As the Iranian-born, Swiss artist wins the chance to print Villa Argentina and display it at Photo London 2018 and PHotoEspaña 2018, we revisit the interview with her first published in BJP's June 2017 Ones to Watch issue
Arunà Canevascini was nominated [for BJP‘s 2017 Ones to Watch] by Erik Kessels for the richness of her projects, which merge femininity, domesticity and migration. In Villa Argentina, Canevascini examines these themes through elaborately-designed images in which the domestic settings she photographs are disrupted by intrusions from both the history of art and her own family past.
Canevascini arrived in Switzerland as a one-year-old with her Iranian-born mother, an artist whose love of life and openness to fresh ideas was sometimes at odds with the small-town mindset of their new Swiss home. It is this split personality that she tries to show in Villa Argentina.
“I’ve always navigated between two worlds: Switzerland and Iran,” Canevascini told FotoRoom in an interview. “I’ve never really known Iran; I’ve familiarised myself with its culture only indirectly, as if it were an echo. But I tried to capture some of its aspects in my pictures, for example in the photograph of the teapots on the tree, which metaphorically symbolise Iran. For me, that image represents exile and migration.”
Another picture, titled Odalisque with a Pot, shows her mother posing on a couch with a pot on her head. It combines Canevascini’s mixing of private – as opposed to domestic – space with her use of ordinary household objects. Right down to the use of overladen textiles, the image is an homage to Ingres’s Orientalist classic La Grande Odalisque, but with a dose of surrealism thrown in for good measure.
Canevascini’s interest in the female body is also apparent in her earlier work, Chimera, a photobook in which she utilises double-page spreads to fuse body parts from different women so that each spread becomes the collage. “Women’s nude bodies have always been represented by male artists and in the series I wanted to work on it with my gaze, a female gaze,” she says.
“I tried to create pictures that represent women’s bodies with an erotic feeling but at the same time a dark and repulsive one. I was interested in mixing these two feelings in the same picture. I then printed the images, one on each side of the page, and folded them together to create a brochure with different pieces of bodies. This generates new singular figures; new types of bodies.”
This combination of multiple layers within one spread is similar to Canevascini’s layering of multiple meanings in Villa Argentina. It’s an approach in which the personal combines with the universal, and one she is continuing to develop for the book of Villa Argentina, due to be published in June during Art Basel for the Swiss Design Award.
The 2017 Book Dummy Award was organised by La Fábrica and Photo London, with the collaboration of the printer Brizzolis and the British Journal of Photography. The jury this year was comprised of: curators Mónica Allende, Rodrigo Orrantia and Susan Bright; the designer Fernando Gutiérrez; the photographers Cristina de Middel (Spanish National Photography Award 2017) and Stephen Gill; Prix Pictet’s project manager Lisa Springer; the British Journal of Photography’s editorial director Simon Bainbridge; and La Fábrica‘s the general manager and editor Álvaro Matías. http://www.lafabrica.com/bookdummyaward/index-en.html