Ilaria Sponda in Conversation with Angelo Iodice
Italian artist and chemist Angelo Iodice unveils heterotopic spaces, unconscious pulsions and physical laws. Here, he speaks about the invisible reality he brings to the foreground through equations and mythological narratives.
Ilaria Sponda: Tell me how your art practice has sprouted and found fertile ground in your scientific studies.
Angelo Iodice: I remember that during my studies in organic chemistry I used to have a strong attraction to the mysterious, invisible nature of matter and its interactions with its visible form. Transition state, ab initio calculations or asymmetric syntheses solicited an attraction to dimensions and spaces that are not tangible but that can be defined in an unconventional, yet not always phenomenological way. My search for what is hidden and what moves things does not always visibly operate undisturbed through the use of physical laws or various formulations.
All of this slowly grafted onto readings of classical myths, and then, without remembering the details of the origin, an irreversible reaction seems to have taken place. It continues to synthesize products of lived experience, through which one catches a glimpse through the lens of mourning, phobias, wonders and traces that are not always clear and traceable to a well-defined origin.
I do not have a defined academic path, but many encounters have made my path rich through dialogue. Seminars, master’s studies and artist residencies have made and are still making my experience varied through the different stimuli I get from my own ecosystem of relationships.
IS: What does that look like in your practice?
AI: Throughout my artistic journey, art and science have been two sides of the same coin: intricate and connected. When I decide to start a new work, it is always a pure impulse that comes from a layering of study, connections and research. That’s why I cannot imagine art without scientific calculations or echoes.
My works have lately been informed by and show mathematical demonstrations written in black ink on sheets of paper. I see those pieces of work as imprints without language, made of signs. At first sight somehow cold and detached, they are deeply rooted in abstract, conceptual dimensions formalized through equations but connected to a real, recognizable dimension – thanks to their juxtaposition with a banal image framing reality itself. There is always a tension between the inhuman dimension of calculation and the syllogisms I visualize and make visible.
IS: Since you said art and science have been mingling in your mind and practice, have you experienced any strong shift from one way of thinking and practicing research to the other?
AI: Dear Ilaria, I honestly struggle to find a comprehensive answer to this question. You know why? Because, with the distance of time, I am unable to individuate a starting point, an end of the skein, or two parallel tracks starting from the same station. Today, what is certain is that they are the same: they are so entangled and they constitute a single body, so it no longer makes sense to talk about science and art. They are elements that together constitute a whole, reacting to each other and creating my work. It’s this synergy that is at the core of my practice.
IS: You mention mythology and mathematical demonstrations. What, in particular, informs your aesthetics and research?
AI: There have been so many images that stimulated my intuition. I particularly remember that the work that started it all was Parau api (Two Tahitian Women) by Paul Gauguin, which I encountered in an art history book. The unnaturally depicted background of tropical seas seems to me to push toward a primordial, deconstructed place: a non-place. This heterotopic space is a non-tangible dimension which exists. In the same way, to me, all myths and tragedies are heterotopias.
My artistic path has been an untamable succession of dots linking to one another: Vettor Pisani’s interpretation of myth, Giorgio Griffa’s analysis, the “Cosmic Secret” that populated the altars of Michele Zaza… All these dots among others all glued to scientific theorems or processes, to demonstrations or phenomena that I’ve studied and still bring into my research today. Can you not grasp a line of continuity between Heisenberg’s Principle of Indeterminacy and a periwinkle and magenta sea of Gauguin? Is it not obvious the conjunction that exists between the psi wave function and the myth of Medusa depicted on an Attic crater or a David Lynch frame?
IS: Entanglement is key in your work. What is it to you?
AI: It has been said that properties of things are relative to other things: this is precisely the phenomenon of Entanglement. Entanglement is the situation in which two systems or two people have somehow remained entangled and connected.
It is said that when two particles have come into connection somewhere the same particles have remained entangled: that is, connected and related. And the magical thing is that each has the characteristic of the other: that is, both are the same thing and are juxtaposed. You have to think that the relationship between two elements is not something that is contained in one or the other, because it is more than that. You need a third object interacting with both systems to give reality to the correlation. It’s indeed a three-way dance.
IS: Photography is the major medium you work with. What fascinates you about it? How is it functional to the formalization of your research?
AI: John Szarkowski said that while painting portrays events of great importance, photography on the contrary reports everything that is marginal and nevertheless gives it an aura of importance. Today, through a strange combination, photography succeeds in transporting simple notations, even trivial details, to another dimension. It seems to be succeeding in achieving a large reach by acquiring or imposing new values and meanings.
Is photography the tool that can detect through simplicity the most difficult field of reflection and study?
Like a memo or a spreadsheet, it becomes an acme of reasoning and cerebral evaluation that has nothing instantaneous in it. That’s why I like to think of a photograph dialoguing with pages on which I report demonstrations or pencil-made drawings that act as gateways to the imaginative. That’s how photography enters my works; that’s my use of the medium.
IS: Nowadays, photography risks becoming mediocre and unfashionable. Mainstream circulations of art photography privilege a kind of language that loudly claims this or that hot topic in society and the art world. How do you relate to the wider art photography scene?
AI: I do a type of research that engages in manifesting the invisible and the non-tangible and that is why my photography very often comes across as solitary, diaphanous, never marked or populated. I prefer the absence of matter, because what I am interested in is not a marked trace but rather something that is only hinted at. And that is why it is indecipherable. I actually search for something that perhaps does not really exist, but which I find and present in a new work. And this process of sublimation comes from an image that is somehow layered within me. The personal is somehow hidden in every work I make.
Lacan said that, “The first trace is the one that cannot be found again because it is erased forever by another trace that repeats itself and the signifier erases the thing but cannot erase the trace of its erasure.” And this concept is key to all my artistic pulsion and research.
I’ve just finished a master’s degree with a really valuable person who has pushed me to unsettle and make my work more solid, which has brought me to new and previously unexplored fields, such as writing and word omission. This has thus allowed my works to almost float, losing that fixity that was congealing.
I’ve learned to make my past and present works more silent in order to acknowledge the intent behind them more. I continually try to face the world with my work, to propose my poetics and aesthetics, and to enter into dialogue with people on the basis of trust.
Ilaria Sponda is an interdependent curator, writer and visual artist based in Dublin. With an educational background in Arts, Media and Cultural Events (IULM, Milan) and Management of the Arts and Culture (UCP, Lisbon), she also chose photography as a medium to bring about her personal artistic research.
Sponda’s curatorial research is inspired by artists that engage with the camera and other media as anthropologists of contemporary society, both on an individual and collective level. Her current research is based in the image culture and how it is affected by global circulations. Within this context, she looks to deconstruct contemporary curating towards a critical mediation of art and its understanding.