The work presented here began in Turin while Simon Starling was finishing his previous project for our gallery. In that period, a few days after a conversation he had with Pierpaolo Falone on Manik Bagh and Eckart Muthesius, in an apartment in Turin he accidentally came across the double portrait of the Maharajah and Maharani of Indore in their wedding outfits. The sum of these coincidences was, in a certain sense, the start of a short circuit which the artist would address with a research that would take up, on and off, two years of his work. The series of twenty-one photographs – 11 of which are presented here – are both the result of a complex project and the cue to start discussing it.
Here we encounter the cosmopolitan culture of a young Indian prince, the modernist architecture of Muthesius and some of his conjuring tricks, the magnificent residence of Manik Bagh in Indore, the materials used for building the palace and their provenance, the cream of industrial design of that period, the art of Costantin Brancusi, Hinduism, the cinema of Fritz Lang, the technology we know best, that of the memory contained in a laptop, the possibilities provided by software in processing an ancient material like stone and, finally, a triangle formed of Berlin, India and Turin, broken up in a legendary auction and put back together in its current shape by Starling.
They are key images which narrate in fragments or, rather, illuminate the most complex angles of this journey. They are images which might also exist in isolation, especially those more obscure and indecipherable. They are images that are able to trigger a “chain of production”, of ideas and complex associations, which transport us to the end of the story, but they are also images which are, in inverted commas, timeless, with their intense brightness and the absolute sophistication of their printing technique. Indeed, Simon Starling has, for years, used the technique of platinum salts and palladium, a field of experimentation that explores and materialises the sculptural qualities of photography and beyond, skilfully analysed in the work One Ton. Using this medium, Starling is able to achieve dizzy heights in terms of image quality and is able to make another journey, back in time perhaps; putting man in charge of a technique and no longer at its service. Over the years we have had the opportunity to personally meet the printer of these photographs. Paul Caffell and his son have travelled to see the result of the work they have done with Simon, from a small town in England to London and as far as Turin, almost as though they had become the protagonists of the circular route plotted by the artist.