the impact on women role today; the red thread of the overturning that people’s lives have suffered, yesterday as today, is clear.
The feeling of discomfort for the viewer, indeed for the recipient of the postcards, is due to the initial difficulty of decoding a series of superimposed planes as in front of a light table. Analogies worry and make you think, questions crowd the mind:
What have we learned since then? Why is this happening again?
How much of the whole question is involved with collective or private memory of such a far-reaching and the contemporary tragedy?
There aren’t certain answers, and this is the reason why the Pandemic Postcards leave a strong concern, because they describe past events in a present time that doesn’t clash with them, overlapsing them perfectly and, at the same time, inserting memories of the past into future anticipations.
The ten Pandemic Postcards were created by photographer Nicola Bertasi as part of the larger project he worked on with the curator Valeria Ribaldi: Pandemic Papers.
Pandemic Papers starts with postcards and evolves into other visual elements and archival documents that develop into tables, posters and set-up materials.
While waiting to be able to physically exhibit the project in galleries and exhibition spaces, the photographer Nicola Bertasi, together with the curator Valeria Ribaldi and Francesca Todde for the graphic work, made an editorial product containing the ten limited edition postcards currently in presale on the website.
Digital and material collage:
2020 © Nicola Bertasi
Curatorship and editorial coordination: Valeria Ribaldi
Graphic Design: Francesca Todde / Départ pour l’Image
Translations: Iris Humm
Documents source: US National Archives
Printed in January 2021 by Longo, Bolzano
Nicola Bertasi (1983) is an independent photographer and has been a member of the Hans Lucas Studio since 2014. He lives between Paris and Milan. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and festivals.
Like Rain Falling from the Sky was shortlisted for the “Grand Prix de la
photographie documentaire 2019” and at the “Bourse du Talent 2019”, and it is his first book.
Valeria Ribaldi works in the field of photography and communication. Freelance curator from 2010, she collaborates with photographers and reporters in curating, organising and disseminating projects and events in the social and cultural spheres.
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