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Interview and studio visit #4

Marta Colombo

Three-dimensional space

Ph. Francesca Iovene; Jessica Soffiati
Ed. Francesca Iovene

F.I.: You live here (in Essen), you think here, you move around here. You studied in Milan. I’ve found a book on your shelves that impresses me: “L’Impero Romano” (The Roman Empire). In your works we can find studies about the shapes of Roman remains that you found visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum. Then I guess your origins have a strong effect upon your way to see and study architecture: since you’re living in Germany now, how does the foreign “audience” respond to these connotations of yours? How do you reach the viewers and how do you put your thoughts into words?

M.C.: I’m attracted to history and particular forms of architecture, and my artistic research is strongly influenced by my biography. I moved to Germany in 2010, right out of the Academy, and I move from place to place, mainly through artists’ residencies. After I found the study in Kunsthaus Essen and after a group show at the Art Hotel in Sorrento in 2013, I created the first works that were an analysis and a repurposing of parallels between roman and classic architectural forms present on the Italian and German territory. I was interested in analyzing a communication between these two places that didn’t have to be merely visual, perhaps to reflect on a notion of common identity and European identity. The rich Roman heritage of Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW), where I live and work now, has come to my attention during the research phase. I was very taken by it and I decided to focus the research on visual forms present on both territories. This is where different series of paper works and site-specific installations stem from, and they were exhibited at several museums: at the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg and Junge Museum in Bottrop. The German public reaction was excellent, then and now. There is interest in artworks and they offer important processes of reflection and critique that are crucial to continue my artistic research.

F.I.: I can find a continuity between outer and inner space, among the things that are on papers and on the walls, in the room, in the space that surrounds you. It’s like your work should come out, overflowing from the surface and slipping into outside places. It makes me think of the neoplasticism, and there we’d come back to art and architecture. Where does this research of three-dimensionality come from? Test the connection between artworks and the walls of your study, for instance: can we claim that the “container” of your works is part of the work itself?

M.C.: Yes, you’re right, three-dimensionality plays an important role, I would say it has a pivotal role in the last works. When I have the ability to work site-specific, the architecture that accommodates artworks becomes part of the work itself. We can say that I started drawing, I love focusing on something, thinking and getting lost in my sheets of paper. But I work in an interdisciplinary manner, by doing experiments with different media and disciplines. In 2011, for example, I had spent three months in the art studios of scenic design of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. This experience probably allowed me to expand my professional horizons and I started wondering about three-dimensionality. I’ve been experimenting artistic strategies for two years so that I can transform paperworks into reality. What I’m interested in this translation from two-dimensionality to three-dimensionality is, on one side, to cope with the geometry of the place where I intervene and, on the other side, to involve the public in a more active and sensorial way.

F.I.: The lights, the walls of your study, the sequence you decided – or that just happened – to follow to store your things. Give us some more details on how you got here and how these stranger walls became important. Which steps did you need to take? Did you have a defined objective or there have been changes of course you had to manage over time?

M.C.: I arrived in Germany with a fellowship of 6 months and I didn’t plan to stay here for a long time. I stayed here in Essen also thanks to the support from cultural and political institutions, that allowed me to continue working as an artist. In 2011 I had the fortune to win a local contest that enables me to use a studio at the Kunsthaus in Essen, where other 15 artists of different disciplines work, at minimum cost. It wasn’t obviously just lucky; I was buried in announcements for months and I participated in contests of all kinds to find a place where I could work and stay focused. Being selected for one of the local studies has been instrumental in continuing my artistic research in a professional and experimental way. One of my goals is to take full advantage of this opportunity.
I live the study not only as a place for experimenting and producing artworks, but also as a place of reflection. In my study I ask myself questions, I look for answers, I question myself, I make decisions and I develop a working and researching method. An artist studio space is rather like a scientific research laboratory.


F.I.: On your table we can find sketches of Düsseldorf and the harbour. How did you get started working on this subject? Ancient, recent or industrial architectural ruins seem to be a running theme, it’s almost like an obsession, we might say. Can you find a reason for that?

M.C.: Architectural ruins and forms of contemporary architecture really fascinate me. I’m interested in examining the interaction between these different forms in an urban context.
The Düsseldorf harbour, Medienhafen, is a symbol of the contemporary city of Düsseldorf (it’s kind of like Piazza Gae Aulenti in Milan) and is known for its challenging architectural designs, such as the Neuer Zollhof by Frank Gehry.
The serie "Medienhafen" took place this year and the conceptual and visual research is still in progress. The first completed work is "Medienhafen – Architecture Walk" , currently exhibited at Stadtmuseum in Düsseldorf, which is an important place for the whole serie of future works that will deal with this issue.
My interest in analyzing and studying the dialogue between history and contemporary at Medienhafen grew after a visit at the Stadtmuseum. I discovered the photography serie called "Projekt Rheinhafen Düsseldorf" (1979-1980) by Tata Ronkholz and Thomas Struth there, and it struck me in an emotional and theoretical way. The two photographers documented the harbour area, just before the urban and architectural requalification intervention in the district, to safeguard all the forms that would be gone.
Since I was interested in the story that underlies this photography serie and in the visual forms offered by Ronkholz and Struth, I set myself the goal to start exploring the place, looking for the typical 70s industrial forms and, secondly, to examine the interaction between ancient and contemporary visual forms.

«An artist studio space is rather like a scientific research laboratory.»

F.I.: Do you want to tell us something about your last artist residency with the KunstVereineRuhr?

M.C.: I won a contest for the Ruhr-Artist-in-Residence of the Kunstvereine Ruhr in October.  The contest had no theme. All you had to do was propose a research project with a precise destination. I took this opportunity to do research about the Progetto Porta Nuova in Milan, that I couldn’t follow, being so far away. The first serie of paper works, "The New Milan", has been exposed at the Künstlerhaus in Dortmund in December.
Using a method similar to that of "Medienhafen", with "The New Milan" I'm following up on the presence of contemporary forms in a city like Milan, which is characterised by a historical and artistic heritage of great cultural value.

Translated by Silvia Niro
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