On Scouting and Belonging: An Interview with Paula Lombardi

Nicole Bull: You mentioned your history as a set designer. In what ways do feel that this background impacts your work?

Paula Lombardi: The impact is the direct relationship with objects. I used to wander around every neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, looking for objects, furniture, car parts, fabrics, plastics, tapes, machines, antiques, anything. Discovering all those things in their own environment and later on transformed into something else or the same but re-contextualized in a different space from where I originally saw them always amazed me.

While I was scouting I was taking pictures of all this things, and taking those pictures became the base of my actual practice.

I scout. I scout life, objects, relationships and spaces compromised to what they hold, artificially or naturally. In that superposition of things I see meaning, in that three-dimensional quality that gives them a new and unique language.

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NB: Have you noticed any shifts in your work since moving to NY from Argentina? How would you say that place factors into the work you make?

PL: I do, I think is mostly regarding the way I put things together, as my own experience.

Moving here meant to achieve, organize and put together a lot of things that didn’t have any form, that didn’t belong to me, that were different from what I was used to. I was uncomfortable in an exciting way.

With my work something similar happened, I started to be much more aware of the use of my camera, of how I started collecting things that would at some point turn into a project or part of some. At first it felt all over the place, but slowly it became a habit and I started to be more conscious about how my projects are built.  Making my way here was at the same time making my way into a new way of creating, at the beginning it felt very loose but after almost 3 years, slowly everything is kind of making sense, or I should say, I have more a feeling of belonging and knowing also why my work belongs to me.

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NB: You bring together images, objects, and texts, as well as your own photographs. Could you talk a little bit about this process? How do you accumulate these things and then decide to present them?

PL: I found out that my projects are always built up in layers. There is always a book, some of my own writings and thoughts, notes on my sessions with my psychoanalyst, drawings, some object or paper that I collected randomly and of course many feelings and thoughts. I propose a dialogue between images and objects, it’s a conversation that seems natural to me, as if what they are saying was some kind of a truth, necessary instead of arbitrary. In a way for me all these different things belong to each other.

Photography and objects combined together seem to me like a hidden dictionary that along with the use of words, which is also an important part of my practice, brings meaning to the experience of existing that runs over and over into all of us.

NB: Reading seems to play an important role in your practice. What do you like to read? What are some of your other influences (photographic and otherwise)?

PL: Words are for me another universe that I have access too, being able to get out of the visuals zone and immersing myself in a text launching me to wander and imagine. Reading is how I would choose to see which is the opposite of how I made my pictures which is seeing all over the place, full of curiosity but really interested in finding and being surprised with what is left behind as it it, the portraits of us, humanity and nature.

Reading is an open space, driven in one sense but visually unlimited. I get relief through reading. I am interested in psychology and philosophy. I read poetry and very much enjoy short novels from contemporary Argentine writers. The writings of Clarice Lispector had been a very big influence on my work, reading the Passion of G.H. even became a body of work.

The photographers/artists that always stay with me are Sophie Calle, Annette Messager, Wolfgang Tillmans, Susan Meiselas, Nan Goldin, JH Engström, Adriana Lestido, Barbara Bloom and many more, that’s a hard question.

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NB: You have started working on this new project dealing with anesthesia. What is your relationship to the subject matter? And could you talk a bit about how this is different from your other work?

PL: It all started with the idea of taking a portrait of my mother in the public hospital where she has been working for 30 years. Then it moved to a straight documentary approach, shooting in the public hospital in general and during surgery, focusing mainly in the roll of the anesthesiologist. After seeing the material I made so far, I felt it wasn’t going anywhere, until I started digging more into the treatment of pain. And then I started putting pieces together and it became my family history. A story of the treatment of pain, and then my story begins:

A man breaks an enema in his bathroom because he can’t manage to use it. On that same night he goes to the pharmacy in his neighborhood to buy a new one. A young girl, wearing a robe, attends it, she talks to him through a small window of the pharmacy that her grandfather founded. Then her father continued until he died and it passed into the hands of his sister who is also a pharmacist. The young woman is studying medicine and is specializing in anesthesiology. The next day he goes back to the pharmacy to ask her out on a date, 6 years later I was born.

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This project is different from others because of its shifts. It is still building itself up. I have been working with a varied range of material. I started with my 35mm pictures of the hospital, then moved into interviewing my mother about anesthesia, archival material of my mother of her career and personal photographs (when she graduated, early in the pharmacy, after revalidating her degree, documents, etc.), also pictures of objects that belonged to the pharmacy and medical equipment, like the doctor suitcase that had belonged to her since she graduated. After developing some images of the hospital, the last time I was in Argentina, I soak the negatives into 4 different kinds of anesthesia and then scanned them again. Images that are treated against pain.

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Paula Lombardi was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1986. Studied Art Direction at The University of Cine in San Telmo, Buenos Aires. After graduating in 2009, she worked as a set designer in advertising, tv and film before moving to New York to study at the International Center of Photography. After finishing The One-Year Certificate Program at ICP, collaborated with various artists in the residency program at Elizabeth Foundation. Actually assisting Susan Meiselas and Jean Pierre Laffont, two photographers with a remarkable photojournalist experience, also as an assistant for the visual artist Gaspar Libedinsky. In addition she is also working as a Teacher Assistant at ICP for the One-Year Certificate Program and the ICP-Bard MFA.
While working she also developed her personal work, making both things converge. Major exhibitions: “Another Kind of Paradise”, curated by curated by Elizabeth Kilroy, Darin Mickey, and Alison Morley at Rita.K. Hillman Education Gallery at the International Center of Photography, New York, 2013. Group Exhibition “Successful Failure” at Space 776 in New York, 2016. Group Show “1+1+1+1” in Argentina, 2016. Group Exhibition “Pop-Up Archive”, curated by Claudia Sohrens, ICP at Mana Contemporary, New York, 2017, “Wish You Were Here 16”Annual Postcard Show at A.I.R. Gallery, New York, 2017.

Symposium 2017: Collective Opposition

Please join us on Friday for the class of 2018 symposium!

Introducing our third panelist, Raven Chacon.

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Courtesy of Postcommodity.

 

Raven Chacon is a composer of chamber music, a performer of experimental noise music, an installation artist and a member of the American Indian arts collective Postcommodity. Chacon has presented his work in different contexts at Vancouver Art Gallery, ABC No Rio, REDCAT, La Biennale di Venezia – Biennale Musica, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Festival, 18th Biennale of Sydney, and The Kennedy Center among other traditional and non-traditional venues. His work with Postcommodity was recently featured in the Whitney Biennial and documenta 14.

He lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Symposium 2017: Collective Opposition

Please join us this Friday, December 15th at the ICP Museum for our symposium.

 

Introducing our next panelist, Quito Ziegler.

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Courtesy of the artist.

 

Quito Ziegler is an artist and curator who is kind of obsessed with the future. They are a founding member of the WRRQ Collective, an intergenerational community of queer/trans artists and activists who make art and food together for visual resistance and collective healing. Quito has worked at the intersection of art and community organizing for two decades, and recently co-curated the gender section of the exhibition Perpetual Revolution at ICP.  They are also a cultural producer with several film projects in the works.

 

https://www.icp.org/events/collective-opposition-artists-creating-community

Symposium 2017: COLLECTIVE OPPOSITION

Introducing our first of three panelists, Brian Ulrich.

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Uhuburg Castle, Helen, GA 2014
Courtesy of the artist

 

Brian Ulrich photographs portraying contemporary consumer culture are held by major museums, including The Art Institute of Chicago; Baltimore Museum of Art; The Cleveland Museum of Art; George Eastman Museum; The J. Paul Getty Museum; Milwaukee Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Ulrich has had solo exhibitions at The Cleveland Museum of Art, Eastman Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; the North Carolina Museum of Art; as well as numerous group exhibitions such as at the Walker Art Center; the Museum of Contemporary Photography; the San Diego Museum of Art; the New York Public Library and The Art Institute of Chicago.

In 2009, Ulrich was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. His first major monograph, Is This Place Great or What (2011), was included in The Photobook: A History Volume 3 (2014). The Anderson Gallery published the catalog Closeout: Retail, Relics and Ephemera (2013). His work has been featured in the New York Times Magazine; Time Magazine; on National Public Radio programs; Orion Magazine; Vice Magazine; Mother Jones magazine; the Chicago Tribune; Artforum; Harper’s; Politico; Vice; Leica World; Yvi Magazine and Adbusters.

He is currently an Associate Professor and the Graduate Director of Photography at the Rhode Island School of Design.

 

Symposium 2017 : COLLECTIVE OPPOSITION

Introducing the symposium’s keynote speaker, A.L. Steiner. 

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Untitled (Money ruined the world), 2016
courtesy of the artist

 

A.L. Steiner utilizes constructions of photography, video, installation, collage, collaboration, performance, writing and curatorial work as seductive tropes channeled through the sensibility of a skeptical queer ecofeminist androgyne. Steiner is co-curator of Ridykeulous, co-founder of Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.), a collective member of Chicks on Speed, and collaborates with numerous writers, performers, designers, activists and artists. She is MFA Faculty in Visual Arts at Bard College, Yale University and School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Steiner is based in Los Angeles and New York, and is featured in permanent collections such as The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Marieluise Hessel Collection of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hammer Museum and The Museum of Modern Art. She is represented by Deborah Schamoni Gallerie in Munich and Koenig & Clinton in New York, and is the recipient of the 2015 Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award, The 2015-2016 Berlin Prize and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts 2017 Grants to Artists award.

 

Join us Friday December 15 at the ICP Museum at 6:30 pm.

Interview: Sam Margevicius on numbers, chance and photography

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sam to chat with him about his work, his influences, and his solo show “444” opening this week. Below is our conversation.

 

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Nicole Bull: Can you talk about your use of numbers and how 444 became important to you?

Sam Margevicius: I think one of my, at times, debilitating modes of working is that I am really easily influenced. So that makes it hard sometimes. If I think I’m doing something, its not like a steady moving whale that’s got momentum, but its over here and over there.

I went to Chelsea just now, and there was a show at Dia:Chelsea that I had wanted to see for a while because its about numbers. I stood there reading the artist’s statement and the artist [Hanne Darboven] says that numbers mean nothing to her. And I thought that was pretty interesting because she talked about how they’re just like meaningless vessels.

NB: Do you agree with that?

SM: I agree that they can be. I really like vessels. Vessels in the sense similar to how the word ‘you’ or ‘I’  are kind of empty things. Its only available as something that means something when its contextualized through gesture. So, with 444, I have the story about how exactly the illustration of 444 came to me, and I’ve written it, but I’m always really scared of  those moments when everything just seems to come together perfectly and it feels like divine intervention.

A month ago I went to an artist talk between James Welling and this photographer named Jeff Whetstone at Julie Saul Gallery. Jeff Whetstone was photographing 4×5 on a bridge in Trenton, NJ and the bridge says “TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES.” He made all of these non-interesting photographs of the letters and the cars driving by and the seagulls, but then he composed them into these collages that are really interesting. They are contact prints, so they’re like big prints with medium and large format negatives. When I saw him talk I felt like this is everything that I’ve been doing because he essentially was making bricks and then he was going to use the bricks to build something. And that’s what I’ve been doing. His photos were not nothing; he wrote things with them, like poems in structured form and I was really excited. I wanted to email him and invite him to my show, but I chickened out and I couldn’t do it. But then, I saw him today! I talked to him and I gave him the card. And I’m having trouble breathing right now because its just too perfect, and I know that the impermanence of life is such that I will be proved somehow wrong about my feeling of perfection.

So, 444 is just this stupid number that when it showed up seemed super meaningful in that moment and the next day it wasn’t really. I kept thinking about it though and as I kept thinking about it and doing more research things popped up that I could tie together. That’s how you write a research paper, you start somewhere and then you go and find evidence to basically prove your point. So I did that, but all the evidence was so arbitrary. People in China and many east Asian countries avoid 4 like we avoid 13. There’s no fourth floor in the elevators, because it sounds like ‘dead.’ So that’s what I tried to avoid, becoming superstitious or essentially living my life based on actual rules that are not flexible and are not understood within a context. I used 444 as a starting point fully aware that it meant nothing but aware that it was an empty vessel that I could inject with certain qualities.

NB: You seem to be touching on ideas of coincidence or chance, and I am curious how much you are thinking about those.

SM: I got excited about the word chance and how it relates to the I Ching and creating a system so that its no longer in your control. Putting numbers in a hat and then drawing number, that is chance. Nayland didn’t tell us when our thesis shows would be, it was up to the powers that be. But of course sometimes I think I was meant to go second.

I recently found that what is more interesting about chance is that its actually quite unique to lens based art. Think of the ready-made sculpture, that kind of thinking was only possible because of photography. That is important because when you are painting something you as the artist have authority over every single mark that is made and you’re responsible for every decision. I do like to draw and I lost my camera for a long time when I first moved here and so I started drawing. I only draw from life, like still lives or on the train or portraits of people who sat for me. So in that case, you’re looking at what you’re drawing and everything that you see and decide to draw gets essentially developed onto your long exposure drawing. Photography doesn’t work that way, because in photography you don’t have control over those things. You can construct sets where everything was a choice that you made but you’re not in total control. With painting you can mix your paints, make your own paper, whatever, but photography is so much more industrial. For a long time I wanted to have that total authority but you can’t. You buy film that someone manufactured, and then you get your camera and cameras are always advancing in new technologies. So when you’re photographing something, that is actually exciting I realize now, because that means your camera is your independent variable. You set up a system that is your camera and then you frame it and you wait for something to happen there. You don’t even know whats happening in there, you see it later. So that’s what is interesting about chance. It just comes down to the science of developing silver gelatin prints and being consistent about your chemical mixing and your exposure and all those things so you can just identify the one thing that you need to change and thats how you have to work. So I just think of cameras as objects that measure change in that sense.

NB: What was your process like in figuring out what would be in this show and deciding how to arrange it? Because that is something that can’t really be left to chance.

SM: Yeah I know, and that was really hard for awhile because I wanted it to be chance. I mean, I wanted chance but what I really wanted was the kind of language that is mostly prevalent in filmmaking. In film you’re so responsible; its such a collaborative effort and the production value is so high. Every surface and what is in the frame is considered and it means something. Particularly in Matthew Barney’s films, the kind of imagery he uses is so specific to his own language. An image means something in the context of his work but it doesn’t actually mean anything. It just means something because you’ve seen it before and now you’re seeing it again in a little bit of a different way. Like with a song, the first time you hear the chords its one thing, and then the chorus is always the same but when you hear it again its a little bit different.

So I basically started thinking and I gave myself a division. Over the summer, I didn’t really make photographic work with film. I did a lot of digital stuff but I wasn’t working on my thesis. So when I came back I began working on my thesis. All of the stuff that I tried to do in the first semester was an attempt to do a very specific show and not just make a lot of work and then put it all together into something. I feel like I really did that with the book that I made last year. I had done all of the assignments in all sorts of crazy ways and I did everything I could in terms of making performance, sculpture, and far out shit. Then I put it together chronologically and that sealing it within two hardbound covers gives it cohesion. But for the show I didn’t want it to be a retrospective in any way; I wanted it to be a specific project. And so I tried to construct a system of working for myself that would carry me though that. But, the system became really boring immediately. And that became obvious because I actually didn’t do as much as I thought I was going to. I was procrastinating because I wasn’t really excited, and I just knew internally that this thing I’d set up was bound to fail. But I did end up making a significant number of photos and they’re all photos like Jeff Whetstone’s. They’re just bricks that I built with.

So, a real break-through happened a couple months ago. I basically printed out all my contact sheets and I just had this stack of all my pictures. I just went through and made selections and edited down and cut them out. I had all these little cards and started just playing around with them on a table. At that moment, I still thought that chance might still be a totally valid approach here. I started throwing pictures and I would examine wherever they landed. But then I realized that unless I just threw them all up and left them all exactly how they were, I wasn’t getting rid of this fact that no one was going to trust that it was chance. I had edited, I had curated. Being a photographer now more than ever is about curating. This program especially has taught me that. You can shoot everyday and its not necessarily going to help clarify what it is that you want to show or say. That was fun to play around with the opportunity of chance and how things came together randomly, but what really happened was I was just able to see everything laid out and look at the kinds of conversations that happen between the images. Then I set up sequences that were built out of structures made by pushing polarities.If I have one image then I thought about the opposite of that and I kind of built out from that.

Then I was thinking that this is a show that essentially has three gallery spaces: two galleries and the hallway. I want those to each serve their own kind of role. I’m less interested now in autonomous images, but for a while I believed in the sincere significance of context. I still thought that maybe I could make good singular images, and I don’t think that I can. I don’t really think that anyone can. I think that people only appreciate singular images because they like the photographer who made them. They understand why they like it, and that is all built on context. So its really hard to just walk in blind and see something. That comes back to music. I never could listen to music that someone hadn’t given me on a mixtape or from a radio station that I like. Its so rare to just hear it and feel like its amazing without having an understanding of why it holds an emotional significance for you. So, then I just started thinking about the three spaces and how hopefully one of them is really about the singularity of images. The images are printed at different sizes. Everyone in this program acts like every picture has it own proper size and I think ok, maybe. However, I spent a lot of time this year photographing things from the exact same distance, knowing that my camera had a particular ratio that I would adhere to. It works nicely because that was the intention all along, that they have that kind of equivalence. They’re all the same but then they’re not because some are higher and some are lower. Even if they were all the same size and on the same plane, some of them you like more for whatever particular reason. So in a sense it destroys hierarchy but it doesn’t really.

NB: You spoke a bit about bookmaking. I know that you’ve made several books and spend a lot of time with books, so I would like to know where books play into this show or just your practice in general.

SM: I think that the really important lesson from books for me is typologies. The way Ed Ruscha did Twenty Six Gasoline Stations is a way to make a book be one idea in a variation of a theme. I like books for different reasons than that as well because to a certain extent, that is easily exhausted. I like a book because its a really intimate experience reading a book and thats amazing. A book of text, like a novel, is not the kind of book I’m talking about, its not like a book object. That’s just a bunch of words that take you into an illusion of an image. With photo books you can run through them at whatever pace you want and you’ll never go through them at the same pace twice. You can stay on every third image for 20 seconds and one second for the other pages, but you still get this kind of narrative. I actually really like when I can pick up a book and get it right away, and I don’t actually even have to read it. People are always talking about closing down, you want to open up. I hear that, but I really enjoy that fleeting moment of understanding. Any good book is worth reading twice and any good movie is worth watching many times, and so its nice to live with the book and be able to open to a random page. There you have a nice chance operation. Roland Barthes, I believe, would pick up every book and flip to page 49 and decide from that page whether or not to buy it. You can read one sentence the way that poetry is maybe meant to be read where you analyze thoroughly whats going on in that particular micro scale. Then you can also pull back and think about the whole book and the chapters and the arc of it. That pull that you can have is really what I wanted to bring to a gallery show. Being able to think about the structure of the thing as a whole entity but also being able to go into a single spot and focus on that. For the longest time I thought I was going to have display cases with books in the show but I am really glad that I didn’t do that. It is a different thing than a book but it can be thought of through similar approaches.