From architecture to the body: An interview with Natacha Todeschini
By CREAM ATHENS | June 18, 2020 9:00 BST
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and body of work?
Discovering a culture and exploring a city have always been important in my way of viewing and understanding the world. Indeed, one discovers a city, its architecture, its people, its customs, its habits. It is this attraction that led me to photography and the fact of wanting to capture moments and take them away, in order to express a kind of reality through the dimension of multiples.
My name is Natacha Todeschini, from South African and Austrian origin, I was born in Switzerland, where I grew up. I am currently in the last year of my bachelor's degree in fine arts, focusing on image. My majors are photography and text. What I'm particularly interested in is finding ways to combine concept and aesthetics and to find the tension point between constraint and fluidity. I regularly work with series, which include a wide range of subjects and themes. I endeavour to take advantage of each situation by thinking conceptually, in order to integrate my observations in everyday situations into my artistic work.
By analysing and comparing all that surrounds me, I attempt to highlight the ordinary that can become extraordinary when isolated, scrutinised more closely or moved from its context. From architecture photography to portraits, from urban industrial grey walls, to the diversity of human features, from poetry to lists and laws, I attempt to reveal what I see through protocols and concepts.
Being South African and Austrian, has this impacted your work and how?
Thanks to my background, I was very lucky to be able to travel a lot from a very young age and it allowed me to be constantly surrounded by cultural diversity. This has certainly triggered my interest and curiosity towards new people and architecture. Observing the differences and similarities from one city to another, from one country to another, and discovering new networks of relationships, new ways of functioning and living. These are aspects that inspire me and often provide me with new project ideas. Furthermore, having several backgrounds also allowed me to learn different languages, which I am very grateful for. They are vital in order to move across the language barrier one might come across while working with third party members, or models.
Do you feel that it’s important to convey your own beliefs and opinions within your art? Is there a philosophical element in your work?
In my conceptual work, I am used to working in two dimensions: the aesthetic and the conceptual dimension. If my work is just seen as it visually is, in an aesthetic way, linking experience and image, and triggers a network of associations between elements in the memory of the person viewing it, I would feel rewarded.
What is important for me is that people are able to travel in their minds, identify themselves and experiment emotions, while looking at my work. And then, if the viewer wants to dig deeper and understand my reflection path, there is all the conceptual work and protocol behind the project. Simply by choosing to work on certain subjects, artists show spectators their beliefs, opinions and interests. By presenting a serial work, you give the viewer a glimpse of your way of thinking and making links. Even if artists try to facilitate the interpretation of their work, it is important to let the viewers have their own interpretation and allow them to question, interrogate and push further.
What is beauty for you?
Beauty is an abstract notion. It is supposed to represent a combination of features, such as shape, size and colour, that appeals to the aesthetic senses of the viewer. In my opinion beauty is a notion which has to deal with a coding system that depends on situation, expectation, visual background, education and of course, feelings and emotions. It is such a variable component that it is impossible to give you a finite definition. I find it more interesting to question what is not considered beautiful, as beautiful is not to be queried as it comes from one’s feelings.
In your project 'WANTED' you bring up labels, can you explain further?
The project 'WANTED' is an association of text and images, it is composed of photographs of embroidery work on panties. Unconsciously or consciously, we put labels on the people we see in the street, at the bar, canteen, or club. What if the person with a label, comes home, takes their clothes off and the label is attached to them - stuck on their underwear? What if you came home and discovered the label someone, who you may haven’t even noticed today, sticked on you? This project questions the complex human being, who, in order to be able to analyse and understand the environment surrounding him, still functions with stereotypes and box systems. Indeed, these systems comfort people. However, by being reassured we end up framing ourselves and closing ourselves and surroundings out.
What visual references do you draw upon in your work?
Sophie Calle’s way of associating text and images, working with the fine line between fiction and reality, and among others the serial work of August Sander, Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Anne-Sophie Guillet moves and inspires me. They all approach the representation in multiples, in different ways and they all emphasise the singular. Their analysis of the world around them in a visual, physical or metaphorical way, taking it out of its context and associating it with other elements in order to reveal something else, inspire me constantly.
Describe a real-life situation that has influenced your artistic practice.
I think that would be the day I saw Bernd and Hilla Becher's work in real life for the first time, it was in the Kunstmuseum in Basel. It moved me to the very core. Despite the fact that I already knew that I had an immense fascination for architecture and geometry, I believe it was that moment that revealed the interest of frontality and categorisation, the feeling of ease I have with visual repetition, and made me aware of the field of possibilities. The protocol established by the Bechers was a frontal shot on an isolated subject, a white light and finally a typological presentation of the buildings in grid. Despite the fact that these architectural structures had been designed not to be beautiful but simply utilitarian, the Bechers saw an immense aesthetic potential in them.
Could you describe your overall photographic vision and approach when it comes to architectural photography?
This massive 3D geometry that surrounds and conditions us, with and in which we grow, live and evolve. Constantly changing, it makes us aware when moving from one city to another. Confronting us with different styles, shapes, materials, colours and eras, it reveals the time that passes. We find ourselves in a huge mosaic of style, history and tradition specific to the respective years. But we are also aware of it by the fading whites, rusting metal, cracks in the facades or falling pieces of paint.
Moreover, architecture is a field that is much more complex and that extends far beyond the simple conceptualisation of space. Indeed, the result of a project is a mixture of a long reflection on the spatial quality, the structure, materials, and the respect of normative, environmental, financial and political constraints, among other criteria. Every single aspect fascinates me and attracts me to capture it.
The photographic confrontation with architecture feels like meeting with a strange new being. I observe in it the lines, geometry and rhythm of the construction. I feel impressed and I want to show the mathematical dimension I see in it. I have an ongoing project, a serial work on architecture in black and white. In which I show an attraction for the formal dimension and the geometrisation of architecture and question the activation of statics by light and time.
Has the lockdown impacted your art? If yes, in what way?
Yes definitely. Lockdown has allowed me to take time to reflect. Not having access to equipment and the subjects I needed and was used to having, and being left to my own devices meant that I had to reorganise my way of working. Creativity develops differently in this particular situation. As my practice revolves essentially around people and architecture; neither of which were accessible, I was confronted with a deadlock initially. Slowly, I was able to adapt to the change and started observing the elements around me. The lockdown allowed me to discover different paths to keep me on track and proved to me that equipment was clearly practical but not essential when it comes to creating.
What have you been working on at the moment? What’s next?
I am working on my final project for my bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, in which I’m focusing on the question of boxes. Physical and metaphorical boxes that society says we must fit into in order to belong, and all sorts of different dimensions around it.
I don’t know what is next but I’m expanding my research within the geometry of the city and how it can be linked to movement. Furthermore, I am constantly nourishing my architectural photography and portrait practice, where I display my interest in the dimension of advertising and fashion industry codes while inscribing them in the history of portraiture from which they derive.