"Are they rocks or clouds?" is a territorial investigation by Marina Caneve in which she aims -through the interaction between observation, memory and science- to the construction of a knowledge of hydrogeological risk in the Dolomites. The project was conceived after discovering that a disaster happened in 1966 is supposed to have a return period of 100 years. Today we are in the middle of this time range, getting far away from the previous event and coming closer to the next. After collecting hundreds archival images and documents from private archives and reorganizing them giving a new meaning, Caneve produced subtile images moving in the territory and questioning the issues of representation, resilience, experience, protection and destruction. Moving away from a natural fascination for the mountains, Caneve clearly observes the territory, looking for the possibility of measuring the risk for the inhabitants of the places where a catastrophe is supposed to happen.
The Dutch photographer and photo philosopher Oscar van Alphen (1923-2010) once wisely wrote that "some people see a poem in the photograph, some a document and others simply see Art. Yet she is neither of these manifestations, she is exactly what she is lacking to be something else, she is the absence itself, the absence of substance."
A poem does not aspire to analysis, to explanation or to point out and condemn the culprit, but is to inspire awe and to invite the reader or spectator to ponder catastrophe in the radical intertwinement of nature and culture as well as their interdependency—for which we perhaps must develop a new vocabulary and new means of verbal and visual expression. No documentation, no matter how exhaustive, will ever be able to solve the riddle of the nature-culture divide. Poetry, whether in verbal or visual terms, both precedes and succeeds that divide. Poetry is the indestructible hard rock of the mountain just as well as it is the woolly cloud hovering above.
Are They Rocks or Clouds? is a multifaceted series of photographs that benefits from the indeterminacy that, on the one hand, underpins poetry and, on the other, is the boundary of science, all without succumbing to the ambiguity of the one or the presumption of the other, because, to cite the science historian D. Graham Burnett, "conclusions should, as a rule, be treated with suspicion."
This project is made possible thank to the geologist Emiliano Oddone, the Anthropologist Annibale Salsa and the writer Taco Hidde Bakker.
Are They Rocks or Clouds? photobook, designed in collaboration with Hans Gremmen, is published by Fw:books and OTM and will be launched in July 2019 with an exhibition at Cortona On The Move, where the dummy in 2018 was awarded by Lesley A. Martin of the Photobook Dummy Award.