Friday, September 11, 2009

Q&A: Adrian Paci

Earlier this year, I posted about the exhibition Turn On at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, which features three contemporary Italian artists--including the first Canadian showing of a few works by Adrian Paci which I thought were just great. More recently, I had a chance to chat with Paci on the phone. Our condensed Q&A starts here and continues after the jump. (Unexpected fun fact: Paci's sister lives in Burlington!) Also, Turn On is closing this weekend--last chance to check these works out!

Q There is a very strong sense in some of your works in Hamilton—Turn On and Centro de permanenza temporanea—of concern for migrant labourers, who travel the world to support their families. Is this a conscious concern for you?

A Yes. But it’s kind of an attraction more so than a decision to look at those kinds of people.

It has to do with their faces, with how their stories are somehow signed into their faces. You can see on their faces things of their experience of life—it interests me how that can be discovered in a portrait.

Image: Adrian Paci's Centro di permanenza temporanea 2007 video still courtesy Francesca Kaufmann Milan

Q Does any personal experience of yours contribute to your attraction to these themes?

A It might be connected with my education, or my jobs. Interest in these kinds of faces was part of my practice even as an art student. In both Turn On and Centro… there is interest in a wide discourse… in both of the works you feel this attraction to a kind of humanity.

Q Where do you find these people? What appeals to you about them?

A Well, basically, for these works we found them on the street. They are mostly unemployed people. So for Centro… we found them mostly in the streets of San Francisco. And for Turn On we found them in Shkoder [Albania's second largest city, and Paci’s birthplace].

Q The images in Turn On are very beautiful, but the sound after a certain point is very loud and abrasive. What were you trying to do with that contrast?

A Normally when I make a piece it’s important to find a moment of tension. In Centro… it’s between possible departure and arrival moments. And in Turn On it’s about this disconnection and connection between this noise and the light it is helping to produce somehow.

Q Do you locate that tension in your own life as well, between arriving and departing? After all, it was hard to reach you for this interview because you are so on the go this summer.

A Well, yes. I went through the experience of migration like many other people. But I didn’t want to make it a question of reflecting my personal state. Of course, the fact that I went through that experience personally gives these subjects a more personal touch. But I am also interested more generally in this moment of inbetweenness and this moment of identities that are in a state of possible movement, but not totally arrived yet.

Somehow I find it interesting to collaborate with this migrating state of being. I don’t think I’ve found the solution by any means. The works are just some moments of reflection.

Q In your work, I noted, some people might read concern for the treatment of labourers. But some might also ask, are you simply exploiting these workers anew? How do you respond?

A The fact is that most of these people were unemployed, and of course I paid them for their work in these films. And to my mind the piece speaks through them, even if it is not speaking about them exactly. But of course they were paid for it. For Turn On, a lot of these people were just hanging around the streets, looking for work. When I’ve returned lately, they are still there.

Q Did you know that Hamilton, where these works are showing, is a very labour-oriented city? Have you ever been there?

A I have been there, but I didn’t see that much in the city. I actually have a sister living in Burlington so I spent time with my sister and my mother. It was my second time in Canada.

Q What are you working on next?

A Now I am working on a short film. I’m not ready to talk about it right now, but want to show how life can be put together in different situations, how it can all stay together in a certain absurd combination. It is shortly going to shoot in the end of September and hopefully we’ll show it in June in Zurich in the museum there.

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