Gabriele Cecconi: TiàWùK
Gabriele Cecconi (b. 1985, Italy) is concerned with the socio-political and environmental issues of our time but also the relation between culture and power, specifically its representation in the visual arts.
For his latest project, TiàWùK, Cecconi introduces a fictional planet located in close proximity to Earth. As we learn, in an impressive short period of time, “TiàWùK has become one of the richest planets in the universe” and, according to incomplete information, “the planet has recently been colonised due to the discovery of a secret source of energy.”
The project, TiàWùK, aims to explore the relation between the inner and the outer world. It touches on a social environment which is deeply conditioned by the material world, seemingly functioning as an illusionary compensation for psychological disorders.
This all sounds very intriguing and we decided to ask Cecconi a few questions about it.
Do you consider yourself a documentary photographer?
This is an interesting question relating to my identity as a photographer and as a human being. I started to develop an interest in art and photography only at the age of twenty-seven, after finishing the law school. Through photography, I got to discover a hidden part of myself, reconnecting with my sensitive side.
Knowing very little about photography, my first point of reference was traditional photojournalism and documentary photography. However, during the past two years, I started to work without any boundaries. So, despite calling myself a documentary photographer, my practice is constantly changing and evolving.
The title of your project, when read backwards, states: KuWaiT. Was this indeed an intended connection and if so, why? Is there a political motive?
Yes, indeed. Kuwait is the place I chose for this project. All the data, even if presented in a fictional way is the actual data coming from the State of Kuwait.
Back in 2018 I came across Kuwait and learned about the stateless community Bidoon living there without an official citizenship since the countries’ independence.
Kuwait is one of the most under-represented countries in the Gulf area. After discovering the oil wells in 1934, within a short period of time, Kuwait became one of the biggest exporters of oil in the Gulf. Before that, Kuwait was divided among fishermen and Bedouins. Nowadays, the country suffers from harsh environmental conditions: during summer it is one of the hottest places on earth, most of the land consist of deserts with scarcity of water reserves, only 2% of the countries soil is cultivable, and due to the bad air quality a high rate of Kuwaits population suffers from cancer.
Historically Kuwait has gained its independency from Great Britain only in 1961. Then in the 1990s the region has experienced a strong influence from the the USA due to the Gulf War. The North American economic and social model has taken roots in Kuwait, offering a way of living that was difficult to implement into to the traditional Islamic culture and traditions.
In my project, I introduce the concept of “economical fantasy”: showing the power of wealth and the fantasy of a material world. I met and confronted myself with a few psychologist and psychiatrists working in Kuwait who confirmed my observations – the rapid economic growth has caused all kinds of mental issues among the population.
Your photographic compositions include objects and colours that seem to have a specific symbolic reference. Is that a deliberate strategy within the outline of this concept?
During my first trip to Kuwait, I felt overwhelmed by the surreal look of the city – which was quite different from what I knew. That strong impression (which reconnected with my passion for science fiction literature and movies) gave me the sense of the direction in my research.
The main conceptual and aesthetic guideline was to move between reality and fiction to give back to the absurdity of the situation as it stood in front of my eyes. For example, the picture of the horse with a fake coliseum in the background is quite simple in terms of framing and composition (I just put myself in front of the scene) but it carries a strong message of how one specific cultural artefact has been implemented into another, totally different culture.
How do you see this project further evolve? What would be the ultimate form for it?
As I am becoming more aware of the art world, I think any form of exposure can be beneficial for further development. That said, I want my work to be fluid and adaptable to various format and exhibition platforms. Despite my love for photo books, I was not yet ready to present it in that form. My priority now is applying for grants that will hopefully cover my future trips to TiàWùk (Kuwait).
I consider my work successful when my images gain emotional attention from the audience and open a space for reflections and questions. A good image, same as a good book, adds something to the massive flow of information, pulling one out from the loop of the constant repetition.
Gabriele Cecconi was one of the Open Call Winners of Photo Is:rael 2020. The theme for this years edition was Transformation. This interview was conducted is the context a media partnership between GUP Magazine and PHOTO IS:RAEL festival.