Viola Arduini’s exhibition “The Chimera Manifesto” is our featured indoor exhibition for our annual community event Encompass. We had a digital studio visit with Viola to learn more about her process, inspiration and more!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
VA: Everything. Birds flying in the sky, biology, poetry, quantum physics, my dog, the river, and the list goes on. For me, inspiration comes in moments where everything aligns and your heart skips a beat.
In particular, I am fascinated by those moments when scientific facts resonate with all the truth of philosophical and mythological entities; when we learn things that are already real in our bodies and that connect us to each other. Those are my favorite moments, the sparks that start my work.
What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
VA: It can vary a lot. Some days studio work is just digging into scientific papers, getting lost into so many rabbit holes I sometimes forget where I started. Other days are for production, making, messing up. As a research-based artist, I am not attached to specifics processes or media, even though I have in photography my starting point: a way to visualize the many concepts and ideas I stumble upon.
I engage with new techniques or materials all the time, following the ideas and searching for ways to materialize them. Trying new things is the part of being an artist I love the most and that I find most frustrating at times,but I always learn something new.
What is your process when starting a new project or piece?
VA: Reading. Listening. Looking. Learning.
New projects usually start with researching. I devour interview, papers, lectures, podcasts, books on many different topics. There are moments when I encounter facts or ideas that resonate from within, and I decide to follow them. I soak into the scientific and poetic meaning of those, and I start visualize works that respond to those ideas, usually as photographic series or installations.
Where is your studio? Why did you choose that location?
VA: Right now my studio is in my living room. I am learning how to appreciate and work with the contaminations of one space for everything: home, office (in times of pandemic), studio, gym. It has been a struggle at times, but it also allows me to fluidly jump from one thing to another, or work on multiple things at once. That contamination is at the root of so much of my work: creating connections and erasing separations, so it works for now as a space that reflect some of my processes.
What are you currently interested in?
VA: In the last couple go years, I have been investigating genetics as a way for storytelling. It started with my previous solo exhibition, Ananke, where I used genetics to tell stories about extinction. The new work currently on view at Harwood Art Center, is still centered around biology and genetics as entryways to imagining chimeric bodies. I have starting thinking about the chimera, both a mythological creature and scientific term, as a symbol to challenge the distinctions and categories humans project over nature. To me, it is almost magical that my cells and the ones of a tree speak the same language, made of DNA
Do you have another job in addition to making art? How does it inform your art practice?
VA: I am the Education Coordinator at 516 ARTS, a contemporary art space in Albuquerque. Being an educator is also a big part of my vocation, and I really love how this job allows me to always meet new artists and support the creative communities in Albuquerque.
Was there a moment or a decision you made in your career that you feel was a personal success?
VA: Coming to New Mexico. As many important decisions in my life, it was a mix of thought-out rationality, instinctive response, and some luck. I moved here from Italy in 2016 for the MFA in Art & Ecology at UNM. I knew I wanted to be part of the program from the moment I randomly found it online, and I was lucky enough to be able to do it. It has been a deeply and revolutionary experience for me as artist and human: I learned so much, solidified my voice as artist, found a community for life, and realized so many things about myself in the living as immigrant far away from home.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
VA: I take the role of the alchemist. Alchemy is the forerunner of chemistry and other natural sciences, yet was a deeply spiritual and philosophical practice. I use my art in a similar way, creating collision between dry scientific facts and the beauty and myths that are rooted in those facts.
With my art, I hope to contribute closing some of the gap between what we feel and what we know, between all the categories that divide beings and disciplines.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I have been collaborating with musicians for a few years now, in particular for a project of sonification of genomes, The Deafening Presence, that is still going on. I am also a member of the decay // crystallization collective with two amazing musicians and composers, Simone Baron and Lauren Seiss. They have also been collaborating on the soundscape currently part of the Chimera Manifesto on view at Harwood Art Center. The piece is a collaborative sonification of the 1918 Spanish Flu virus genome.
I love music, yet I am not able to play anything and I would love to learn more for myself as a person, and as artist, to create more immersive installations that incorporate sounds and visuals.
Is there an artwork of yours that you will always keep?
VA: Its Feathers Shine was my first in many ways and still has a special place in my heart. The first exploration of human/animal relations, the first time I fell in love with birds, the first time I put all my focus towards the more-than-human and the space in between. I was living in UK at the time, and found myself as a young Italian photographer in agricultural fairs in the countryside; I barely could understand the English people were talking around me. In that disconnection, I found the relationship with the birds, that it is the core and starting point of so much of my practice today.
The project became a self published book, and I have the last copy of the series.
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
- Wallace – ‘On Mere Being’
What excites and / or delights you in your art practice right now?
VA: The contamination of art and science. I found this liminal spot so generative, a space where I am able to feed myself scientific facts and mix them with poetry, visual art, and mythology. For me, stopping believing there are hard distinctions between disciplines has a power in itself, and I am delighted by the expanse of possibilities that opens then.
How can people learn more, support, and or purchase your work?
VA: You can follow me on Instagram @violafromthesea. I am also always happy to hear from you with comments, opportunities, or just to say hi. There is a contact form on my website www.violaarduini.com, feel free to use it! 🙂
Viola Arduini is an Italian, interdisciplinary artist currently based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In her work, she investigates the relationships formed by humans, nature, and technology
Arduini received a Bachelor of Arts from NABA New Academy of Fine Arts, Milano, Italy in 2010 and a Master of Arts in Documentary Photography from University of South Wales, Newport, UK in 2015. She recently received a Master of Fine Arts in Art & Ecology from the University of New Mexico. She has exhibited in solo shows and her work has been included in group exhibitions in the US and Europe, including Santa Fe Art Institute (NM), Ffotogallery in Cardiff (UK), and Centrale Fotografia (IT). She has received numerous grants and scholarships, such as the Maryann Evans Scholarship for Graduate Students in Art Studio.