Petulia Mattioli’s new exhibit “The Same and the Other” at Pocko Gallery, London can be seen as the fruition of a philosophy that has been guiding her for some time. Where she remembers her life’s direction by writing it on her skin: “My body was once rebellious, but now it’s a love story, I’ve traced my own route like road map, and each segment is a place where I may return.”
The piece consists of macro photo scrolls spanning ceiling height and then spilling onto the floor plus segmented videos of the artist’s own body – close up. Shot sensuously against an absorbing matt black. Her body is then lined with black grids, which she compares to a map. The scroll format is chosen to reflect this too. Each segment feels like more than just the thing itself, they are tactile and tender. Light hitting the nape of the neck and the hollow of the throat. We are there with her on the journey. This is something she references herself when she says she wants to encourage the audience to “become part of it and experience it…not just “see it””. This feels heightened by the images stretching to the floor, like immersive portals you could step into.
“The more chaotic I am the more complete I am.” Austin Osman Spare.
Petulia admires the ability of the 20th century artist to delve deep within the dark, opening other doors of perception (grasping “Big Fish”* ideas) and feels an affinity with his words in outlining her inner thoughts. Some of the other captions on the scrolls feel like a nod to his practice of chaos magic where you would manifest through focus on objects or phrases. In the western world we have a detachment from what our bodies actually are to us because they come to represent something bigger on a societal level ie thinking about the body rather than feeling it. The concept of Same and Other applies to her. The title represents her claiming her body as it changes with it becoming “a comfortable place to go back to”.
I had the privilege to meet her and she relayed how the images had been shot quickly so that the they did not become sterile. They are quick and real. Charting themes like motherhood and adventure. One is the scar from childbirth, whilst another is a blemish, a token of a life well lived. I will not compromise its mystery here. For just as this is her journey. To engage with it – you must go on yours.
This sense of journey is also heightened by the participation of two long term Mattioli collaborators – Eraldo Bernocchi and Christopher Chaplin. They craft an accompanying live set that echoes this sense of mapping out. The set begins serenely with dripping water then giving way to washes of heavier synth. Galloping rhythms then take hold only to clear again into a glacial serenity. It feels akin to Tarkovsky’s Stalker at times. Eraldo on beats and Christopher on keys, watching them interact to create this journey is a privilege. All these different states feel akin to the different stories within Mattioli’s photo scrolls. Step in.