A 36 YEARS RECORDING OF LIFE
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Since he was 24 in 2004, Alberto Frigo has embarked an ambitious project to compile 36 manual records of the reality experienced by a human being of the new millennium. The project will end in 2040 when he will be 60. While learning to be self-sufficient, learning a broad variety of skills, Frigo intends to spend at least one month of his 36-year-long project on every subcontinent of the earth. So far he has already lived in North America, Europe, East Asia and South Asia, impersonating the life of common people there. Starting with tracking everything his right (dominant) hand has used, he has slowly added on different tracking and documentation projects. At present, he is engaged in 36 different works, 18 of which are defined as Inputs and 18 of which are defined as Outputs.
The 18 Inputs of Frigo's projects can be divided into three sextets. The first sextet is called "The Inner Self" and comprises a record of his activities, his dreams, the songs he hears, the quality of the air he breaths, the fables he improvises and his heart-beat. The second sextet is called "The Other Self" and comprises a record of his new acquaintances, the trash he finds on the side-walk, the public places where he sits, the drawings of his ideas and his thoughts. The last sextet is called "The Utter Self" and comprises a record of his abstract paintings, his movements, his emotions, the weather, the shapes he recognizes in clouds and the intensity of the wind.
The 18 Inputs of the project, work 01 to 18 are compiled in month productions. As there are 432 months in 36 years the total month productions will correspond to 7.776. Half of these month productions are graphical and presented in various formats all summing up to 0,27 square meters, e.g. 900x300 mm, 600x450 mm, 1200x225 mm, 750x360 mm etc. The other half are audio-visual files of the duration of 12 minutes. In general, each of the six sextets of the project comprises three works using graphical media and three works using audio-visual media.
The Outputs, work 19 to 36, are 18 works that Frigo creates to provide contextual information on the project. They comprise of an account of each month production, his reflections on the project, his essays, an illustrated history on his ancestors, a building hosting his entire project, photos of the surrounding reality, his equipment, his exhibitions, his journal, music videos of his beloved ones, his home viewings, his lectures, the resulting archive, his publications, a description of each work, documentaries of the making the project, a place where to deposit it and a website.
Each work is described using 48 characters and starting with a unique alphabet letter not in used by any other work. In the 18 Outputs however, each work starts with an alphabet letter repeated in every sextet. These letters are respectively A, E, J, O, V and W. Every morning Frigo makes a one hour long digital update of his project going chronologically through each work. During the day he is active to document his life and the reality around him taking up different documenting modalities based on whether he is at home or traveling or at work or in his mountain cabin. Every evening he makes a one hour long analogue update painting, drawing and writing.
After 9.000 miles road trip from North America to South America wearing a poncho filled with his journals and unable to compile them in a book, Frigo begun conceiving a digital system to record his inner and outer reality. The use of off-the-shelf digital equipment was first adopted by Frigo in 2003 after years spent trying to device a wearable computer for the purpose. When Frigo begun his project, social media, life-logging and quantified self wearable devices were not around. Phrasing Marshal McLuhan Frigo believes that his project acts as a Noah's like ark manually stowing the potential of a life underthreat by these later automated technologies. You can now keep reading about the 36 works comprising the project.
To navigate the content of this work please click the above link and then use the bottom right table to navigate through the various month productions.
Since 24 September 2003 Alberto Frigo has photographed every object his right hand has used. For this purpose he uses with his left hand an out of production gadget camera. The following 3 rules are applied to help him identify when it is time to photograph:
1. During a life-event every object* the dominant-hand uses is photographed once and while used;
2. If an object of the same type is the following item to be used, this object is not photographed unless the life-event changes;
3. A life-event changes as soon as the dominant-hand uses a different object in a different space.
*Any artifact that is graspable, independent and consistent.
Every day Frigo takes on average 76 pictures which, at the end of the project in 2040, will amount to one million. Every month he creates a 900 by 300 millimeters photographic panel with different lines representing different days. By positioning the 12 months of the year in a row, by the end of the project he will have achieved a perfect square of 1080 by 1080 millimeters (36 by 36 feet).
Conceptually Frigo started carrying out this work as a way to generate a DNA code of the activities of a human being over his lifetime. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp, Frigo developed this work thinking of objects as the ready-made bookmarks marking the events of an individual's life. Rather than recording life 24/7 with all the privacy implications related to it, Frigo's photographic record of his right hand, only provides the hints of life which viewers of the photographs will have to actively interpret, as in the work of photographer Sophie Calle but also as proposed by ancient combinatoric and mnemonic techniques.
In this respect Frigo has recovered idea from the Gulliver's Travels in which the author Jonathan Swift has one of his characters to suggest that objects should be carried about and used as a form of human communication and as a way to avoid miscommunication. Similarly Frigo has been inspired by the Oulipo movement and particularly by George Perec's use of objects to generate the novel Life a User's Manual.
Contrary to popular belief, Frigo claims that his photographing activity comes naturally to him and that the people around are soon used to his photographic behavior. He claims that the left hand photographing the right hand using an object acts on its own accord. Frigo started this work before smart phones and social media and only initially was questioned about his photographing. Given that his camera is an old pencam without a screen, the now obsolete device looks more like a diabetes monitoring device. Frigo aligns his photographing procedures to that of more socially marginal individuals committed to physical and psychological endurance—in particular, Tehching Hsieh with his one-year-long photographing of every hour on the hour performance.
The following material is of public domain. More material concerning this work can be found browsing the online database here.
Essays on this work (originally titled SOBJECT):
2009: Ernesto Luciano Francalani, Murder in the cathedral SE-EN Translated by Richard Griffith Carlsson, Hans Olsson, Jason Waite and Aria Spinelli
2007: Ernesto Luciano Francalani, Freezer IT, EN translated by Jason Waite
There have been several articles written on this particular work. Following is a list. Sadly some of these articles have been partial hoax to attract readers, emphasizing that Frigo photographs everything he touches (with all the sexual connotations coming with it):
2018: DV, Sigtryggur Ari, Aldrei úr augnsýn, January 19. IS
2017: Mowwgli, Marie-Laure Desjardins, Images partagées et autres selfies, vers une archéologie de l’instant, November 16 . FR
2017: Arts Hebdo Media, Samantha Deman, Special Mobile Art, Number 16, February 10.
2017: Zero Deux, Aude Launay, Watched! Surveillance, Art and Photography, February. EN FR
2016: Kunstforum International, Birgit Richard, Konsumfashionista, December 23.
2016: Information, Rune Gade, Overvågningens vaesen, June 3. DK
2015: TEXTTHEORIE UND TEXTGESTALTUNG, Stephan Porombka/Karl Wolfgang Flender, Warum es sich lohnt, alles zu fotografieren, was man in die Hände kriegt, August 27. Offline: DE
2015: Die Welt, Wie das Handy unseren Lebenswandel bestimmt, April 23.
2015: Vodafone blog, Cooking Ideas, El artista que lleva once años fotografiando todo lo que toca con su mano derecha, March 12. ES
2015: Metro World News, Dmitry Belyaev, Alberto Frigo photographs everything his right hand touches, March 8
2015: Isolezwe, Umlisa oshutha kwasani akuphethe, March 8.
2015: Süddeutsche, Christopher Pramstaller, Life-Logging: 998 640 Fotos einer rechten Hand, March 4.
2015: The Herald (South Africa), Artist tries hand at photographing, page 3, March 3.
2015: China Daily, , March 2. CH
2015: Lider Informativo, Lo que toca su mano derecha, lo hace foto, page 4, March 1.
2015: Yahoo News, Chris Parsons, Artist Photographs Everything Touched by his Right Hand for 11 Years, February 27.
2015: Daily Mail, Corey Charlton, The most touching set of photographs you will ever see, February 27.
2015: Fast Company, Mark Wilson, For 11 Years, This Man Has Taken Photos Of Everything His Right Hand Touches, February 25. EN
2015: Wired, Luigina Foggetti, Lifelogging, i nostri dati in mostra, February 20.
2015: The Journal, Ciannan Brennan, This man has been taking a photo of everything he touches... for the last 11 years, February 12. IT
2015: The Irish Times, Cyaran D'Arcy, Science Gallery Exhibith shows role of personal data in future tech, February 12 (with video interview by Bryan O'Brien: ”If you could measure everything would you?”)
2014: Symantec, Mario Ballano Barcena, How safe is your quantified self?, August 11. Referred to as "the most extreme example of self-tracking"
2014: The Guardian, Alex Preston, The death of privacy, August 3. Referred to as an "early proponent of lifeloggiing" EN
2014: Vice Magazine, Abel van Gijlswijk, Alberto maakt 36 jaar lang foto’s van alles wat hij met zijn rechterhand doet, June 5. NL
2009: Uppsala Tidningen, Issue 44.
2009: Uppsala Nya Tidningen, October 17 and 22. SE
2009: Ars Hypermedia, Björn Norberg, Issue 01, January, page 78.
2008: konstnen.net, Anders Olofsson, November.
2007: Art Review, Regine Debatty, Issue 09, March, page 132.
2007: Net Magazine, Compulsive viewing, Oliver Lindberg, February.
2006: Images Magazine, Dominique Moulon, November.
2006: Extrart, Carmen Lorenzetti, September. IT
2006: Stockholm City, 15th September.
2006: Ticino, Samuele Finozzi, page 44.
2005: Wired Magazine Blog, Bruce Sterling, April.
Here is a list of scientific articles (see more at the publications section):
2016: Alberto Frigo, Rainer Malaka, Nina Runge & Johannes Schöning, You Can Touch This: Eleven Years and 258218 Images of Objects, alt.CHI 2016: Proceedings of the International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
2006: Alberto Frigo, Un an de système autobiographique, Association pour l'autobiographie et le Patrimoine Autobiographique, La Faute à Rousseau Journal, Volume 37, Page 49, Paris, France.
2004: Alberto Frigo, Autobiographical System: building an ideographic history of activities based on artifacts, ISSN 1651-4769, Chalmers University, Gothenburg, Sweden.
2004: Alberto Frigo, Storing, Indexing and Retrieving My Autobiography, Pervasive 2004. Workshop on Memory and Sharing of Experiences, Vienna, Austria.
2004: Alberto Frigo, A Tonic for the Self, Proceedings of The Life of Mobile Data: Technology, Proceeding of Mobility and Data Subjectivity Conference, University of Surrey, UK.
2003. Alberto Frigo, Autobiographical System Based on Photo-tracking of Artifacts, Proceedings of Generative Art Conference, Polytechnic, Milan, Italy.
To navigate the content of this work please click the above link and then use the bottom right table to navigate through the various month productions.
Every day Alberto Frigo remembers approximately three dreams. The amount can vary from 1 to 12 daily dreams according to the stability of his everyday life. Every month Frigo will have written 100 dreams in a 450 by 600 millimeter book which at the end of the project in 2040 will comprise 43,200 dreams, making it perhaps the largest dream diary a person has ever recorded. To remember his dreams Frigo makes use of the Art of memory, creating a mental image composed of different symbols representing different dreams. This allows him to store them until he has time to write them down.
Written using font Bookman Old Style, size 11 each dream is on average 288 characters long and is usually three sentences long, the first one contextualizing the dreamer, the second highlighting a problem and the last sentence resolving it. For example, for dream number 15,442 Frigo writes: "I am with an old friend going under a long tunnel. He starts telling me how he has caught the new American president editing his own encyclopedia page online. The edits are actually written on the white painted tunnel and I use my fingers to remove parts of it even though it gets quite dirty."
Frigo kept a dream diary since 1996 when he was 17. Initially his dreams were written in Italian on booklets he would make using recycled paper, such as the one he would find in trash bins next to copy machines. Given the low quality of this paper, these written dreams have almost disappeared. While an art student in Vancouver, Frigo experimented with dreams in public performances. On one occasion he locked himself in the library window where he slept, wrote his dreams on the window and then invited passersby inside to interpret his dreams with him.
Only later, Frigo begun digitizing his dreams and including them as part of his project. Initially he tried to combine the dreams with the photographic record of his activities but then decided to keep the dreams as a separate work dismissing also an early attempt to categorize them based on places, time, people involved and kind. Contrary to common belief, it was not so much his photographing or filming activities infringing on his private life, as it was a journalist writing about his sexual dreams that coincided with the deterioration of Frigo's relationship with his first wife.
Conceptually, Frigo is fascinated with providing humanity with a record of quasi-infinite human situations depicted in his dreams. Rather than giving any symbolic value to them, Frigo sees his dreaming as rather a filtering of the reality he experiences and especially the increasingly more ubiquitous media he consumes. In addition, Frigo sees dreaming as yet one of the strongholds untouched by the technological monitoring. While he is aware that a record of dreams per se is boring and it ought to be refined as in the case of Akira Kurosawa, his fascination lies in providing humanity with an entire record of dreams to freely juxtapose to the other records he provides.
The following material is of public domain. More material concerning this work can be found browsing the online database here.
Essay on this work:
2009: Rolf Hughes, At the hotel room I can see his nightmare: Alberto Frigo’s Dream Project SE-EN Translated by Richard Griffith Carlsson, Hans Olsson, Jason Waite and Aria Spinelli
To navigate the content of this work please click the above link and then use the bottom right table to navigate through the various month productions.
Alberto Frigo annotates on his mobile all the songs he hears. The interludes of these songs are later transcribed on a musical sheet of 225 by 1200 millimeters. Recognizing on average 240 songs a month, it is estimated that, at the end of his project in 2040, Frigo will have transcribed over 100,000 songs. Currently, Frigo has recomposed the interlude of over 2000 songs. Based on the list of the songs he hears, he copies and pastes them onto a musical sheet using composer software.
After establishing both a record of his awaken life and that of his sleeping life, at the beginning of his 36-year project Frigo began thinking of a third project, this time to record an aspect of his life that was more related to emotions and was not visual or textual like the first two projects, but musical. He thus commenced to keep track of the songs he hears as a way to describe his emotions.
He has limited himself to keep track of and transcribe only those songs which he has heard and recognized. He thus began to keep a record of the songs heard in public and private spaces. Initially, the title of each song was written on a piece of paper and later transcribed using a family piano. Later Frigo began annotating the songs he hears on his mobile to then find the melody using a melodica.
The following material is of public domain. More material concerning this work can be found browsing the online database here.
Essay on this work:
2009: Björn Norberg, Music as a marker SE-EN Translated by Jason Waite and Aria Spinelli
Daily, Alberto Frigo grades the overall air quality using the following values: 01, 02, 03, 04, 06, 12 corresponding to 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100% of air pollution. Such daily values are later recreated in a physical context sequentially and for 30 seconds each by a smoke machine; the higher the value, the higher is the intensity of smoke the machine emits. In the physical context then the smoke acts like the incense given out by the priest in a cathedral, yet it is odorless, translating only visually the level of pollution which Frigo is subjected to.
The recording of the daily air quality started after Frigo spent a year living in Shanghai, China. It was the year preceding the World Expo 2010, and the city was completely under reconstruction for the international event, resulting in a very high level of dust in the air, particularly on his way to work to Tongji University on the other side of town. The generated mist adds a level of mystery in the site as much as many mystical gardens in Chinese cities or as in the installation "Vaporización" by Teresa Margolles.
Every month, Alberto Frigo improvises a fable. Each fable is 12 A5 pages long. Every evening before falling asleep Frigo writes a page of a fable using no punctuation and letting his subconscious write for him as in an automatic writing mode. Once it is completed, Frigo digitizes a page resulting in approximately 8,000 characters per fable. Frigo selects the main protagonist of each fable in order from the following environments: AIR, TREE, EARTH, GRASS, RIVER, WATER. The resulting fables are presented using LED message boards for the duration of 12 minutes and the environments are produced using different heights and the following color range: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan and purple.
Following is an extract from the improvised fable number 54: "...IN ALL HER ANGER SHE DIRECTED HER GHOST NAVY SLOWLY THROUGH ALL HUMANS DWELLINGS RIDING OVER A MIST OUR VERY PORPOISE WAS ABLE TO PRODUCE THROUGH HER BACK OPENING AND FURTHER INLAND OUR PORPOISE SHE WENT FOLLOWED BY ALL HER SPECTRAL FLEET NOW FLOATING HER WITHOUT SO MUCH PURPOSE THROUGHOUT THE LAND OF THE HUMANS TURNING THEM INTO ZOMBIES NOW ALSO ADVANCING BEYOND OUR PORPOISE WITHOUT ANY PURPOSE AND PROCEEDING LIKE THE BIGGEST OF ARMIES INTO UNKNOWN TERRITORIES..."
The presentation of these boards can be thought of as a Noah's Ark, a storing of animals' stories. Most of the fables, however, depict a much-altered nature, which on one hand reflects human intervention in the animal world and on the other shows the continuous metamorphosis of these animals into something other and monstrous until a genial end is conceived in which the transformation settles, almost giving a mythical explanation of a natural phenomenon. In this respect the narration of the fable comes close to the environmentalist message brought forward by Hayao Miyazaki in his animations.
The writing of fables started following Frigo's tradition to invent a story for his young son prior to going to sleep every evening. The inventing of bedtime stories has been for Frigo also an attempt to avoid mainstream narrations and provide a moral message to the story. Far from being classic however, the fable Frigo invents in this work has much to tell about his own psychological state and the way his nature reflects the surrounding nature, especially in the wild and largely abandoned part of the alps where he has resettled.
Every time he trains, Alberto Frigo records the highest heartbeat he reaches every two minutes. He then rounds it up using one of the following parameters: 100 BPM, 105 BPM, 110 BPM, 115 BPM, 120 BPM, 125 BPM, 130 BPM, 135 BPM, 140 BPM, 145 BPM, 150 BPM, 155 BPM. Every month Frigo collects 72 of these parameters, biking or running or generally training for 144 minutes. Initially, Frigo annotated the beats timing his run around a field and later he switched to a watch with a heart rate sensor to be able to train more freely.
In an installation context the beats are played by a clock. Such a clock acts as a metronome particularly to Frigo's work number 03. This work is similar to the works conducted by artists such as Brian House and Danielle Roberts, using their biofeedback to generate art. It is the only work in which Frigo lets the sensor annotate the data for him, although the data on the watch is later manually approximated and transcribed.
Every month Alberto Frigo takes eight head-shots of new acquaintances. He then manually removes the background of each portrait using an image editor. The process of background extraction is done every day for about 10 minutes and it takes approximately three days to complete a head. The resulting portraits are vectorized and printed on a 300 by 900 millimeter panel. The panels representing one month are then placed on a column of 11,600 by 600 millimeters. At the end of the project, in 2040, the final installation will comprise of 12 columns, each column displaying 72 panels corresponding to three years work and a total of 288 new acquaintances which is a grand total of 3456 faces staring at the viewer from every corner.
Frigo initially started the project by making a painted portrait of his new acquaintances. He did so also to vary the kind of technique he adopted for this work in relation to the others. After consulting with James Cohan Gallery art dealer Arthur Solway in Shanghai, Frigo switched to photography. The first photographs were taken of his new Chinese friends and fully filled the oval mask that Frigo uses when extracting the background of each headshot. The verticality of the project also borrows from Chinese culture.
The resulting columns of faces act like totems staring at the viewer. The work in itself is similar to August Sander's "People of the 20th Century". As in the German photographer's work, Frigo's work marks the end of an epoque in which the photographer's free roaming and documenting ceases by increasing political and social turmoil in which the people photographed might cease to exist. To some extent then the work is a collection of Dead Souls, a Zarthustra-like encounter with people retaining different social positions, faiths and points of view and yet are potential victims of modern transformations.
Whenever on a sidewalk, Alberto Frigo unconsciously scans the floor in search for discarded items. If he notices one he has never picked up before, he picks it up and puts it in a pouch he keeps around his torso. He later uses the discarded objects to make collages of 150 by 150 millimeters. He then scans them and solarizes them by inverting its colors. This digital collage is meant to be later printed on a decal for ceramic tiles. A month comprises 16 of these tiles placed in a four by four grid.
At the end of Frigo's project, it is estimated that 6192 tiles of scanned trash will be installed in a corridor of 4.8 by 32.4 meters making up 15,552 square meters of picked trash over the course of 36 years. The installation then becomes a centralized sidewalk, a central-walk that has been purified by the dirt of its content. In addition, as in mosques, visitors to the walk will have to remove their shoes, to ensure that the fired layer on the ceramic will not be spoiled.
According to Frigo this work is highly representative of a society he explores. Not only does it show the different calligraphies of the world but also the way different societies of the world allow or censure certain persuasive content over time. While on the sidewalk of Tokyo and Prague he might find pornographic content, on the muddy sidewalks of Madurai it might be of a religious nature. Frigo has initially experimented with firing the decals of his trash collages under a research project at Harvard University.
Every morning Alberto Frigo reads through the headlines of a world news website searching for casualties. The selected headlines are later transcribed in braille characters using a very simple grammatical structure: (Something) kills (a number) in (a country). Such transcriptions are made on a word document which is meant to be reproduced on a 1200 by 225 mm embossed panel corresponding to approximately a month of casualties. Each embossed panel is installed in 1 of 12 45.5 meter-long corridor. The embossed panels function as the handrails of these corridors. Over twenty the number of casualties is approximated. On average 12 news of casualties are recorded every month.
Following is an example of the casualties collected in month number 135: "SINKING KILLS THIRTY IN LIBYA EARTHQUAKE KILLS HUNDREDS IN IRAN SUICIDE ATTACK KILLS TEN IN YEMEN FLOOD KILLS FIFTEEN IN GREECE STAMPEDE KILLS FIFTEEN IN MOROCCO SUBMARINE ACCIDENT KILLS FORTY IN ARGENTINA ATTACK KILLS HUNDREDS IN EGYPT SINKING KILLS THIRTY IN LIBYA AIR STRIKE KILLS TWENTY IN SYRIA CLASHES KILL FOURTEEN IN HONDURAS ATTACK KILLS FIFTEEN IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO SUICIDE BOMB KILLS SEVENTEEN IN SOMALIA TRAIN CRASH KILLS SIX IN FRANCE"
In an exhibition context the embossed panels are completely in the dark, only readable through touch. The only light comes from the screens of drawings of ideas standing on the opposite side (see work number 11). Thus, while the embossed panels contain tragic content, the drawings display in total darkness ironic content, creating a remarkable contrast. As a performance, Frigo has envisioned a blind person to read the otherwise indecipherable casualties aloud. According to Frigo the news of casualties emerges from the otherwise gossip-saturated and fake news oriented media. The search for casualties, particularly from third world countries, is a difficult task yet typhoons, wars, suicide bombs, hurricanes and other forms of more or less natural calamities, strike the earth more or less regularly and unexpectedly.
Alberto Frigo takes four-second videos of the vanishing point of every public space where he sits. A total of 180 video clips is collected every month, generating a film of 12 minutes. At the end of the project in 2040 the films will number 77,760 amounting to 86.5 hours screen time. In an installation setting the screen is positioned at the end of a corridor which is meant to physically extend the vanishing point. Interestingly, the reviewing of this empty space is a powerful tool for Frigo to retrieve the mental memories he has linked to them. Also the project shows a dramatic disappearance of public spaces taken over by public corporations.
The work was originally inspired by Andrea Palladio's Teatro Olimpico in which the oldest surviving stage set still exists. The stage set comprises a trompe-l'œil to give the appearance of a long city street. Similarly Frigo's idea is to extend the perspective of a corridor by projecting at its end the video of the vanishing point of the public spaces he films. Overall this work also represents the increasing extinction of public spaces taken over by commercial enterprises. In this sense Frigo associates the work to August Sander's photography of the city of Cologne prior to its complete destruction in World War II.
While on one hand the videos look like surveillance camera footage, they are in fact premonitions of public spaces on the verge of disappearing. As in the work of French flâneur Eugène Atget, Frigo in his urban walks video-records the emptiness of public spaces. Ironically this emptiness is, among all Frigo's works, what enables him to re-experience the past. In this respect Frigo finds the reviewing of these stream of videos a sad experience reminding him of life experiences that can never return.
The cities in which Frigo has filmed the most public spaces are Stockholm, Shanghai, Boston, Venice and Amsterdam cities that might undertake a destructive process as George Steeves writes of August Sander: "Sander’s premonitions of calamitous adversity, triggered by his reading of the signs all about him, impelled him to alter the emphasis of his photographic practice. The collecting for People of the 20th Century slowed while landscape and architectural work accelerated. Sander had been assembling cityscapes and architectural details of his adopted home of Cologne since 1920. In the last years of the 1930s he assiduously pursued his aesthetic convictions in photographs of the city. Could he have apprehended its approaching near total destruction?"
Essay on this work:
2009: Jason Waite, The mnemonics of location SE-EN Translated by Richard Griffith Carlsson and Hans Olsson
While in a social environment, Alberto Frigo is on the look out for free associations. For example, if he sees a grille in a park that is “like” a stroller, he annotates on his smartphone using his native language: “Carrozzina bambino e´ grill barbecue” (“Stroller for kid is a grille”). He would then draw a mother or a father grilling sausages using the child's stroller as a grille. Every month he collects a whole list of these ideas and every evening, unless he is traveling or he has guests to entertain, he draws at least three of them on A4 paper. It is a relaxing moment resulting in 90 drawings a month and 38,800 in his overall, 36-year production. In this respect Frigo attempts, as with his dream project, to imagine over time all that is imaginable.
A drawing is first executed in pencil and later with a 4 mm black pen tracing over the pencil drawing before it is erased. Approximately every month, Frigo manually scans the resulting pile of drawings in black and white, 150 DPI resolution. The resulting digital images are batch processed for resizing and cropping. Ultimately a slide-shown animation of 12 minutes is made from 90 drawings displayed for eight seconds each. In an exhibition context each animation is shown in a small screen. The screens are displayed in a row at eye level.
In the ultimate installation, the 432 resulting screens are to be shown inside 12 dark corridors each 5.5 meters in length. In this respect the screens alone become the lighting for the environment. In future a screen's backlight will fully light up only as a visitor approaches. Visitors will be able to sweep through the drawings with their fingers. The project started while Frigo was babysitting his young child in a Swedish playground. Many of his written ideas are in fact generated in a boring situation, while in line at a cashier or in general waiting for a societal thing to occur.
While this work is the most enjoyed by the audience, it is most critical of the social environment in which Frigo lives. In this respect Frigo's drawings show the absurd excess in which the contemporary future-thinking human projects himself. Each drawing works as a black-circuit of the social and perfectly functioning enterprise. Frigo then relates his creative input to Charlie Chaplin, Walter Lantz and graffiti artist Blu.
Essay on this work:
2009: Davide di Saró, An innocent transfusion of a blinding chrysalis SE-EN Translated by Richard Griffith Carlsson, Hans Olsson, Jason Waite and Aria Spinelli
Whenever Alberto Frigo walks alone, he formulates each of his thoughts in up to 12 seconds audio recording. The recording are done on his mobile and at the end of each month, an average of 60 recordings are made amounting to 12 minutes. On average, Frigo records a thought every 500 meters of walking meaning that he walks alone at least 30 kilometers a month. At the end of the project in 2040 there will a total of 25.920 audio audio recordings of his thoughts. In an exhibition context, Frigo presents these recordings in three square panels with 12 by 12 slots. Each of the slot contains a digital audio player corresponding to a month recording. These players works as museum guides to also view the other parts of the project.
Frigo begun recording his thoughts at an early age using booklets and later experimenting with the first digital dictaphones. Here is the transcription of a randomly chosen thought from the recording of month 12: "and if among strangers we need to mimic in order not to be spotted among equals we need to stand out in order to prevail"
The work has been often paused when Frigo lived in a busy city like Shanghai and could only seldom walk in solitude. This work emerged from Frigo's dissatisfaction with the social environment and was originally intended to be combined with videos of the social surrounding. Most of Frigo's recording express his negative consideration on the technology driven social apparatus and the necessity to get back to nature and follow a more spiritual ideal. Frigo's consideration are in line with Stoicism, Transcendentalism, Tolstoyanism, Daoism and other philosophies stressing the need for humans to act according to nature.
Essay on this work:
2009: Jonatan Habib Engqvist, Listening through the mirror or Alberto Frigo's heterotopia of sound SE-EN Translated by Richard Griffith Carlsson
Every month Alberto Frigo executes a 500 by 500 millimeters abstract painting on an illustration panel, using a size 24 square cut brush and a palette of 24 acrylic colors. This palette comprises all the primary and secondary colors as well as a lighter and darker version of each of them. In addition to these 18 resulting colors, Frigo uses white, black, gray, silver, brown and gold thus resulting in a total of 24 colors. After being executed, each painting is photographed and the resulting image colorized using an image editor. Each painting is, from left to right, the continuation of the former. The paintings are later embroidery and use as curtains to darken the 12 corridors of 45,5 meters where the screens of drawings and the plaques of casualties are also displayed. The actual result at the end of the project in 2040 will be a 534 meters embroidery making it the longest painting conceived by an individual over the longest amount of time.
Frigo begun painting at an early age and in particular after attending art classes when studying as a teenager in the United States. From the age of 18 he used his dead step grandfather study to paint. Causing his step grandmother nausea for the type of materials he experimented with, he soon begun painting in garages and later in nature. Beginning to paint symmetrically with both his hands and using more natural products, his painting became increasingly ritualistic and the filming of the process became increasingly relevant. Upon moving to Vancouver to study, Frigo, unable to paint, begun cooking instead and documenting his daily life which lead him to his current project.
The most important feature of this work is that Frigo executed his painting acting as a medium, an approach already experimented by Hilma af Klint. He thus freely paint with the only objective in mind to create a present a full palette of colours and shapes, in line with early abstract painting theories such as those of Wassily Kandinsky.
Every evening, after a day of walking, Alberto Frigo uses pen and paper to trace his movements. Every morning he manually retraces the resulting sketches on a vector graphic program using a computer mouse. The digitization occurs on a 520 by 520 millimeters layout. The top, right, bottom and left of the layout are respectively the north, east, south and west of where the walks occurs mostly in different cities or different areas of a city, or again in nature. The result is a layout with small drawings. The more scattered they are, the more Frigo has made of use private or public transportation and the more round they are. The more Frigo has been walking in a natural setting.
In an exhibition setting, the resulting trajectories are engraved on transparent glass allowing the viewer to superimposed these trajectories on the outside landscape. By looking through the various month layouts, an attentive viewer will also detect similar patterns or sudden changing in patterns or gradual increase of decrease of these patterns based on seasons and other conditions which more or less facilitate walking. Among these conditions are not only the ones set by nature like the snowy weather or by the city itself like the Shanghai traffic, but also my physical conditions which often forces Frigo indoor, like having to work in an office or being in physical pain.
While Mikael Lundberg, Jacek Smolicki and many other media artists have used GPS to trace their daily movements, Frigo is doing so manually, as Tehching Hsieh but without any geographical indication. Generally Frigo easily remembers his movements in well known environments but the manual tracing becomes more complicated in more complex cities environments like Venice. For Frigo walking has not only being a transcendentalist practice but also a means to survive in times of economic difficulties, having for example to walk to a cheap food market. Walking is also in his blood considering how his alpine ancestors had to walk in order to escape war conflicts.
Every morning Alberto Frigo registers the emotional level of the previous day using a scale of 8 values. Every month, the result is a panel of 360 by 750 mm with perforations ranging from 10 to 80 millimeters representing respectively a very dreadful and a very cheerful state experienced during a day. This project has not only made Frigo highly aware of his emotions but also, in turn, very emotional. In this respect, he has learned to moderate the rise of excessive emotions.
The measuring for this work as in other works does not occur “scientifically” but it is Frigo, who assigns a grade like the reading of chakras. This subjective grading might be criticized, but in the long run it does provide accurate patterns since Frigo starts retaining this grading system in his subconscious without thinking about what might other people think about his grading. As in other parts of the project then the documenting subject becomes a sensing actuator.
In an exhibition setting the resulting panels make up an hexagonal cupola through which not only the light, but also the wind filtrates inside generating different sounds. The resulting cupola partitions the 432 resulting month panels in three hexagonal collars, the bottom one containing 192 panels and with each side thus containing 32 panels and being 11,52 meters long, the second collar containing a total of 144 panels with 24 panels per side and a length of 8,64 meters, while the top collar contains the remaining 96 panels with 16 panels on each side and a length of 5,76 meters.
Daily Alberto Frigo records the weather conditions by mapping every morning the weather to a scale of RGB values. The scale consists of 6 temperature zones characterize by 6 colors (red, yellow, green, cyan, blue and purple). To these colors, 6 furthers variations going from a pure color to a gradually darker one, are provided to map the weather conditions. For example, an autumn sunny day in Canada could is represented by a fully bright green (000, 240, 000), while a rainy autumn day following the clear and sunny day where the temperature keeps however in the same range, would be represented by a darker green (000,080,000).
Following are the values utilized to map the daily weather conditions in relations to the temperature range. Extremely warm is represented by red colors with the following RGB values: 240,000,000 (like a day in the desert) and 200, 000,000 and 160,000,000 and 080,000,000 and 040,000,000 (like a day in the mist of a tropical storm). Very warm is represented by yellow colors: 240,240,000 (like a clear day on the hills in the summer) and 200, 200,000 and 160,160,000 and 080,080,000 and 040,040,000 (like a summer storm). Quite warm is represented by green colors: 000,240,000 (like a clear spring day) and 000, 200,000 and 000,160,000 and 000,080,000 and 000,040,000 (like a spring storm). Quite cold is represented by cyan colors: 000,240,240 (like a clear late autumn day in Russia) and 000, 200,200 and 000,160,160 and 000,080,080 and 000,040,040 (like an early snow storm). Very cold is represented by blue colors: 000,000,240 (like a winter day in an Oregon mountain) and 000, 000,200 and 000,000,160 and 000,000,080 and 000,000,040 (like a snow storm). Extremely cold is represented by purple colors: 240,000,240 (like a sunny winter day in the Antarctic) and 200, 000,200 and 160,000,160 and 080,000,080 and 040,000,040 (like a terribly freezing snow storm in Siberia).
In an exhibition setting, the RGB value collected in a month period are reproduced via an RGB lamp gradually shifting from colours to colours as the weather from a day to another can be, shifting almost imperceptibly from a daily value to another over a time span of 30 seconds and for a total of 12 minutes per month. In the ideal and final installation, the lamp will be located at one hand of rounded ceiling, projecting the colors throughout it as a large neon light, actually ending with a half circular opening. Being the opening positioned at the very end of an hypothetical building, over the precipice facing an infinite sea, at night time, the opening will work as a lighthouse, while towards the end of the day this very opening will let the natural sunset light inside.
Every time Alberto Frigo observes a cloud, mostly when it is 30 degrees over the horizon, he attempts to detect a shape. Such a shape detection comes more or less naturally also depending on his propensity to imagine right then. A cloud is usually detected as two or more combined figures such as an eagle pulling a mermaid up from the butts. As for the drawings of ideas and all other annotations made for other parts of the project, the detected shapes are generally transcribed on a smartphone. Frigo does so in Italian to directly link what he sees via his mother language, creating a stronger and more direct relation to his subconscious. Such annotations, as the dreams, the drawings and other second parts of each of the trilogies of the life project, are directly reflecting Frigo's psychological state. As an example, if he detects a black man beating a naked woman with a stick, I could be right then experiencing some sexual frustrations.
Every morning, updating chronologically all the parts of his project, Frigo recreates an annotation of an image detected in a cloud by using a 3D program and an archive of more than 1000 3D models Frigo has selected over the years from the Internet. The collection acts like Frigo's subconscious, a Platonic world of ideas comprising basic elements such as people, animals and objects. Generally, two models then are combined three dimensionally, creating a connection without any separation. Once the models are thus connected to recreate the annotation of the shape detected in a cloud, Frigo set a black background and set the textures to be “monochrome” white without any sun shading, thus again creating some sort of cloud but also much resembling an antique marble sculpture. Later, he orbits the resulting model in search for the best perspective from which most important elements of the generated 3D image can be observed. Having found one, a screen shot is taken and later resized to a height of 600 pixels and extended to a width of 1250 pixels if it is not too long else the contrary.
In the ideal scenario, the resulting images of the shapes detected from a cloud, are projected on a tilted trapezoid located high over a wall. Possibly inspired by the Olympic theater of Andrea Palladio and, with clouds painted in the ceiling, each of the 24 images representing a month production are shown moving from left to right in 30 seconds time resulting into a 12 minutes screening. As for the other presentations of dynamic content, it would take a viewer a whole week to view all the clouds reproduced by Frigo in 36 years. This work is similar to that carried out by Leonardo Da Vinci and other creative inventors like the designer Bruno Munari, to detect shapes in clouds in order to train their creativity and imagination as already the visual remembering of dreams does to Frigo. Strangely, also, the latter has noticed that every time there are these premises of a clear sky with scattered clouds (does not the overcast of Northern countries), Frigo himself is quite imaginative as if the celestial vault would be a projection of the vault within his head.
Every day Alberto Frigo assesses the wind. The following are the 8 values that he utilize to assess the wind from a most peaceful condition to a most windy one: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 15 and 30. Almost unawarely then, as he perceive some wind against him and particularly against his face and ears, Frigo sets to type down the corresponding value on his smartphone. As the data collected in a day is later replayed in 30 seconds, daily, Frigo only collects a total amount of values corresponding to a dividend of 30 (e.g. “1,2,1,3,2” or “1,2,6,5,2,5,2,5,3,2” or “2”). In an installation context, these values are reproduced by a large fan of 360 centimeters in diameter and located high under a cupola-like structure. The fan could be seen as a wind powered generator that is in fact also affected by the wind filtering through the perforations corresponding to his emotional state (work 15). Using his own body as a sensor, Frigo has learned to predict and expect days with or without wind.
For each accomplished month production of the 18 Inputs of the project, Frigo writes a short account providing some contextual information about the particular context around such production. These accounts are both self-analysis anf also summaries for viewers to better interpret the eighteen records of the project. Each account is labeled with a two digit number representing the part of the project going from 01 to 18, an underscore and a three digit number representing the month production going from 001 to 432. The accounts are presented chronologically both for each particular input of the project as well as in combinations with one another, thus revealing Frigo's working flow.
Following is an extract of Frigo's chronological account of each of his month productions: "...04_042: "in stockholm mostly breathing the air of the truck factory with the wind blowing towards my apartment having the windows open still because of the heat and also the busses driving in the road below and generally all the traffic found going by bike but mostly being in the city center or traveling to myrthe in the netherlands and breathing the airplane fuel prior taking off to get much nicer air in maastricht and during our bike rides in belgium"; 15_042: "a very emotionally stable period spent mostly in sweden and really helped by the late summer sunny weather and by allot of biking alone but also in the weekend reaching very high feelings of well being particularly during a bike ride with myrthe in belgium and another with august and åsmund all of them promoted by the easiness of the late summer with little frustration mostly due to technical difficulties like setting up my own server"" In this respect, this record of descriptions also reveals the chronological production of the various month productions Frigo accomplishes. As a matter of fact, while the only time indicator is provided by the photographing of the objects (work 01), which is linked to actual months, the productions of all the other parts of the project are based on an initial estimate of how much the documenting subject would be able to accomplish in a month using a particular medium and perspective. The 100 dreams that have been estimated to be remembered every month, for example, might take a longer or shorter time to be remember based on the social and psychological factors experienced by the documenting subject. It is these factors that these small accounts try to highlight.
On an daily basis Alberto Frigo annotates reflections he has while conducting the different works of his project. To begin with, each reflection is written on his smartphone as soon as it arises, and it is labeled with an adjective describing it. These adjectives often repeat each other and can well visualize what Frigo thinks of his project turning this work in the field work of an auto-ethnographer. When writing these reflections Frigo refers to himself as "the documenting subject". As an example, under the adjective COMPASSIONATE he writes: "In his living the world like a pilgrim rather than o tourist, the documenting subject develops a full compassion for all humanity and their landscapes identifying the evil in only those who hinder this process of migration for the sake of power control."
Whenever events in his life makes urges him, Alberto Frigo spontaneously writes a short essay. An essay tends to discuss current issues and reflects the alienation experienced by Frigo as an immigrant without belonging. From harsh and offensive tones the essays slowly took through the years a more mellow tone advocating a more stoic and spiritual humanity. Frigo's essays are mostly written in English but there are also some written in Italian.
As part of this work Alberto Frigo illustrates the life of his ancestors prior the beginning of his project. The result is an epic executed scatteringly in the evening. The epic is partitioned in a total of 6 seasons with 3 episodes per season and 24 scenes per episode. The epic covers 4506 years of history. As Frigo is provided with more information of the more recent history, the latest period only covers 24 years, and earlier periods cover respectively 48, 96, 192, 384 and 768 years between each of the three dates intervals they represent.
|Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3|
|Season 1||2532 B.C.–1764 B.C.||1764 B.C.– 996 B.C.|| 996 B.C.– 228 B.C.|
|Season 2|| 228 B.C.– 156 A.D.|| 156 A.D.- 540 A.D.|| 540 A.D.– 924 A.D.|
|Season 3|| 924 A.D.–1116 A.D.||1116 A.D.–1308 A.D.||1308 A.D.-1500 A.D.|
|Season 4||1500 A.D.–1596 A.D.||1596 A.D.–1692 A.D.||1692 A.D.–1788 A.D.|
|Season 5||1788 A.D.–1836 A.D.||1836 A.D.–1884 A.D.||1884 A.D.–1932 A.D.|
|Season 6||1932 A.D.–1956 A.D.||1956 A.D.–1980 A.D.||1980 A.D.–2004 A.D.|
For each of the 18 resulting episodes, 24 illustrations are executed on an A4 170 g / m², acid free paper. A smaller panel is used to draw margins of 27 x 18 centimeters. To begin with, Frigo draws by hand the diagonals going from each upper corner to the opposite bottom corner. In this respect Frigo has a center and can align to these diagonals either characters or a landscape. Every drawing usually alternates a distant view from a close up view in which the entire character or characters are shown. The character are first draw by pencil and then retraced with 0.1 millimeter drawing pen. Later each drawing is colored using watercolour pencils and lastly a brush. At this point Frigo uses a scissor to cut out the contour.
Frigo was born in the Italian alps among the Cimbri, a Bavarian minority group. His mother's side of the family were landowners in Santa Rita do Passa Quatro in Brazil, but lost their properties while in Europe during World War I. During World War II Frigo's paternal grandfather was part of Operation Barbarossa in Russia and was one of the few survivors along with his cousin, the Italian neo-realist writer Mario Rigoni Stern. In 1943 Frigo's grandfather was interned in Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany while his great grandfather died in Tatura concentration camp in Australia.
From the age of two Frigo and his family lived in Montreal where his father became an alcoholic. Following his abuses, Frigo followed his mother back to Italy where she remarried to a surgeon. During this period, at age 16 Frigo began to draw and to write, and went on a year-long exchange in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Back in Italy Frigo enrolled in the University of Architecture in Venice. Later he studied at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, where at the age of 20 he undertook a 9,000 mile road trip. After months of travel he reached Malpais, Costa Rica wearing a poncho filled with his journals. It was in trying to revise these journals that Frigo conceived the need for a digital system to document his dreams, thoughts and ideas without the need for post-editing. Since his American experience Frigo began moving from one media institution to another in order to develop his digital system. Living in an abandoned school in the Netherlands, he finally reached Sweden. On trying to get technical help at Chalmers University he grew frustrated with technology and began documenting his activities manually using an off-the-shelf camera.
The work resembles that of Naïve artists such as Henri Rousseau and can be seen as the storyboard of a film. It expresses the violent unsettledness experienced by Frigo's ancestors, a minority group who has taken shelter in the alps but were often the victims of wars. It also reflects the unsettledness experienced by Frigo in real life, having to move from one place to another avoiding social tensions and rising discrimination. While the last part of the drawings correspond to a history Frigo has inherited by his relatives, the older illustrations are part of his imagination linked to his experience of the world and his readings.
Since the beginning of the project Alberto Frigo has designed a 54,75 by 46,80 meters cathedral to be able to host by 2040 all of his works. The building is accessible through a 432 steps staircase, 432 being the total amount of months in 36 years. The front of the cathedral is characterized by a 36 meters high tower on which a clock reproduces Frigo's heart beats (work 06). The cupola of the tower is perforated based on Frigo's daily emotions (work 15). Over the door, an engraving presents the visitors with the 18 rules utilized to generate the content of the building they are about to enter. Upon entering he or she is to hear a sound of a fan hanging from below the cupola. This fan operates according to the different wind intensities experienced daily by Frigo (work 18). They are also to hear just above the door an organ playing samples of the songs he has heard and recognized throughout the duration of my project (work 03).
A series of concentric hexagonal square invites the visitor to descend to three large squares containing audio-guides in which the thoughts he had every month walking alone have been recorded (work 12). At this point the visitor can listen to one of them by simply walking around the hexagons or keep exploring the cathedral while bringing it along as a museum guide. A long central corridor extends the perspective view of all the videos Frigo took of the public spaces where he sat (work 10). The corridor extends the view since the center of these videos displayed by a large monitor at the end of it, is the vanishing point of these public spaces. The actual corridor comprises ceramic tiles where the collages of the trash Frigo picked from sidewalks around the world have been printed (work 08). The visitor can kneel down to better observe them or simply contemplate high up the projection of virtual shapes Frigo created detecting shapes from the clouds he observed (work 17).
At the very end of the building is the square wall hosting like a calender all the month panels in which the photos of the objects Frigo have used with his right hand since 2004 are displayed (work 01). The wall can be consulted by the visitor as some kind of a record of a human activities throughout the core of a lifetime. Below it and above the monitor displaying the videos of public spaces, the visitor to the cathedral can also read a book of all Frigo's dreams, about 100 every month (work 02). From this position, the visitor can observe a mist filling the interior of the cathedral. This mist corresponds to the air quality Frigo has recorded every day (work 05). Above it an RGB laser displays as a light tower the weather conditions he has recorded every day by mapping it to a scale of colors (work 16).
Only now the visitors can go back and explore the corridors surrounding the main space. From the outside of these corridors there are curtains embroiled with the paintings Frigo have executed every month (work 13). Below them there are LED screens displaying the fables he improvised at night time (work 05) and across them high columns with portraits of new acquaintances (work 07). Inside the corridors, attached to the walls, there are small screens displaying the Frigo's drawings of ideas (work 11). Opposite to them, as some sort of hand rails in the dark, there are Braille embossed plaques of all the casualties Frigo read on the news (work 09). Walking through the corridor to the end of the building, the visitor can now look through several glasses, a reproduction of the trajectories of the walks Frigo took every months (work 14), superimposed on the surrounding landscape on which the cathedral is ideally located.
Having visited several of these corridors and having walked up several stairs visitors can visit the two smaller buildings on each side, in which the various elaborations of the project (work 19 to 36) is show in 6 7,2 by 7,2 rooms. As each of these rooms have an individual door, the remaining three walls are dedicated each to one project (e.g. entering the first room a visitor has work 19 on his left, work 20 ahead and work 21 to the right). This work has been this far created using a CAD program and a video-game engine. The building has been inspired by medieval Art of memory and Combinatorial Art practices. Rather however to be a memory building created to facilitate memory it is a building to allow the regeneration of life through the visitors active interpretation of the various media languages of time displayed. In this sens Frigo thinks that the function of this building, this tebah as he calls it is to create unity and syncretism of a reality otherwise dangerously polarized by mass media.
When outdoor Alberto Frigo takes photos of details that particularly provokes him. In order to do so he uses a compact camera to zoom into the detail and photographs using a 16:9 format. These details can be architectural or concerning humans or animals or natural phenomena at large. The pictures thus range from a homeless begging for food outside a metro station or a bird seating on the roof of an abandoned villa. Every year Frigo takes up to 1.500 photos which are later compiled in a video where each photo is shown every one second. The classic music Frigo selects to accompany the resulting annual videos are meant to create empathy towards an otherwise frigid reality.
All the cameras, phones, laptops and other equipment used by Alberto Frigo for his project, once dismissed is kept for a future auction. Being used on a daily basis, this equipment becomes for several years an extension of Frigo's body and soul but also a collection of antiques. As an example, the pen-cameras he uses to photograph his right hand (work 01) have been out of production since 2006. Knowing that they break every two years, after approximately 56.000 shots, Frigo has enough spared pen-cameras and other refurbished equipment to finish his project.
Regarded as today's On Kawara, since the beginning of the project in 2004 Alberto Frigo has been asked to exhibit his project at OK Centrum, DDM Warehouse, Uppsala Art Museum, Science Gallery, Museum Angewandte Kunst, Hasselblad Foundation, Aarhus Kunsthall and Serendipity Art Foundation. While not actively seeking for venues, his most exhibited work is the photographs of the objects his right hand uses (work 01). Awarded at Prix Ars Electronica and Japan Media Arts Festival, Frigo has curated an exhibition on Tebahism at Fort Mason, San Francisco in 2015.
Daily Alberto Frigo writes an account of his day. A journal entry is written most of the time on a text file and the following morning, it is copied and pasted in chronological order on a 36 by 75 cm page using Times New Roman font size 12 with a 15 mm margin. Each page hosts approximately the entries of a whole month and contains approximately 4.000 words. By the end of the project the estimated amount of words in Frigo's journal will be 1.800.000, which can contained in 240 meter long scroll.
Uneventful days corresponds to short journal entries such as the following extract from page 131: "Yesterday I updated my project then walked in the cold and cloudy weather to the station to reach Myrthe in Amsterdam but all the trains were canceled. I then walked home and tried to use my phone to navigate the virtual presentation of my project. For lunch I ate some leftover potatoes and then plastered the walls of the attic. Myrthe came home in the afternoon and I started painting over the new plaster and installed a light. In the evening Myrthe and I rearranged the living room and then ate a vegetable soup she made. I later drew in front of a documentary showing the wildlife in the Galapagos.""
While working part-time as a media art teacher and researcher at the Interactive Institute and Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, between 2004 and 2008 Frigo tried living as a farmer, planning the building of a shrine to host his project in a forest near Uppsala. After a dispute with the locals, understanding their anti-immigrant sentiments, in 2009 Frigo moved to China where he taught at Tongji University. Later he moved to the United States where he worked as a project leader at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Upon returning to Europe, in 2014 Frigo bought a property near his native town in the Italian alps where he now plans the building of the shrine.
Over the years Frigo's journaling practice became more fact based and in line with the Stoic principles described by Michel Foucault in his technology of the Self essay. In his journal entries a reader can perceive an attempt to take care of the family and the children yet always under the dark cloud of political turmoil. If on one hand then Frigo's journal is like that of Tolstojan character Princess Marya Bolkonsky centering her love in the family, on the other is like that of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, a temporary appreciation of everyday life in the mist of social turmoil.
This work makes use all the images that were casually taken with old time friends in special periods of Alberto Frigo's life. As of January 2018 the images are 26.000 and are organized in folders representing each month. Occasionally Frigo retrieves the images related to an old acquaintance and creates a slide-show animation utilizing a song characteristic of that moment in time both to “animate” the images and to provide a time framework based on the length of the song. While currently the songs are downloaded from the Internet, Frigo intends to sing them himself in a karaoke like fashion. The selected images are cropped to fit the 16:9 movie format. A zoom and/or a pan effect is also applied to show details of the images. Cross-fade transitions are also occasionally made, particularly to shift from one image to another, utilizing similar objects in the pictures such as the face of a person, scaled to the same dimensions. The resulting videos are saved in .mpg format using a MPEG2 (DVD Standard) encoder with a resolution of 1280 X 720 pixels (HD 720 p) and a frame rate of 24.00 fps.
In this respect, this part of the project can be considered as a cemetery in which old and forgotten material has been revived and where Frigo can pay an occasional visit and can cry over memories he would not cry for otherwise. It is like a little sanctuary kept by ancient people to commemorate their dear dead ones in their household as described by Marco Polo in his trip to China. The combination of images and particularly the music, create the right atmosphere for this in-depth commemoration. This is of particular significance for Frigo who had many intense relationships throughout his life and have often to give them up in order to move a new phase in which the accomplishment of his project has taken him into.
Pictures of Frigo from his birth in 1979 to his parents divorce in 1984 are rare and were later scanned and sent to Frigo by his father with whom he has lost contact for over twenty four years. From 1984 to 1996 Frigo's stepfather had been photographing him and his twin sister while being on holidays or in special occasions like weddings and birthdays. This has resulted in some hundred booklets filled with photos which Frigo has scanned. From 1996 when he moved oversea to attend a year of high school in Wisconsin, Frigo has started taking his own pictures, this until 2000, when he got access to his first digital camera. From the commencement of his photographic project in 2004 however, Frigo has experienced moments in which he did not take any other pictures than those he was taking of his right hand. This has however changed in 2005 with the birth of his son.
Awaiting for the construction of his cathedral (work 23) this work is intended to bring together all of Alberto Frigo's 36 works. While in a museum context he is asked to only show one or a few works at the times, Frigo has made use of a bedroom, or an attic to temporarily set up his works for visitors to physically experience them. Ultimately he has conceived a Flower of Life shaped installation where the viewing of his 36 works can occur. Frigo's thesis is that such a set up of all his works is like a Rosetta Stone where the various works acts as different media languages of the same temporal reality.
In this respect Frigo's work is in line with Lev Manovich's Database Aesthetics and in particular his reading of Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera with the only difference that it is the task of visitors to create a mental montage of the content randomly accessed. After conducting reception studies on visitors, Frigo has stressed how, rather than looking at him the author, they experienced this work as a unifying representation of reality, a form of syncretism of the reality that mass media and social media fractures. These studies enforce the idea that the disclosing and viewing of a "tebah", a stowage of life, is a healing remedy to the crisis generated by mass media communication.
Whenever possible Alberto Frigo videorecords his lecturing. The lectures can relate to his project, or discuss Tebahism at large and the audience can vary from an art audience, an on-line audience, to students or politicians assessing Frigo's work. For each lecture a new presentation with updated slides is used, quickly showing the overall progress of Frigo's works through the years. Lectures are give in Italian as well as English. Up to date Frigo has lectured at places such as Pistoletto Foundation, Cini Foundation, Codarts University for the Arts, Valand Academy and was a plenary speaker in various venues such as the Quantified self conference.
Television and Radio broadcasts:
2016-07-12 Mina Benaissa, Sveriges Radio, Han fotograferar allt han rör vid (Kulturnytt P1 national radio). SE
2015-03-28 (8h10) Michelle Constant, Lifestyle Show, 105.1 in Johannesburg, South Africa (live on national radio opening contribution).
2015-04-25 (19h20) Ulrike Haak, "Hamster-Hipster-Handy. Im Bann des Mobiltelefons", Kulturzeit, Germany (national TV 3sat).
2015-05-21 (22h50) Hauptsache Kultur
Alberto Frigo uses A4 size and 55 mm thick cardboard boxes to archive his drawings of ideas after they are scanned (work 11), a selection of the trash he picks after it is scanned (work 08), the sketches of his walks after they are digitized (work 14), his fables booklets once they are completed and digitized (work 05), cut-outs of his paintings after they have been photographed (work 13), the paper notes of the songs he hears when he is driving and can't type on his phone (work 03) but also airplane and museum tickets, exhibitions flyers, books and all the material he had collected before the starting of his project. This material includes his "family treasure", his hairs, nails and teeth, and the journals he kept prior 2004.
Similar to other archival projects such as Andy Warhol's boxes, Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Chronofile Frigo intends to stow the boxes in a cube construction to be left in nature as a sort of a deteriorating time capsule. Moreover, as a in ancient Celtic, Viking or Egyptian traditions Frigo intends to have his burnt body to be placed within one of these boxes to be placed inside the cube. While one face of the cube sits on the ground the other four perimeter faces are engraved with respectively the Input the Output, the time framework and the spatial framework of his project and the top shows the flower of life diagram as shown on the project website.
Alberto Frigo develops special editions more or less based on his other works. These editions include for example: a series of mugs with selected photos of Frigo's right hand using different mugs, a dictionary in which special objects appearing in a dream are interpreted, a book of bed-time stories improvised to children, a series of t-shirts with selected drawings, a book with quotes gathered from the books he reads, a series of sculptures with selected 3d shapes but also catalogues of exhibitions and publications emerging from collaborations. These editions are meant as a bazar of commercial items to go alongside his other works.
You can also read how the project has been mentioned in the following books:
2018: Toft Tanya, Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art, Chicago University Press.
2017: Mark Hoogendoorn, Burkhardt Funk, Machine Learning for the Quantified Self: On the Art of Learning from Sensory Data, Springer International Publishing.
2017: Susan Flynn, Antonia Mackay , Spaces of Surveillance: States and Selves, Palgrave Macmillan.
2016: Deborah Lupton, The Quantified Self, Cambridge: Polity Press.
2016: Tamar Sharon & Dorien Zandbergen, From data fetishism to quantifying selves: Self-tracking practices and the other values of data, New Media & Society.
2016: David Houston Jones, Installation Art and the Practices of Archivalism, London: Routledge Edition.
2015: Birgit Richard (Et al.), Hamster-Hipster-Handy, Kerber Edition.
2011: Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, New York: Best Books (the name is misspelled as “Albert Frigo”).
2011: Rob Kitchin, Martin Dodge, Code/space: Software and Everyday Life, Cambridge: MIT Press.
2010: Outi Remes & Pam Skelton, Conspiracy Dwellings: Surveillance in Contemporary Art, Cambridge: Scholars Publishing.
2010: Dominique Moulon, Art Contemporain et Nouveaux Médias, Sentier d'Art Edition.
2006: Hannes Leopoldseder & Gerfried Stocker (Editors), CyberArts 2006: International Compendium Prix Ars Electronica, Hatje Cantz Publishers.
One of Alberto Frigo's 36 works consists in describing each and every part of his project providing a context and an explanation to a future audience. The approach his as Socratic one, considering science as the description each and every component of a chart and relating to pre-encyclopedic attempts to generate knowledge through universal systems. In this respect, Frigo collects illustrative material as well as he is on the look out for possible references to each work, thus creating a clavis universalis, a system from which to access a broad knowledge.
Frigo's theoretical point of departure is based on a distinction between effortless and effortful. Beyond discussions on power, gender, race, globalization and human rights, Frigo attributes to automation the crisis that contemporary society is experiencing. According to Frigo, it is the automation of social, political, economical, religious and intellectual frameworks to reduce the human effort and, in turn, annihilate its nature. In this respect, Frigo's main proposal is to act as automation and, in this effort, reconnect to human nature.
In his manual effort of both working and examining himself, Frigo differentiates from common lifeloggers or social media users. He does not automate the process of capturing, organizing and retrieving his life, but he accomplishes this process manually. By "becoming both the sensor and the algorithm", programming his own behavior, Frigo avoids the privacy implications related to lifelogging turning his operation into what he defines as ''Tebahism'', the manual stowing of life within predefined containers in view of a technology driven crisis threatening human life.
In this respect Frigo's line of thought comes close to that of Marshal McLuhan who accounts on the following parable:
As Tzu-Gung was traveling [...] he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meager. Tzu-Gung said. “There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day [...] Would you not like to hear of it?” [...] Then anger rose up in the old man’s face and he said, “I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul...”
Frigo thus uses the term "Tebahism" to identify archival practices that are more precarious than the dictatorial archival practices advocated by Jacques Derrida. He uses the Egyptian word "tebah", used in the Masoretic bible to signify both Noah's Ark and Moses' basket as life-savers. Beyond the biblical reference Frigo points at the flood myth as a narrative spread in all cultures worldwide. In line with Jacques Ellul, Frigo sees the work of "tebahists" as shamans developing techniques which could enable society to avoid the consequences of new technological changes. His historical examples are: Jacopo Pontormo's diary, Ferdinand Cheval]]'s ideal palace, Dziga Vertov's film, Janina Turek's diaries, Vivian Maier's boxes and George Perec's novels but also relatively unknown tebahists such as John Mallon Waterman, Danielle Roberts, Morris Villarroel and Jacek Smolicki. Frigo then looks at these original and marginal media practitioners adopting the following thoughts by Ellul:
It has not been sufficiently emphasized that technique has evolved along two distinct paths. There is the concrete technique of homo faber—man the maker—to which we are accustomed, and which poses the problems we have normally studied. There is also the technique, of a more or less spiritual order, which we call magic. [...] Magic developed along with other techniques as an expression of man’s will to obtain certain results of a spiritual order. To attain them, man made use of an aggregate of rites, formulas, and procedures which, once established, do not vary. Strict adherence to form is one of the characteristics of magic: forms and rituals, masks which never vary, the same kind of prayer wheels, the same ingredients for mystical drugs, for formulae for divination, and so on.” In his definition of ''Tebahism'' Frigo stresses the idea of effortful and manual self-tracking approaches. In his research then he looks at ''tebahists'' as life-savers in antithesis with common life-logging and Quantified Self technologies bringing life to extinction through the use of automation. After conducting reception studies in a barn in the alps, Frigo concluded that ''Tebahism'' is a form of syncretism and, in line with Marshal McLuhan's thinking, it is an ark stowed by marginal individuals to overcome the crisis characteristic of every new technological paradigm as quoted below:
In the history of human culture there is no example of a conscious adjustment of the various factors of personal and social life to new extensions except in the puny and peripheral efforts of artists. The artist picks up the message of cultural and technological challenge decades before its transforming impact occurs. He, then, builds models or Noah’s arks for facing the change that is at hand.
In his attempts to describe this work in a scientific context, Frigo has repeatedly explained his point of view and that is that contemporary life is filled with unnecessary procedures, often only meant for the sake of social security and surveillance. He therefore claimed that his documenting activity is only an additional procedure to enforce the self. In this respect, contrary to common belief, the enforcement of the self conducted by Frigo can be viewed in Foucauldian terms as a "Technology of the Self", a Stoic practice that enables individual to live according to nature and become more just and adapt to govern as in the case of the self-enforcing practices carried out by Franklin Benjamin and Mahatma Gandhi.
Under this line of thought, Frigo links his philosophy to 12 Stoic principles he has derived from the teaching of Seneca the Younger, Gaius Musonius Rufus and Marcus Aurelius: # Be laborious; # Do not fear; # Live modestly; # Be grateful; # Keep above the crowd; # Follow nature; # Value time; # Behold virtue; # Block vices; # Examine yourself; # Disobey the unnatural; # Stick to one goal.
The elaboration of these principles has allowed Frigo to orient himself in more contemporary thinking. While closest to Transcendentalism and Christian anarchism embracing thinkers such as Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Jacques Ellul, Frigo refuses to dilute his thinking in the dominant Marxist intellectual establishment, a reason for which he considers himself a partisan of both the art and the academic world. He therefore feels closest to the Stoics opposing the rise of the Roman Empire and thinking in terms of minor human republics. In an increasingly imperialistic world, dominated by media platforms and large unions, he therefore clearly sides with Leopold Kohr and E. F. Schumacher promoting small, self-reliant and autonomous regions. Tebahism in this respect can be seen as a Stoic attempt to stow the potential of life in view of the crisis brought forward by the increasing imperialistic attitudes of the contemporary Epicurean establishments.
To date, every time Alberto Frigo is in a new circumstance, like a different place and or with different people and or with a different weather or event while accomplishing one of his 36 works, he position his camera, likely on a tripod and films. About 5 to 20 seconds clips are shot constantly changing perspectives. Generally, a film has no less than three clips and could be very long. Clips are later trimmed, put together and exported to a 16:9 high definition .mpg format.
The making of the films has other dimensions going beyond the mere documentation of a documenting practice. Watching carefully through the films, viewers can detect a narrative, the story of a man giving up a life and finding a new life filled with love and other events. It describes the alternation of seasons, a tragicomedy made of sad and happy moments as human life is. Generally, it represent a struggle to get away with the everyday dogma and find poetry again as well as Frigo's ultimate attempt to deposit his project back to nature.
Alberto Frigo's most demanding work consists in the realization of the foundation of the cathedral he has designed to host his 36 years long project (work 23). In this respect Frigo has begun to manually dig out the foundation in a three hectares property in his native alps 100 km from Venice. While in dialogue with the local authorities to obtain the permissions to continue this work, Frigo has set up a self-sufficient environment within the property in order to live there with his family.
The work is located on top of a valley with the entrance facing east and the back facing west where the Little Dolomites can be admirer. Frigo's work is also intended to give a new spiritual meaning to a mountain place completely abandoned by its inhabitants after wars and recessions. The work is mostly inspired by the life committing works of Ferdinand Cheval, Chalermchai Kositpipat, Jim Bishop, Robert Tatin, Justo Gallego Martínez. While Frigo aims to at least build the foundation of the cathedral, a mixed reality application will allow visitors to view the actual data. Periodically also Frigo intends to set up temporary exhibitions.
Each production generated by one of Alberto Frigo's work is resampled and presented in a 1200 by 1200 pixels website. Both the resampling of the files and the writing of each HTML page is done manually. The website is on line at 2004-2040.com and is best viewed on a computer using Google Chrome. On the top-left corner of the website are the 18 inputs of the project (work 01 to 18) while on the top-right corner there are the 18 outputs (work 19 to 36). On the bottom-right corner the various month productions of the 18 inputs can be navigated while on the bottom-left corner there is a stylized map of the world and random month productions can also be selected geographically.