It is said that in the world, today inhabited by more than 7 billion people, there are at least 7 identical to each of us: if it is true, how likely we are to meet them and why this idea has always fascinated man who in over the centuries has faced the theme of double in countless literary, artistic and philosophical works? If the essence of the human being is largely defined by its supposed uniqueness, the existence of a hypothetical double seems to undermine our self-awareness at the roots, but at the same time the perturbing desire to see ourselves mirrored in another identity exerts an irresistible attraction for us. The exponential multiplication of images conveyed by the Internet and the widespread tendency to publish on the net private photographs that return our daily actions have more than ever reinvigorated the ancient tale of Narcissus, mythical incarnation of the theme of the double fatally in love with himself.
The exhibition Search my Double by Sabine Delafon, recently presented in Bologna in the rooms of the Italian Library of Women, in the adjacent Cloister of Santa Cristina (home of the Department of Arts of the University of Bologna) and in the urban space of the neighboring area via Fondazza and curated by Fulvio Chimento and Pasquale Fameli starts from these suggestions. Started in 2005 and still in progress, the project includes the distribution of leaflets in which the artist’s face appears, photographed in different periods with the automatic machines for photos, associated with the writing Seeking myself, if you know someone who looks like me , contact me to which follows the indication of the e-mail address to contact in case of resemblance. Over the years the action has been repeated in several cities around the world, such as New York, Istanbul, Rome, Avignon and Milan (where Delafon currently resides) and has generated a varied collection of posters written in multiple languages, as well as a full-bodied archive that brings together the emails of those who have recognized themselves in the image or wanted to interact with the project expressing their comments and curiosity.
Apparently nothing new: since the Exhibition in real time presented by Franco Vaccari at the Venice Biennale in 1972 the impersonality of the photo and the involvement of the public with Fotomatic machines are consolidated procedures of contemporary art, while the impressive self-portrait mosaics by Karl Baden, who for more than 30 years has been portraying himself every day with the same frame in the Every Day performance, the utopian attempts by Douglas Huebler to document the existence of every living being in the grids of Variable Piece and Roman Opalka’s Détalis Photo are just a few examples of how the obsessive practice of portraying and withdrawing in search of an impossible reconciliation between the mutability of the human being and the mechanical recording have already been widely explored.
But man, for his constitutive fragility and instability, continues to have the same fears and questions, to scrutinize himself to perceive his individuality, to question the other for finding himself, to seek confirmation of his existence in the external world. And for this Sabine Delafon, without being inhibited by the illustrious predecessors who have faced similar researches, pursues her inner need to discover and know through deliberately rudimentary and crooked means, excluding from her operational horizon the impersonal efficiency of the many internet platforms dedicated to double research to make a mark in the urban space and to entrust the possible outcomes of her work left to chance.
The stubborn repetitiveness of a naive action and the perseverance in carrying it forward over the years are the distinguishing marks of a performance in which duplication, multiplication and dispersion transcend the codes of artistic creation to offer an accidental public the possibility of a shared experience and a privileged access to the insidious terrain of doubt. If her personal research has not yet been answered, the artist declares that she has not found any satisfactory double among the people who contacted her, the effectiveness of her project lies in the invitation to self-awareness and the implicit suggestion to look around us, to continue to seek for a real exchange with the other so as not to disappear to ourselves.
The most introspective requests of Search my Double have also generated the video Ex, projected in Bologna in the evocative setting of the fifteenth-century cloister of Santa Cristina, obtained from the chronological editing of over 2000 portrayed photographs in photo format that the artist has created from the age of twelve years old. The rapid succession of images condenses the passage of time, the alternation of moods, the slight physiognomic changes and the transformations of clothing and hairstyle in a single visual impression that emphasizes the depth of a look that over the years always becomes more direct and conscious. The art work, in addition to presenting identity as a metamorphic and polyphonic entity that shuns any cataloging and systematization, invites us to reflect on the various external masks to which we entrust the attempt to fix its image in the course of our lives.
Sabine Delafon, Search my Double, (2005- work in progress), poster
Sabine Delafon, Search my Double, installation view at Biblioteca Italiana delle Donne, Bologna, February 2018
Sabine Delafon, Search my Double, installation view in via Fondazza, Bologna, February 2018
Video by William Strali