Emilio Vavarella is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher. Since the beginning of his training (IUAV in Venice and DAMS – University of Bologna) he has started research and training projects in important foreign centres such as the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Tel Aviv and the Bilgi University in Istanbul. He is currently doing a PhD in Film and Visual Studies and Critical Media Practice at Harvard University. Through the use of new technologies, Vavarella investigates social and introspective themes of modern man, questioning and analyzing at the same time the functioning of the technologies themselves, often used for the realization of his works.
The relationship between man and technology is central to his practice, as is his interest in the theme of collective and individual memory.
It all begins with THE SICILIAN FAMILY (2012-2013), considered by Vavarella as his first work: a photographic installation composed of 44 digital elaborations taken from some period photos of his family. Through a series of conversions of these images in the writing program, the artist adds personal narratives. The artist inserts his own voice within a past that he has not lived through, but which at the same time concerns him. He travels through time, like in a science fiction film with a dense plot of stories and family affections, in which he manages to alter not only the image, but the memory itself.
In the same year he began working on MEMORYSCAPES: a multimedia installation of varying dimensions developed by the artist between 2013 and 2016. The theme investigated is that of the collective memory of Italian migrants and in particular the migratory flows that link the city of Venice to that of New York. Through the collection of interviews, stories, memories and the use of digital tools, Vavarella has managed to create a real archive of memory by creating a holographic and fragmented “audio-cartography” of Venice. This is followed by MNEMOGRAFO, a project created in 2016 on the occasion of the exhibition Memoria that took place at Villa Manin (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia) to commemorate the tragic earthquake that struck this region in 1976. The work consists of a modified seismograph, but differs from it in its function of merging collective and personal memories. Through the use of new technologies such as Arduino hardware, networking and Google bots, the artist brings collective memories of the tragic event back to life.
Emilio Vavarella, MNEMODRONE, 2014-in progress. Mixed media, multiple locations.
In continuity with these projects we can watch MNEMOSCOPE, public art installation curated and produced by Ramdom with the support of MiBACT and SIAE, within the program “Per Chi Crea – Nuove opere”, dedicated to the creation of new works. The project was born from a reflection on the geographical area where it was produced and created, the Capo di Leuca.
Lastation, home of Ramdom and place where the artist did a residency this winter, is a space on the first floor of the station of Gagliano – Leuca: hence the play on words “Last- station”, the last station. This place, from which the inhabitants left with the hope of finding better living conditions, was the starting point of inspiration and the beginning of Vavarella’s research.
The work does not only investigate the figures of those who left that place, but rather those who chose to return to it after leaving it. Creating again a dialogue between collective memory and technology, the artist creates a cartography of memories linked to the Apulian territory where the past and the present are indissolubly linked, in a sort of temporal short-circuit. From a particularity of the area, that is Punta Ristola – the most extreme point of Puglia, the last strip of land of the region and the heel of Italy – he investigates the historical and geographical peculiarities analyzing the importance of the social history of that place: the theme of migration and immigration, at a time when the Italian people seem to have forgotten their past.
The artist also starts from a reflection on his own condition as a migrant, a native of the South who lives and works abroad and who returns to carry out this project of research and artistic production.
Thanks to the constant support of the Ramdom association, Vavarella has managed to integrate into the territory and make contact with local people who in the past found themselves in a position to seek their fortune elsewhere and who, once they had reached economic stability, decided to return to their homeland.
He carried out research as an anthropologist in the field, living in the community, studying it and starting interviews with the people identified by Ramdom who made themselves available.
The questions asked were of various nature, some techniques, regarding the national destinations reached, others dug deeper into the depths of personal memory, asking emotions and sensations of those places and experiences. The alternation of objective and subjective aspects led the artist to collect enough data to create an archive of historical memory of the place.
On the basis of the interviews he then built maps using online databases and satellite surveys, and then created a three-dimensional model of the places narrated. The aim of this process is to create a virtual journey, without making the places narrated immediately recognizable to the user, but leaving the intuition to go through the rendering of an urban space. The audio also plays an important role: the artist’s idea is to create a soundscape with excerpts from the interviews that can accompany the audience on the virtual journey. The experience leads to a short circuit between the place of virtual reality experienced inside the viewer and the landscape reality that surrounds it.
Through the use of a 360° camera the artist proposes images that we can enjoy through a raft viewer with a raft aesthetics that allows us the total immersion in this experience.
The public is immersed in a space by going to a location marked by a platform located in a specific point of the territory, and this is how Vavarella manages to create a virtual public artwork.
Vavarella uses technology to understand what it is and how our memory works, to discover something intimate and unconscious and what impact it has on us.
Then it is spontaneous to ask and ask the artist why memory is so dear to him:
“I’m already working on a new project on this same subject, but for now it’s better not to reveal more. The Sicilian family, perhaps it was still the psychological legacy of a beginning…
My memories are images, I also produce images when it comes to installations, films or artistic experiences. I see the inner world as a kind of photo gallery, so I investigate memory as a search for inner, elusive images. And it fits in very coherently with my production in which the pole of subjectivity often alternates with that of objectivity in a sort of constant dialogue. All my projects have this polarity, this tension between technological aspect and surreality”.