For photographer Giulia Marchi, the word “space” is interesting to ponder, especially in the field of architecture. It’s akin to a double negative: constructing a space while taking up space in order to do so. The ways we fill it up, empty it, decorate it, and destroy it are all harmoniously intertwined. In particular, Marchi’s series Fundamental is inspired by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who perceived architecture as something sublime, wrapped up in the evolution of space and its inevitable deterioration. “Koolhaas caught my attention with his visionary approach, and that stuck with me,” explains Marchi. “He understands the prerogatives of space and how we need to occupy it — not only physically, but also mentally.”
In order to visualize this philosophy, Marchi creates photographs of space that are minimalist in style, depicting the nooks, crannies and open floor plans in the City Museum of Remini in Italy. The stripped-down images are displayed alongside small sculptures that Marchi makes by hand. While the photographs are a visual discussion of space, the sculptures tell the story of that space’s deterioration. “The Ala Nuova of the City Museum of Remini was going through a renovation,” she explains. “There was an accumulation of unused material laying around, ready to be discarded. There was something about the sincerity of that place — its evolution from an exhibition venue to a vessel for trash — that directly related to the themes I was exploring. There was no interference and no construction needed.”
After selecting the debris that spoke to her, she started the process of making. “I collected cartons, wooden rods, sheets of paper and blocks of cement, and recreated them as small-scale individual scagliola plaster sculptures, reducing them to a more minimalist aesthetic,” Marchi reflects. “The beauty and purity of what others consider disposable was mesmerizing for me. I chose to recreate them in plaster because of its importance as one of the primary building materials in architecture, and because it touches on the ideas about fragility that are central to the message I want to convey with this work.”
Rejecting harsh studio setups, when Marchi photographs, she only uses natural light. Additionally, she shoots on film with a 6x6 camera, contributing to the soft impressions she wants her viewers to encounter. The result is an ethereal tone that balances out the harsh geometry and minimalism of her subject matter. The natural luminosity allows each subject to take on new forms, as structures and corners are reshaped by their shadows. “This balance results in an aesthetic that I feel is my own, and that can be traced throughout the rest of my work,” she explains.
When Marchi’s photographs are exhibited, the artist insists that they cannot exist without the accompanying sculptures. The photographs in Fundamental are meant to be displayed alongside the objects that she creates as their accessories. In the artist’s view, strict categorizations of her artwork limits the potential of creativity. “Photography is a language,” Marchi explains. “It’s a verbal element that can often replace words. I cannot define my work as photographic. My projects choose their form of expression, and I adapt to the expressive needs of that mode – whether it’s sculpture, poetry, installation or photography.”