The 11th edition of Cortona on the Move highlights the importance of physical human connection

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The Italian festival returns to its fortress home in the Tuscan hills with the theme We Are Humans

Inspired by the idea of reconnecting with who we are following an isolated year, the theme for Cortona on the Move’s 11th edition is We Are Humans. “It was a very natural intuition to create something that gets back in touch with our humanness,” says the festival’s artistic director, Arianna Rinaldo. Last year’s edition migrated largely online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so this year, an uplifting atmosphere away from digital screens was key to the programming. “It’s not about escaping reality, but we won’t talk about Covid-19 much this time around. Instead, we want to put the focus back on the essentials – aspects of our lives such as relationships and family ties – without forgetting the social and human struggles that still abound around the world.”

Taking place in the hilltop town of Cortona in Tuscany, Italy, and running from 15 July to 03 October, this year’s event will occupy two historic buildings and a constellation of outdoor venues. In the Fortress of Girifalco, a newly commissioned body of work by the Italian photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin will be unveiled. “This work is perhaps best described as an existential portrait of humankind,” Rinaldo says. “It’s different to what he’s done before, more soul-searching.” Shot across his native Italy over the past year, the series focuses on capturing the mood of the critical moment in artful and abstract ways. Alec Soth’s I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating [below] will also be exhibited – a series that asks how much a portrait of a person can really show about their life and intimate self.

Olga, Berlin, 2018 © Alec Soth/Magnum Photos.

Alessandra Sanguinetti’s ongoing series about two cousins, Belinda and Guille, living in rural Argentina, is another major show taking place. “What’s amazing about this work is how it represents simple relationships and essential ideas of love, of friendship, and of sharing,” Rinaldo says. It is projects like this, and others such as Hannah Reyes Morales’ Living Lullabies – a lyrical document of families’ night- time rituals across the globe – that centre this year’s festival on the importance of connection and shared experience. It’s about all the small ways we communicate, Rinaldo adds, and references another series on display – Deanna Dikeman’s Leaving and Waving. For 27 years, Dikeman took pictures of her parents waving goodbye to her, highlighting how much the smallest gestures matter.

Elsewhere, the Argentinian photographer Gabo Caruso will present her series Cora (je). Documenting the daily life of a young girl who is transsexual, the work is an intimate insight into her personal sense of identity awareness. “It’s a beautiful story to follow, not least because it’s focused entirely on her social transition, and not a sexual one,” says Rinaldo. “It’s a chance for Cora to be seen and see herself.” In a similarly self-reflective vein is Jo Ann Chaus’ Conversations With Myself [below]. Wearing clothes from her mother’s generation, Chaus takes self-portraits that examine her experience of ageing. “She is confronting her own identity and reflecting on the roles she’s taken as wife and mother,” says Rinaldo. ”It’s deeply meditative.”

From the series Conversations With Myself © Jo Ann Chaus.

For Rinaldo, the choice of venue is as important as the work itself. “The real challenge is matching the atmosphere of each artist’s work with a location,” she says. Chaus’ project, for instance, will be shown in an old kitchen, echoing her themes of womanhood and expectation; while the French-Italian photographer Stephanie Gengotti’s [2] images of circus families will be hung in an oval- shaped space. Elsewhere, Jon Henry’s Stranger Fruit is set to be elevated on light boxes in a park. Made in response to the senseless murders of Black men by police violence, the photographs depict mothers holding their sons in poses echoing pietàs.

After 10 years as Cortona’s artistic director, 2021 will mark Rinaldo’s last year at the helm.
The Dutch-Canadian educator and photographer Paolo Woods will take over for the 2022 edition. “In this past decade we have evolved with the development of visual narratives, and that has a lot to do with Cortona itself – it’s the perfect stage for contemplation of art,” she says. With this year’s edition, she wants to invite audiences to scale back, consider what we take for granted, and mostly, to reflect on their own prejudices through the work being shown.

Cortona on the Move runs from 15 July to 03 October 2021. 

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London