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Interview

Irene Fenara: "What interests me is to investigate the act of vision in its complexity"

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
December 3, 2019
Nominated for Futures by CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, Irene Fenara (b.1990) is an artist from Italy. Her research focuses on the way of seeing and practicing observation on images. She reflects on linguistic devices and she uses optical and electronic instruments of various kinds, from Polaroid to surveillance cameras, often improperly and in breach of their basic function.

“I’m not trying to cancel out what is usually used to do photography, but to widen its boundaries, taking into consideration the most diverse visual technologies,” she explains.

In this interview, Irene told us about her inspirations and career:

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Can you explain us a little bit about your inspirations? What are the main themes in your practice?

What interests me most is to investigate the act of vision in its complexity, for this reason it seems limiting to me to speak only of photographic images in common sense. However, I’m not trying to cancel out what is usually used to do photography, but to widen its boundaries, taking into consideration the most diverse visual technologies. The acquisition of images is a function that I’m interested in exploring because it now belongs to any type of device, domestic appliance, machine, etc... It is a function that refrigerators also have... Today, the human experience is constantly visible in images, even while you are shopping, driving your car, walking in the street or doing a medical examination.

How do you see your relationship with photography? How do you deal with this medium to express your art?

I find photography a way to embody the images I work with. I started with Polaroid, because at the moment it is the only tool capable of producing an image that you can touch even before you can see it, it is obviously an image-object. I am very interested in the physicality of the image even when the original image is absolutely virtual. For example, in the case of the surveillance cameras images I currently work with, the only act of printing them for me is to give them a physicality that this type of image would otherwise never have had, being continuously erased and rarely, only when necessary, displayed on the screen. Photography to me is to make images body, to make them object, to make them concrete.

Can you tell us a bit more projects that you have been working with?

‘Self-portrait from surveillance camera’ is one of the last works I'm carrying out and it's a series of self-portraits made by placing me in front of surveillance cameras already present in various places and traced back and thanks to the data already present in the image. Because of the need to physically experience these places that I’ve only experienced virtually up to now, I moved my body from my studio to the place filmed, moving a process of appropriation of the image, mine by right, because my figure can be identified. I have long wondered if these images could be considered self-portraits or selfies and they are actually a bit of both, because they have elements that belong to both the first and second category. What differentiates a self-portrait from a selfie? Probably the selfie is an epoch-making change in photography not only because the subject and the viewer are the same thing, like the self-portrait, but especially because it represents the moment when we detached our eyes from the lens, in a reversal of vision. To detach the eye from the lens means to get back into the automatic capabilities of the device. Machines, such as the telephone with which selfies are taken, see for us, using a whole series of predefined settings that determine the image and our perception of it. So I would say that the formal and intent characteristics of my images are closer to those of the long tradition of self-portrait, while the technical characteristics are closer to those of selfie as a digital performance and as an automated device.

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How has been the experience of being a talent selected for Futures? How can Futures help with your career?

The possibility of talking about the problems of making art with others is certainly essential to develop more conscious ideas, and occasions like this are essential to make this exchange happen. It was a precious opportunity for exchange and comparison with other artists, with tutors and various professionals during the conversations and with the people who gravitate around this reality.

Can you share with us a little bit about your plans for the future after being part of the platform? Do you have any new project in mind?

I'm working on a new and big site-specific video installation that tries to create a complex vision given by the union of our organic eyes with our inorganic eyes. It is a work on the vision of space and architecture that is the protagonist. The work starts with the use of a cinematographic tool that transforms itself from functional to sculptural. I am fascinated to use working tools because tools always speak of the language itself.

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