Pietro Celesia, The J Line, WHITECONCEPTS Gallery, 2-15 February 2015
How long is now? That would be my punchline for Pietro Celesia’s first Berlin solo exhibition The J Line now on display at WHITECONCEPTS in Mitte. Last Friday evening was the official opening; as there is plenty of informative material awaiting on site, here I have instead collected some personal impressions that may hopefully motivate you to put on your winter boots and peruse this small yet dense photography exhibition. The J Line is not only a photographic exhibition: it brings you into a multi- trans-medial experience which encompasses the frame of photography to include video installation and music performance. All caged in a tiny-winy white space that shapes a line into a cube. So, here we go!
The exhibition takes its moves from Celesia’s first contact with New York City while travelling from JFK Airport to Wall Street through the iconic, old, rough, and charming subway J Line. It is thus a journey, in time and space, that Celesia invites us to take as he fixes the fascination of a fleeting moment and repeats it endlessly to obliterate the monotony of daily commute. A refreshing look or a naive discovery? You may want to take some time to ponder the question.
Transient glimpses over the city and its sudden revelations of beauty
On Friday eve the gallery was absolutely packed with visitors. On the one hand this made it difficult to initially enjoy the exhibition, especially when you are just five feet tall; on the other hand it turned out to be a rather interesting experience; packed like sardines we actually reenacted the everyday experience of a subway journey with its transient glimpses over the city and its sudden revelations of beauty.
From the pictures the city appears in all its glory, dressed in the chilly, crystal-clear light of the early morning, a sumptuous and mysterious lady who alternately invites and rejects us in a constant play of close-ups and panoramic views. Through the use of infrared films, the chromatic palette results essential, where steel grey, light blue, and gleaming white predominate.
The ever-present clear blue sky gives the images a dreamy atmosphere, as the city is waking up, lazily stretching its muscles. It is a creature of its own; the human presence is minimal, merging quietly into the geometry of the urban structures. A general sense of stillness that might equally be intimate and alienating.
But in our journey we are not alone
But in our journey we are not alone. The jazz musicians Florial Menzel and Igor Spallati (from The Major Minors) created an original piece of music (The J Line) that backbones and amplifies the suspended atmosphere of the pictures and lull us as we proceed in our daydreaming wandering through the city. Performed live on Friday eve, paired with the video installation on the other days, the music takes our hand and guides us, setting the pace and moving in circle.
The association is not casual, since “A-Train” NYC’s subway service is in a long-term stable relationship with the jazzy vibes.
A place of quietness, slow explorations, and unexpected discoveries
I have never been to New York, and my fear of flying makes it none too easy to plan a visit. So can I be content for now with the journey Pietro Celesia invites me to undertake? For sure he offers us a rather different image of New York “the city that never sleeps”: a place of quietness, slow explorations, and unexpected discoveries. It is not innocent representation though. Indeed it erases the harsh differences on which the city lives to return a more reassuring, cool embrace. Pausing on the contrasts that this journey may carry with it, New York emerges with a peaceful face, the J Line seen as a means to connect times and people through a journey, both physical and symbolic.
If you want to escape the hectic carousel of the city life for a moment, take a slow breath and visit WHITECONCEPTS Gallery to enter a bubble of infinite nowness along the J Line. Pietro Celesia’s The J Line exhibition will last a fistful of days more, you’d better move fast.
For more information on the exhibition, collateral events, the venue contact details, visit the webpage at:
p.s. On Thursday 12 February there will be another live music performance, mixing jazz and electro music, past and present. Which story will be told this time? Go, and discover it yourself!
Article by Nicoletta
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.