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Dialogue with the Invisible

In conversation with Lucrezia Testa Iannilli, Italian photographer and performance artist.

“The vision today is not only to observe the human race and its sustainable adaptation to the various eras struggling with technological avant-gardes and socio-political events, but to always become a channel between the material and the immaterial form”. - Lucrezia Testa Iannilli

The "channel between the material and the immaterial world” is a strong metaphor of the artistic existence, not for every contemporary artist though. What aspects of the immateriality are you trying to materialise?

The concept of "materializing" is rather to become aware of the invisible that surrounds us and to give it a key of interpretation. Through such tools as the arts, we can intuit in a "different" way. With or without material awareness. Without falling into a spiritual naivety or metaphysical conjecture. I can say that my personal vision is that of the "portals", that is, to glimpse into certain bodily forms or in certain places. This "portal" that leads to parallel, invisible, ultra-dimensional realities, or call them what you want...

In your Performance ‘Personne et Moi’ in Paris you are locked in a room to be observed with the horse. Are you and the horse in a sense the extension of each other in that particular space and time? Or is it your constant spirit animal? What is this image standing for?

It represents, as Brel said, "talent is envy". And it is often the process of creating the work that becomes the work itself which is very important and symbolic to understand everything else. I leave it to the critics and exhibition curators to explain or analyze this action about which we can certainly say a lot.

I was in Paris, I was receptive, in tension, ready to take what there was to take and to make things change. In Mont Martre there was this tiny off-street space named the Gallerie Jeudi Soir, a small empty room that created experimental situations every Thursday night. One of these evenings the owner of the space who knew my work with horses asked me jokingly: "So ... could you put a horse there too? You saw the rest.

There is a lot of animal-human connectedness in your work. You capture the tender, the vulnerable in the animalistic, even though the animalistic is usually associated with the uncontrollable and therefore fearful aspect of life. How does working with animals affect you as an artist and as a human? Are you advocating for animal rights in any shape or form?

I stopped eating meat almost twenty years ago and, as much as I can, I don’t even harm insects by saving them from my passage. I’ve worked with horses all my life, I know animals well, but that’s not the question... It’s not on me that the spotlight should be directed but on the concept that nature is not this beautiful benevolent entity with a smile that looks at you maternally and loves you.

Nature is nature, it has no human feelings, no goodness. It is impartial, it has its own perfect balance that is certainly not "good".

When I see a polar bear I want to throw myself in its fur and roll in the snow with it like everyone else. But we know what the consequences would be. This desire for animals and animality is powerful. We have always wanted this closeness but we must learn how to approach the unknown or even known animal and what kind of relationship to create with it, or to stay away altogether. Of course, the bear is an extreme thing that could happen to us and we would already instinctively know what to do if it happened but even with a cat or a horse we have to learn and observe a lot.

So, yes, I respect and support animals in my research because I try to speak that language, to understand when they give me consent to interact. And they do, of course. They appreciate it, they are curious. But as far as I am concerned, I interact mainly with animals born and raised with humans, so from an animalist point of view, I do not practically defend certain rights.

Your portrait series have a slight Fellini and Pasolini touch to it. In a sense that there is a reference to some invisible, psychological dark realm. What attracts you in people the most: energy, biography or certain details that are already visible through their face and body?

Superficially, certain innate features of the past attract my attention, perhaps, dramatic expressiveness or physical signs, as well as grafts or body deformities. I sometimes meet people who have these qualities immediately visible physically and I begin a creative journey with them.

Despite that, on a more intimate and deeper level, the most interesting thing is when you deepen relationships with people who have no intense traits or extraordinary life stories to tell. People who have an internal spark that is not even recognised by themselves, seen only by a few others. This spark, when grasped, is like finding a nugget in the river of gold seekers.

What aspects of technological development are intriguing you? Are you experiencing any ‘total digitalisation’ and ‘disembodiment’ anxieties?

It is the advances in implantable microchips technology in the human body that intrigue me the most. For example, prosthetics capable of interacting with the human brain make our moral concerns much more urgent than they were in the past. Neuroscience confronts us with the imminent reality of cyborgs, which are "cybernetic organisms", that is, any being that combines natural and artificial components. The development of technologies capable of replacing organs could even, in the future, replace the whole body with a synthetic body, allowing human beings to live indefinitely. Although, it is still in its infancy, we are already on this path.

What are you currently exploring with your camera? What are you hoping to capture?

I am exploring the concept of not taking pictures. Take the picture or not take it? There is an interesting book to read about it: "There Is Only One Photo Left For You" by Laurent Graff. I recommend it. For the rest, I lean towards improvisation rather than hope to capture something, so that some magic happens.

Lucrezia's Instagram: @lucreziatestaiannilli


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