Grazia Toderi’s Digital Visions on Display at the Hirshhorn

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Step into either side of the gallery theatre at the Hirshhorn to see the new exhibition, “Directions: Grazia Toderi,” and one is greeted by the faint aroma of fresh paint that’s indicative of a new installation. Yet the smell is strangely comforting and exciting at the same time. It makes for a perfect environment for the viewer to settle back in the darkness and take in Italian video artist Grazia Toderi’s two looped digital projection pieces, Orbite Rosse and Rossa Babele.

“Toderi’s images suggest glistening, breathing, atmospheres which appear to be both earthly and celestial,” says Hirshhorn curator Kelly Gordon, and this is evident in the mesmerizing, twinkling, rose-colored cityscape of Orbite Rosse. Viewed with a faded binocular pattern projected atop the footage, a nighttime vista is seen from high, while low, rumbling murky noises complete the hypnotic ambience. The distinctive pale rose-colored tint derives from the interaction between the city lights and the vapors in the atmosphere.

Toderi uses computer-aided digital manipulation of video footage and pictures to compose her final creations with, as Gordon says, “painterly finesse.” The projection screens for the second piece, Rossa Bebele are placed next to each other, like opposite pages of an open book. Both screens appear to be half-full of what looks like a sea of magma (one filled from the top, one filled from below), and from each sea, a pyramid of light gradually builds and subsides. Appropriately, a slightly harsher audio component accompanies this piece, with a combination of what sounds like swirling thunderstorm effects and caldera atmospherics filling the chamber.

"Directions: Grazia Toderi” will be at the Hirshhorn through September 5, and ATM's Jeff Campagna spoke to Toderi last week about her work.

Why did you choose to use this medium for your art?

I chose to use video because it was the medium that has more possibility to communicate everywhere in the world, especially here. It’s a kind of Utopian idea, to just be energy that can be transmitted everywhere. I looked at the moon landing when I was young, and for me it was a very important moment, because every person in the world could see the same important thing. So it has this kind of power… So I’m interested in this kind of relation between personal memory and collective memory.

Orbite Rosse and Rosso Babele seem to be more abstract than your previous works–is there a reason for that?

I think one of the reasons is that something has changed. With some of my previous videos, I was interested in taking something from television and adding this kind of relation with collective memory. Now I think it is different, and I don’t believe in the power of television anymore . This is my problem. And I come from a country where television was really terrible during the last year. I started to use video in a different kind of way. Because I’m more interested in creating something completely by myself in this moment, I’m not interested in taking something from television. I want to be alone on the other side.

Is there a certain feeling that you’re attempting to convey to the viewer?

I like to leave the viewer completely free. The most important thing to art is that everyone can be free.

How long does it take you to complete an average piece?

Months. Sometimes I start to draw about one idea, and it takes months to focalize, drawing and drawing. And after, when I finish this kind of first step, I’m ready to go around and take photographs of things that I need… It could be one or two months again. It also depends where I need to go. And I start to elaborate and work on all the images and put them in an archive. So I have thousands of images that I put together, and after I start to do the animation in the computer. I do it step-by-step. It is very long.

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