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Gianluca Panareo and The Dark Side of Pan - Photographer

Our research on the BDSM world on the web continues with the discovery of a young talented Italian artist and photographer.

Gianluca Panareo, created the_dark_side_of_Pan project.

His works have been exhibited in international exhibitions such as the 2014 Ljubljana Biennale, the 2015 Venice Biennale and the 2017 Lebanon Biennale.

In an interview with FaceMagazine in November 2020 he says that his is a project that has been formed and consolidated over the years, without a real birth.

Gianluca has been playing with the camera since he was five years old and has always been attracted by the fantastic, by fantasies, by all the ways in which the human mind tries to satisfy the need for something "extra-ordinary", supernatural, that satisfies the spirit in all its depth, in all its sides, even the most "dark" ones. It is a research that addresses different aspects, from the spiritual to the sociological and political, approaching different media. He has always been attracted in a particular way by allegories, by the evocative power of an image that tells a fantasy story that arises from ideas of reality, encodes its features to raise them to symbols, to universal open archetypes, in which all in some way we manage to mirror ourselves. The first works on this genre were born in 2009 in Milan, where for some years he shared a house-studio with his then partner, also a visual artist. Together they began a photographic project directly inspired by the allegorical themes of the Renaissance and the Baroque, such as the lives of the saints and gods and heroes of Greco-Roman mythology. They were young and broke and unable to afford professional models, they started looking for models on dating sites and apps. When they found a boy or girl they liked or thought perfect for a role they had in mind, they contacted them with a portfolio of work and offered to pose for an idea. It was a somewhat rigid structure, they created an a priori idea, a scenario, a set of lights and the model was simply a body that they inserted into the pose they had foreseen, sometimes even difficult and challenging poses. Also for this reason, to convince the most hesitant people to pose for them, we offered the models a personal photo shoot, in exchange for posing for the work. Having as meeting channels sites and applications designed for a sexual approach, very often I was asked for nude photos or those suggesting particular inclinations and fantasies that the models could then use in their profiles. Going forward, he realized that these "secondary" photographs were actually much more interesting, because they were real and conveyed that feeling and energy of experience that made the images natural and magnetic. He was no longer putting on an abstract thought, but he was telling stories and that's what he's always interested in.

Stories of which the protagonists themselves are often not totally aware, because they are lived only as fantasies and "perversions" to be vented and which instead contain a large part of our experience and our interiority. What we call "perversions" are a fantastic mix of signs left on the subconscious, reactions to experiences, trauma, family and social context that many times arise to counterbalance us, bring us to a balance. They can tell a person in the most sincere way that exists, because they cannot be mediated by conventions and education, they shatter the mask behind which we often hide ourselves too. They confront us with our true nature. Very often it happened that the subjects of his photographs became aware of certain aspects of his own interiority during the photo session itself and it was something extraordinary. The photographic set has been transformed into a stage that is both intimate and exposed at the same time and has played that cathartic role of primitive theater, in which the emotions and dynamics of one's intimacy are staged and faced in front of someone else's gaze. Photography then became the mirror and memory of this event, a tangible testimony of something extremely intangible. A story of which the protagonist became even more aware and within which, perhaps also due to this path leading to catharsis, there was always something universal.

In Italian art, the boundary between pain, martyrdom and ecstasy is very thin and is probably inspired and influenced by Christianity. The suffering of the saints is always an ecstatic suffering, it is a suffering that gives a further and "immense" meaning to life and therefore becomes mystical. It fills that sense of emptiness and nonsense that is often associated with earthly existence, and elevates it to something of superior, of magnificent. I think the same is true of eros today. Religions and ideologies are in a phase of disintegration and eroticism has increasingly become that universe in which to abandon the rationality and functionality of everyday life to indulge in something otherworldly, a dimension dominated by play, by the senses. , from the imagination. It allows us to get in touch with that inner and further nature that was once the sacred.

Model supi are mainly chosen on dating sites and apps. “The_dark_side_of_Pan” is in fact the nick he uses for the profiles with which he contacts or is contacted by the people with whom he realizes my photographic projects. He has also tried to work with professional and agency models, but it is a dynamic that he does not like very much because often the pose replaces spontaneity and true desire, which are the most interesting things. Lately, social media has also become a great source of contacts, even many people who never dreamed of posing, especially for an erotic set, see his works and a dialogue is born, which often leads to the creation of a photographic project. In the last 2-3 years, then, he worked as a photographer for some theme nights in the Bologna area, where he had free access with my camera in an environment where it is usually forbidden, being able to literally spy, with the consent of those present. , all the dynamics that happened naturally around me. He then attended some major BDSM festivals such as Folsom Europe, an event that attracts several thousand people from all over the world and sees an entire block of the Schöneberg district transformed for a week into a real BDSM city, with people on a leash or completely covered. of rubber that goes around the streets and attends clubs, restaurants and the many events created for the occasion, such as the annual "Classic meets Fetish", a classical music concert performed by an entire orchestra of members of the fetish community in their various dress inside a church. A totally surreal and beautiful world, in which the most thrust and articulated phantasmagoria of eros comes to light in the most absolute everyday life, in which the diversity of eroticism is experienced with curiosity and enthusiasm, generating a total harmony between the city and these " strange creatures ”that invade it and not them they never become strangers.

In his experience I have noticed that there are roughly three different schools of BDSM in today's world: Japanese, Latin and American-Anglo-Saxon. The Japanese one is perhaps the oldest and sees this type of sexuality as a form of art applied to life and meditation, a bit like the ritual of tea or the culture of the Zen garden and Bonsai. Made of very complex and precise codes such as Shibari, the art of tying with knot compositions that envelop the body and lead it to assume positions and tensions that enhance the erotic power of the act itself. So much so that often a real sexual act is not reached, pleasure is sublimated into an exalting form of control over matter and nature, in this case human, to arrive at an almost more spiritual than carnal enjoyment. The "Latin" school is typically born in countries strongly influenced by Catholicism, especially Italy and France, and is the one most linked to pain as an instrument for achieving pleasure. It has in itself a strong imagery linked to the martyrdom and flagellation typical of sadomasochism of which the French De Sade is a real prophet. The third "school" that he was able to identify is the Anglo-Saxon one, typical of Germany and Northern Europe. In which the focal point is the clear division of roles between dominant and submissive and is linked to a real fetish for what is discipline, training and protocol. One of its characterizing features is the presence of the uniform, not only military, although it has taken many of its codes from the military environment. In England, for example, it took the form of the Skinhead culture which then spread widely in Germany and Russia, while in the United States it received stimuli from cultures such as those of bikers or cowboys and gave birth to the Leather culture. . Culture well represented by great American artists such as Tom of Finland and Robert Mapplethorpe, which then had great diffusion, even if only as an imaginary, all over the world. Also from this school, in relatively more recent times, the strongly industrial line of the Rubber and Latex world has developed.

One thing that struck him was to note that a clearly codified BDSM culture is present in Japan, in Western countries or in those that have strong ties to it, but it is often absent in areas with a different cultural history. In the Middle East, the difference between Israel is evident, a country with many cultures, but with a deep bond with the United States and Europe, where there is a very large, very visible and organized BDSM community and other countries, where even if there were, it is not not at all visible. In Lebanon, Iran and Tunisia, there are embryos of BDSM culture in local gay communities. Also because they are countries in which intellectuals and the bourgeois classes are well acquainted with the French Enlightenment culture and have always had intellectual exchanges with the West. Suffice it to say that Pasolini is very famous in Iran and even shot a part of the “Flower of the Thousand and One Nights” in the country before the Khomenist revolution. Apart from Japan, which has, as in many other things, a vision that has developed within a history characterized by a great and long isolation from the rest of the world, it is as if BDSM had developed in cultures directly influenced by 'Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Perhaps it is no coincidence that De Sade wrote his works in that historical period. It is as if the victory of reason over instinct has generated a need to reintroduce into society a codified form of domination and abuse typical of our instincts, as if to counterbalance an ideal reasoning that would lead us to be abstract and completely disconnected from our animal nature. In support of this I think of the fact that before the Enlightenment there is no trace of a codified BDSM culture, perhaps because this animal aspect of the human being was an integral part of a society in which, even in its most "enlightened" periods such as that Classical or Renaissance, domination and prevarication were the order of the day. It is as if BDSM were a typical characteristic of countries historically and culturally linked to this extreme rationalization of Enlightenment thought, while in cultures that did not have a direct genesis from it there is a different type of sexuality, in which the codification of BDSM is still incorporated within society and manifests itself in accentuated forms as a strong passion and possessiveness and in which some rules of the "code of honor" are still part of social life. This does not mean that these societies are necessarily violent, but that they exorcise the potential violence of life through social or religious rites. Just think of the martyrs or flagellants in Catholic or Islamic culture or the fakirs in the Middle East or Iran. In the Enlightenment culture, in which religion has a lesser and more personal role than a collective one, these impulses have begun to be exorcised through BDSM culture and sexuality. Over time, setting clear limits to ensure that everything is done in compliance


Italy, on the other hand, is an excellent litmus test of the encounter between the Enlightenment and the Mediterranean culture, because it is a tongue of land on which Northern European and Mediterranean cultures meet. BDSM is widespread in the North, especially in Veneto and Lombardy where there is a large BDSM community with numerous clubs and theme nights. In Central Italy, BDSM is often intertwined, especially in the hetero sphere, with the swinging, while in the gay one it becomes a little more shy and secluded, reflecting a little the papal culture that has dominated this area. Going south, the number of people and events related to BDSM culture is drastically reduced, with some sporadic events in the cities of Naples and Catania, the most "enlightened" cities in the South. While it is almost completely absent elsewhere, giving way to meetings more passionate, overwhelming and sometimes, even more stormy, which echo, even if less and less, an older Mediterranean culture. Culture in which in the past, regardless of whether one was Christian or Islamic, too much importance was often given to concepts such as "honor" and where pain often appeared in religious or social rituals, but was not clearly codified in sex. A similar thing can also be found in Spain and Greece, where the BDSM culture has been developing since more recent times and is very localized in the big cities. Obviously we speak by macro-concepts, by suggestions that he had and that he enjoyed binding in archetypes of an artist's gaze, linked exclusively to his experience and to the experiences with which he came into contact. It is also true that in the increasingly globalized world we are witnessing a real fusion of all these elements and also from an erotic point of view, there is a continuous evolution that incorporates and mixes different characteristics, both in terms of origin and chronology. Think of Gengoroh Tagame, one of the most illustrious creators of Bdsm manga, who has in himself all the erotic culture of the Japanese world, but who looks a lot to the Western one as a point of reference, drawing inspiration, by his own admission, from Caravaggio. Think also of a rather new BDSM practice that is rapidly gaining ground as the "Puppy Play", which arises from the dog-master practice typical of BDSM, but almost eliminates any reference to domination and the division of roles, generating the figure of the "Alpha Dog" who wears the same uniform as the dog-submissive, but is a dominant figure, dividing the BDSM world between "Old School" and a new current in full experimentation in the hands of the "millennials" who are putting under discussion is a model linked to a historical and social context which in a few decades has already radically changed. This is also some conflicts within BDSM communities, as often happens in epochal changes.

Fetishes are as fascinating a world as they are mysterious, as an origin. In his search for him, a particular type of fetishism struck him a lot: that for objects, in particular for shoes. He has known many people with a strong fetish not only for shoes in general, but for a specific brand and model. So much so as to get excited at the mere sight of the object itself, even without the presence of a body wearing it. This thing struck him a lot, because he combines the most instinctive and animal side of the human being with the more abstract and artificial one, like experiencing an uncontrollable sexual desire for a Nike. For a long time he wondered how an extremely recent industrial object could insinuate itself into the DNA of eroticism. The answer that has been given is that an object, as well as a part of the body, can embody in itself an entire universe made of concepts, ideas, identities. In the specific case of Nike sneakers, the model on which he noticed the most fetishism is the one worn by the skin and scally subcultures born in the late 1980s in the suburbs of the deteriorating industrial society. The shoes of the typical bad-boy, a little rough, a little criminal and dominant, sexy and cursed. Those who have that particular type of fetishism have it above all for this type of imagery, of which the Nike sneaker is the most recognizable and codified emblem. Venerating her, the whole world linked to her is venerated. The object then becomes a real idol, a simulacrum, a symbolic and material representation of something much larger. Venerating it comes to venerate its most total essence, exactly as it happens for relics or sacred images, which are nothing more than objects, but which carry with them the representation of something “further”, to which one aspires to arrive.

In the interview you tell how Gianluca Panareo and “the_dark_side_of_Pan” are the same person, so connections and experiences are inseparable. The only difference is that as an artist he really likes to experiment with different themes and media. Over the years he has worked with theater, with sound, with video, with images; on themes ranging from social and anthropological research, to politics, to re-enactments of the history of a place. In this continuous evolution and change of path, “the_dark_side_of_Pan” has remained a fixed point, even with its internal evolutions. "The_dark_side_of_Pan" is a theme, a project that will always exist in his work, even if it were to completely change the field of action. Because eroticism is the dimension in which experience, instinct and rationality meet and are capable of creating something wonderful, capable of telling an individual and the society in which he lives from a sincere and extraordinary point of view. You cannot control your eroticism or your fantasies, at most you can only feed them or not but they will always be the mirror of our innermost side, in which our history, our experiences, our relationship with society are sedimented. and its deformations. This will always be a primary source for ideas that can tell about human nature and its evolution.

Surely the intellectual contribution was essential to have above all feedback on the thoughts and feelings that he has always felt, some authors have helped him to have confirmations and to deepen his observations and insights from field research. Of all certainly Pasolini was the most influential, but also Jean Genet and Antonin Artaud, up to Ernesto de Martino and Gerzy Grotowski who, even if not purely erotic authors, helped him to understand the complexity of the human being and his subconscious and his fundamental need for ritual, magic, the extra-ordinary. One of the artists who gave him a real spark was Robert Mapplethorpe. The first time he saw his works he was totally struck by the elegance with which he was able to bring even the most explicit and "perverse" actions to the photograph. An elegance that is not only formal, but epic, Michelangelesque. an elegance that is harmony and power at the same time, which tells something immortal and universal, becoming immortal and universal in turn. Thousands of years of thoughts, concepts and words are condensed in those images. In one click.


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