“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.”
On the invitation to create an interactive art installation through residency/workshop with Officine Sintetiche Lab (OS Lab) in Turin, my starting point was, surprise surprise, food! Conceptually I wanted to use everyday food ingredients as a prism. I called it NOMADI. A portrait of coffee, rice and wheat, Nomadi, is an homage to migration and culture. I wanted gallery audiences to explore multiple narratives nestled within the grains. To trace journeys and hear stories of people distinct from each other yet connected by three humble seeds.
OS Lab’s methodology is to inspire their students by engaging artists and specialised professionals to create new interactive and multimedia live events. The students in turn support the artist’s vision, thus creating paths of ‘learning by doing’. Nomadi indeed was a learning project – for me as well as the pupil, the core team and all involved. Once OS had taken the idea on board, we brought in an interaction specialist using Isadora for colour recognition. Having conceptually fine tuned the project sufficiently, towards the end of October we held a seminar on digital interactivity and artistic languages at the University. I shared my practice with an emphasis on multi-authored projects with food at the centre and the vision for Nomadi. This was also designed as a call for the students expecting to recruit, at tops, between ten to fifteen participants for the project. After the presentation, and in between the time for our lunch and coffee, there were forty-nine expressions of interest via emails. Soon we created an online form system to get detailed information on skill sets, relevant examples of works to create categories and teams for managing the participants.
Budgetary constraints meant that I could not be based more than two weeks in the city. The project relied heavily on digital and on-line forums to be meaningfully developed and delivered. Core members led various student teams according to their particular skills of academic research, video, interaction design, social media, performance and production. As the director of Nomadi I provided a skeletal shape to the system which worked as a format allowing the different teams to be their most productive. Technical parameters were put into place and all communication with the core team was conducted via Google Docs initially. Video framing, lighting and sound specifications, identifying geo-cultural spread of the people of Turin for interviews, interview questions, duration of films etc was all determined online. Once filming and editing was underway, Google Drive became our reliable ally for collectively sharing and data exchange. In my physical absence, the core team managed the enormity and logistical complexity of working alongside the students to produce the content. From my desk at home I was guiding gently. Constantly in touch, churning out graphics and story boards, rough edits and critiques, I ensured we followed visual and technical protocols whilst allowing space for the project to breathe and evolve.
In december, I met all the teams face to face. This analogue togetherness with all the students got us to connect more beautifully than ever. The time was spent in finishing fine tuning the video and sound works amidst laughter, hugs and food. In the last few days, we were all hosted at Parco Arte Vivente (PAV). Being under one roof allowed all separate aspects to be over viewed. While the final audio-visual edits were being done in one space, construction of the interactive plinths carried on in the gallery and elsewhere in the city the Pitchfork protests were turning violent. PAV hosted the sharing of the project to invited guests as an evening of work-in-progress which functioned as a taster for their audiences, a dress rehearsal for us and a moment to appreciate Nomadi in the macro.
Nomadi is part of PAV’s Show Food, a group show curated by Orietta Brombin featuring works by Michel Blazy, Brigitte de Malau and Norma Jean. “Show Food displays a plurality of views on food, not just intended as a basic need but rather as an exceptional medium for connections, exchange and knowledge”, says Orietta.
If you happen to be in the city, go experience it. The exhibition is open to public till the 2nd of March 2014.
How Nomadi works?
Using Isadora and Arduino together, this interactive multimedia work is activated by visitors who can choose between three jars to be placed (one at a time) on one of the five plinths in the gallery. The audio-visual itinerary, comprising more than fifty videos, tells the stories of three well-known worldwide ingredients: coffee, rice and wheat. From these raw, fundamental and universal materials spring countless stories that are a witness both to the diaspora and the encounter between civilizations. Short interviews, filmed in nine private homes and nine cafe’s/restaurants in Turin, reveal that in the hands of each of us these people, the same ingredients give birth to so many different dishes. It makes us rethink our habits and notions in relation to food. Together, we rediscover the distant history of coffee, rice and wheat in a dialogue with the here and now. There is a wall with post-it notes asking the visitors to write their favourite dish using any of the three ingredients.
Nomadi is a celebration of natural and cultural diversity and of the strong bonds that bind us together, from the intimacy of the home to the typical restaurants of beautiful Turin.
Discover the nomad in you. Each of the five plinths has many stories to tell – enjoy.
Stefano Sburlati explaining the interactive systems (in Italian)
PS: PAV is facing a difficult time with its future at the moment. Please take time to read and sign the petition.
Participating restaurants and cafe’s… if you go visit, give then Nomadi reference!
Caffé Bicerin, Piazza della Consolata, Turin. Say hello to Maria Teresa Costa.
Kirkuk Kaffè, Via Carlo Alberto 16, Turin. Say hello to Mehmet.
Ristorante Mar Rosso, Via Silvio Pellico. Say hello to Maregue Adi Quala.
Palestra Del Cibo, Via principessa Clotilde 38, Turin. Say hello to Annella Flavia.
Oryza, Via Bertola 57, Turin. Say hello to Daniela Lippi.
Ossola Farine, Via Balbo 4, Turin. Say hello to Stefania Ossola.
Gofreria Piemontèisa, Via San Tommaso 4/a, Turin. Say hello to Mauro Dario.
El Faraon, Corso Novara 1, Turin. Say hello to Nacira Elame.
Vom Fass, Via XX Settembre 9, Turin. Say hello to Gianluca Stefanucci.