Interview #61

Allegra Martin

* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMAPANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).

Allegra Martin (Vittorio Veneto,1980) studied Architecture at Iuav (Venice). Her work has been exhibited at Die Photograpische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur (Köln), Istituto Italiano di Cultura (Copenhagen), Istituto internazionale di Architettura i2A (Lugano), Breadfield (Malmo), Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia, Viasaterna Arte Contemporanea, Linea di Confine per la Fotografia Contemporanea and Fondazione Francesco Fabbri (Milan), Galerie f5.6 (Munich), Triennale, Maxxi and MACRO – Museo di Arte Contemporanea (Rome), Architecture Biennial (Venice).

Your formation commenced in Venice with a course in architecture, and after a thesis about the Venetian landscape it spontaneously turned towards photography. In which way do these elements still coexist in your work?

I attended the faculty of architecture in Venice, but right from the start my course of studies, I felt the need to ‘compose’ my own course, by attending courses at the faculty of visual arts and looking for other opportunities outside of my degree course. I have always been inquisitive and attracted by the artistic disciplines. I realize that all encounters and experiences have contributed to what I am today, and hence to nourish my work.

Before we talked about the search for a registry, a language: originally, your practice had a highly introspective and personal approach, in which the representation of the outward – geographical and architectural – was actually the projection of an inner analysis…

Today I grant myself more freedom, I try to have less ‘superstructures’. I believe that the language evolves, you master the technique, but basically, you always seek the same things, you know… you always seek the sense of yourself within the world. Photography – and perhaps also drawing – are attempts to decipher and discover the world in which we are, to experience it and to seek the meaning. The term ‘language’ refers to a communication system and to a code: for me, the language of photography is the tool to discover the world.

Which photographers inspire you?

It was surely the American photography that has had a major impact on my formation, from Walker Evans to Edward Ruscha, and then Eggleston, Baltz… Among the Italian photographers, Guido Guidi, whose work I greatly admire, is certainly still a key figure. But also Wolfgang Tillmans, Juergen Teller, Nan Goldin, Larry Clark. Also the cinema and visual productions springing from a search scope related to architecture, for example the visual imagery produced by the so-called radical architecture: Archigram, Archizoom, Superstudio, had a strong impact on my formation.

Quoting Derrida, you told me that your work now rotates mainly around the themes of deconstruction and detour…

The idea of detour – intended as I said, as a deviation – is very important in my work: when I go out to take pictures, I often decide on a route or an area, but then I like to get lost, leave the path, take a road that seems intriguing to me. When I drove around in the car to take pictures, I always got lost, because I let my curiosity decide which road to take. Photography is an encounter, it means to accept the surprise of the unexpected. The deconstruction I mentioned is the possibility to always give new meanings to your work by abandoning an all-encompassing meaning for the benefit of a dissemination of meaning. Each photograph is a world of possibilities, meanings and traces of an experience.

The concept of digression regards your work on the whole, it also influences your practice of vision and development. In several series, the subject of the work never appears in the photos, but it is recounted through the environment or the dynamics of which it is part…

Precisely – as for me the ‘subject’ of a work is only a pretext to search, by means of photography, something in the world around me – the ‘subject’ becomes secondary. What is important for me is the incident that happens, what I encounter while seeking something else.

In recent years you have been involved in projects linked to the Lido of Romagna, the former NATO military bases, the Calabrian infrastructure, the TAV. Given the focus on urban elements and details, what interests you of the city in which you have decided to stay?

Milan is an excellent base, a complex city in which various energies converge. Although I do not yet feel completely at home in this city, it is an opportunity for confrontation, spaces and stimulation and many of my friends stay here. Milan is difficult to photograph, but it is a great place to ‘hang your hat’ and to start at every opportunity. I’m highly attracted by the province, by places that are not very connoted.