Sets for television shows are like nightclubs: You don’t always realize how preposterous they look until the crowds have left and the lights come on. Judging by Res Pvblica, a political photo series by Paris-based Simone Cavadini, this is especially true in Italy.
Cavadini used a large format camera to capture the flashy, rococo explosion that defines the typical set for Italian television, minus the hosts and spectators. Even empty, these sets manage to make a Victoria’s Secret interior look bland–the set for the Italian version of a Guinness Book of World Records competition show is smothered in what looks like glittering pink rhinestones.
To Cavadini, the set designs aren’t just extreme examples of bad taste; they represent the corrupt politics of a deeply troubled country. “Their saturated hues and flooding lights serve to immerse the show’s participants and audiences in visions of excess,” he tells Co.Design. The architecture of the sets also alludes, at least aesthetically, to Rome’s history of staging spectator sports to remind the public of who is in charge.
That kind of bloodshed for sport is, mercifully, a thing of the past. But that doesn’t mean Italian television isn’t tinged with a modicum of suspicious politics: Politics and television are in bed together, in part because former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi founded a media company, Mediaset, in the 1970s. During his tenure, his critics–including a professor who wrote a book on the topic–cited Berlusconi’s control over three broadcasting outlets as a means of massive self-promotion.
Cavadini had trouble accessing even the five sets he photographed, but is still trying to find more. For that reason, the name of the broadcasting companies are being withheld.