A network, map generated by a digital eye, extends over Alba Zari’s face, covering every detail and highlighting her most pronounced shapes and characteristics. In return we have an image that is not representation but investigation, research and reconstruction. The diptych Avatar (2016) consists of two photographic prints depicting black and white digital images in which the artist’s face is scanned and translated into a virtual image using the software Make a Human. Zari’s work, part of the project The Y, challenges the traditional conception of photography and casts doubts on the veracity of this tool. At the same time, experiments with its most innovative aspects to pursue research inside her personal history.

In Memories of a Murder, investigator Park Du-Man torments himself in an attempt to discover the identity and face of the assassin who is carrying out numerous murders in the Korean city where the film is set. With the same obsession but also with the same analytical and surgical method, Alba Zari pursues her investigation to find the image of the father she has never been able to know. Like Park Du-Man, the artist examines every source available, every document, every slightest trace that can bring her back to her father, but every attempt is a failure and leads to nothing but a further discovery of the void around the figure of the father. Photography then, which can no longer help as documentation or attestation, becomes in the artist’s research a method of visual investigation with which, if it is not possible to represent the reality of the present, at least try to reconstruct a non-existent image. Photography becomes projection and dream.

By inserting her self-portrait into software capable of modeling her features and selecting which ones to exclude from the image and which ones to reconstruct or replace, Zari decides to remove the maternal characteristics of her face so as to be able to get closer to the inaccessible image of her father. The resulting avatar, which collects most of the information traced by the artist, becomes the image of a void, of an inaccessible memory: compromising the traditional statute of photography conceived as an attestation of present reality, Avatar defines itself as an image of imagination, lost memory and desire.

The analytical and scientific approach that can describe Alba Zari as an investigator is transformed into the narrating voice of a novelist who reconstructs a story in which the traits of recognisability with reality mix with personal projections, the imaginary of one’s past and the projections of a future under construction. Avatar uses technological and scientific tools to bend them to the poetry of the imagination.
Avatar by Alba Zari is on display at Castello Campori in Soliera (MO) as part of the exhibition project Giochi di Verità. Rappresentazione, ritratto, documento. The exhibition, curated by Marcella Manni, brings together a wide selection of works from the Donata Pizzi collection. Giochi di verità will be on view until 15 January 2023.


Alba Zari
Avatar, from the series The Y, 2016
Ink jet print, 42 x 59.4 cm
© Courtesy the artists and Collezione Donata Pizzi