BACK TO THE CAUCASUS. THE PLACES OF VITTORIO SELLA A CENTURY LATER

In the era in which the reserves of the unexplored seem exhausted and the adventure, at best, is a sport enterprise, "performance", extreme competition, there is perhaps still a way of traveling that preserves the intact flavor of discovery, the value of knowledge: to faithfully reproduce, meticulously, the journey of another traveler, perhaps of a brilliant explorer-photographer of the end of the last century; to trace the signs of his passage, to see what he saw by reconstructing his gaze, to cross the places crossed with the map of his thoughts and the compass of his emotions. This is what Luigi Vigliotti and Claudio Valente did, following the footsteps of Vittorio Sella with the help of his diary and photographs. They transformed his journey in the Caucasus into a journey through time or, better, into a journey through the "interruptions of time’s linear course", thresholds of time that suddenly become visible to the consciousness when moments filled with past and present unite and divide before our eyes and, "like in a flash", Proust and Benjamin taught us, "the past unites in a constellation with the present thus taking time to shatter every false unity, to the point of presenting remote  and near things in their absolute and inalienable singularity". Even photography, due to the use made by Vigliotti and Valente, has rediscovered its origin in the Caucasus mountains. Free from all worries of posing, from the easy suggestions of timelessness and eternity, they have created the images that were needed by them and that had the sole purpose of identifying places and points of view, verifying the permanence of things . But precisely those images without art, without the shadow of the Great Fetish, make us rediscover the tremendous inexpressiveness of things, their unbearable nakedness. And yet, at the same time, they unintentionally return us, perhaps without even knowing it, the thought of a necessary beauty, not the one bestowed and wasted by the dealers of aesthetic devices, profuse to shelter man from his fragility and transience, but the beauty that springs "from the immense love for things", from the compassion for all that manifests around us under the sign of disagreement, of dispute, in time that winds between irreconcilable and irreconcilable moments. A love that Sella knew well and nurtured in him the urgency of exploration, the patience of research. Seen under this light, the singular journey of which Vigliotti and Valente were protagonists, really a return in the most contradictory sense of the term, has nothing to do with the ingenious findings and journalistic tricks of which the contemporary chronicles are full; despite not having (not wanting and not being able to have) the scientific scope of Sella's enterprise, it was an event deeply tied to the spirit of nineteenth-century travelers – spirit that was recalled by paying homage to one of the greatest - and at the same time a unforgettable combination to what is increasingly urgent to understand today amid the tangles of modernity.

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