Definirti è limitarti (ongoing)

(To define you is
to limit you
-O. Wilde)

Definirti è limitarti is an ongoing project about science-fiction, poetry, vagrancy, and alchoolism.

By Don Berry, Paolo Grassi, Matteo Spertini

This project describes a participatory, multi-disciplinary and independent research project that combines a long-term urban ethnography with documentary photography. The main interlocutor becomes an author, who was involved throughout the process, deliberately left open and subject to progressive reformulations and adaptations.

The project is about the life story of Don Berry, a man who lives in a small town in northern Italy. The title corresponds to his personal reworking of an aphorism by Oscar Wilde: “To define is to limit”. The aphorism is therefore subjectivized, brought back to a more existential dimension.

Don Berry’s biography orbits around two contrasting poles: the negative one, that is connected to the continuum of violence he has to face (housing instability, job insecurity, but also mental distress and alcohol abuse); the positive one, that is associated instead with love lived in an all-encompassing way, with the friendships and support networks of the city in which he lives, but also with the passion for science fiction, poetry, and comics. This complexity is proposed to the reader through “a layered account”, to use a category developed by the American sociologist Carol Rambo Ronai, which combines photographs, film frames, and poetic verses written by Don Berry himself: a polyphonic story that puts the reader in an active position of re-composition and interpretation of the text; a dense narrative that challenges the preconceptions related to violence, social exclusion, and marginality, not flattening its protagonist on a pietist or “pornographic” representation, but recognizing on the contrary, its vigour and dynamism.