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Dealing with the past - Artfacts interview with Moira Ricci

Moira Ricci, 20.12.53-10.08.04 (sulla motoretta con una amica), 10,77 x15 cm, lambda print on aluminum, 2004

Moira Ricci is a young Tuscan artist working with photography and video. In 2007 she was selected as Italian representative by the artist residency program Location One in New York. Recently she has been nominated one of the five winners artists in the fourth edition of the Biennale Giovani di Monza, open from April 14th until July the 17th 2011 at the Villa Reale in Monza.

TM: Hi Moira, can you briefly tell us something about your history? When were you born and where do you live, also when did you get into photography and what kind of education did you receive?

MR: Hi Teresa, I was born in Orbetello, an Italian city on the cost of southern Tuscany (Maremma). At the age of 18 I moved to Milan where I studied photography first at the R.BAUER Institute and then at the Accademia of Brera where I specialized in Multimedia and Visual Communication. I am now based in Tuscany even though my job makes me travel a lot.

TM: Knowing your work so deeply related to your roots, I am not surprised to hear that you decided to move back to your hometown. However, other than Milan you had the chance to explore New York during your eight months residency at Location One (2007-2008), a very renowned artist program in the city. Here you created Well I hear the music, close my eyes, feel the rhythm, wrap around, take a hold of my heart (Ora sento la musica, Chiudo gli occhi, Sento il ritmo che mi avvolge, Fa presa nel mio cuore). Can you talk a bit about this project?

MR: Yes. This is a video realized by assembling together old cameraworks taken from my mother during my past dance recitals. The video has as background music the famous song ďWhat a feelingĒ from Flashdance soundtrack, a cult 80s film loved by all the teen girls who danced with me and whose lyrics are really close to my life story. My aim was to overcome a sense of guilt I had toward my mother after she died. In fact I quit dancing when I was 18 years old against my motherís wishes, because I wanted to focus myself on photography studies. She hardly tried to convince me to carry on both things, but at that time I didnít want to dance anymore, though my passion was strong and it is still a big part of my life. After she passed away I felt myself terribly guilty about falling short her expectations.

TM: Why New York inspired you to work on the dancing theme, a life chapter belonging to your past, family and home country?

MR: When I was in New York I realized that the thing I liked better was dancing. I went out dancing every night, exploring different music and spaces. I used to enter in places where I didnít know anyone ending up knowing everybody. Unlike Milan, where I always feel like I am being judged, in New York I felt free to express myself dancing with no restrictions and limits.

Moira Ricci, 20.12.53-10.08.04 (mamma innaffia), 20x30 cm, stampa lambda su alluminio, lambda print on aluminum, 2005

TM: 20.12.53 - 10.08.04 is probably the series that gave you a greater public acclaim. This is an intimate work where you manipulate old photographs of your mother, including your persona in the pictures. How originated the idea of the series and how did you accomplish it?

MR: 20.12.53 - 10.08.04 didnít come up from an idea but rather from a strong desire to go back in time and stay with my mother. As I said before, I left my hometown at 18 years old, and when I lost her I immediately regret for the time we didnít spend together. From the day I saw her lifeless body I have been trying to enter in her pictures in a way that could help me in removing that image from my head. Transferring my own figure in my motherís photographs I had the illusion to be with her, take care of her as her guardian, and warn her on what could happen to avoid her death. Therefore I did my hair and I dressed up in order to silently disguise myself and become part of the picture. So I could slip into my motherís past in search of an intimate and eternal space for us. Colors, shadows, grain and poses are carefully thought in order to not remove or hide (cover) anybody in the original picture.

TM: Much of your past and recent work is based on the use of archive images from your family album. Yet 20.12.53 - 10.08.04 shows a greater awareness of this artistic practice. In the constant attempt to meet your motherís gaze, there is something more than just retracing your family past. What does this gaze mean?

MR: I always look at her as I need to tell her about the accident that is going to separate us. You can see from my gaze that I already know what will happen. Unfortunately I remained trapped in the picture, but at least close to her.

TM: Therefore watching Well I hear the music ..we are invited to observe you through your motherís eyes. On the contrary 20.12.53 - 10.08.04 is all about your intimate vision of her.

Moira Ricci, 20.12.53-10.08.04 (mamma stira), 13,56x21 cm, lambda print on aluminum, 2004

MR: Yes, that was exactly my intention. The exchange of gazes is a way to carry on an eternal dialog with my mother.

TM: Letís talk about your last work: From dark to dark (Da buio a buio). Here you donít draw from your family album, but from odd folk tales belonging to Maremma, your home region. Would you introduce us to this new work?

MR: From dark to dark is photographic project documenting four Italian folk tales I have been always hearing since I was a child, and in which many people from my hometown still believe. These tales are based both on true and fictional stories, also transformed by the word of mouth as time goes by. One tale is about an half human and half boar girl, another one talks about a werewolf, then there is the one on the naked man who used to walk with a rope on the waist dragging a big stone. Finally the tale about a child with his twin in his belly. After a long documentation process, I recreated the images of these legendary characters, bringing together archival material, such as old photographs, video and newspapersí articles, with the image I pictured in my mind through the plots I have been told during my childhood. My aim is to make the spectator believe in these tales as I used to.

Moira Ricci, Da buio a buio (Bambina cinghiale adolescente); uncertain date ; not original frame, photograph belonging to Mr Renato Ruvidi, 2009

TM: Why do you think the reacquisition of archive material is becoming an artistic practice so popular among young generations of photographers? Maybe there is a stronger need to cherish the memory of the past?

MR: My works are always about my personal past experience, and this is why I have been using archival images since 2001. I donít know exactly why nowadays this process is becoming so widespread, but I can say that archival images are often used without a real concept behind, but only with an aesthetic purpose.

TM: Who were the most influential artists in the development of your artistic research?

MR: It is always hard for me to say which artists I like better, because I appreciate the work of many. In the light of day I would say Cindy Sherman, Tracey Moffat, David Lynch, Joan Fontcuberta and Roberto Cuoghi.

TM: Are there any projects or exhibitions that you are currently working on?

MR: Well, 20.12.53 - 10.08.04 and From dark to dark are both open series. I have been working on the first since 2004 and on the second since 2009. Regarding exhibitions I will be included in a group show within a the Photoaumnales de Beauvais Photography Festival (France) this upcoming September. Also I am working on a project for AMACI, the Italian Contemporary Art Museum Association, which invited me to create a work representing an Italian place.

TM: Thank you Moira for this interview, and good luck with your work

MR: It was a pleasure, ciao

Moira Ricci, Da buio a buio (Lupomannaro), inkjet print on photographic paper, egg white, 7x10 cm, 2009

Interview by: Teresa Meucci


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