Rong Bao goes beyond the boundaries of acceptable

Rong Bao goes beyond the boundaries of acceptable

Giorgia Massari · 2 months ago · Art

Laughing at the absurdity of life – that’s the invitation artist Rong Bao extends to visitors at her debut exhibition at Saatchi Gallery. The first Chinese artist hosted by the renowned London gallery and the winner of the COLAB prize from the Royal College of Art / Yorkshire Sculpture Park 2023. Titled Rong Bao Is Me, the irony is already anticipated. Taking a look at her Instagram account, especially the videos of her works, the playful aspect Bao seeks is evident. Her inflatable works, like those on display at Saatchi until March 31, are the perfect example. Consider “Floating” or “The Enigma” – with a vibrant aesthetic and constant movement, the two large-scale sculptures aim to reflect on the complexity and diversity of life, mocking the absurd attempt to impose order on society.

At the heart of Rong Bao’s work is interaction, particularly the exhibition Rong Bao Is Me, intended to be «a playground of gestures,» as stated on the Saatchi Gallery website. It invites viewers to connect «with their mischievous sides and engage in a world that pushes beyond the boundaries of acceptability». The interactive aspect is indeed playful but also provocative, with the clear intention of challenging the viewer to contemplate the perception of the surrounding world. Going beyond acceptability, for Rong Bao, means exploring the deviant element that can defamiliarize the audience. An everyday element is now stripped of its defining characteristics, subverted and emptied of meaning, leading the visitor to perform futile and senseless gestures towards the works. This aims to question preconceptions and the societal order imposed by society.

Courtesy Saatchi Gallery & Rong Bao

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Rong Bao goes beyond the boundaries of acceptable
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Rong Bao goes beyond the boundaries of acceptable
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Ivana Sfredda, If We Assimilate To Enjoy (And To Lose Ourselves)

Ivana Sfredda, If We Assimilate To Enjoy (And To Lose Ourselves)

Giorgia Massari · 3 days ago · Photography

I’m not sure if it’s the sexual component that catches my attention. Perhaps it’s some elements, especially snails, that evoke a sense of familiarity in me, but also nostalgia for something I can’t quite identify. There’s a call back to my childhood, and it’s precisely the snails that evoke it. They were my only playmates when I spent the summer in a remote mountain location, in my grandparents’ garden which after a storm became the perfect habitat for these small creatures, as slimy as they were curious. Back then, I would pick them up from their shells, place them on my arms, and let them slide over me, amused by the trail of slime they left on my skin. I didn’t know it then, but I was assimilating them. In fact, that’s exactly what Ivana Sfredda talks about in the photos she showed me a few weeks ago in her studio in Milan. Soak up is the title of the series still in work in progress that the Molisan photographer has been working on since 2022, or perhaps even earlier. Interpreting the Anglo-Saxon term “soak up” literally, it refers to the sensation of enjoyment perceived in the act of assimilation. A unique human and animal need, that of joining someone or something, of being connected, and of “annihilating the boundaries that delimit a body.”

ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda

Ivana Sfredda’s macro shots do not contemplate any subject hierarchy. A strawberry in a man’s mouth, a group of worms intertwined, a droplet about to fall from an old faucet, all appear one after the other in a carousel of images that dance hand in hand in a perpetual circle, without jerks or arrogance. Hand in hand, united, assimilated into each other, in the other. So that in the act of encounter between two bodies, there is no longer a “my body” and “your body.” The power dynamics that humans have built in the relationship between artifact and nature are nullified. Perhaps this is where my childhood memory fits in, where it is clear that in that space-time arc, I did not know of this imposition, and no construct had yet had time to settle in the logic that today exists in me, the inequality of man > animal or even more so, artificial > nature.

ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda

But there is something beyond this unconsciousness or yet uncorrupted consciousness. Ivana explains it to me by citing Mario Perniola, a philosopher, writer, and theorist of contemporary art, delving into the sexuality mentioned earlier. Because it is clear that in the union of two bodies there is a tension that moves them towards each other, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be laden with a pleasurable end. Perhaps it’s just an unconscious need to lose one’s original form?

«Perniola identifies in sexuality a point of suspension that he defines as neutral sexuality: the detachment from one’s own body that implies a sense of estrangement, cybernetic and indeed neutral. This erotic impulse detaches itself from the pursuit of carnal pleasure in function of an intense contact where the organic and inorganic body becomes a meaningful surface. A very powerful communication system that leaps beyond the categories of human/artificial, human/animal, animal/artificial – relative to being as such – which traces the fluid architectures of an alternative body.»

ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda

As explained by Ivana Sfredda, in the encounter with the other, the self feels fulfilled. This reminds me of a book I read some time ago when I was searching for a more conscious self. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – found in the “esotericism” section of a bookstore – actually talked about this. It discussed how the self exists only in the reflection in the other, when the annulment of the ego occurs, which only defines the boundaries of a prison where a false narrative of ourselves lives. So, in Ivana Sfredda’s shots, which she explains to me are a sort of exercise and play, all this is visually translated, as if to illustrate the daily and widespread existence of continuous equal and harmonious connections between elements that seem distant both in a hierarchical and semantic sense.

«The series focuses on the meaning of contact and relational energy, an exercise in imagining how these incomplete relationships can represent profound portals of learning.»

ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda

Courtesy & Copyright Ivana Sfredda

Ivana Sfredda, If We Assimilate To Enjoy (And To Lose Ourselves)
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Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive

Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive

Anna Frattini · 3 days ago · Photography

Alec Gill is an English photographer, historian, and psychologist born in Hull, a city in the East Riding of Yorkshire county, famously known for its port. A few years ago, a crowdfunding campaign was launched on Kickstarter to celebrate the fifty-year anniversary of the first photo taken for the project dedicated to Hessle Road with a book, and we’re discussing it here today. The archive of 7,000 photographs – taken with his Rolleicord twin-lens reflex camera – dates back to the decade between 1970 and 1980. There are 240 images included in The Alec Gill Hassle Road photo archive, and in each of them, one can feel the atmosphere of a very difficult historical moment for the residents. It marks the decline of the fishing industry and the demolitions of mass housing in the area.

alec gill photo archive

The Alec Gill Hassle Road photo archive

The book, launched on May 18th last year, was written and conceived by Iranzu Baker and Fran Méndez. In this interview with Port, Baker discusses some aspects of working with Alec Gill. The photographer – during the writing of the book – proved to be «endlessly curious, extremely determined and dedicated». During those years, Gill also focused on the lack of play areas for children and how younger generations adapted to the changes in the area. Another goal was certainly to freeze time before the end of an era. That of fishing in the area, ended with the Cod Wars starting from 1958 until 1972 and 1975. A piece of history that thanks to Gill has not been forgotten.

Gill’s is a genuine inclination towards the stories of the underdogs. The aim was to ensure that these stories were told, both now and at the time of the shots. The Alec Gill Hassle Road photo archive is not just a social study, therefore. It is a testament to the relationship Gill has established on a human level with his fellow citizens. Their stories seem to tell themselves in front of the photographer’s lens. Furthermore, the naturalness of the shots not only captures the theme of childhood but also communicates extremely functionally moments of the daily life of the inhabitants of Hassle Road.

Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive
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Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive
Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive
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Nanni Licitra’s non-places

Nanni Licitra’s non-places

Giorgia Massari · 2 days ago · Photography

Nanni Licitra ‘s (1988) photographs focus primarily on non-places, anonymous and impersonal spaces that dot urban peripheries. Licitra transforms these marginal areas into other scenarios that acquire new meaning. We are talking about the series Hell end in Hell, whose images are emblematic reflections of a society in transformation, where the individual struggles to find a sense of belonging and identity in an increasingly chaotic and alienating context. The series, winner of the Liquida Photofestival Grant, on view in Turin from May 2 to 5, is a true socio-cultural analysis that reflects in toto the contradictions of contemporary society.

nanni licitra

Nanni Licitra ha iniziato la sua ricerca fotografica nel 2008 concentrandosi esclusivamente sulla fotografia analogica. Questa scelta non è casuale; infatti, la fotografia analogica richiede una pazienza e una precisione che si riflettono nel suo approccio distaccato e contemplativo. Licitra si pone come uno spettatore attento delle realtà che lo circondano, privilegiando uno sguardo che va oltre le apparenze per cogliere l’essenza delle cose. L’utilizzo dell’analogico da parte di Licitra non è solo una scelta tecnica, ma rappresenta anche una dichiarazione di intenti. In un’epoca dominata dalla velocità e dall’effimero delle immagini digitali, il fotografo siciliano opta per un ritmo più lento e contemplativo, che permette di approfondire le tematiche trattate e di trasmettere un senso di nostalgia e malinconia tipico dei non luoghi.

nanni licitra
nanni licitra

Courtesy Nanni Licitra

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MIA Photo Fair, What We Liked Most

MIA Photo Fair, What We Liked Most

Giorgia Massari · 2 days ago · Photography

The preview of the eighth edition of MIA Photo Fair, the photography fair that returns to Milan every year with a selection of international artists, was held yesterday, April 10. This year it is no longer in the usual Superstudio Maxi, but moves next to the star of the week, Miart. So that, potentially, in one day the bravest can see two fairs by getting off at the Portello metro stop. Miart at gate 5 of Allianz MiCo while MIA Photo at gate 16. Getting to the point, let’s talk about what we liked. As is always the case, following the trade fair system, many of the exhibits are seen and seen again, but still enjoyable to review such as shots by established photographers of the caliber of Giovanni Gastel and Ugo Mulas, or even photojournalists Fausto Giaccone and Carlo Orsi. But, among the many evergreens we have unearthed a few new ones, perhaps a few names we have already heard, but not so much in our opinion. Therefore, we made a selection of our favorite booths.

#1 Maria Svarbova – ARTITLEDcontemporary (B022)

mia photo fair

#2 Irina Werning – OTM Gallery (B023)

mia photo fair

#3 Karla Hiraldo Voleau – Christophe Guye Galerie (B019)

mia photo fair

#4 Laetitia Ky – LIS10 Gallery (E014)

mia photo fair

#5 Giulia Frump – Young Art Hunters (F018)

#6 Paolo Ventura – MarcoRossi ArteContemporanea (A022)

mia photo fair

#7 Daniele Ratti – VisionQuest 4Rosso (C018)

mia photo fair

#8 Najla Said – Mashrabia Gallery (F005)

mia photo fair

#9 Angelo Formato – Welcome to my known collective exhibition

mia photo fair

#10 Thorsten Brinkmann – Galleria Fumagalli (A019)

mia photo fair

MIA Photo Fair will remain open until Sunday, April 14.

MIA Photo Fair, What We Liked Most
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MIA Photo Fair, What We Liked Most
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