video artist living in London (UK)
Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I was born in Italy, in a very pretty and very provincial small town on lake Como. I had a strong interest in video, but the local educational approach to contemporary art did not suit me. I tried to keep my options open by studying languages, then history and philosophy of art in Milan.
In parallel, I trained as a mental health nurse. Although it seems unrelated, notions from psychiatry, cognitive sciences and institutional critique have been very influential on my thinking and my work. Moreover, it is a profession I am still very passionate about. After I moved to London, UK, I studied at Central Saint Martins, part of the University of the Arts.
When, how and why started you filming?
I bought my first video camera in 1990. I had a sense of subtle narratives moving in time just under the surface of everyday life, and I thought that with video I could make them tangible.
In the early nineties, I saw a retrospective of Studio Azzurro in Milan – their work is very elegant, with a beautiful sense of pace. I worked with them for almost 2 years, learning to edit.
My first piece of work was a collaboration with an experimental-electronic musician – a 45 minute long video projected during some of his performances around Italy. It was a very exciting time – I had little confidence in my ideas, but I was finding correspondences around me and I also started writing for art and music magazines.
What kind of subjects have your films/videos?
The subject of my work is myself in the first place. Not in an autobiographical way, but as a mental landscape, a filter and a gage. I am concerned with the friction between how I perceive myself and how I function in the world. Video creates a fictional cognitive space in which I feel I can explore this kind of questions. The process is filtered through systems of representation and belief, social and cultural structures, and intellectual frameworks – that’s where most conflicts and paradoxes arise. Because of this complexity, I try to focus on one small idea or event at a time and use it as catalysts.
I focus on situations that are relevant to other people too. I want others to enter my world and make it theirs, to experience a presence, a moment with me.
How do you develop your films/videos, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
Generally, I concentrate on a ‘strategy’, which for me is a way of weaving elements from my internal world and pragmatic/formal aspects of making. But each piece has its own dynamic, which informs the way it develops.
A video like ‘Voice’ (available on Video Channel) is close to moving photography and involves elements of performance to camera. I had been obsessed with that image for months. I felt I had to make the work, to let it live outside of me. Developing it meant exploring the thoughts and feelings that made the image powerful and, literally, embodying them. There was also the aspect of time – it was very important to me to construct the right sense of rhythm at the editing stage.
Other pieces develop in the opposite direction, with clear thoughts and feelings as a starting point, followed by the construction of images capable of ‘carrying’ them. I think through the camera, but at a deeper level, the work develops at the edit suite. That’s where I let the work absorb me completely.
Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
I use a very compact Panasonic mini DV camera. I often want to shoot without being seen and a small camera is a real advantage. I edit on a Mac G4 Cube (lovely design – a very good companion) and, increasingly, on my new MacBook Pro (very fast) in Final Cut Pro. I try to keep the tools to a minimum, so that the technology does not take over.
What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
Effectively, digital media have made it possible for me to be an artist in the first place. I bought my first ‘domestic’ edit suite in 1996 – it was a cumbersome Quadra, with an analogue/digital interface. It was very expensive in relation to the technology available now, but it allowed me to live in the country, away from production facilities. It also made it possible for me to take the time to experiment, and to create the private mental space I needed to develop my own language. I am sure this is the case for many artists.
Digital tools are very malleable and allow for a greater variety of approaches within the same genres. Having flexibility is very important to me – I can change a piece many times, even after I consider it ‘finished’, and I can adapt it to different contexts by changing its size or format.
How do you finance your films/videos?
I fund my work in a variety of ways – I work freelance as a mental health nurse and pay myself for most aspects of the work. My husband, Chris Meigh-Andrews, works with video and digital media as well, so we share equipment and resources. Like most artists, sometimes I sell work, get paid to give talks or apply for funding. For me, a mixed strategy is a guarantee of freedom.
Do you work individually as a videoartist/film maker or do you work in a team?
If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?8. I work on my own on developing the core of the work, but I collaborate at other levels. I have a beautiful collaborative dynamic with my husband, where I work as assistant and editor on some of his projects and he contributes support and technical expertise to some of mine.
I also work very closely with artist friends to develop curatorial projects where my video work is part of a larger creative construction. I cannot really separate out these two modes, as they complement each other. I enjoy working closely with Chris – both immersing myself in his thought processes and trying to communicate my own vision. Both positions are very fertile and open up different possibilities.
On the other hand, my mental landscape is very intense and I need the space to let it shape my work freely. Curatorial projects are of a different quality – separate, attuned visions come together to form a larger framework, of which a piece is only one element.
Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
In my work I try to capture the same ‘flavour’ I try to give my life. One of the lasting influences in my work is an inexhaustible love for life itself and the questions I ask myself about how it works. Of the artists I have met, Uriel Orlow has left a mark with his rigorous way of approaching slippery questions and concepts. Another enduring point of reference is Italy, with its variety of landscapes and flavours.
At the back of my mind, I always have ideas related to my experiences in mental health and from some of the people I have trained and worked with. I would like to mention one in particular – Giuseppe Mariconda, a brilliant psychiatrist who works in a large Swiss institution. Also, ideas from gestalt theory and analysis, and meditation.
Deleuze and Guattari are very good traveling companions. In their writing, I have found echoes of my own thoughts about the implications of certain psychiatric ideas. The images and concepts they develop have a strong influence on my practice.
I always compare an edited piece to roots as systems that develop according to specific laws of necessity. It is a way of asking myself if the work has an organic consistency. Similarly, I find Jazz and Blues music have a strong influence on my way of working, with their circular structures, layering of traditions and intricate weaving of intellectual and sensual.
What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I have just finished developing a photographic project, so at the moment I am very keen to return to making videos. I also want to expand my practice and use the gallery/art space as if it was a monitor. I want to work with concentric cognitive fictional spaces, starting with me, then the video-container, then the art-container, then the world outside the art framework.
I am working at two new video pieces for an international project called ‘Travellers Secret Box’ and at a new two person project with Karen D’amico called ‘Space of Uncertainty’
In the next couple of years, I plan to develop a stronger theoretical dimension through writing and a research-based postgraduate project, to strengthen the bases of my work. My practice has changed so much recently that I feel I need to put some order in my thought processes!