In today’s post we talk with Chiara Passa, an Italian visual artist who has researched and worked in the field of media art since 1997.
You are a New Media Artist. Can you explain more about your job?
I consider myself a visual artist working in diverse media since 1997.
My artistic research analyses differences between virtual and real space through a variety of techniques, technologies and devices, often using and combining augmented reality and virtual reality technologies in order to explore architecture and place as interface, so challenging the static notion of architecture and digital environments as well, transforming all into something alive and vibrant.
You work with virtual reality, augmented reality, animations… What do these techniques offer to you when it comes to express what you want?
VR and AR are part of a research project which I began in 1999 and which has slotted into my artistic journey since 1997, the fruit of a deep interest in space and how it is transformed and shaped «by» and «in» the language of informatics. In software and electronic devices, I find potential vehicles for the investigation and visualisation of my research and theories. Animations, video, installations, net art, interactive projects, virtual and augmented reality have led to the materialisation of these theories in the most original forms as part of the Live Architectures series (1999-ongoing); works I designed to behave as if they were alive, moving beyond their own functionality, according also to the Object-Oriented Ontology philosophy. These are «super places», a definition coined by me in 1999: dynamic places, which project the spectator into digital and mediated reality.
Where does your interest for virtual reality come from and what is your training?
I was born in Rome and studied painting at the Academies of Naples and Rome, after which I obtained a Master’s in audio-visual mediums at the faculty of Modern Literature, while living in several different cities in Italy and Europe. In the nineties I chose to study painting at the Academy because it was the closest subject to «New Media», and above all the most versatile; it allowed me to initiate across-the-board experimentation with different media. I began to be interested in new technologies, especially computers as an artistic medium, just after the mid-nineties when I bought my first computer and immediately used it as a tool to create art, both inside and outside the internet; I was and still am fascinated by the endless possibilities that it offers to me.
In the late nineties I used the tools available at that time to produce videoinstallations with an immersive effect, in essence: an environmental Beamer projection like The Cave (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment). These projections greeted spectators (not yet immersed as in VR) and placed them in a sort of small square room where they could interact with a continually changing architectural space.
Since virtual reality became profitable to us, I have used it as an artistic medium for questioning and comprising its intrinsic semantics, to continue my artistic research I began in the nineties.
Why do you use different techniques? What makes you not focus just on one?
I use many media to enhance the possibilities of perception related to the VR aesthetics. I make a sort of Duchampian détournement / decontextualisation on the use of the VR medium itself, by designing immersive milieux in which, sometimes, the VR camera view angle is locked at 180°, 220°, or 310° instead of 360°. So, the onlookers are forced to peek/peep through the real space, into a reconstructed and resized immersive space which is sometimes semi-open or semi-closed, but made of wired geometric angles and futuristic views.
Most of my VR artworks are based on the idea of «super place» explained above, where the onlookers by peeking through the 3D viewers, can immerse themselves into diverse abstract animations.
My VR artworks allow spectators to dive into a sort of «mise en abyme», in which an element shifts the other in depth, merging all together: geometry, painting and sculpture praxis.
You say you want to explore the differences between the virtual spaces with your work. Which are these differences?
I point out the tension between the virtual and physical tools achieving a strange oscillation between the virtual and the physical world. Yet, I play with the duality of an artwork transferred and recreated in a mix of the ephemeral and the tangible, using software, materials and techniques I skilfully put together, believing in holistic and flexible formats. Yet, I’m strongly fascinated by the sculpture medium because it’s three-dimensional like the 3D modelling modus operandi, which I frequently use to create my artworks.
What happens when I operate between virtual and real spaces? Between inside and outside the space I design, it opens up to include several dimensions, creating an unexpected shift of meaning generated by the translation of the various techniques and codes I use for investigating a sort of endless temporality.
One of your latest projects is «Circle in Circle», where you used VR glasses on the ground. How do you come up with the idea and what is the purpose?
«Circle in Circle» is part of a virtual reality series of artworks titled “Inside the Geometry – double language” that I started in 2015, within more than thirty-five VR figures created until now. «Circle in Circle» is constituted by fifteen Google Cardboard 3D viewers and related smartphones all playing different VR animations. In «Circle in Circle» the Google cardboards orchestrate on the ground a site-specific figure, the inspiration for which was Korcula’s main square, after visiting the whole island. My VR circle is totally participative so, inside each 3D viewer, the audience can take a journey beyond the ground, over the physical place, diving into a liquid dimension that strikes completely Cartesian coordinates. In fact, it is through the audience experience that «Circle in Circle» highlights the paradox of the modern space-time condition that nowadays is even more diluted between physical and virtual space.
So, spectators across the 3D viewers bow down to the ground while kneeling to technology to use it to see in depth, just over the ontological vision of the nature of the place itself. And the underground appears animated by its own metaphysics, existing and moving beyond its own functionality, thanks to the VR animations that show modified Google Earth maps, containing bizarre earth memories, greens turned into multidimensional pieces, across different levels of perception.
To finish, can you tell us about any future project you have?
Six months ago, I closed a solo show: «Object Oriented Space» at the MLAC museum in Rome, and now I am working on different art projects and exhibitions involving AR and VR technologies – as in the MLAC show – to speculate on the specific site, interrogating it as if it were a lively super-object.
Recommended citation: MOSAIC. Interview with Chiara Passa. Mosaic [online article], April 2020, no. 181. ISSN: 1696-3296. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7238/m.n181.2016