As we come closer to the opening of Leap-Second, we’d like to introduce you to our exhibiting artists in more detail. 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 artist and photographer Diego Ferrari; his work interrogates the relationship between social values and public spaces, with a particular interest in the relationship between the body and its environment, articulating modes of individual and collective experiences and social relations. He studied Fine Art at the LLotga School in Barcelona, completed a Fine Art BA at Goldsmith’s College University of London and was awarded an MA in Art & Architecture at the University of Canterbury. He exhibits internationally and teaches in the course on “Photography, Art and Architecture” at Central Saint Martins and on the BA in Fine Art Photography at Kingston University and currently he is the course leader on Photography, Architecture and the City at The Enric Miralles foundation, Barcelona.
GASKET: You work with several equally important aspects in your photography: space, time, the body, people, the city. What makes this so appealing and important to you?
DIEGO FERRARI: These five aspects you mention of our existence in this question are the basic conditions of life. Let’s look at space and time: we are born within a given space and time that gives up the basic characteristics of who we are culturally and the generation we belong to. Simultaneously we are in a technological era in which we experience time on a multidimensional scale of human relations and social connection, embedded on a structure in which time and space is not fixed – only the moment is fixed. Within the context of time, the science of quantum theory brings about a more intrinsic perception of space and time as also the arts and undoubtedly the literary writing of Borges.
In terms of the body, the city contains us, as the body is the vessel of the self that contains the intellect, emotions and entire physical experience of the senses, that triggers the inter-relationship of the inner and outer of the self in relation to society and as an extension to the material world and the universe. The city has become the hub of human inhabitation in the 21th century. Therefore our environment has become the urban landscape in which we live. We have to reassess the cities in which we live by exploring the dialogue between our subjective experience of everyday life and our physical environments. This can be done through creative or conceptual acts that can help us to think again about our perception of time, space and how we relate with our bodies physically and psychologically with in the space we have built out of social consciousness.
G: Your images often contain different elements. You have worked with water and with air, but also with different materials. Why is it important to you to introduce these things into your images?
DF: The elements that I introduce play a metaphorical role towards the subjects I depict, the urban society and its environment. At present, I am working with three of the basic natural elements; water, air and earth. My observation is that we have lost touch with these natural elements within the context of how the modern city landscapes are constructed and perceived. Natural materials have given way to material goods, deriving from the consequences of human development, simultaneously we have contained and rationalised the basic natural elements within the process of building cities. Cities transcend the constraints of the natural world, raising existential questions in regard to sustainable urbanism. My approach to work with the materiality of water, air and earth is based on the idea of reconfiguring the dynamics that takes place between the city the body and the basic four elements.
For instance, on the project We Are Water – A Co-Existence of the Senses (2012), appraising the fluidity of water when we do set it free from its containers into the constructed space of the city – a solid geometric environment that guideline our everyday lives. When the element of water is out of its designed vessel it becomes free and its fluidity cannot be controlled nor can it be measured. By releasing it from the restrictions of its container, it fascinates us by revealing the natural patterns evolving out of its unimaginable fluid structure.
G: What makes the relationship between an individual and the built environment, the urban, so fascinating?
DF: At this moment, I am interested to explore through photography ,the relationship between the body and its metaphors in relation with the city landscape and social values. I came from the countryside to live in the city. Therefore you could say that I’m not an urban native but an outsider, an urban immigrant. On top of this, I am also from a different continent and country. This also distances me from the immediate surroundings I now live in. This is extremely helpful in that this distance enables me to explore my identity as an individual and as a photographer who happens to be obsessed with his adopted environment; an environment in which the elements in its rough forms have become detached from us.
Therefore our everyday experience of living in cities evolves around relating with natural materials that are industrially processed. Consequently cities are the supremacy of human sophistication and as matter of fact a vivid example of our rational and instinctive domination over nature, all for the well being of the social capital. With this experience and knowledge I do question how to materialise through an urban intervention a visual metaphor that challenges the conventions of social codes, architecture and the norms and regulations of urban and public space. An example of this urban intervention it can be seen here, the Berlin based photographic project Urban Habitat II – 2013:
G: Could you describe the process that leads to your images? What comes first? the visual idea, the space, a person?
DF: The image is brought about through the resonance of space and those who inhabit it. Architecture and the urban are very suggestive to me. For example, in modern architecture there are relationships between materials and textures like the materiality of glass, a natural matter that brings about in its industrial process a transcendental relationship between space, light, transparency and its inherent reflectivity. This can be seen in styles like in the engineering found in contemporary glass buildings or its opposite as for example the “brutalist” architecture that we can experience at the Barbican.
Being in and around certain spaces, experiencing architecture physically can trigger sensations, ideas or questions that can translate itself into an image. Sometimes I like to challenge unwritten rules of bodily behaviour to bring about an engaging new semantic level and critical site on the understanding of our bodily behaviour in the cities. By, for example, inserting in a surprising manner the body into the architectural space or creating a mobile performance-based intervention – or by introducing an object that would not otherwise be in the space.
With this act, we turn the cities into a grand studio space or laboratory in which to produce an experience that interrelate people, space and objects into new meanings, creating not just a change of how we use space but an act of physical and sensory consciousness that responds to the development of our city.
GASKET would like to thank Diego for being part of Leap-Second and his time answering the questions above. You can find more of Diego’s work on his website, and if you’d like to see more videos showing his fascinating working process, you can find them here.
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.