A work in progress on the red road

Carlotta Cardana guides us through an updated version of The Red Road Project, her ongoing work now again on display in Italy.

Carlotta Cardana is back in her hometown to present the latest embodiment of “The Red Road Project”, a photographic series about Native Americans of which much has been already said and written, but that acquires new perspectives each time it is newly exhibitited. Hosted until September 23rd at Villa Giulia, the summer venue of Verbania’s Museo del Paesaggio, the wide selection of prints, most of which have been never exposed before, are thematically distributed across the beautiful and airy rooms overlooking Lake Maggiore, and this time embeds archive material from the Library of Congress.

The project was officially born six years ago, but is in fact the ever ongoing result of an older dialogue started long ago, when Cardana met for the first time with Danielle Seewalker, a Sioux from the Standing RockTribe, during a year of studies in Nebraska.

«Danielle was from North Dakota, which made us two strangers. That’s how we become friends» says Cardana. «And to assume that Natives just hang out with their own kind was so natural that sometimes I’ve been asked which tribe I belonged to».

From the desire of joining force in a shared effort an idea started to develope: that of telling the contemporary life story of the American Indians in a non–stereotyped way, focussing on the confrontation with the culture of a nation, the United States, seen both as a violent occupaying power and a by now inevitable reference point.

If Evereta with her Ford Mustang and Sheena on her silk covered bad have always been the perfect testimonials of the dichotomy at the core of the work, this long–standing encounter–clash is articulated in a galaxy of little and big stories: from the Louisiana fishermen that refuse to leave their town despite the high hydrogeological risk (due to the exploitations of the submarine oil reserves by multinational corporations), to the inhabitants of Nothern California that struggle with a dam which would submerge their sacred spots (and that found a unexpected help by the New Zealand Aboriginal), from the boys attending an important pow-wow mixing traditional costumes and hip–hop style, to omosexuals fighting for LGBTQ’s rights and that, belonging two both the genders, are called “two–souls”.

The narrative style permeating these stories is also a sign of a slow but consistent change of pace for Cardana, wich confirms: «I’ve always been perceived as a portrait photographer that, in this series, has also shot landscapes»; but this new production shows how her interest is shifting towars a place where, through the merging of documentation and interpratation, the gap between portraiture and landscape photography is filled.

The color­–film pictures made by Cardana are aided by the black and white or toned ones, collected and selected by Seewalker, who has also written all the texts that enrich and complete the work and has by now officially added her signature to the project. These are also beautiful images that undermine bias on the Natives, and have the advantage of moving back in the past a misunderstanding line beyond which nobody can pretend to have not been informed. A step further on what American Indian in fact call Red Road, the way to a positive change that starts from an awareness that will engage not just Natives but other Nations as well.

«Our work can be totally defined as activism», underlines Cardana, who decided to bring together in the last room a video of interviews about the relationship with the Earth Mother and a loop projection of mesmerizing crossfade–edited landscapes photographs specifically scored with a slowed down soundtrack. «In a socially and politically damaged Country like Italy my idea is that, once ouside on the Lake again, the visitors would sense that the ones addressed in the exhibitions affect not just Native Americans but us all»  

The Red Road Project, by Carlotta Cardana and Danielle SeeWalker
Exhbition dates:
From June 9 to September 29, 2019
Villa Giulia (Museo del Paesaggio di Verbania)
Corso Zanitello, Verbania (VCO)

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