Italian artist Martina Pizzigoni thinks of herself as an anthropologist rather than a photographer, understanding our daily lives and the characters depicted through her lens. We met with Martina to tell us more about her artistic practice and journey to where she is now.
Firstly, When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
This is a complicated question. On my curriculum you would not be able to find such a word because I do not fully relate with the concept of ‘the artist’. I like to think that being an artist means to reach the status of genius. It is the ultimate stage in a life of success, like stepping into Baudelaire’s aura. I rather think of myself as an anthropologist, as the Nicolas Bourriaud’ of the semionauts. For those who do not know what that means, it is a figure who finds and interprets signs and symbols.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?
I am from Italy. The relationship between my country and contemporary art is contradictory: we host one of the most important art exhibitions in the world, Venice’s Biennale, but at the same time there is a lack of concern and care for the art world. There is not a lot of room for artists, starting with education. The Academy of Fine Arts is not considered a University of fact, when we finish our studies we do not receive any kind of support. There are no subsidies, almost no contests and artistic residencies. The ones that do exist, along with institutions, prefer to nominate already known artists rather than emerging ones.
Average Italians are attached to the past and the great masters such as Leonardo and Michelangelo, even if there is a huge catalogue of interesting art, from the avant-garde to the recent past – the 60s and today. Now the current situation with the latest generation of artists is slowly and finally changing, but there is still lots to do.
Being an artist in Italy is considered a way of life rather than a real profession, so I think that like most of my contemporaries, in the future I am obliged to move somewhere else.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience?
You have to know that in Italy schools work differently. In fact, we are able to choose a specialization by our secondary education, so I was young when I decided to pursue art as my route. The only regret I have was choosing the figurative arts field, though I was one of the first in my class. I am aware, however, of the fact that without it I would not be where I am today. When I was approaching University my interest shifted into contemporary art and by choosing to enroll for New Media Technologies‘ studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, I have started to develop my current language pertaining to photography and installation. I have also spent one year abroad in Dublin, Ireland, a country that I chose for its bucolic beauties. It was an amazing journey which put me in touch with amazing personalities. I still have lots to learn: I think there is always room to improve oneself.
What’s the message of your work? Are there themes/narratives/purpose?
My practice splits into two; my photography practice and the artistic one. I use photography as a field of observation, which I adopt much like Surrealists’ automatic writing: rather than thinking about a subject, I explore the environment and take an image whenever my attention is captured by something. It changes all the time: not one picture has been taken twice, even when I’m walking on the same route. The only exceptions may be made with cranes and buildings under construction, wires and shadows. I am somewhat obsessed with structures, rituality and contexts, which I strongly believe are what influences, more or less consciously, who we are.
For these reasons my aesthetic is to leave the least amount of personal presence possible. Obviously in some respects this is impossible because I am the photographer, so I am the one choosing what to show you and what not.
Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic?
Every day I wake up with the purpose of understanding better the reality we live in. Being an aware observer, I like to find the bases of my theories by reading lots of philosophy, especially aesthetic and sociology. The world we live in has never been so complicated and as a person who relates with both reality and art, I am trying to comprehend these elements by exposing them to the viewer. I do not usually take portraits because I am convinced that the habitat we live in is able to show a lot more than what we can express through our appearances. This is the reason why I usually take pictures of spaces, architectures and remnants of human existance.
Who and what are your greatest influences?
Strange to say, but great parts of my influences come from pop culture and especially sci-fi and dystopian worlds. George Orwell is a favourite of mine.
My sensibility can be touched by everything; however, I am strongly influenced by the aesthetic and thinking of Wolfgang Tillmans, Luigi Ghirri, Lee Friedlander and Martin Parr. But also Michal Rovner, Bruce Nauman, Carsten Höller, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Maurizio Cattelan.
Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?
I have very few photographic works ‘planned’ right now because most of my materials are organized as global artwork by an archive. Whilst I am creating I never think of an audience. I am my own audience and I report to the viewer the discoveries I make. The selections of works change in relation to the use and context, so the meaning produced is never the same.
I dream of being understood by everyone independently and I would like the viewer to have the freedom of taking what he/she wants from my work. It may be a narration, a sensation, an emotion, or nothing. The same goes for my artistic practice, even if my aim is different. I would like to deposit an experience within the viewer’s consciousness.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you stick to one medium? Do you experiment? Do you see any parameters to your work?
I’m naturally a curious person and for this reason I’ve tried lots of different mediums. I have been into painting, sculpting, graphics and illustration. My practice is always ready for changes. It is not fixed because our world today is a continuous flow of different parts. We just decide to focus on one element, rather than another.
One of my biggest changes was moving from my hometown, Bergamo, to Venice. At the start of my university studies, my teachers Anna Sostero and Arthur Duff greatly helped me to understand better which direction I should follow. Currently, I think I am going to stick with photography, perhaps exploring with new methods of capturing and expositions.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
First, I need a purpose. What I want to say, show, or to explore. Good work may come as inspiration, but it is rare to me because it has always been a tumultuous journey of gestation. It is a result of months of thinking, interiorizing, trying and giving back in a different form. It is a synergy between form, means and message.
What are your goals for the future? (Projects, collaborations)
I am planning to continue my education, probably in England, because I love studying and I feel my journey has not ended yet. For the future a great interest of mine has been trying to combine the artist figure with the curator. I think that the space of an exhibition is assuming a relevant matter for cohesive and immersive fruition by the viewer. I would like to be able to create a total experience by doing that. I am also planning a publication of books with pictures, made just using my phone – I just need to find a publishing house to work with.
How has your art practice been affected by self-isolation?
I was going home for the weekend in my hometown when the country went into lock down. As you know, Bergamo has been the epicenter of the pandemic in Italy. On the one hand, I was able to have a moment of pause and reflection and I did not have to worry about doing so because we were and are all in the same situation. On the other hand, I have so many different ideas, but I am not able to fully realize them since I do not have my belongings and equipment with me.
Are you creating new work while social distancing?
I have created some series’ of pictures that reflect everyday life. I have also started a collaboration with other isolated artist friends of mine around the world and I hope to show the results soon.
How are you staying creative?
Mostly meditating. My active meditation is made by keeping order. It has always been the key to my self-awareness. We already have everything we need with us, we just need to know how to access that energy. This is the reason why reflecting on past artworks and experiences is always a good point to start with.