36 WORKS FOR 36 YEARS
WORK 01: Right hand
Since the 24th of September 2003 Alberto Frigo has used his left hand to photograph every object his right hand uses. With an out of production gadget camera, every day he takes on average 76 pictures. At the end of the project in 2040 he will be 60 and the pictures will amount to one million. Every month he creates a 900 by 300 millimeters photographic panel with different lines representing different days of the month. 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).
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.
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.
WORK 02: Dreams
Every day 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.
WORK 03: Notations
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.
WORK 04: Air quality
Daily, 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 museum, 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.
WORK 05: Fables
Every month, 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.
WORK 06: Heart beats
Every time he trains, 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.