Ardesia Projects is a curatorial platform dedicated to contemporary photography. The platform focuses on stimulating critical debate through activities such as exhibition, workshops, and residencies. Ardesia Projects was created by artists for artists, aiming to create opportunities for the photographic community with the intent of unburdening artists from production costs and to stimulate creative exchange through essays, reviews, talks, and workshops. The intent of Ardesia Projects is to create a community outside of the more established networks. In times of financial crisis and lack of investment within the art world and, more specifically, within the photography field, competition is favored over cooperation, and working as a full-time photographer has become increasingly difficult.
»We believe that only from building a genuine and positive environment can artists develop their practices and improve by sharing experiences and knowledge with each other.«Ardesia Projects
Ardesia Projects was founded in 2015 by Michele Amaglio, Benedetta Casagrande, and Dimitri D’ippolito, to face a series of issues that are present today in the photography field at a European scale. Among the main issues we find: expensive open calls held by major institutions, which often require a high participation fee; lack of pay or economical support for exhibiting photographers; a competitive selection process which often overlooks the depth of photographic research and favoring previously awarded photographers. We believe that only from building a genuine and positive environment can artists develop their practices and improve by sharing experiences and knowledge with each other.
Our motivation is to show that there are possibilities to work professionally even outside the established scene. We refer to our own experience as professionals to understand what we need to provide to establish an ethical and professional working relationship with our collaborators. We believe that low budgets are not necessarily in conflict with the production of high-level work, and mostly, we do not believe in unpaid work, even if our budgets are low.
One of our most important activities, which will be replicated for the occasion in Stuttgart, is Creative Storm; a series of monthly peer-review encounters in which both students and professional photographers can show ongoing projects to fellow artists, while collectively giving and receiving feedback.
We have run Creative Storm in Milan (IT) since 2017 and, following its success, we began holding sessions in Brighton (UK) in 2018 when we launched our first Artists in Residence, In Between Shores. The residency is a 24-day program in which we cover production and living costs, free workshops, and exhibition costs for five selected photographers, following an open call for submissions with no age or nationality restrictions.
Alongside our collaborative activities, we curated exhibitions, among them SCREENED, as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe 2016, The Sky Opens Twice at JEST Gallery in Turin, and Rottura di Superficie at B#S gallery in Treviso.
The Project »Atlas of Forms«
We want to bring our point of view to Soft Power Palace with a project designed to be a playful exploration around the theme of images and culture. Our participation in the Soft Power Palace aims to explore the appearance and disappearance of forms through various historical and geographical locations, with the intent of establishing a transregional common ground through an investigation of our visual culture.
»Art history appears as a colorful mass of objects and events, states and changes, circulations and rumors. How to trace, in this immense mass, the creation and transformation of forms?«Ardesia Projects
From antiquity until today, art history has been constellated with culturally charged forms, which seem to appear not only in different cultures, but also seem to disappear and reemerge in different epochs in various geographical locations. Art history appears as a colorful mass of objects and events, states and changes, circulations and rumors. How to trace, in this immense mass, the creation and transformation of forms? We do not only ask ourselves how they distribute themselves in time and space, but in which way this redistribution transforms their anthropological character. Art has always had the duty of giving voice to the intricacies of the human experience, sublimating it through sacred and profane objects in order to aid the human soul in understanding its own complexity. Therefore, our visual history provides an atlas of formulas which respond to a variety of cross-cultural human experiences; death, sexuality, power, procreation, nature, and so on.
Taking the aforementioned considerations as starting point to our project for the Soft Power Palace Festival, we have decided to dedicate our two weeks of residency to exploring visual forms, their return, their transfiguration and their categorization through multiple voices, which are both cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary. Our desire is to explore not only the return and transfiguration of forms under a global perspective, but to promote a permeate of discourses and disciplines in the reading and understanding of such visual material.
Our project, Atlas of Forms, consists of two cycles of production. The first week will be dedicated to collecting images: six photographers from six countries will be asked to participate in creating an archive built on a chain-linked visual communication. We will ask the six photographers to submit images in response to visual forms. The submission process will be chain-linked, one photographer having to respond to the previous photographer’s images, in order to activate a search for common cultural symbols. In the meanwhile, we will be responding to the submitted images by collecting relevant archival material and creating new images ourselves. The objective of the first week will be to accumulate a vast number of images and visual formulas to work with during the second week.
The second week will focus on reading, assembling, dismantling, and exploring the collected visual archive, taking as an example Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas. The German art historian and cultural theorist has revolutionized the methodology of art history by challenging the traditional method that considered only chronological and geographical standards. Warburg’s studies, instead, confronted the visual forms of artworks made in very different epochs and locations with the attempt to find a cultural common ground between distant cultures. In his studies he has been able to prove, in fact, that there are images, forms, and rituals that survived (Nachleben) throughout the historical ages; images are strictly connected to the memory of a given community and they must be interpreted considering the complex cultural interconnections behind them. In practical terms, the Mnemosyne Atlas consisted of 79 panels in which Warburg placed reproduction of paintings, sketches, and photographs assembled together; images become the privileged object to »say the World«.
Therefore, five professionals from five different disciplines will be invited into our studio to curate and assemble their own panels whose categorization will depend on the specific reading of the material provided by the different research backgrounds. Our participation in the curatorial process aims to be a background aid to the invited professionals, without our curatorial voice taking over; what we are interested in is dismantling the decision process of the invited curators, in order to understand how different research fields work with, understand, and interpret visual forms.
Throughout the two weeks we will be documenting and reelaborating the processes and outcomes in an online gallery that we will build specifically for this project with the aid of graphic designers. The website will consist of a curated online gallery with the photographs submitted by the artists during the first phase of production; a specific section documenting the panels curated by the invited professionals, thematically categorized, accompanied by text, videos, and photographs recording the process. Ultimately, the website’s thematic section categories will be interactive; it will be permanently possible to upload image-contents relevant to the chosen category.