by Gigliola Foschi

After having focused her attention — with the series 0 gradi a 5000 metri (0 Degrees at 5000 metres) — on the issue of climate change and the dramatic melting of glaciers, Beba Stoppani, with the Nulla osta (No Hindrance) series, now tackles another central question of the contemporary world: the walls that increasingly mark borders in the form of impassable barriers. In this case, the photographer has chosen the symbolic location of the Tijuana wall, on the US-Mexican border: this is a barrier that stretches along the frontier with Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, extending into the sea like a sinister dark shadow. Always sustained by an ingrained sense of piety, her work — in order to be more incisive — combines different visual languages in which photography becomes part of an installation capable of creating a sort of musical composition comprising a range of tones and levels. The wall photographed by Beba Stoppani seems to be a presence charged with ruthless power that is, however, both intense and animated because it bears witness to the incredible creativity of the many Mexicans who have decided to transform it into a palette of graffiti and bright colours with garlands and fabrics of many hues. It is a wall that serves to smother the hopes of many migrants seeking to improve their lives, but certainly not to stop drug trafficking or the spread of disease, as is shown by the recent pandemic that has crossed walls, seas and oceans. What the photographer shows us is a cruel barrier that can, however, be transmuted by art in order to remind us of the possibility of ‘un mundo sin muros’ (a world without walls). This is why she carefully pricks the surfaces of her photographs with pins so as to back light them, as if to show that the wall can be pierced and become permeable and that, behind it, the light can be that of hope, not only the hostile glow of the electronic sensors and night vision devices used by the American border police. These works of hers in which the wall becomes ‘transparent’ are rightly counterbalanced by other contrasting works, because the dream of a world without walls effectively clashes with coils of razor wire covered with sharp steel blades and surveillance systems using drones or armed helicopters. Thus, in a number of close-ups of the wall, sharp blades, similar to those used on concertina razor wire, are allowed to protrude; used by NATO forces, these coils of razor wire have now become commonplace thanks to the fact that they are difficult to breach and offer a high level of deterrence. With their three-dimensional elements, Beba Stoppini’s works emerge from a purely visual rationale and are driven by the need to create new experiences, both in a purely perceptual sense and with regard to the spectator’s social conscience. Hence what she has created are works that are aesthetic and, at the same time, ethical: their striking images are not only poetic, but are also an expression of hope combined with indignation.

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The Lost Planet