Interview #67

Alice Pedroletti

Alice Pedroletti (Milan, 1978) lived and worked in The Netherlands, USA and China. Her work has been exhibited at Mostyn, HE.RO Gallery, Galleria Nazione del Kossovo, Time Art Museum (Beijing), Istituto Italiano di Cultura (Brussels), A+A Gallery (Venice), Museo Michetti, Frigoriferi Milanesi, Marignana Arte, NContemporary (Milan), Pigeon Key Foundation (Florida), Platforma Mnac (Bucharest), Fondazione Bandera (Busto Arsizio). 

Archiving is a central theme in your practice, right from your very first works.

I started as a child to handle cameras, negatives, slides. The repetition of the gesture of taking pictures, the resulting cataloguing and subsequent stratification of thought in relation to the image, as well as the analysis of the reality investigated through the image, have always influenced me. Today I use photography as a starting point for almost all my works, many of which are inherent to archiving as a tool, precisely as a practice. The archive as a place and container of information has become a form of mental approach to my projects. I create, manipulate and use archives to approach something else, creating new ones during the phases of research, without ever using them for what they are: they become subjects for an analytical approach, they disappear, being archived themselves, and are revealed through the works.

I was thinking in particular of Frigido, a work of 2013 in which you used liquid nitrogen to explore molecular alterations on an archive of negatives.

In Frigido I investigate the archive as a possible and changeable set of experiences, emotions and events which, already passed and outdated, need a transformation, an evolution. The problem of the physicality of the image, which is central to my research and manifests itself in this work up to the fragment that can be considered “dust”, is closely linked to the need to understand what an archive actually is and what it can represent when getting out of its classical and conventional form. 

Your projects have been influenced by geography, leading you to reflections on territory, urban planning, architecture. Are these topics you have always been interested in or which you approached spontaneously, over time?

Everything comes from another theme, often central to my work, the home: something intimate and personal that I try to recreate with a methodical, obsessive, bivalent repetition. On one hand there is a reminiscence, an idea, an identity, on the other the physicality of the objects that are inside, the materials with which it is built, the structure itself, its architecture. At first, I used family objects, then, over time, I used others, all with the same characteristic, or rather that is abandoned, forgotten, lost. The care and the analysis of their lost functionality, rejection, memory, pushed me to counterpose them to an architecture that could ensue if they were enlarged. Thus, the architecture becomes a portion of a territory which I isolate and analyse as an object, and the geographical territory takes the form of a huge archive that contains all this. The maps that I make touch the sentimental sphere of the places; I consider architecture something alive, which manifests itself to man in an unexpected way, in an attempt to become something beyond the established form. In my works there is a rebellion against form, an evolution, the constitution of a new whole, starting from scattered fragments. And this is how we return to the archive.

A rebellion against the form which, however, is very synthetic and attentive to the composition, in an almost metaphysical or fetishist way. How would you describe your fascination for certain materials?

The materials (or objects) I choose, represent a condition that can be constantly misunderstood: paper, glass, photographic films, marble, cement, but also water and light. These are all materials which, through an analytical investigation, reveal another image of themselves, while the resulting forms are a further reflection on the potential of the object left free to be such. I choose and combine them in a constant exercise of communication between an external and an internal, both changeable and disconnected. An attempt to reconstitute a unique form, which is often actually the representation of a thought, of an idea, like a puzzle. 

It’s a couple of years now that you have been working on a Study for a sculpture (prototypes for an organic city); how is this project evolving?

Study for a sculpture is the point of union of many and different aspects of my practice: seriality, archiving, architecture, sculpture, photography, matrix. It was born as a storyboard of a video that I haven’t made yet, and who knows, if I ever will. Exactly this space of continuous research, towards a work that does not exist, is the evolution itself of the work. As an attempt to reach a subsequent form of expression, which similarly happens to prototypes that are held still by photography. The first work unit is characterized by a theatrical approach to both the object and its image. The dimension in which the sculptures live has an increased physicality and the photographs are a perfect portrait of the moment in which a small but significant action takes place. I define them as actors on a stage reciting a monologue. Overall, there is also a more analytical photographic portion, typical of the materials (paper, rubber bands, plexiglass), that leaves space for the interpretative and structural freedom which my prototypes, as architectures, possess and require.

And the second series of works?

Instead, the second series, which was concluded a few months ago, has a cleaner and almost ambiguous image. It is not clear if these are photographs or renderings, as I choose to use a language apparently closer to design and architecture, although everything is still attributable to the idea of “sign”. 

In 2015 you founded ATRII, a cultural association which “investigates, through contemporary art, the concept of atrium or entrance hall from a procedural and theoretical point of view“. How did this project come about?

ATRII was born from the need, shared by many of my friends and colleagues, to create a design work space where the artist is free to rethink, restructure, and constantly revise her/his work over time, especially when s/he “lives” in an archive, a place where everything is mistakenly thought to be at a standstill. The project explores the space of the atrium as a cue for reflection for a possible relationship with the inhabitants, with the functionality of the architecture itself, with the audience, with the materials of the place. It takes place by means of research laboratories, workshops, residences and after four years it has become a method of confrontation, of work, of sharing. We sometimes define it as a possible utopia and are working on this idea: if every building housed an artist, our cities would offer a lot – not only in cultural, but also in economic terms. An alternative, not a competing model to the classic galleries and museums. This is why it was born as a brand and then became a cultural association.

ATRII has created an opportunity to interact with the Cittadella degli Archivi di Milano (the Citadel of the Archives of Milan). What did this add to your experience?

The Open Archive of ATRII, preserved in the Civic Archive of Milan, is a container in which some artists are invited to deposit a project that could be realized in the future. I wanted our ideas, like my idea of a “living” archive which started it all, not to be lost over time and to live in contact with the historical and contemporary projects of the buildings of my hometown. I wanted to deposit a work that spoke to the community, making my own out of it would have made little sense, even though in the end it is an extension of my own practice. It allows me a different approach to art and projects in the cultural field. It allows you to see from the inside how much work can be done when you find the right interlocutor; you also understand the complexity of the bureaucratic structure, especially in Italy, and that it is not always suitable for cultural projects. It requires patience, professionalism, simplicity.