A late night square in São Paulo, still, aside from the subtle movements of night workers who pass unseen during the day. A woman laying motionless under a bridge in New York. Tokyo inhabitants backlit by billboards and city lights, lingering on street corners, unaware that they are being quietly observed.
The viewer of these scenes is held in suspense by the deliberate stillness overlying a sense of perpetual motion, something contained just below the surface of the subject, a moment frozen. The viewer expects the subject to turn their head or move at any moment. What are these people thinking? Who are they? Why is this moment significant?
The first sequence of Time Lapse at Ekho Galleria.
These are a few of the questions raised by artist Gianfranco Foschino's latest show, Time Lapse, on display at the Ekho and Metales Pesados galleries in central Santiago.
Foschino, a Chilean film-maker turned visual artist, uses photography and film to explore the concept of time, and seeks moments when the subjects are unaware they are being captured on film.
"I like the idea of being an observer of situations with people not being conscious that I'm around," Foschino explains. "It's closer to reality."
This anonymity gives Foschino the unique perspective of catching people at their most vulnerable – when they are unaware of observation. Tired, walking home from work, thinking about what to do about dinner, and looking forward to seeing the family. Those moments are the most unguarded and real, which is what Foschino longs to capture.
"These images represent them [the subjects] in the mood of being completely involved in the city, but also internally focused," says Foschino. "I want to be present [for these moments], but not disturb them. I'm not hiding myself but in a way, I'm the one acting, [not them]."
© Gianfranco Foschino.
The only staged piece in the exhibit was filmed in New York, where Foschino asked an actress to lay motionless under a bridge. A pigeon enters the frame, the background noise of the city thrums, a slight wind blows trash around, but the woman remains motionless. What will happen? The viewer immerses themselves in the visual narrative.
This video also highlights one of Foschino's best skills as a visual artist: his superb composition abilities. Utilizing his camera as a framing device, Foschino is able to create angles and therefore shift the perspective, while not actually changing anything in the scene he films.
"From different angles, other dimensions and points of view are revealed," he explains.
The exhibit, composed of short looping films and large-scale backlit photographs, is non-sequential. This allows visitors the freedom to impose their own ideas and notions onto the work, as well as be swept along by Foschino’s prowess as an artist and his strength in delivering ideas through simple but strikingly beautiful and poignant imagery.
Photo by Zoe Baillargeon
Time Lapse encompasses five years of work spanning several continents, with locations in Tokyo, São Paulo, and New York City. Foschino says that the selecting of subjects and locations wasn't planned, just that when travelling, if a moment or place struck him, he would whip out his camera and try to capture the moment and do it justice.
"I'm really open to the location teaching me what to see and what not to see," says Foschino.
As a visual artist with a background in filmmaking, Foschino feels that film is a unique artistic medium with which to explore the sticky concept of time. "I want to expand the perception of time that people have," he explains, adding that using the camera allows the artist the opportunity to slow down or speed up time. This ties into his desire to make viewers more conscious of time and their place in the world, how, even if subjects live in a city, they are still connected to nature and are part of a natural cycle.
"These images are set in urban spaces, but I'm also looking at the cities as scenarios, seeing how people react naturally," he explains.
Much of Foschino's earlier work has also focused on the environment and nature, such as a 2013 piece entitled Fluxus at SITE Santa Fe for their biennial SITELINES exhibit, which featured a looping film of a melting glacier in a valley in the Aysen region.
Time Lapse holds the distinction of being Foschino's second solo exhibition in his home country, but his resume includes an impressive list of international shows and pieces, including showings in the US and Europe. He says that working internationally is "stimulating", but also says that it's partly due to the state of affairs of the Chilean arts scene.
"Artists here are not really professionals…it’s hard to make a living," Foschino says, bemoaning a cultural deficit that many artists living and working in Chile have also felt. He expands on this by discussing the lack of economic and exposure opportunities for Chilean artists, as well as the difficulty of competing against a cultural mindset that "doesn’t value anything unless it is productive."
"There is a cultural emptiness," he laments.
Even though Time Lapse closes in early May, Foschino is a busy man, with an upcoming exhibit opening in August at the MAVI in Santiago. The focus of this show will be the evolutionary states of water in Patagonia, ranging from glaciers and lakes to streams and mists. Foschino hopes to use the exhibit as a way of raising awareness about the international fresh water shortage crisis as well.
"The future generations are going to look to the south [Patagonia] in a different way [because of the fresh water]," he explains.
The unnamed exhibit will also be composed of photographs and films, and was created during Foschino’s travels through Patagonia and on a recent trip to Isla Rey Jorge in Chilean Antarctica.
"I love to discover Chilean geography," says Foschino, whose family hails from the South, which he frequently visits.
Ultimately, Foschino uses his art as a method of meditation, inviting viewers to put the brakes on for once and connect with the world and people around them, or at least to be aware of the constant flux and flow of life. Every moment, no matter how seemingly mundane or ordinary, is hiding meaning for someone and deserves to be felt and observed at its most raw and natural.
"We don’t have time for anything, we are all running too much. Slow down and discover."
March 17 – May 7, 2016
Ekho/Metales Pesados Gallerias, Santiago
Merced 316/349, Santiago, Región Metropolitana