36 WORKS 36 YEARS
Every month 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, 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 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.
10. PUBLIC PLACES
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, 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 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