“Even playing ping-pong is a pretext for investigating a possible magical realism: I’m interested in finding meanings and connections in everyday actions that refer to a symbolic reality”.
APULIART CONTEMPORARY asked Sara Scanderebech a series of questions with the idea of outlining her research and artistic practice, which is formalized in photographic images: amulets to investigate the hidden relationships between objects and people and reveal a microcosm of everyday things.
How did you get into the world of art and photography?
I was lucky enough to be born into an artistic environment: my mother is a music teacher and my father has always drawn, painted, played and photographed. My brother is a fantasy and video game fan.
In this incredible mix there was me. As a child, I would randomly pick a volume from the library and stare for hours at paintings of classical nudes with a feeling of forbidden pleasure. Making art was natural, as was music, which was fundamental to my life.
It is no coincidence that the titles of my photos are often song titles or lyrics that remind me of a specific atmosphere.
I only started to get used to the camera after university when I had the opportunity to work for the Carla Sozzani gallery as an in-house photographer.
Subsequently, outside of the strictly working environment, I collaborated with independent cultural realities such as Macao, Standards, and Buka. Here I photographed concerts and live performances, went backstage, and was lucky enough to be close to artists I had always considered gods.
Who are the photographers and artists who have influenced your imagination?
The artist who made me fall in love with contemporary art is Felipe Gonzales Torres with his work Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) where a mountain of coloured candies piled up on the gallery wall invited me to come closer.
I remember that still with the candy wrapper clutched in my hands as soon as I picked it up from the pile, I was struck by the small caption explaining how the total weight of the candy, 80 kg, was the weight of Torres’ partner at the time of his death from AIDS. at that moment, love was physically inside my mouth, sweet and sticky.
Cinema also plays a fundamental role in my work, in particular I would like to mention two of my fetish films: A Snake of June by Shin’ya Tsukamoto with its perfect images, the blue and the water that are present throughout the film, the psychological game between the protagonist and the photographer; and Dune from 1984 directed by David Lynch.
Other sources of inspiration that have influenced my images come from the painting of Domenico Gnoli: his being a “classical painter” in a form of abstraction of reality, and from music, the sounds of the Cocteau Twins.
In photography, the list is endless, but Japanese photography is certainly my fundamental visual reference: from the masters Kenro Izu, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Rinko Kawauchi, to the latest trends Maise Cousins, Juno Calypso and the perturbing Torbjorn Rodland.
What drives you towards new work? What are you interested in investigating through your research as a photographer and visual artist?
Slicing vegetables, washing hair, caressing each other’s bodies and even playing ping-pong are the pretext to narrate a possible magical realism: I am interested in finding in everyday actions meanings and connections that refer to a symbolic reality.
The reality without magic in which we are often immersed does not interest me. I am interested in investigating the impalpable relationship between things, between people and between things and people; in discovering the other world: drops of liquid on a marble surface.
A microcosm of reflections and organic forms that become, for a moment, elements of another world, creating an interference in the material reality, pretended to be ordered and known.
I often don’t care about the subject I’m photographing, it could be animate, inanimate, ugly or beautiful, it doesn’t matter, I just try to capture its ambiguity and the emotions it conveys to me.
Something extremely familiar and alien at the same time, like when you look closely at your toes.
Bagni and Le planete sauvage are your latest projects that reveal another vision of Salento, far from the common imagery of commercial and tourist visual stereotypes. How do you perceive the reality of your homeland? What suggestions has it given you to give life to these two works?
These two photographic projects were born out of a re-inamoration with my homeland. In fact, it is only recently that I have been able to better understand its potential and I am almost moved when I hear that something is moving, especially artistically.
In both, I did not want a clear geographical reference to be perceived, but rather I was interested in conveying sensations that flood the five senses and that I myself, for the first time in a long time, was able to internalise and feel.
Here everything is physical and carnal: the slow and motionless passing of time, nature is aggressive and almost frightening: the cracked red earth, the sharp stones, the thorns of the prickly pears, the agaves, the asparagus plants, the thorns of the hedgehogs. Everything penetrates you, and if you are lucky, a little piece of her remains inside you forever.
I tried to recount these feelings in La planète sauvage, taken in my garden and a few metres away from my house in Torre Suda.
Here I am interested in the perception of the place as an alien planet: a place that I have always had in front of me and yet that hides such a complex microcosm that lives and transforms itself independently from the action of us humans with its rules, its architecture, its hierarchies.
Also in Baths geographical location is not important. It is the intimate, almost universal relationships that interest me and the details: the sensation of being a few steps away from the sea without ever seeing it, the gashes between the rocks, the wave of hair, the shadow of a glass, a stone. Everything is a single material. Details of the same design.
What differences do you notice between your beginnings and today?
During my art studies, I hated photography. I didn’t see it as a real art form, but only as a mere technique of representing reality. I was interested in painting and was attracted by the installation forms of artworks.
A bit like video games: why play a football simulator when you could be a shamaness commanding volcanoes, throwing fireballs and leading her tribe through 25 planets of an unseen planetary system?
(whoever guesses the video game, I’ll buy a glass of primitive wine)
I later realised that photography is also a way to create images and imagery, when I started comparing it to painting and drawing I found my key.
I’ve made choices, I’ve had to give up a lot of paths that I still like, but I think you have to focus your energy on one goal to really get there.
The medium of photography is inextricably linked to two aspects: the aesthetic and the sociological-anthropological. How do these two components live in your research?
In both my personal projects and my fashion editorial works, my aesthetic research is very much related to sociological and anthropological aspects.
These aspects don’t prevail one over the other but they are linked and I think that through my photos I want to try to tell in an appealing and pop way something that is not so fascinating or interesting at a first glance.
Fashion photography in fact gives me this possibility of research where I try to choose people I know as models, so that I have the possibility to go and trace that people-objects relationship I was talking about before.
Our visual system is not the only way in which we can see, and that is why I try to pursue through photography, an investigation into the infinite levels and connections between images and meanings of the contemporary.
What are your future plans? Are you currently working on any new projects/works?
At the moment, in addition to collaborating with artists and stylists that I respect a lot for different projects in the field of fashion, I am taking care of the communication and the bookshop section of Paradise, Marsèll’s concept store in Milan.
As far as personal projects are concerned, I’m currently working on a series of shots on the theme of self-pleasure, an idea born after taking part in the Savage exhibition curated by Jacopo Miliani at Otto Zoo.
In the future, I would like to teach, analyse and develop the use of social media in the world of art.
Sara Scanderebech was born in Nardò in Salento. She moved to Milan to attend the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. After graduating in Visual Arts, she worked as a photographer for the Carla Sozzani Gallery. She is currently active as a digital curator and content creator for a fashion brand. In 2019 she was the official photographer of the German Pavilion during the Venice Biennale and exhibited at the Otto Zoo Gallery in Milan in the group show Savage.