The refrigerator is the most widespread, low-cost and operative time machine. Unlike the freezer, which makes you think about death, the fridge holds in itself the hope that something will last and unnaturally escape the daily consumption. It slacken the decomposition process that we call life. In addition, the length contraction – like for those who travel at the speed of light – corresponds to a time dilatation, and so, in the petty fruit drawer, peaches last longer.

Julie Polidoro’s refrigerators are carte geografiche, that is, maps – like all her paintings, in my opinion. If we look up the lemma carte geografiche on the “Nuovo soggettario Thesaurus” in the National Central Library of Florence – yes, in the plural! – we will discover that they are approximate, reduced and symbolic representations of the Earth’s surface or a part of it, on a plane, with the aim of revealing its physical aspect, political divisions, economical facts and other features, historical conditions of a given period, and so on, regardless the scale.

Polidoro’s Fridges, a painting series started in 2005, do not only contain food: they are machinery of memory and imagination (if there is any difference between the two). They appear open, in section, as everyday hieroglyphics of the contemporary. In “Frigo aperto da una bionda” (Fridge opened by a blond girl), the content of the refrigerator is hidden by the body of a woman with her back turned, who is looking inside it. And being hidden, its content is automatically and immediately desired. In “Frigo in cielo” (Fridge in the sky), there are airplanes and clouds, a family of geese taken from Lorentz or Nils Holgersson. In “Frigo abitato I” (Inhabited fridge I), two little angels hang in there with their halos like in a Giottesque chapel.

In the physical space of the refrigerator, and in the shelf-life that the chance granted to every product, there are food, words, fragments, labels, sirens and famous brands (Vuitton, Apple, BMW, Sony), the hard discount of past and future – of memory, knowledge and experience from which we serve. And that turns everything into a product, including loved ones, including mythologies, including words that end up, motionless, in their function of labels; and that, motionless, draw a constellation from which everyone can take a prophesy, or at least an horoscope. The fridge is opened, after all. The labels say – by heart, or better, with reservation – “time”, “private”, “public space”, “our bodies” (more than once), “invisible”, “unknown territories”. In Polidoro’s Fridges, there are also (above all, maybe?) things that cannot be bought, but only consumed. There are a pair of eyes, an entire cow, some wings, a jungle on a pink background, a mask, a fan and a globe.

The refrigerator, in the political comedy of forgetfulness, consumption and mutation depicted by Polidoro – not general and abstract but particular and concrete, because everyone experiences and is subjected to the presence of the fridge – respects the three Aristotelian unities of space, time and action. The former two are constitutive: the unity of space is the refrigerator and the unity of time is the preservation interval; the latter, the unity of action, is re-established every time the observer stands in front of the canvas, because, like in front of an open and unknown fridge, s/he engages in a polite, maybe silent, listing (“I do have this, I don’t have that”), an act of pure and childish nominalism, and ends up in the role and posture of the indiscreet guest.

If Simone Weil was right and the foundations of mythology are that the universe is a metaphor of the divine truths, then it is possible to say – with cheerful certainty – that the foundations of everyday life are that the fridge is a metaphor of the human truths. And human truths have an expiration date.


Chiara Valerio (Scauri, 1978) lives and works in Rome. She is the author of novels, essays and short stories, and writes for several newspapers and magazines. She is also the editor in charge of the series for the Italian publisher Nottetempo, and one of the editors of Ad alta voce, on Rai Radio 3. Her last novel is Storia umana della matematica – “Human History of Mathematics” (Einaudi, 2016).