A Conversation w/ Francesca Fini
The following email conversation took place in May 2015, following the acquisition of Dadaloop (2015) created by Francesca Fini for active Video Out distribution. This work will be presented at the fifth installment of Video Out’s New Additions Series which will be held on May 20th 2015 from 7:30pm – 9:30pm at VIVO Media Arts Centre, 2625 Kaslo St.
SJD: Shauna Jean Doherty
FF: Francesca Fini
SJD: Your performances and video works have been included in exhibitions and festivals all over the world, do you find people respond differently to your works depending on what country they are exhibited in?
FF: It depends on the type of work that I present. Some of my performances are characterized by a series of very specific references to the culture of my country, although the performative context of body-art is animated by a more global message. Body language is always so immediate and truly universal, and has always been the key to create an empathic connection with the audience, regardless of the country. I must say that I never missed this connection, and even in more traditional contexts the provocative aspect some of my work has always been respected. Archetypes are the same everywhere and they all refer to the body, to its action in space and time, and to its relation to the world. Using archetypes is therefore a way to create a “language of the senses” understandable by anyone. With video the process is a bit different.
If in my performances I challenge the senses and empathy of the viewer, to achieve the same impact in the video, I tease the intellect. I use a language that appeals to the mind and I try to push it to the next level, through continuous associations, contrasts and linguistic and conceptual distortions. I play with political-poetic figures that refer to specific cultural and historical references and therefore must be decoded. A video like “White Sugar” is, for example, the mirror of Western culture, starting from the stereotyping of female figures in commercials and educational films of the ’50s in America. This video hits the mark especially in Western contexts, where the irony embedded in every frame of the video becomes meaningful.
SJD: Can you explain the term Gesamtkunstwerk? How does it apply to your artistic practice?
FF: My Gesamtkunstwerk is a work that amplifies the scope of the concept through its multi-sensory nature, while sharpening the perception of the audience. And I don’t try to achieve it with a sort of harmony between different visual languages, so to speak, but rather through their irremediable conflict.
In my work I always try to link these two parallel worlds in which I live, so different although both based on the declination of Time. To simplify the issue, I could say these two parallel worlds are the Intellect and the Body, the Representation and the Experience, Performance art (with its irreproducible, contingent and unrepeatable nature) and Video (with its vocation in perpetuating itself and its reproducible nature). To put together these two elements is a tricky issue, but is the focus of my research.
In my live performances, for example, video is always present, even when it is not “staged”. Because I contemplate my live actions with the mindset of a videographer, and I always “test” my performances in the metaphysical space of a completely aseptic studio, whose only viewer is a video camera on a tripod.
My live work is the result of a preparation that can last for months, involving technical research, objects, sound, media, overall visual impact. Research which is then subverted by action, which unpredictably develops and evolves in the specific context. My performances have these two seemingly irreconcilable souls. The contrast between the theatrical set and the freedom of action within it. In this way I can combine Structure and Nature.
SJD: Your works address social and political issues. Are there are any specific social or political causes you are interested in right now?
FF: Many. Right now I’m very concerned about the future of Europe, this giant organism born of economic assumptions, as a sort of branch of small companies, but without any real program of cultural and political integration among the states. These are not the right conditions, and we’re seeing it.
SJD: “White Sugar”, the latest acquisition by Video Out of your works can be viewed with anaglyph glasses. What technical process must you use to make this possible?
FF: Anaglyph is a process based on optical effect. It’s also called stereoscopic effect. It’s achieved on the computer by duplicating an image with slightly different perspectives and two differently filtered colors, one for each eye. When you wear anaglyph glasses, each of the two images reaches the right eye, revealing an integrated stereoscopic image. The greater the distance and perspective distortion between the two copies of the same color filtered image, the more the image seems far away or close to the eye. It’s the “Old school” 3d optical illusionism.
The video “White Sugar” uses the stereoscopic process in a completely new and subversive way, because it transfers these images from the two-dimensional analog context of archival footage into a real 3D digital environment. The preparation work was backbreaking. I extrapolated these nice figurines through rotoscoping, cutting them off from their original context, as if they were little paper dolls. Then I placed them on different layers of a truly 3D digital environment, so that they gained a new depth, the effect of increased distance or proximity to the observation point, while maintaining their two-dimensional nature. Paper dolls in a cardboard theater.
In this conceptual and digital transfer these little dolls lose their connection with the narrative context and with the spatial structure in which they “lived” originally, assuming a new meaning that undermines their role as ambassadors of a granitic and dominant culture.
SJD: “Dadaloop” combines historical and contemporary imagery, how did you decide what type of visual themes you wanted to include?
FF: As in “White sugar” I placed 2D images (video and graphics) in a new digital 3D environment. Unlike in “White sugar”, however, the video footage is recorded specifically for this work, while the existing material is taken from famous old paintings in the public domain. Everything starts with a golden apple. I eat a golden apple, next to my portrait (that evokes the famous Magritte painting).
The apple becomes the moment of choice, the passage from innocence to awareness. Eating the golden apple triggers a journey into the portrait, which unfolds a series of small tableau vivant made by assembling a collage of 3d images extrapolated from masterpieces of ancient art and reassembled in a 3d surreal scene. The main theme is food, nutrition. It starts with a golden apple, an iconic and mythological symbol of rebellion and discord (Adam’s apple, the golden apple of Paris, etc.), and you end up with Marie Antoinette’s croissant, the symbol of more modern rebellions and discord. The food is here an element of discord, in a surrealistic vision and dream.
SJD: Is the term Dada in “Dadaloop” related at all to the Dada art movement? There are also many art historical references in Dadaloop do you wish to explain these references?
FF: The provocation, the strong contrasts, the value of reusing existing art, the collage, the non-sense that has sense, the irony: this is Dada for me, and it’s the material of this video
SJD: You are featured in many of your works, can you explain this choice?
FF: I don’t know, it seems to me that I’m always the most suitable actor for the role 🙂
SJD: How does your personal experience influence the type of works that you make?
FF: Experience is the key of all my work, and I think it’s the same for every artist. But I try not to dwell on my personal experience too much, I try to leave from there and speak with a more universal language. I start from myself in search for the archetypes, so that I can speak to everyone.