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Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Jason Koxvold - Calle Tredici Martiri

Dec 04, 2019

Calle Tredici Martiri (Alley of the Thirteen Martyrs) is a fictionalised photographic reinterpretation of Koxvold’s grandfather Aldo Varisco’s campaign of direct action against the Nazi occupation of Italy. The book is comprised of 144 pages of Koxvold’s photographs and 80 pages of Varisco’s memoirs of the resistance and archival imagery. The book’s title refers to the location of the Venetian headquarters of the National Republican Guard at Ca’ Giustinian, which Varisco’s team destroyed with explosives in 1944, killing 13. The following day, the German military shot 13 Italian prisoners in retribution for the attack; Varisco and his team were later captured and extensively tortured. After the war, the street alongside Ca’ Giustinian was renamed “Calle Tredici Martiri”. This project explores the impossibility of photographic truth in the context of the contemporary nexus of capitalism, fascism and consumerism within which we locate ourselves.


Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.

What’s Next

Dec 11, 2019 - Jason Koxvold

My use of the Italian Resistance is, of course, a proxy for understanding events in the world today. At times it might seem that this is a critique specifically of the United States: their use of torture and their killing of a million Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in “the Global War on Terror”, fanning the flames of terrorism and causing a series of migrations out of conflict zones and into countries with more permissive policies on asylum. I am more interested in the idea of using this as a way of understanding subjectivity as it pertains to global power.

My forthcoming project, titled Theatre of War, deals specifically with US aggression as a product of capitalism, but again by oblique means; because the government engages in systematic efforts to obscure the truth about their wars, it is impossible to photograph the acts themselves. Instead, I have spent the last four years photographing the spaces and the mechanisms in which these wars operate, in Afghanistan and the broader Middle East, and also in facilities within the US.


Calle Tredici Martiri grew out of a desire to make an emotionally resonant project from a family archive, but the more I explored Varisco’s text, the more I uncovered meaningful parallels between our present moment and Varisco’s.


On Capital, Fascism, and Consumerism

Dec 08, 2019 - Jason Koxvold

Characters in Varisco’s text changed allegiance with some regularity. One of the unspoken truths in any war is that ideology is not the primary motivator; our needs are survival, power, and profit.

 

With the understanding that our ongoing wars in the Middle East were initiated as a business concern, I was interested in the spaces in which power is brokered: the opulent boardrooms of Italian banks, and their white-celled vaults, deep below the streets of Milan. In each of these spaces, I was photographed at every turn by the ubiquitous surveillance infrastructure that defines our present moment.

 

In today’s Italy, buildings are wrapped in oversized black and white portraiture advertising luxury goods. That commercial language seemed to echo the photographs of Varisco and his family; I began to appropriate this language to rephotograph characters from the story, juxtaposing my new portraits with photographs of the advertisements, gleaming in the golden hour as they wrap and obscure historical buildings. In my photographs, however, the subjects bear the marks of torture; imaginary Khashoggis, or unnamed Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. Varisco describes his own torture at the hands of the Fascists in detail. One man, mistaken for my grandfather, was tortured so extensively that he committed suicide rather than be tortured again.


Calle Tredici Martiri

Dec 07, 2019 - Jason Koxvold

In July of 1944, Varisco oversaw a group of men who placed an IED at the Venetian headquarters of the National Republican Guard. The bomb was assembled using a sea mine, placed into a shipping trunk with a timer; it killed 13 Fascists and Nazis.

 

In the following days, 13 partisans were pulled out of a local jail and executed at the site of the explosion. Later, the alley was renamed Calle Tredici Martiri – Alley of the Thirteen Martyrs. This eventually became the title of my project.

 

I was interested in the idea that in today’s parlance, the Nazis would have called my grandfather a terrorist. Using this as a starting point, I began to explore the notion of an unseen, anachronistic conflict occurring in plain sight, using the visual language of today’s “forever wars”.


Corso del Popolo

Dec 06, 2019 - Jason Koxvold

Aldo Varisco was a stoic man, not known for his patience. He lived in a beautiful old apartment in Chioggia, a short boat ride from Venice, that we would visit as children. The apartment was directly above a bakery on the Corso del Popolo, the heat from which made it impossible to sleep in the hot summer months, and it had a very specific smell.

 

After his death in 1988, we found a cache of weapons including explosives and rifles in the attic of his apartment; the local police brought in an EOD unit to remove the material safely. I remember enjoying the drama of it, and my mother told stories of how he had avoided capture by the occupying Nazi forces by stepping out of the window when they searched his home.

 

Much later, I discovered that he had written a series of diaries about his experiences in the Resistance. They were typewritten; I am not fluent in Italian, but eventually a great-uncle translated them, and I started to reconstruct imagery from the stories while in the process of reading and editing them.