by Rocco Venezia

Today with us Paolo Ciregia, young Italian artist, amongst the winners of Foam Talent 2016. We will discover more about his long term artistic research which focuses on de-structuring of political ideologies, mass media and alienation.

Paolo, tell us what lead you to photography?

Paolo Ciregia (PC): Photography is the starting point not only of my artistic research, but above all is an inquiry into the reality we are living in. I have always been fascinated by the political usage of images and how power is being used to run propaganda and direct masses thought. Photography was a mandatory step for me to understanding the world, but after the first years of a more "pure" approach to the medium, I felt the need to expand my means of expression in order to give life to my artworks.

© Paolo Ciregia, from the serie 'Perestrojka', 2015, mixed media 

© Paolo Ciregia, 'Sanpietrino' from the serie 'Perestrojka', 2015, mixed media 

How did the first approach to the Ukrainian conflict came about?

PC: During the early years in Ukraine I mainly followed the problems of juvenile drug abuse and prostitution in the eastern part of the country. Between 2014 and 2015, the conflict with Russia exploded, with the Revolution of Euromaidan Square in Kiev, the resulting reprisal and the detachment of Crimea. Overwhelm by those moments of pure violence, I started asking questions about the actual legitimacy of a certain kind of war photography. In a time like this the disproportionate rise in the circulation of images does not correspond to any increase in the transparency of the information. In my work 'Perestrojka' I felt the need to subvert the language of the traditional photo reportage by manipulating the images. With cuts, trims and erasures, I wanted to shift the story to a different level of reading, for doing so, during my time there I have refused to produce more images of the war, such as those that every day appeared under the indifference of our gaze. Through the removal of dead bodies and the overlapping of the white spaces, I was interested in suspending those specific dramatic time and make them universal: for me these were not anymore just representing the Ukrainian question but they became emblem of the man's suffering and the absurdity of the war.

© Paolo iregia, 'Glasnost' from the serie 'Perestrojka' mixed media 2015 (original photo taken in Ukraine 2014 and later hand-cut)

We have assumed that your work does not use photography for purely documentary purposes, photos are manipulated, destroyed and altered in many ways, so please tell us mote about this technical process that takes place in the creation of your works and its correlation with the covered topics.

PC: I think it's very limiting today continue to consider photography and art as two separate things. Photography is a medium with its own characteristics that I had to strain in order to better express what I needed to say. I believe it is more important the what rather than the how.

© Paolo Ciregia, 'N065' from the serie 'Exteresi', 2016, mixed media

At this point the transition from 'Perestroika' to 'Exteresi', your second body of work, looks natural. Beginning from a specific geopolitical reality you switch to analyse more in general the theme of propaganda. Tell us briefly about the process and the ideas behind 'Exteresi'.

PC: Propaganda has been from the beginning an integral part of war activities, through it passes the legitimacy of the war, which is represented as a spectacular and necessary event, with the consequent creation of heroes and the demonisation of the enemy. In 'Exteresi', I re-elaborated the typical language of propaganda, some times manipulating photos of magazines, indistinctly Fascist, Communist or Nazi, twisting the artefact message; other times merely bringing out the rawness of some elements with tight close-ups that are revealing eloquent and disturbing details. Propaganda extrapolated from its cultural and historical context is no longer "reassuring and positive” but on the contrary, losing the false and arrogant patina that characterises it, reveals the atrocities hidden behind the war. At this point in the spectator it insinuates the doubt that still today information and freedom of expression are being conveyed and controlled by the media, in a more subtle way, but no less influencing.

© Paolo Ciregia, 'Reflections' from the serie 'Exteresi', 2016, mixed media

Your latest work 'Ideological Loop' is instead an artistic process still in progress, here you are always being inform by topics related to earlier works, but you prefer reworking both yours and founded photographs in human scale installations. One of your first work made during this journey is a complex work, consisting of several elements, which seems to have different levels of reading: there is a parrot perched on a chair holding a megaphone, there is a photo displayed on an empty cage, all it stands on a carpet of a thousand wefts. Behind this a wooden structure of shelfs is showing several war helmets. Can you make an analysis of this artwork and tell us what inspired you to create it.

PC: 'Ideological loop' is a work that includes various installations dealing with the theme of repetition of ideologies and alienation caused by various forms of propaganda. The installation in question refers to the affirmation of ideologies that appear as new but re-propose the old ones: in the image a soldier who makes the Roman greeting is mirrored, splitting, thus creating a new thought. In front of it, a parrot repeats what propaganda inculcates, believing it is free, while a megaphone installed on a chair (the national-popular component) repeats the message, spreading it. The rug is the symbol of a perfect and intricate structure that is realised through the application of rules, as well as a dictatorship is formed from a rigid hierarchical organisation through which enforcing its power and surveillance. On the back side the shelf structure displays various military helmets from different historical periods, conflicts and national armies, here they are exposed to emphasise the uniformity of the wars and the equal responsibility of the parties involved.

© Paolo Ciregia, 'Ideological loop', 2017. Installation view 'Foam Talent' exhibition, New York in Red Hook Labs

What next? Can you tell us on what are you working at the moment?

PC: Since my research deals with issues such as dictatorship, wars and power, I can only say that one of the new works will put focus on the contemporary American situation, obviously with Trump as main subject. On a stylistic level, the use of sound and elements of matter will be much more present in my next works.

© Paolo Ciregia, 'Mirage' from the serie 'Exteresi', 2016, mixed media 

© Paolo Ciregia, 'LEBENSBORN PROGRAM' from 'Exteresi', 2016, mixed media


Paolo Ciregia
urbanautica Italy