There is an uncanny quality in Italian sculptor Edoardo Tresoldi’s work that stems from the fact that what you see is as important as what you don’t see. Part architecture, part artwork, part hallucination, his ethereal constructions immerse the visitor into a dream-like environment that demands to be mentally re-constructed rather than visually consumed.
Conceived as space interventions and built out of wire mesh, Tresoldi’s sculptures are designed in a hybrid language of classical archetypes and modernist forms. Embodying the convergence of sculpture, scenography and architecture, they transcend the corporeality of these firmly material crafts by incorporating a fourth, elegiac dimension centered on absence. Their transparency also means that they are in dialogue with the landscape wherein they stand, its genius loci effortlessly inserted into the poetic narrative that they conjure. By giving as much attention to what is missing as to what is there, Tresoldi’s uncanny creations negotiate a fluid entente between the fiercely antagonistic concepts of reality, memory and fantasy; a timeless struggle whose denouement is ultimately left up to the viewer.
Since 2013, Tresoldi’s work has focused on site-specific installations in public spaces and archaeological contexts, as well as private commissions, contemporary art and music festivals and group exhibitions. Highlights of his multifaceted oeuvre include Basilica di Siponto (2016), a permanent installation that merges contemporary art and archaeology by restoring a Paleo-Christian basilica in Puglia, Italy, Aura, a site-specific, two-part, floating installation that took over the halls of Le Bon Marché, the prestigious Parisian department store in the autumn of 2017, and Archetipo (2017), a sprawling, indoor "piazza" in Abu Dhabi synthesized from domes, arches, colonnades, and other architectural fragments of Italian classicism.
His most recent project for the Coachella Music Festival, Etherea, Tresoldi’s biggest artwork to date and the largest to be featured in the festival, is an ephemeral public artwork comprising three aligned sculptures inspired by Neoclassical and Baroque architecture of identical shape but diminishing size, that invite visitors to re-calibrate reality as they progress through it. Tresoldi talked to Yatzer about his artistic practice, his inspirations and his newest installation for the Coachella Music Festival.
(Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.)
Although you have an artistic background, your work has a strong architectural sensibility. How did this come about and how does it complement or support your artistic vision?
I think there are two main reasons: my background as a scenographer and the fascination that landscapes and places have always exerted on me. The architectural sensibility with which my sculptures are conceived is linked to an experiential narration, and in this sense architecture is a language through which to celebrate the sacredness of nature and its relation to man.
How did wire mesh became such a prevalent aspect of your work? What are the technical difficulties that you had to overcome?
I started to use it during my work as a scenographer. Its transparency allows me to weave the immaterial side of things, what I called the Absent Matter, and to play with the seen and the unseen, in order to establish a dream-like dimension which allows viewers to be in a constant relationship with the surroundings.
Wire mesh has its own unique technical complexity: Paradoxically, its transparency makes every technical detail quite visible. In the design phase, the forms are constrained by the structure and vice versa. But the strength of the artworks lies in the balance between aesthetics and structural form; everything revolves around the juxtaposition between these two elements.
Your work revolves around space interventions. What prompted you to concentrate on site-specific work? What is the artistic process by which the genius loci of each space or landscape is calibrated and incorporated into the design?
I spend a lot of time immersing myself into the site of each installation. I try to grasp its essence by building a contemporary language linked to an emotional path, an ephemeral unity that can break everyday life transcending time-space dimensions.
You have compared Aura's installation as “relics on display” while other projects have been described as “architecture in ruins”. What is the allure of this archaeological approach and where does your fascination with “digging up” the past come from?
I’m Italian! Ruins and classical archetypes are strongly rooted in my psyche. I also lived in Rome for seven years when I worked as a set designer. Rome is a powerful, timeless inspiration for every artist. After all, her crowded skyline brought Walter Benjamin to say “Does not dreaming itself take the high road in Rome?” My fascination with ruins came to life with the Basilica di Siponto that spurred the Metaphysical Ruin, a concept that I presented during the Business of Design Week in Hong Kong last December. It is a contemporary ruin that reintroduces the shapes of the original architecture through the transparency of wire mesh, and accompanies the visitor through a new emotional and spatial experience, immersed in the contemporary landscape.
Take us through your artistic process. Which is the most challenging aspect, the conception, the design or the construction stage?
Every aspect of the work has its own rules that need to be followed. Regarding outdoor artworks, the first step is related to the study and the understanding of the characteristics of the site. Then the architectural composition take into account the physical dynamics of the place and the landscape elements become constituent parts of the project.
Many of your works are temporary installations. How do you feel about their impermanence? Is this the ultimate contrivance in an effort to portray the absence of matter?
Impermanence is an essential part of the ephemeral value of my work. My interventions rely on the temporal existence of a place and can have different lifespans depending on the type of artwork and narration. “Locus”, realized in collaboration with Italian musician IOSONOUNCANE for the DERIVE festival in Italy, is a perfect example of that. It has been a “performance of places”, a temporary creature within the majestic natural scenery of the Bay of Sapri and one of the event’s defining elements of performative value. Once Locus’ life cycle was completed, it disappeared, leaving the place to its pre-existing equilibrium.
Lighting is an important aspect in showcasing your installations, its intangible nature reflecting the immateriality of your creations. How do you go about developing the lighting design? How different is the nighttime view of your installations intended to be in comparison to their daytime appearance?
During the day, sunlight, wind, clouds and rain allow the installations to be experienced under different moods. So the sculptures become dynamic spaces that respond to all kinds of external factors, where the viewers can experience the interaction between exterior and interior and the fading of boundaries.
At night however, artificial illumination enriches the surfaces and volumes, accentuating the architectural compositions and distortions in a more ethereal and suspended way, making them majestic, but still intimate and delicate spaces.
You have frequently created installations for music festivals and collaborated with musicians. Similarly to your work, a musical composition embodies an intangible narrative that listeners are invited to flesh out in their heads. Does this shared spirit partly underpin such collaborations? In what ways does music and musicians inspire your work?
Music and visual arts are both part of a single artistic unity, taking inspiration from each other and embodying the iridescent and the immaterial in different manners. Through my works and collaborations I try to blur the boundaries between the disciplines, experimenting the never-ending possibilities by breaking the barriers between them.
Tell us a bit about your installation for the Coachella festival. How did the commission come about and what are you trying to accomplish with this project?
I have been in contact with Coachella for a year now as I was meant to participate at the 2017 edition, but I was busy in the UAE working on Archetipo.
Etherea is my biggest artwork to date, a place where visitors can experience the relationship with the boundless California landscapes, narrated through the language of classical architecture. Its perceptive space changes constantly thanks to the gradual dimensions of the three sculptures, which either amplify or reduce the distance between the viewers and the sky.
It’s like when you come back to a place after a long time and you remembered it being bigger or smaller than what it really is: the memory of the previous architecture gets readjusted to the one in which you are entering through a sequence of optical effects.
Etherea is also the culmination of my collaborations with music festivals. In this sense, it is meant as a huge ephemeral public artwork within Coachella’s large temporary city: the ideal dimension, for me, to continue the sculptural narration of the ephemeral.