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Greif Alumni: Q&A with Niccolò Quaresima


We periodically invite our alumni, artists we have featured in the past, to share their new work and projects with us. We’re catching up with Niccolò Quaresima, whose work was featured in Mirjam Kooiman & Dominic Hawgood’s Guest Room in 2021. In the vibrant space of Viafarini-In-Residence in Milan, Italy, Quaresima’s wall hangs some deformed images printed on plexiglass. Images take over plasticity, rules it and transform themselves into a manipulable matter outside the bidimensional pixels that conceived them.

Der Greif: Hi Niccolò, it's great to be in the studio with you and catch up! Your photographic practice has been evolving, with a growing emphasis on the importance of materials. Works like "Planet Agar Agar," featured in Kooiman & Hawgood's Guest Room in 2021, as well as "Dusk to Dawn" and "Fantamania," clearly showcase your dedicated focus on transforming the chemical surface of photos. What sparked your interest in this?

Likewise! Well, my interest in photography as matter didn't arise with a specific intention, but rather as a consequence of a series of recurring stimuli and reflections. Some of these were nurtured by studies and interdisciplinary teachings that encouraged me to approach art practices without rigid categories. Others came about by chance, like stumbling upon moldy slides that inspired the work "Dusk to Dawn," for example. However, one of the strongest motivations for me is a sense of skepticism towards the concept of objective truth. Beyond the constructed image lies mystery, imagination, and freedom in my opinion. I am fascinated by the act of delving into the photographic material and freeing myself from formal stylistic conventions, approaching photography with the curiosity and imagination of a child.

Der Greif: And what direction is the research taking you?

What I am slowly trying to implement in my research is the community aspect. Although the meta-photographic aspect of exploring and manipulating the subject matter is strongly dear to me, I believe that art should propose thought-provoking themes that are also interesting to people who do not work in the art system or who have an interest in the conceptual aspects of the image. That is why my works always have a narrative substratum that remains relevant. In my latest work, “Fantamania”, I tackle the issue of substance use and abuse in sex, starting from the experiences of people from the queer community. For the first time, the work takes place in a dialogical way: in fact, there are interviews and collaborations with various people to convey the choral nature of the project.

Der Greif: So the residency was a big turning point for the progress of the project?

The residency has allowed me not only to engage with artists who work with diverse approaches but also to interact with various curators, which unlocked crucial aspects of my meta-photographic reasoning. Certainly, the chance of being an artist-in-residence here at Viafarini-In-Residence has provided me with a fundamental environment and dynamics to develop a discourse that otherwise would not have come to an end and a specific form.

Der Greif: You talk about a network of emotional support that creates support for the construction of a balanced socio-community existence, one where hiding behind a mask is not needed. These photos are masks of identity, yours and the community you refer to. Do you not find photography a mask behind which to hide?

The topic of the mask is a fascinating one. I don’t necessarily want to associate the act of wearing a mask with the need to seek concealment. Paradoxically, masks allow us to show ourselves without fear rather than hiding ourselves. Perhaps, my use of the photographic medium, thus the obsessive layering I apply in my works resembles a mask in its final form. I call it a kind of overlap of past selves layered into new images. At the same time, my photographic research often has transparent elements, and it is precisely in the illusion of transparency that I am able to conceal information and alterations.

Der Greif: Your photography is a project that starts from bodies therefore from desires, in a sense. In the staging of your works you then play a lot with the relationship between bodies and space, turning the photograph into a body itself. Do you find yourself in this? What possibilities does the transformation of photography into a body open up?

Photographs are for me a malleable organism. The illusion of two-dimensionality (which does not truly exist in our three-dimensional reality) is something that, if consistently utilized, can enhance the power of the photograph itself. Images make use of a medium in order to exist, just as a sentient identity requires a physical body, and this allows us to manipulate the medium to align with the concept. The material, whether paper or plastic, possesses its own language, which may not necessarily align with that of the image it contains. I believe that once we free ourselves from the ideological constraints of perceiving photography as a two-dimensional object, we unlock access to a new system, with new principles and dynamics.