15 Questions With… Marina Caneve

Are They Rocks or Clouds?

How are you at the moment?

Trying to avoid talking about the pandemic, I could say that it’s a strange moment in my professional life, many things which I have been working on for long time have finished and I’m looking forward taking more time to develop new work, or work which was there but not developed enough yet.

I just printed a two new works, The Valley Between Peaks and Stars (Quodlibet) and Di roccia, fuochi e avventure sotterranee (Quodlibet/Ghella). The Valley Between Peaks and Stars is a collaboration with Gianpaolo Arena and Vulcano Agency. It took us three years and huge amount of research. When we started to work on this project we had the idea of having artists propose their visions to companies, and in doing so strike a balance between commissioned and open researches, cultural and commercial, without necessarily dividing them. Di roccia, fuochi e avventure sotterranee is a collection of photographic campaigns, which I’m proud to be part of, curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and commissioned on construction sites in Europe, the Far East and Oceania by Ghella. I’ve been working in Athens reflecting on issues that are extremely relevant in my research as memory, science and social and cultural environment, blending imagination and facts. I could look a lot into the classical culture where my roots are anchored and as well experiment and play with photography.

Very soon I’ll start to teach again at the Master IUAV in Photography and Spazio Labò, I’m really looking forward.

What is your morning ritual? How does your day begin?

I really don’t have a ritual, but I can tell you that I love the mornings when I find the energy to wake up really early, go outside on the terrace in the cold with a cup of coffee and take the time to do a little of meditation and exercise before starting to work. In the morning, either while driving somewhere or sitting on my desk, I like to listen at the Italian radio station Rai Radio 3.

Before the pandemic, it was really different. I was travelling all the time and waking up most often in different places depending on what I was photographing or doing. Honestly, I like this chaos without rituals and always different mornings.

What, right now, can you see?

I’m in my studio where I decided anchor a desk to a big bookshelf that is placed perpendicular to the wall. The bookshelf doesn’t have a background so I can see through books and objects, which create a kind of landscape that changes every time that I reorganize my material. I like to organize the squares of the bookshelf by projects that I’m currently working on, so that I can visualize all the references and research material all the time. It helps to keep me focused and also to choose between different options.

What artist, project, book would you recommend we see/follow?

Recently I gave a class about the topic of the ‘archive’ and one of the works that I keep discussing and re-discovering with much love is Ramya by Petra Stavast. Also referring to the archive, another work which really intrigues me is Reference Guide by Michiel De Cleene.

Looking at a space for photography I’d like to share Leporello run by Chiara Capodici in Rome which I am very fond of and Fotohof in Salzburg run from a group of lovely people including Andrew Phelps and Herman Seidl.

I’m also looking with curiosity into Esther Hovers, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Aaron Schuman, Federico Clavarino, Eline Benjaminsen, just to name a bunch.

Tell us about your process when starting a new project

By nature I’m a curious person and I like to embrace different topics and disciplines. Often while randomly researching driven by the flow, I bump into something that I recognize as an anomaly. In a way I could say I need a pretext to start and then I make further research till when I find a small detail that triggers my attention and opens an entrance to start physically producing work. I like to combine research with exploration, source and imagination, surfing the limits between technical-scientific and experimental-poetic.

What has been your favourite collaboration?

There are a few most recent that I’d like to mention. While making my book Are They Rocks or Clouds? the collaboration with writer Taco Hidde Bakker and designer Hans Gremmen. The long therm collaboration with Gianpaolo Arena especially for Calamita/à, the most recent with Alessandro Dandini de Sylva for Di roccia, fuochi e avventure sotterranee and with the curator Giangavino Pazzola. I truly admire all of them and I feel I was really lucky to have the chance to work together for different reasons. I can’t really narrow it down to less than that.

Are They Rocks or Clouds?

What is your greatest achievement?

Oh, that’s a huge question and I’d like to reply with “has yet to come”, but to be totally honest I’m happy with my career and being able to make a living with my work without compromises. Working all the time on personal research is challenging because there’s never really a break between work and personal work, but actually I’m happy with investing all my energies on that, it fulfils (almost) my curiosity and interests.

What is your greatest regret?

I terribly miss living in Amsterdam and especially the people I had around me over there, but this isn’t really a regret, it’s more a sort of nostalgia.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

To get rid of uncertainty, to keep being passionate as I’ve always been, but to allow myself a bit more freedom and relax. To enjoy more moments and be proud instead of always modest and low profile.

What is your latest project about?

Are They Rocks or Clouds? is about a scenario for a catastrophe yet to come in the Dolomites. This project is really important to me because it gave me the opportunity to challenge the role of photography as, on the one hand, an engaged research tool, and on the other as a medium with a constitutive artistic value.

Large part of the work is about challenging ways to read the environment that we’re part of. The contemporary climate discussion so far taught us that we will be more and more pushed to adapt our lives around the inevitable and in that sense my work questions how we shape our knowledge and our capability to understand catastrophes even before them happen.

What are you researching at the moment?

During the first lockdown here in Italy (actually probably moved by the situation of confinement) I felt the urge to come back to a project started in 2015 about freedom and movement. In order to approach this subject I sought an entry that could help me to express my reflections but above all my perplexities. I found this entrance by discovering an infrastructure of freedom: a network of bridges for animals designed to preserve biodiversity in Europe. The project, through an extremely concrete scenario, tries to challenge a lot questions which are ethic even before aesthetic.

What can you not work without?

Research books where I collect, write, organize, shape, evolve, draw, go back and forth.

What challenges have you faced working in your industry?

Keep on working on interesting projects and researches as a job. That’s what I’m constantly working on.

What are you hoping for in 2021?

Huge question. Avoiding mentioning banalities about the global situation and looking at a smaller scale I hope to stay much less in front of a screen and to discover new ways to confront with the world outside, to challenge myself into new adventures, finish work which is open and work again with people I admire.

Share a song with us, what are you listening to at the moment?

Low – Fly

Are They Rocks or Clouds?

Marina Caneve (born 1988) is a photographer exploring how our knowledge is shaped through a research-based and multidisciplinary approach. Her work was exhibited internationally and she was commissioned photographic projects for institutions such as MUFOCO, MiBACT, ICCD, National Mountain Museum, as well as for private clients. She combines her artistic practice with teaching at Master IUAV in Photography and Spazio Labò.

She is co-founder of CALAMITA/À and, since 2020, member of MAPS. Her recent photobook Are they Rocks or Clouds? has won numerous awards including the Giovane Fotografia Italiana Award at Fotografia Europea Reggio Emilia, the Dummy Award at Cortona On The Move, the Bastianelli Award and was nominated for the Prix du livre des Rencontres d’Arles.

Her major publications include Are they Rocks or Clouds? (Fw:Books), Di roccia, fuochi e avventure sotterranee (Quodlibet/Ghella), The Valley Between Peaks and Stars (Quodlibet), and The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water (A+Mbookstore).