Bepi Ghiotti unlocks his artistic process and explains why his works are never still, even when framed.
How can we dig through our wasteful and extravagant existence so as to be able to see the most essential features lurking right beneath the surface? How do we grasp what’s there, that fleeting sensitive moment of understanding, and hold it within us? Bepi Ghiotti offers us the answers to these questions. Documenting his actions through video and photography, Ghiotti moves within his surrounding environment with a delicacy and awareness denied to most.
Every action he takes is carefully calibrated, never excessive and impeccably exact. Stripped of all that is superfluous, his work suggests the ability of going down to the very crux of things.
Ghiotti’s works are active records of the movements he makes in the world. Movement, for Ghiotti, is one of the most intrinsic aspects of being alive and, as such, requires that everything be in communication with everything else, so as to grasp its most natural progression. His works are manifestations of an ongoing, never-ending process which allows only the purest intentions to arise. Ghiotti moves within time, contracting and expanding it to fit his needs, moving at a pace that is uniquely his. Never finite, never still even when framed, his photographs are a representation of the perpetual act of going.
The artist’s longest action to date involved documenting Italian artist Carol Rama in her Turin studio for two years, capturing the sensitivity and freedom of this visionary artist through a slow process of assimilation. The result were highly charged photographs that were also published in the artbook Inside Carol Rama (Skira, 2014). Likewise, in his series Sources, the artist took one shot at the sources of rivers around the world after spending days, if not months, trying to reach them. The resulting artworks are the outcome of diluted actions, through which Ghiotti is able to capture the totality of experience in the fraction of a moment.
In a recent series, Ghiotti has composed triptychs of still frames extrapolated from his videos. They are intended as an edition, and yet each tryptic is unique as it is composed by an exclusive set of frames. By their very nature, each tryptic is different from the others even if the images are taken from the same video. In conjunction with these works, Ghiotti has granted us unique access into his internal dialogue and artistic process. Join us on this journey as, for the first time, Ghiotti explains how his artworks come to life – from the very beginning of the process to the final composition of the artworks.
How it all begins
Right now, we are by one of the many quarries along the river Po. Depending on the time of day, the light always touches the inverted cones differently. Along with the grain of the gravel, this allows for a nuancing of the shadows, and allows me to choose my canvas among the various tones of neutral. This was the setting for Mio Caro Richard – referring to Richard Long. I wanted my work to dialogue with him, I wanted to show him how unstable and fragile our ground is today. I investigate the margins, that is, those lines of demarcation between two opposites, like a river bank – on one side is water, the natural flow of time, on the other, cultivated land and the acceleration of the process of time by the hands of human beings. It is like being a trapeze artist, walking on those lines, absorbing the surrounding environment. These threshold areas come up in my works – be they videos, photography, or sculptures. One work in which it is most physically apparent is YTBT, a bonze cast where a single cut in a block of clay recreates the outline of the Mekong river.
The actions that I carry out are the result and triggers of an unremitting process. It all begins with long, internal discussions involving the development of certain intuitions. The purpose is not to criticize our world, but to open it up and expand on its essence, arriving at what is truly necessary. In our modern incessant search for the spectacular, layers of meaning are added until we lose sight of what lurks beneath the chaos. My intentions develop from within, it is most crucial that I sustain the internal dialogue for as long as I can, sanctioning its existence, absorbing its intentions, and elaborating on its consequences. All intentions must be overturned and examined from all angles, until there comes a time that the need to know how they will evolve in a context external from me is so strong that I must heed their demand to be released. They will be charged with dialoguing with new elements as active agents in perpetual transformation.
Beware of ideology and its cronies. Ideas can be distracting. If we are to get to the bottom of things, we must de-spectacularize our internal monologue. Ideas will try to convince us and offer ready-made solutions, creating expectations and pre-meditated outcomes. I do not want to be astonished by my own thinking. Although they can fuel the process, if relied on too strongly ideas can disconnect us from the surrounding environment. If given ample space to gallop unbridled in our minds, idea make the process too cerebral, not anchored in the actuality of the moment. Useful in certain phases of the advancement of the process, they can mystify our ability to capture any given moment. Beware of their siren song.
Resuming the journey
Intentions must progress. They must be released into the world and observed in how they interact with the surrounding environment. Art always begins with a push; it is in itself movement. Movement is a part of. It is a progression from everything that was, be it a footprint, an act, or an artistic current. Our engagement with movement keeps us alive. Hamish Fulton know this very well, having transformed the primary act of walking into artistic action. Engaging with movement means immersing yourself in the process, knowing that you will be carrying your intentions one step further and together with them the load of subtle alchemical equilibriums which have developed within you, behaving like music, in sync.
And so I depart, searching for the right conditions, knowing that when I find them I will place myself next to what already exists. Being in the world, becoming what is. Leaving behind ideology, but also individuality, as they constitute nothing but diversions from what lies beneath the surface. When in tune with the surroundings, the most natural development of the original intention will be able to unfold. If you can really become a part of those leaves, or those branches, or those trees, you will begin to see, if you have that vision that is – others might find mushrooms. But for me, in this way my intentions make their way to the surface, allowing me to grasp my surroundings and the conditions that lurk beneath the surface, shaping what is.
For this to happen, one must work by subtraction. Everything that can be taken out must be taken out. The void created by this reduction will need, in part, to be filled with technique. Technique does not make an artwork, yet it must be allowed to do its job. Only at a very particular moment does it come into play, without disturbing the anticipatory moments of production. When you place the camera on a rock, or decide the framing, you are doing so with the knowledge you acquired during previous actions. This part of the process requires to keep methodology on one hand and emptiness on the other. It is only so that an unnatural equilibrium of sorts will materialize, creating a short circuit and distortion of reality that will be the basis for the creation of a new one.
It is not about chance. Chance exists and must play its part, yet it must also be controlled. This means that when I set off, I know that am already enacting a contradiction. But if the intentions are good, if the process is developed enough to have consistency, the most straight-forward actions will be able to unfold. There is no point in expecting, for example, rain or shine. This is not important. I look for a state of grace. Chance will bring more significance to actions. Perhaps some inaccuracies, or the simplicity of gesture. These things are truth, they are what must happen.
Time is the common denominator. Pebbles are part of a river bed, collected into cones and then ground to dust. The pebbles, like everything around us, are an event, they move through time. Time is an anchor, and yet, it must be allowed to roam freely. It must be allowed to change, expand, retract, and cease existing. The inherent fragility of time speaks to the need for constant research, even if we will come to understand that time, in fact, does not exist. It is a constant, inevitable, and yet eludes our comprehension.
When I come back to my studio, the act has been recorded, it is done, and yet the process must continue, it demands to be expanded upon. And so, I dismantle the work, upset it, spend an exhausting number of hours looking at it from every possible perspective. In the end, it turns out that the most essential actions are always the correct ones to take. There is an intrinsic simplicity that shines through the complexity of the process. Making sense of the action means allowing it to hold its own vision of the future, its own possibility of expansion.
In this particular series I have extracted three frames from videos of different actions. They are editions comprised of unique pieces. They recall that action in the simplest way possible. Often in choosing the frames that best express the action there is a beginning, a middle, and an end, but this is just one possibility out of a million. It is the manifestation of that action moving forwards in time. That which it refers to is only there in essence. It is the material representation of an action that by its very nature in immaterial – a paradox.
Artspace interview, published 2021