As Leap-Second moves from Marylebone to our new location on the First Floor of 183-185 Bermondsey St we’d like to introduce you to another of our exhibiting artists. Johannes Rigal of Gasket has asked each artist a series of questions to explore the concepts and processes involved in their work, and by doing so, show what makes us so excited about this exhibition.
Today we talk to Arianna Lodeserto. Arianna’s beautiful work explores the urban environment through aerial photomontages which defuse and disrupt the city grid. Arianna has studied and exhibited widely in Paris and Rome where she currently lives and works.
GASKET: Mapping is an integral part of archiving, possessing and gaining the city. Would you agree? In what way is mapping involved in your personal life and how much does this influence your work?
Arianna Lodeserto: In personal life I am passionate about maps: mute maps, aged maps, street maps… I collect them, I look at them without needing it, using them not only as a guide (having a very poor sense of direction), but also to read how the city has been written, how our daily path has been written, and where the places are where we will not go. I love maps but it’s true that today we have an overdose of cartography: everything is traced, geolocalized, combined with an image, and spied by anyone. No place will be seen for the first time, and we’ll not have to face the gaze of the locals (many artists are now working with Google archives, webcam photos, street views. It could be an interesting study).
Sometimes, I use pictures from Google maps to decide which unknown suburbs I will visit in a foreign city. But a printed map is another thing. It’s a suggestive toponymy, a visual handbook wide open to the imagination, if you accept to be guided only by the names of a road. Without having seen anything.
Despite how it may become automatic and accurate, maybe a photograph remains inexorably different from a map. The documentary picture acts on focal points and cannot easily hide its voracity of expression. His objects are subject to the time of depiction, are caught in a historical time. Although it may be technically manipulated, time remains one of his main subjects. Personally, I would use documentary pictures to take details that are not on the map, which often don’t have names, such as the elements of the “third landscape” (after-effects of a planning practice and, at the same time, witnesses of a different poetics and politics of inhabiting).
The Passenger is maybe an anti-map. Despite being very high to take these pictures, where one can record the more square meters possible, nothing is more recognizable, and in a sense it is more. Here we can exaggerate the effect of density, of solitude in the congestion, of hectic circulation. We can see the collapse, the fall, and the exasperated daily awareness of the citizen. Never “scaled” as in a map, never on time, neat, readable, the anti-map does not capture the buildings and the streets but “let them pass through”: it allows the transit of their multiple faces, illuminates gaps and interstices, exhibiting a perception of the urban experience with its right side and its reverse, with the elusiveness of its nervous body and the apparent dialectic of construction and destruction expected from the Manhattan Grid (whose architectural cannibalism imposes an infinite superposition of urban mosaic tiles).
G: Your images have painting-like qualities, you play with sharpness, muted colours – very often in contrast with sharp and hard colours. Where does your aesthetic influence come from? How has the look of your work come into existence?
AL: I cannot say “where it came from”, in aesthetics terms… Although I often find, or I am suggested, works that might be similar to mine. There are some photographers who I really appreciate, but they often practice a very different genre of photography. Passenger without fixed points, I wish I could inspire myself from Gordon Matta-Clark and its Anarchitecture, as a design not meant to build but to develop “building cuts”, to surgically dissect, challenging our habitual perception of more typical houses of the typical American suburbs. But his operation is too subtle and incisive to be imitated.
Otherwise, I find incredibly touching the first works of Aleksey Titarenko: his City of Shadows was a mixture of document and fiction, of sharpness and concealment, and the Russian crowd becomes a veil, a ghost. In The Passenger, the buildings themselves become skeletons, monuments of missing symbols, which still govern the city and destabilize the visitor with their “perpetual programmatic Instability”, with their canned worlds, unknowable for those who are “just visiting”. However, here there’s not only a gesture of concealment, but it’s an act of montage-démontage of the blocks of the grid, in a perpetual struggle between them.
Unconsciously, this project is also inspired by the humdrum of a few urban postcards that I produced as well, in a city that I have found exactly as I had imagined, and yet I was shocked by its extraordinary charm and its crazy burning energy. I was tired as well of a certain documentary habit, of a dominant, shared and protective language, featured a number of recurring styling cues, required for a certain way of taking disciplined photographs, colorful of already approved shades. Although the result is not the most original one, I wanted to play with the new post-production techniques, to challenge language, or to learn how to learn it, at least.
G: Could you describe the process of creating your images? What is it that you see first? Is it a detail, a building – or is it a specific city you want to capture first?
AL: This project began a year after my short visit to Manhattan and Brooklyn, and it was born as an almost instinctive process of elaboration of the photographs taken from the Empire State Building: a mixture of memory and perception, an interpretation that seeks to disassemble what was protected by the frame. And perhaps it comes from oblivion, rather than from memory.
Manhattan stood in front of me, in my computer. From those postcards I then started working on the details, trying to construct a photographic subject for each city lighthouse, each warning sign and magnet of the urban mass. The content doesn’t matter; skyscrapers and scrap yards do not last long, just as these pictures: what remain are the contractions of possible, but caption and the realism could not let them talk, and perhaps only an irrational portrait can describe the Culture of Congestion.
I worked the photos of Paris by the same method because both cities are highly dense and highly controlled, charismatic and hyper symbolic omnivorous, unlimited cities. I will continue with other metropolis, if I can, trying to refine my unripe language.
G: What role does text play in creating your work? How important is the written part of your work?
AL: In the case of documentary photos, such as my past projects, I consider the text as very important. It often contains a sort of investigation of the portrayed territory, a passionate philosophical or urban study. Here, instead, I would not want that text “weighs” too much on the images. I judge these pictures as a “work in progress”, marked by continuous editing and delivered to almost every possible interpretation (as sometimes happily happened during past exhibitions). There is a part of the beginning of this work that remains “instinctive”, as an apnea in the hinges of cityscape and an attempt to unstructure it, in order to unpick its elements.
Conversely, some years after the series began it happened to me to read some essays that, in some way, recall the perceptions arising from these photos into amazing empathy, and potential intellectual enlightenments, such as well-known Rem Koolhaas’s Delirious New York, La vie matérielle by Marguerite Duras, and especially with Noir surrealismo città, the Thesis of Andrea Bonazzi, who wrote that Manhattan refuses to be understood from the top because “from there only dizziness remains, an impenetrable jungle of buildings preventing any unified understanding. No organic symphony is possible, but the blurring of the different towers silhouettes in a restless irregular serration”.
We’ll be featuring another one of our exhibiting artists soon here, in the meantime don’t forget that we are now accepting applications to the Photographic Compositing Workshop with Helen Saunders.