Gabriella and Silvana have been collaborating since 2001 when the sisters were studying drawing at the Victorian College of Arts. They are best known for their video art works involving props, dance, gestural “mirroring” sequences influenced by historical drawing techniques.
All our relations – what is interesting to you about the theme of the 18th Biennale of Sydney?
The theme works on so many layers, as artists it talks not only about relationship between artist/ artist but artist/curator and also artist /audience. The title generates an exciting energy that relates to the sharing of art through experience and thoughts that manifest and continue to grow into other forms of expression; conversation.
An early memory of an artist, an exhibition or a work that was influential?
Seeing a Rebecca Horn video titled Pencil Mask was a defining moment and steered us into working in video.
Horn’s exploration between the equilibrium of space and the body, and in particular her use of sculptural body extensions gave us a new stimulus to push drawing into new sphere. Keeping Pencil Mask in mind we made our first video Drawing 1.
Tell me about one of your early works featured in the terrific Monash survey exhibition of your work in 2009?
Endless End is one of the works we showed at the Monash Exhibition. This piece embodies our relationship and our working processes.
It suggests a dialogue between the two of us; one as performer and the other as camera operator. It operates in unison, a silent conversation that displays our intuitive approach to making work; the symmetry of panning of the lens and the movement of the body.
The video was filmed in a darkened room. The person behind the camera had no perception of where the other body was until the moment when the window shutters let light into the room.
We were also influenced by the documentation of many early performance artists such as Marina Abramović and Ulay Laysiepen.
In some ways we take the same principles of live performances when filming. Our approach is one that is not hugely rehearsed as we prefer to let the conditions of the space influence our movements while still keeping in mind the concept of the work.
Tell me about your heritage and something of the key cultural influences that have shaped your work. Dancing, gestures and body, language and rituals for example?
We come from a Sicilian heritage both our parents were born in the east coast of Sicily. There is a strong tradition of folk tales and oral storytelling that is past down from generation to generation. The richness of these tales always formed strong imagery. We grew up watching many Italian films, unlike our parents who understood both Italian and Sicilian, as children we only understood the Sicilian dialect (not much help when viewing Italian films).
We watched these films (mostly black and white), only grasping the basics; observing facial expressions, gestures and movement. The intense contrast imagery in foreign spaces and places was mesmerizing to watch. I think subconsciously these elements have influenced the way we work today.
Your two Biennale projects, between near and far and neon how has your earlier work/early influences informed these two projects?
Between near and far was influenced by our earlier video if…so.. then.
Part of the process behind creating Between near and far was to contrast the spatial architectural limitations of if… so… then.
It was also our first attempt at using the open landscape as our studio. We were interested in challenging ideas of drawing/object, space /time body/relationship. Working in an open landscape allowed elements of play that would never exist in our own studio. We used the natural elements such as the wind to direct the movement of the piece.
Our video works have progressed from using purely movement to more sculptural interactions that activate space.
The use of objects whether they are the strips of paper in Between near and far or the colour paper object of Neon are instruments of measurement between the relationships of one body to the other. They are interruptions of space.
Neon was visually influenced from Atsuko Tanaka’s Electric Dress. The piece comes back to staging a performance in our studio space.
Neon really exemplifies the transition from drawing to sculpture in our video performances. We wanted to relay the sensibility of intimate physical space and also personal distance space though the use of sculpture.
This was the first video we filmed in colour. Instinctively we have always filmed in black and white; I think this is a reflection of our past drawing practices where we both mainly used lead pencils or charcoal.
We tend to rely on simple methods of documenting and minimal technologies. Our videos really come into light through our editing processes.
We are self-taught and we prefer to perform, film and edit on our own. It has been a long rewarding process starting with no skills but with every project we have gained new knowledge.
The methodology of working this way in a sense comes back to our drawing practices. Drawing is a very private exercise and we create our videos in the same manner.
Where: Wednesday 27 June- Sunday 16 September, 2012, Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of 18th Biennale of Sydney, all our relations.