Interview Silvia Bigi


My relationship with photography is constantly evolving. I have an academic background, but in parallel I followed photography courses that were rather conventional, where the relationship with the medium and the image’s new boundaries were rarely discussed. Perhaps that is the reason why I can define my relationship with the photographic image as “genetic”. To me, the photographic imaginary represents a kind of deviation that should be both the point of arrival and of departure, an imprinting to which I am bound, beyond any attempt at breaking the bond or emancipating myself from it. Sometimes, I realise that I am talking about photography, or suggesting the codes of this art even when I’m not using it: a strong relationship with the image, with its perceptual spectrum and with its materiality, always lies at the foundation of my works, even when it is a textile or a sculptural piece.

References (art, literature, music, other)

I believe that my references are – just like everyone else – infinite, haphazard, skin-deep. It then becomes difficult to distinguish those which emerge clearly in one’s work from those which penetrate one’s thoughts more subtly, or those which remain simple interests, whilst not materialising in one’s personal research. If I were to draw my self-portrait through the works I have loved, it would be a mosaic composed of: Teresa Margolle’s foggy room (in Vaporisation), Cristina Campo’s essay The Unforgivables, Lucio Fontana’s spatial concepts, Sylvia Path’s Unabridged Journals, Jung’s Red Book: Liber Novus, Rothko’s colors, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, The Eyes of Gutete Emerita by Alfredo Jaar, Klein blue, Patti Smith’s poems, Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit, Barnett Newman’s manifesto, Louise Bourgeois’ drawings, the ending of Joyce’s Ulysses, the gold of Byzantine mosaics, Duchamp’s ready-mades, Gramsci’s letters from prisons, Thomas Ruff’s loud colors in his series Abstract, Ana Mendieta’s Siluetas, Maria Lai’s threads, Gina Pane’s performances, Wislawa Szymborska’s poetry, Carol Rama’s clothes, Lacan’s thoughts, Kaari Upson’s phenomenal works. Extremely heterogeneous references, to which I could add so much more, but I’ll stop here! There is also a “wild”, crazy and occult side to me: I read tarot cards, I study wild herbs and I am deeply attracted to any experience that pushes, even a little, my limits.

Research methodology

My research focuses on the intersection between individual and collective memories: a liminal space which, for me, coincides with the Lacanian “real”: a threshold that reality is constantly trying to repress, but that can be identified by looking through the meshes of any social structure, particularly in its contradictions and anomalies. Even though I use different languages – sculpture, installation artwork, video, sound, textile – the dominant theme is often the photographic medium, in its dual nature as an image and an object. Through processes of deconstruction and hybridisation, I construct my alphabet, resulting in a material that, in surprising ways, describes my relationship with the world. In the process of transmutation of the photographic image, I can reach new (and unexpected) forms; or on the contrary, the image returns to its original integrity. Each work has a strong conceptual framework, but the formal value of the piece remains fundamental. Many of my pieces bear an inscription on the back:“mens hebes ad verum per materialia surgit”, the dull mind (the man) rises to truth through that which is material. These words, a perfect summary of the meaning of my practice, are inscribed on the door of the abbey of Saint Denis. Diverting the gaze by activating new perceptual strategies: I use images, for they are portals that allow us to enter other worlds.

Artistic crossovers and contaminations

Always considering photography in its dual nature of object (physical, contingent, vanishing) and image (available, intangible, infinite), it is inevitable for me to grasp its material and sculptural potential on one side, and its linguistic possibilities on the other, as well as its potential hybridisation with the new media, or with literature, dreams, with everything that goes beyond our own perception of things. In my last work, urtumliches Bild, the images stem from stratifications and crossings, and connect the archetypical world – as well as the ancestral, the origins – to the language of algorithms. Within the materiality, the reflection shifts to the pictorial and formal qualities of the images produced by machines. To reinforce this feeling, I used papers and materials that evoke the world of traditional printing, such as techniques like lithography and engraving, as well as inks that highlight the brilliance of the shades. Each project is a new opportunity for expanding and exceeding the boundaries of photography, while simultaneously reflecting on the limits of our visual spectrum – a metaphor for the human condition, for its transience and impermanence. In some ways, my work can be seen as a political act: each characteristic of modernity is in fact inscribed in photography. The photographic image reflects a cultural model that too often appears “natural” to us, if not the only one possible. Shattering the photographic image can therefore also mean relativising our gaze on things: it can lead to new models of representation, that slowly leave room for marginality, and forge a new model of thought.