In Dialogue with Gianluca Bianchino
An Attempt to Communicate with Reality, Gianluca Bianchino’s vibrant multi-media installation at Gallery Bergen in Paramus New Jersey, is a hybrid virual/in situ installation accompanied by the gallery navigable models of the installation as it has been created on site.
Tell me about the genesis of this hybrid virtual/in situ installation.
The idea of featuring my work in this context came from Gallery Bergen director Tim Blunk. Tim was interested in using the virtual gallery tour we have become accustomed to during the pandemic in a more experimental and interactive way. He believed that my large scale installation work could be further mapped in detail to provide viewers with a more immersive navigational experience in the realm of virtual reality, while existing as a real work in the solitude of Gallery Bergen. I immediately had sense that my installations could work well in this hybrid setting, particularly concerning Space Junk, an ongoing body of work conflating found objects, video projection, and three dimensional illusions.
What do visitors encounter in the real space and what do they encounter in virtual viewing?
West Hall, the building that houses Gallery Bergen is closed to the public, as is much of the Bergen Community College campus. Only a handful of people directly tied to this project, the gallery, or the campus public safety, will experience the installation in person. This limitation is actually at the core of what inspired the project. The idea was to produce a work that exists in the real world but can only be experienced, as realistically as possible, via virtual reality. The general theme of the work concerns satellite or probe-like structures stranded in space, attempting to communicate with each other or the Earth in a setting that is lonely, just like much space travel might actually be. The isolation of the building and the installation’s theme reinforce each other’s states of desolation. The human presence is one tapping in from another dimension, the virtual, trying to mediate the installation and the physical space that contains it.
The text for the show says: “The means of presentation are part of the piece: we explore the new frontiers of virtual reality as they have become intertwined with and taken hold of our otherwise real lives in the past year.” Can you elaborate on that?
The pandemic has significantly sped up the dissolution of the art world into the virtual realm. Over the last year galleries and museums have tried to make sense of presenting formal exhibitions in this way, with what appear to be mixed results. The studio visit is now more of an Instagram and Zoom affair than one in which we use to experience the artist’s space, equipped with the smells of their environment and the tastes of their selection of wine and cheese. Political events have also asked art to be more upfront, heavy handed, and strongly opinionated. We’ve been hit by a visceral bomb of images, which paired with our daily dependency on social media, makes it often hard to discern what is art, and what is everything else. Only time will tell what we will have gained from all this, but what we may have surrendered in the interim is our propensity to contemplate.
This collaboration between myself and Gallery Bergen’s sole means of presentation at the moment, the virtual tour, is an attempt to build an experience which relies on the very system that is being questioned, while trying to engage it in a layered capacity. It required building a work that is both immersive and reflective, one that moves slowly and engages its viewer (now a navigator) to pause and listen. Thus, the presentation is not so much of the gallery space (though a beautiful one), but of the work itself, set in the far corner, equipped with landing points that lead to external audio/video files. While navigating the actual piece, one will notice change in every frame due to the impossibility of the 3D camera to capture the moving video projections simultaneously. This provides a layered experience of time and space. A navigator may never witness this actual installation in person, but through interactive modes of presentation, they are challenged to piece it together in their own way relying on references of scale, proportion, moving images, and audio. I hope it will lead the audience to a contemplative state that exists somewhere between the real and the reconstructed.
Why photo umbrellas?
Not only photo umbrellas, but tripods, light stands, architect’s desk lamps, and video projectors. These materials have been part of the larger lexicon of this this body of work over the years. This time in particular they have morphed into modular units, quasi-robots shooting projections and lights at each other in an attempt to visualize and read one another’s thoughts. While their form may allude to satellites with their umbrella-like solar panels or space shields against debris, in my work these props are integral to both the materials of my studio practice and the work I’ve done as a commercial photographer and videographer. Video projectors have been a means of playing video art as well as a tool for tracing images onto canvases. They also relate to a time when my work took the form of representational painting. Somewhat incidentally, these materials are now helping me construct a vision of space that stems from a lifelong interest in astronomy and science fiction. This work is a kind of self-portrait set in a vintage sci-fi universe.
Sound seems to be an important element in this installation. Can you tell me more about your approach to sound and its integration with the visual?
The audio holds secrets to the story of this work. From afar the installation may appear to be high tech, but it’s actually a form of ad hoc assemblage with electrical components. The implementation of sound within my installation work is fairly new territory for me. I knew I also didn’t want sound to be a high tech feature. While experimenting in a previous work I discovered rather accidentally that some projectors emanate their own sound through their built in speakers, which are not usually of good quality. The timbre-static texture of that sound was enticing with its distant, ghostly feel. It moved me to incorporate as many projectors as possible within this new composition; seven in this case, each emanating a slightly different audio track. In the gallery one might experience being in a sound cloud of echoed voices layered over a quasi-musical composition (developed with Jersey City based musician Brian Lawlor). The voices (recorded by myself and artist Lauren Vroegindewey), are readings of a word poem I wrote in which I tried to think like a projector, using a vocabulary that is referential to this kind of technology.
Within this stream of conscience built on speculative technical talk based on alignment, signal search, and optical updates, The Projectors intermittently ask a deeper question: “What has happened to the earth/ Are we the Earth? Ultimately sound has proven to be one of the more exciting features in making this piece. It introduces my work to a dialog about language. If equipment with a power source were to be abandoned by humans, would it want to evolve through its own existing means of communication? Would it want to build a language and thought process independent from its creator? The likes of Isaac Asimov raised this question for us to continue to explore in new and exciting ways. The discoveries taken place in this experiment are already paving the way for the next iteration.
An Attempt to Communicate with reality An installation by Gianluca Bianchino. Curated by Tim Blunk At Gallery Bergen – West Hall building Bergen Community College, Paramus, NJ