The international jury, with members Marco Delogu (photographer, director of FOTOGRAFIA and director of the Italian Cultural Institute in London), Francesco Graziadei (lawyer, partner with Graziadei Studio Legale), Francesco Jodice (photographer) and Hans-Christian Schink (photographer), after having viewed the numerous proposals received, selected the duo The Cool Couple, formed by Niccolò Benetton e Simone Santilli, as winner of the third Graziadei Studio Legale award for FOTOGRAFIA.
Approximation to the West seeks to reveal instances of forgotten pasts through the collection and re-dissemination of historical information combined with the use of photography, drawing, installation and archiving tactics. As a starting point, Niccolò Benetton e Simone Santilli analyzed a peculiar cultural landscape in North-Eastern Italian Alps, named Carnia. Here people confess that they can’t recognize themselves in the places they belong to, a consequence of the industrial development that started in the 60s and led to radical landscape transformations. They address a series of events from the tail end of WWII, when Cossacks from Caucasus, allied with the III Reich, invaded the Carnia region in Northern Italy. The invaders took over the region and the local population was subjected to their rule. The occupation lasted until April 1945, when the Cossacks were defeated and ultimately expelled from this territory. The occupiers were then traded by the Allied forces in exchange for hundreds of thousands of British prisoners of war held by the Soviets.
The story has been selected as a metaphorical key thanks to which the artists can pose questions about the contemporary crisis of identity, the rise of new fascist and nationalist movements, the end of nations and the utopic discourse of power.
“This fallibility of the telling of history is also reflected in the overall title of the work, Approximation to the West, which can be interpreted as an “attempt” that already contains within it the impossibility of realization, like every approximation, but which nonetheless represents the way by which we can, if nothing else, draw near to history and conserve the memory of it” .
 Walter Guadagnini, Approximation to the West, from exhibition catalogue Territori Instabili, Mandragora, Firenze 2013.