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Early this year, Nanda Vigo’s first solo exhibition in the United States was held at Sperone Westwater in New York. The Italian artist, architect, and designer is known for her involvement in the ZERO movement. Whitewall spoke with the artist about her show, including work from the 1960s and ’70s dealing with the “vibrations” of the invisible world through immersive light and mirror installations.
WHITEWALL: What first attracted you to address light as your subject?
NANDA VIGO: In 1943 when I was seven years old, I was walking through Como when I came across what was then called the Fascist Party Headquarters, a rationalistic building designed by Giuseppe Terragni that used concrete/glass for most of the structure. The light that filtered through those windows produced illusionistic effects that fired my imagination. Since then, all my work has evolved around this illusionistic luminous research, one that can be applied to both environmental pieces and to individual works.
WW: Since light and reflection are key elements of your subject matter, the media used in your sculptures plays an important role. Could you explain your process behind choosing materials to achieve your desired effects?
NV: My favorite materials are mostly reflective—glass, mirrors, steel, and aluminum—all used with the aim of constructing the illusion of time/space, and so of chronotopes, and all underlined by artificial lighting, preferable fluorescent lighting.
WW: What was your relationship like with other artists in the ZERO group? Were there any particular individuals that influenced your work?
NV: First of all, I love Lucio Fontana, then Otto Piene, Mack Heinz, Herman de Vries, Piero Manzoni, and all ZERO, but no one has influenced my work, unless this is a question of having a shared way of thinking, something that underlines my preferred concepts.
WW: You’ve described your work as amplifying the “vibrations of the invisible world.” Could you elaborate on how your pieces do this? How might the different pieces in this collection accomplish amplifying these vibrations in different ways?
NV: Each piece is aimed at triggering light, and each one does so according to the natural or artificial light that it receives and to the various viewpoints of the observers. Invisibility is inside each of us and, even if autonomous, it produces a conditioning effect on our own psyche.
WW: When planning an exhibition, is there a particular method to arranging the pieces in the room? How do particular pieces work in conversation with one another?
NV: No, but clearly they should be positioned in such a way that the environmental light and the light of each individual piece should be aimed at triggering the highest amount of luminous information, and they should not necessarily interconnect.
WW: In a way, light is a subject matter that isn’t tied to a particular time period or place. How do you think works such as the “Cronotopi” series made in the sixties and “Trigger of the Space” made in the seventies transcend those time periods to remain relevant to our current moment?
NV: All sentient beings come from light and, in their subconscious, are ready to return to it. The aim of my works is to bring attention to the question that, in the 1960s, made me work on the “Cronotopi”; in the 1970s on the “Trigger of the Space” works; in the 1980s on the “Light Tree” works; in 1993 on “Light Progress”; in 2004 on “Deep Space,” and, currently on the “Galatica” pieces, and then, and then . . . it’s a never-ending story: the objects, the forms, and the sculptures on which I have worked, and that I still intend to develop, are always concerned with “space-time.” Light has the capacity to transport us into “other,” a-dimensional, cosmic, and sidereal spaces, and my “pretension” (I hope it’s not that) is to induce in the psyche of the viewers (of the work) an evasion from everyday life in favor of other points of view. And then the objects or the works can also be a pleasure to look at.
WW: As this is your first solo exhibition in the United States, what is the main thing you hope American audiences take away from the show?
NV: My discourse is an integral part of that of the ZERO group, of which I have been a part since the 1960s. And what I experimented with then has now become topical. We could say that I am a witness to what is known as “avant-garde” European research. It’s not bad to acknowledge that.
This article is published in Whitewall‘s summer 2016 Design Issue.