At first glance, this dark and abstract photograph catches the eye as a surreal portrayal seemingly lifted off from an H.R Giger design book. With a solid black background and a shining abstract image at its core the frame appears to be capturing something out of this world. Imagine the shock when I realized the photographs title was “cabbage”. However, this is not the abstract postmodernism one initially expects when connecting image to title but rather Lucia Pizzani’s exemplary use of absence and shadows to convey the ongoing scarcity and crisis in her home country of Venezuela.
This is exactly the topic of “Cesta Basica” (basic food basket), the centerpiece in Pizzani’s exhibition “Broader Implications” that seeks to create awareness about Venezuela’s inability to access basic items. Recently hyperinflation and economic mismanagement has plummeted Venezuela into a massive shortage of basic goods causing day-to-day foodstuffs like eggs, milk, rice, and pasta to disappear from pantries throughout the country. Considering this, Pizzani uses Photograms, images created by the negative shadows of objects placed directly onto photographic paper, to portray the increasing absence of staple goods from Venezuelans lives. In this way, the artist has been able to combine subject and technique to portray crises by mirroring the grave situation of scarcity in Venezuela by creating silhouette of these same items on paper via the absence of light. To this extent, only absence remains on the pages similarly to how only the absence of vegetables and produce remain in the empty shelves of Venezuelan households.
“The first way people relate to the image is the image itself” Lucia explained as we sat down for an interview after walking through her exhibition together. However, this is only the initial perception of the piece as after realising the everyday nature of the items represented the artists intention of “using the actual absence and shadows of objects” to create “abstract” manifestations of these foods comes to light. To this effect, the sense of foreignness and unfamiliarity initially expressed by these images works to instil on the viewer the feeling of uncertainty many Venezuelans have about their daily meals. Ambiguity surrounds these shadowy images in the same way it envelops the grocery trips of Venezuelans that stand for hours in lines only to be met with empty supermarkets and even emptier stomachs.
There is an unshakable sense of surrealism exuding from these vaguely familiar yet intangible nature of these pictures. Darkness surrounds these bleach white objects making them appear drastically alien, like bones on an X-ray machine, creating a macabre and impactful allusion to the increasingly skeletal features of Venezuelans which as of last year have lost an average of 19lbs due to food shortages. As everyday items become foreign, the powerful distance innately found in these images works to mirror the growing disconnect between Venezuelans and their formerly guaranteed nutritional basis. Considering this, the immersion into ambiguity of seemingly ordinary objects provides a unique look into the day to day lives of Venezuelans whose reality increasingly plunges into surrealism.
Pizzani has provided an exemplary look into the crisis within Venezuelan’s food basket by employing a precise mirroring of reality and artistic technique. By use of photograms, she raises awareness about the ongoing crisis within her home country by instilling on the viewer the feeling of ambiguity and uncertainty many Venezuelans experience towards food items on a daily basis. Thus, Lucia Pizzani demonstrates how artistic expression can invoke a dimension of reality that journalistic reports can only convey in shallow terms by creating a connection between the viewer and those struggling in Venezuela ultimately fomenting empathy and awareness with her home countries plight.
Lucia Pizzani is a Venezuelan born artist working in London for more on her work and information on future exhibits visit: http://www.luciapizzani.com/
Photo Credits to Patrick Doods