Interview with Luca Pulvirenti
How did you start? What attracted you to the digital animation, and then to the videomapping?
When I was a kid I was amazed by cartoons, like every child I would say. My father showed me cartoon with a 8 mm projector in the house: he would mount the film reel in the projector and then switch on the lamp of the machine. The light would soon start to flicker inside the shutter and the film to advance through the plate, revealing the magic of motion and so I was astonished. I was very excited by the characters getting alive, this was a kind ceremony for me and I have a very vivid picture of this in my memory. I think this strongly motivate me when I later decided to study animation. Also I think as a student I was lucky to find the right school and some great teachers and this kept the dream alive. I would say that Videomapping later came as a natural evolution of all this life experience. I strongly acknowledge videomapping as an expanding reprojection of cinematic depiction.
Could you tell us about your first videomapping?
I discovered videomapping by chance, collaborating on a theatre piece where video acted as part of the narrative. The wings of the stage covered the lower section of characters’ bodies. Thus the video projections completed the remaining portion of the acting scene. A very simple visual inter-act which needed some visual clarity to produce an effective result, so I created a video mask layer to clean up the projection: I suddenly realize the whole range of possibilities and I remember this as a clear moment of enlightenment and inspiration.
You mix traditional and digital animation, would you say that you have a “unique” approach to the videomapping?
When the lived experience of architecture untangles the complexity of memory and imagination, light becomes the only medium to grant access to the space in order to enlarge imagination: and so the ephemeral moments of our recollections become sharper. I investigate “gesture” as physicalization of oneiric substance and so I’m looking for new means between handcrafts and numeric art.
Could you describe your creative process?
We apply Tra-digital animation as a case study, where the paradox of “timing” becomes material: such declination explores the edges of imagination and questions the liminality between literature and space. Our narrative often explores the notion of memory, places and marks: we depict a journey into idealization, romanticism and paradoxical re-thinking of new contemporary forms of art.
How much are you influenced by the story of the building that you are mapping?
Buildings often speak to themselves, they carry their own history and so everything lays there, embodied within. Jan Swankmajer believes that by touching objects you deposit feelings and emotion in them, so creating the dormant soul of any inanimate object: he then works to “excavate” such content from the object, through the animation process. Architecture and Buildings are constructed, lived, inhabited, used, converted, destroyed, bombed and rebuilt, so they are possessed by incredible spirits. In our work we try so to deepen inside the history, because videomapping cannot just be related to the facade, and to expose our discovery to the audience, which always has a big role in our creative intent.
Your are mostly known for your videomapping creations, but you are also a teacher in the Fine Arts Academy, an animator, a graphic designer, a visual artist… In which area do you like to work the most?
I don’t have a favorite one. I keep ideas and approaches interconnected so things stay fresh and I can experiment more. I’m fascinated by the exploration of the intimate connection between topics and tools, artistic expression and signifier. But mostly indeed I like teaching because it’s a playground where I can express my true self and where I can practise on the most fascinating tool, which is the human soul.
Recently you worked in theatre, how do you feel the difference? Where do you feel more comfortable?
Theatre is the dilution of an instant, the expansion of a moment, the diary of the present. It’s both a mystery and a revelation, it’s the supreme ground for any artistic discourse. I enjoy working inside dark spaces, it’s like a discourse with the subconscious.
Behind Lab Mammasonica, there is more than one person. Is the team work important for you?
Team work is everything for us, it’s the secret, it’s the real key to success.
What are you working on now and what are your projects in the near future?
I’m currently working on new installation in public spaces and developing immersive installation. I’m willing to investigate more on the relations between the matter and its immaterial surroundings.
In the last productions you worked on, you had to share the space with the light. What do you think about this combination? How did you deal with it?
I don’t personally consider projectors much different from traditional light source, it’s really just a matter of how you approach them.
Your latest installations took place in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, and now you are starting to work again in Sicily, how do you explain that?
No specific reason for this, really. New media are starting to augment locally and we are naturally taking part into this development. There are endless possibilities but there are more difficulties here than abroad. Italy needs a lot of attention since the last twenty years our culture was vandalized by politics and television.
Videomapping became very popular. Do you think videomapping era is already ending? How can you still amaze people?
Videomapping will be considered merely a projection technique, a tool. Nowadays a strong visual detachment has been achieved from the physical perception through the virtual realm. Any interplay between mapping and kinetics, light and matter offer a complete new range of spatial considerations, shifting our attention from surfaces to the volume. We only started to move, thus it’s just the end of the beginning.