The Collared Dove Sound is a book about an exhibition that intermingles the biographies of two artists: Giorgio Falco, a writer, and Sabrina Ragucci, a photographer. In 2009, Falco published (with Einaudi) one of the finest Italian novels of recent times, entitled L’ubicazione del bene — a tangle of lives and actions centred on Cortesforza, an imaginary Gated Community in the ultra-urban Milanese hinterland that is no longer the countryside, but not yet the city. Ragucci has a long tradition of working with the Linea di Confine cultural association and has developed an original approach for an Italian photographer, which she consolidates with this work.
The Collared Dove “lives alone or in pairs but hardly ever in groups, on trees, lamp-posts, the roofs of houses, wooden beams and sheds” (Ragucci). Its song provides the laconic background music to the pictures and the words of Giorgio Falco’s story, contained in the catalogue and featuring some characters first seen in L’ubicazione del bene. Falco’s words and Ragucci’s photographs do not overlap but remain two clearly distinguishable artistic and research paths.
The text of The Collared Dove Sound also clearly declares this separate nature as Falco’s story (“Se avessimo mangiato il dolce”) inserts itself like a wedge into the flow of Sabrina Ragucci’s pictures. Flanking a writer and a photographer is a longstanding practice that poses the risk of one or the other prevailing or taking on the leader-role, but Ragucci and Falco seem to have combined their works after developing them alone and separately, placing them side by side out of curiosity, as if to gauge not so much the effect of the words beside the images, but rather the clash of two imaginations and two techniques, comparing their two extreme portrayal spaces, tenaciously sounded out by both.
The impression is one of a shared approach that stems partly from their experience of hyper-urban spaces. Marcel Pagnol said “I was born in the same year as the cinema and roughly in the same place.” Today, we have an opportunity to see the artists’ work on extreme (yet ordinary and very close) places belonging to the contemporary city, and recognise a gaze that has grown along with what it is describing, one that started out in the same year as Cortesforza was born and that lived, and perhaps lives, “roughly in the same place”. It is a gaze that, despite the familiarity, manages to not take these places for granted but interrogates them and sets traps for them, either to draw out hidden motives or to exorcise their abrupt and surprising material deterioration.
Against the obsessive background of the Collared Dove Sound and in a context of economic recession, the places narrated by Falco and photographed by Ragucci appear to be under especially virulent attack, as if more defenceless and less equipped for the future. Falco and Ragucci seem to strip these places bare as they narrate them and, in an attempt to understand them, empty them, extracting stories, phrases, details and shadows. This is the contemporary city to all effects, that magma of houses, apartment buildings, sheds, parts of rediscovered rural buildings, interchanges, hedges and car parks. The most recent city but also the most battered and mysterious. Giovanni La Varra