Since 1999, Brazilian artist Herbert Baglione has been populating the cracked walls and floors of forgotten places with shadowy, painted specters, which are characterized by their elongated limbs and emaciated, sinuous bodies. As the years have passed, his ghostly installations have emerged in dark corners all over the world, including Brazil, Germany, and France. In July 2013, Baglione found what might be his most eerie location to date: an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Parma, Italy. Down the building’s moldering, littered corridors, the artist’s ghosts aimlessly trail their wispy bodies up the walls and through open doors. At this time, the ongoing project was officially named 1000 Shadows. Describing his creative approach to forgotten places and their inhabiting spirits, Baglione has explained that “The ‘reading’ of these places allows [him] to take the shadow to a unique path, which usually feeds and broadens the discussion because it brings light to the abandoned environment […]. It is as if the soul is leaving an invisible trail on these places” (Source).
What makes Baglione’s work so simultaneously fascinating and unsettling for the psyche is that it plays with the dichotomy of presence and absence — two states of being that we often assume are fundamentally separate. By creating these shadows, not only has Baglione left his physical “mark” (his presence) for passersby to ponder (who was here? And what does it mean?), but he reminds us that other people were there long before us, and perhaps their energy still remains, making absence a form of presence. We feel drawn to these sad specters, and perhaps a bit frightened; they are traces of a persisting darkness that inspire us, emotionally and imaginatively, to close the gap in time. The wheelchair deserted in the hallway with its accompanying ghost is a particularly visceral referent for this troubling of past and present life.