Traveling through images is not just an alternative to closed borders in times of coronavirus. The ongoing exhibition ‘Morocco. Roberto Polillo. Photographs 2005-2018‘ at the Museum of Cultures in Lugano (until the 6th of September) is also an opportunity to rethink orientalism, to go straight to the essential point of exoticism and also to reconsider photography.

The 39 works on display on the ground floor of Villa Malpensata are only part of the research in images that Polillo has dedicated to the country of sunset, Morocco, to which we, Europe, are the East.

Roberto Polillo's exhibition in Lugano
Roberto Polillo’s exhibition in Lugano

The photographs bring to mind the visual experience that a tourist in search of destinations could find in the catalog of a travel agency. The impressionist shots, made with a special blur technique, distort the gaze. Everything is recognizable: the immense Jama El Fnaa square in Marrakech, the dunes of Merzouga, the Oudaia fortress in Rabat, the blue walls of Chefchauen and the white ones of Asilah. Yet everything is transfigured.

There is an underlying exotic vision, which – as Francesco Paolo Campione writes in the introduction to the catalog – “constitutes the generic and universal tendency of the soul that leads men to desire what is foreign and unknown, imagining the existence of distant places where greater wisdom reigns, where life is more intense and voluptuous, and where a lavish nature or better knowledge alleviate the pains of existence “.

roberto polillo, lugano

Reality is only touched upon, it is merely the pretext for a Moroccan tale that continues on the pages of the catalog illustrated by 94 works, the scientific and artistic reconstruction of the project that the Swiss museum is ready to launch soon in the network of Musecs around the world.

Meanwhile, at the behest of the artist, five of Polillo’s Moroccan shots will enrich the collection of the Moroccan Consulate in Milan.

Lugano Lugano