The Grenze – Photographic Arsenals Festival returns to Verona starting from 9 September. The exhibition dedicated to contemporary international photography, now in its third edition, is organized by the Istituto Design Palladio in collaboration with the Department of Culture of the Municipality of Verona – Centro Scavi Scaligeri International Photography Institute with the patronage of IUSVE University. Ten locations in the city of Verona (with appendices in Trento and Bologna) will host the works of 25 photographers and two archives, that of Luigi di Sarro and that of the Scavi Scaligeri. The artists were selected among the big names on the international scene, but also among the emerging ones, by the curatorial trio that takes care of the artistic direction, composed of Simone Azzoni, teacher and art critic, Francesca Marra, photographer, and Arianna Novaga, photography teacher and scholar.
To get some previews and to deepen the project, we asked them some questions.
How did the idea for the Grenze – Photographic Arsenals festival come about and how has the format evolved in these three years?
The idea was to bring international photography back to Verona. Originally, the Arsenale hosted works that reflected on the theme of the border. Hence the title of the Festival which then became the logo. Border understood as the possibility of crossing between genres, languages and artistic landscapes. Right from the start, Grenze’s identity established itself as a brand of a free, non-profit Festival, with a look at distant territories, at emerging voices on the international scene, always looking for a network between the cultural subjects of the territory and beyond. Our professional background has naturally led us to favor training, education and the opportunities to share the practices and theories of photography. We also felt the need to release seeds to the city that could become significant presences during the year. Over the three years these characteristics have become structural with a busy calendar of conferences, workshops and events spread not only in space but also over time.
How did you divide up the tasks in this six-handed artistic direction?
The three of us add up the press, marketing, communication office as well as the artistic, organizational and curatorial direction. Francesca is a photographer, Arianna a photography scholar, I am a critic and teacher of contemporary art. Three visions that guarantee a fluid balance characterized by a symptomatic and healthy revision, redefinition of what lies on the border of our experiences and must be brought back to the center of a unitary artistic proposal. In concrete terms, every year there is a concept that becomes a prism that reflects divergent visions offered to the public to generate openings and not over-determined systems.
The theme of this edition of the festival is Als Ob, “as if”, a dubious German expression which indicates a hypothesis that is projected into reality and that is lived as if it were true. What aspects of the relationship between image and reality do you want to reflect on with this interpretation?
Last year it was feuer and this year, still in the mood of a language that generates precision of intentions, there is Als Ob. How prophetic to have foreseen that reality can bend to what we would like it to be. What we imagine it becomes, by repetition, by addiction, by overlapping between projection and world. The image took over and replaced the real.
How were the photographers selected?
Some artists have been suggested by those who preceded them according to a practice that introduces the photographer as the curator of a “colleague” whose quality he feels and appreciates. We have been following some of them for years and this is also a modality that we would like to characterize us: accompany the artists by showing the public the stages of a journey that continues. This is what happened for Enrico Fedrigoli, for example. Some photographers have been evaluated among the dozens of proposals that have come to us. Finally, others are in our professional history.
What collateral initiatives will the exhibitions accompany?
A conference on 8 October on animal portrait with Michele Smargiassi, the 5Continets publishing house and Giulia Mirandola promoted by ISUVE; a workshop with Valeria Pierini on imagery, memory and landscape, a workshop with Eolo Perfido on Street Photography, portfolio readings with Yvonne De Rosa and Stefano Mirabella. A conference with Samuele Mancini on the Fine Art print flow; the meeting in Trento with Claudio Giunta at the two points bookshop on 23 September entitled Gli Italiani.
What kind of collaboration has been established with the various exhibition venues – private and public – and what feedback are you getting from the city of Verona, where slowly it seems that a certain interest in contemporary art is being consolidated, thanks to the growth of the dedicated fair and to other especially private initiatives?
It is in our DNA to look for buds, to produce triggers. We knocked on many doors, the constellation created is authentically connected to the soul of Grenze. We believe that the Festival may have the strength to generate alternatives to plastered systems. The Palazzo looks at us with interest, ArtVerona supports us, the few galleries dedicated to photography host us during the festival. The effort is great, we hope that the public can share this gift we make to the city.
What would you recommend to a young emerging photographer to circulate his/her work?
To look for festivals that believe in the project without registration or participation fees. We cover all the expenses of the photographers, both the prints and the logistics. It seems fair to us.
Grenze – Photographic Arsenals 3rd Edition
curated by Simone Azzoni, Francesca Marra and Arianna Novaga
9 September – 2 November 2020
Jacob Balzani Lööv, Armenia and Azerbaijan Sports behind enemy lines, 2015
Brian McCarty, War Toys Survivor Alone, 2018
Eolo Perfido, Interpose Tokyo-Japan-Street-Photography, 2015
Stefano Mirabella, DOM, 2019
Hassan Rowshanbakht, The Wall Collection, 2019
Graduated in art history at DAMS in Bologna, city where she continued to live and work, she specialized in Siena with Enrico Crispolti. Curious and attentive to the becoming of the contemporary, she believes in the power of art to make life more interesting and she loves to explore its latest trends through dialogue with artists, curators and gallery owners. She considers writing a form of reasoning and analysis that reconstructs the connection between the artist’s creative path and the surrounding context.