with Martina Dal Brollo

Gamze Can: Interview with Martina Dal Brollo.
Published on 13 September 2022.

What does it mean for you as a young Italian artist to be part of an exhibition project like the GOLDSTÜCKE?

After my last experience in Tunis with INTERFERENCE YOUNG MASTERS, I am thrilled to bring my work “Polarized View” to Germany for GOLDSTÜCKE. I think that the idea behind my work fits nicely with the general theme of “urban textures” and I am sure this opportunity will help me to expand my network of contacts and show my work to a broader audience.

You work with plastic garbage as your raw material. You turn it into beautiful, aesthetic imageries _ when we see the artwork we don’t imagine that it is made of waste. When did you start to collect waste and work with it? Did it change your perception of it?

I started to be interested in plastic pollution during my Fine Art Master’s Studies at the Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen, the Netherlands. I was observing this – for me new – city and taking into consideration the idea of working with materials, sounds, and textures coming from the path I was following to arrive at my Italian university.

I started to notice the most common material I would find on the ground was a plastic waste so I started to think how I could reuse it in my work and transform it into something different or even enchanting. I wanted to use it as a raw material for some experiments I was doing with projections and I found out the transformative power of the polarizing filters. Suddenly this material that we barely notice and that we throw away so quickly became something hypnotizing for me and for everyone else.

That sounds very interesting, sometimes the simplest things can turn into something very different. What was the influence that made you think of waste as a testimony of time?

Every time I see the surface of an old wall of a city, and an old found object or a piece of waste that belonged to someone, I think of the memory these items embody. I like to think about them as testimonies of lived experience and time passing. A found piece of waste it’s like a contemporary piece of archeology: It can tell us something about our habits, our taste, our society, and about our historical time.

That’s very true. I also saw that you did some projects with citizens collecting waste together. How do you encourage people to be a part of this?

Yes, the project was called “Collect-Connect-Treasure-Trash-Walk”. It was a five-day trash-picking expedition between Groningen and Pieterburen in which about 80 people participated. In the Netherlands, there are hundreds of volunteers that are conscious of the problems caused by the dispersion of plastic waste in the environment, so it happened pretty naturally to get to know them and invite them to participate in this action that ended with an exhibition in the Wall House of Groningen.

Wow, what an incredibly successful project and very inspiring. But that makes me also think that the audience is an essential part of your project, right? What role exactly does the audience play in your project? What do you expect from the visitors?

I hope that this work would trigger the curiosity of the audience and help to reflect or to start a conversation about plastic waste and the problem of the production and dispersion of plastic waste in the environment. As an artist, I was also questioning how to make an artwork re-using materials that are already there trying to buy the least possible. Either way, I think this work has many “layers“ and can be read and interpreted in many forms. I like to keep it open for everyone to be experienced in the way they feel it.

I’m sure a lot of the visitors will have many interpretations and associations about your project. Your installation comes with the notion of examination and experimentation: you collage plastic waste fragments on a transparent, rotating disk. What are your parameters? How do you take your decisions about selecting, sorting and composing?

What I like about this work is that every time I exhibit it, it’s never exactly the same. And that is because the waste I find in a city is different from the one I find in another one. I collect and assemble my “fragments” in an intuitive way trying to bring elements that local people can recognize as “theirs”. The polariser filter and the projection are then doing the rest.

You work with a physical filter that refracts white light into colors. Can you explain why you choose to work with a dichroic filter?

Through the automatic rotation of a polarizing filter, a camera, and a projector, the internal tension of the plastic is revealed and amplified through a physical phenomenon called “photoelasticity”. Photoelasticity describes changes in the optical properties of a material under mechanical deformation. It’s normally used in physics but I am using it here to enhance the imperfection of a material found in the street; rippled by time and weather conditions.

There is a camera involved that records the filtered impressions allowing them to be enlarged and projected into space, it almost works like a microscope. Is that your idea as well?

Yes, it’s at the same time a microscope and a galaxy. I like the idea to put under a lens transparent fragments of waste and give them the opportunity to be seen through a different light and perspective, also by amplifying them. With the effect of the polariser filter, they become a new unexpected landscape.

The guiding idea of the GOLDSTÜCKE project in 2022 is “Textures Of The City”. We want to discuss with artists and audiences: how we shape our surroundings with our way of living. How do we shape our cities in the way we use them? What are conventions and codes that transform our urban environments? What are the narratives we generate? How do you see work in this kind of thematic framework?

I think that the only way to shape our surroundings is by walking through them and experiencing them. I often use the method of the “derive” to get lost in a city and try to look at it from the perspective of someone who discovers something for the first time. This way it’s easier to forget about a destination to be reached and to instead focus our attention on what matters the most. A texture of a city is for me its character, its rhythm, its surfaces, and the traces of passage that we leave behind while we walk through it. Textures are our residues too; fragments and repeating patterns on the street that are telling us something about our consumerist society and our way of living it. To me, these traces are like contemporary archaeological finds to be collected, analyzed, manipulated, and re-transformed back into something positive.

Would you say that your art is adaptable to anywhere in the world and could be understood as a universal language?

I think it’s interesting to see how my work can be adapted and received in different parts of the world. As I said previously, it has many different layers of interpretations so one can be triggered by the visual part of it while another one can be inspired by the concept behind it. I am not sure there is a universal language but I like to think that art sometimes can help to connect us all better.

I saw that you have been traveling, you were in the Netherlands, Spain, and China. How would you say the different countries affected you and your art? And how is the art scene different from another? What differences did you notice?

Traveling a lot has definitely shaped my way of experiencing and making art. My work has become lighter and portable and I learned to use materials and resources present in the country I am living in. Everywhere I went I met talented artists and creatives, the only difference between countries is sometimes the lack of financial support in the cultural field that is forcing many artists to either leave their country or dismiss their activity.

Do you already have other upcoming projects you would like to talk about? If so, where?

Yes! I recently presented my last project “Con-temporary Studio Space” at the Tschumi Pavilion of Groningen. This project made in collaboration with artist Michela Dal Brollo started with a journey that is an intimate observation of the aquatic system of Groningen. It has been done by choosing a sustainable way of traveling: a bike and a trailer acting as a mobile studio. The journey was used to collect stories, waste, and data and was shown later with a projected live-action. The interactive installation presented at the end of the journey was triggered by the audience. The same bicycles used to travel became part of a mobile cinema and were used as a source of energy to activate projected visual storytelling. It’s the story of a journey that unfolds while cycling.


Marina Dal Brollo. INTERFERENCE YOUNG MASTERS Tunis 2022. Foto: Karim Ben Halima