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Interview

ING Unseen Talent Award 2019: Meet Irene Fenara

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
August 27, 2019

Every year, ING, Unseen, and Futures work together for the ING Unseen Talent Awards. For this edition, it was selected five finalists from Futures: Elena Aya Bundurakis, Ulla Deventer, Irene Fenara, Kevin Osepa and Karolina Wojtas. The winners will be announced on the 19th of September.

Coached by Adam Broomberg, from the artistic duo Broomberg & Chanarin, the five finalists are currently producing the exhibition 'Nature of Change', that will be opened during the Unseen Amsterdam, between the 20th and 22nd of September.

In this interview, meet one of the finalists, Irene Fenara. The Italian artist focuses on the ways of seeing and practicing observation on images. She reflects on linguistic devices and makes use of optical and electronic instruments to her work, from Polaroid to surveillance cameras.

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Can you explain to us a little about your practice? What inspires you?

All my work is based on the investigation of that gesture that underlies every photographic operation: watching. In particular, I observe and interpret the way machines look. There are hundreds of mechanical gazes in front of which we pass every day, for example.

I’m interest in theories of Visual Culture and I usually take over instruments of our contemporaneity, which determine our way of seeing from Polaroid to surveillance cameras.

When I’m working what interests me the most is the act of vision, I think that every gaze has a strong perspective and for that reason I’m always looking for new tools, new devices and new instruments that can really help me to see in a different way, from another point of view. New visions often comes from understanding the tool I’m using and its basic function, because each device is created to perform a very precise task and if it’s forced beyond its obvious function it can produce interesting situations. I think that non-usual tools are able to dissuade the human attitude from recreating something we have already seen and experienced. It becomes instrument for observing the world, in the search for a slight poetic sense.

As one of the finalists of the ING Unseen Talent Award, you're going to participate in an exhibition during the Unseen Amsterdam. What have you been working on for the exhibition?

“Nature of Change” is this year’s theme of the ING Unseen Talent Award and I've been thinking about how technology changes our perception of reality and nature. But for me “Nature of Change” is also the changing situation of photography in the contemporary panorama where everything is image.

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I worked on the paradoxical extinction of tigers because in the world there are more images representing tigers than real living ones. Tigers are very common in our imagery and seem to be everywhere: in fashion house’s logos, on cereal boxes, on t-shirts... but they aren't. Technology can actually change our perception of reality. The work I’m doing reflects on the linguistic parallelism between the natural world and the production of images. Working with a generative algorithm I created new images, new animals and new species that arise from the union of thousands of images of tigers that have only some of the characteristics of the original animal. Generating and reproducing are the only way to save from natural extinction as well as from digital, thinking about file reproduction and how it loses quality over time with the progress of computers and software. The work I’m presenting during the Unseen Amsterdam is an attempt to increase the digital fauna of an endangered animal and it ironically refers to the idea of saving a species.

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In this process, you have been tutored by Adam Broomberg. How has this experience been for you?

I’ve always appreciated the work and the artistic practice of Broomberg&Chanarin and Adam Broomberg is definitely a great teacher and tutor.

While working is always important to have a dialogue and maybe some tips. A suggestion may not even be followed, that's not the point, the important thing is that it always puts the work into question and it’s an opportunity to think about it a little longer. Certain clues are able to unlock a thought and take it further and further. When you have to refer to someone else other than yourself and dealing with deadlines is different and I feel like I've done everything I can, even if I could fail in certain little ways and I pushed myself every day doing a little more.

I was also glad to have the opportunity to do collective sessions and meet all other artists participating in the award, we're all very different and see closely how others work was really inspiring.

Support your favorite artist for the ING Unseen Talent Award 2019. The online public voting is now open! You can choose between the five Futures Talents who are finalists of the award.

Vote here

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