Heidi Specker: Termini @ Brancolini Grimaldi

Rancolini Grimaldi gallery presents the solo exhibition of recent and new works of German photographer Heidi Specker. Titled ‘Termini’, the show is named after the main railway station of Rome, which took its name from the geographical district that was in turn named after the roman baths of Diocletian (Thermae Diocletiani) that are situated in the same area.

Specker’s small to large sized images incorporate three series: the Piazza di Spagna 31 group of images are taken in the house of surrealist Giorgio de Chirico, the Via Napone 2 group features photographs from the house of Italian architect Carlo Mollino, and the third series involves images from the EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma) district. Specker’s images focus with surgical precision on equivocal minutiae that could pass unnoticed from the unsuspected and untrained eye. The extraordinary detail of surface and texture and the close up of peculiar objects pronounce their unique individual hypostasis.

While environs and objects are reminiscent of their owner’s lifestyle and cosmo-theory, Specker is predominantly interested in how the properties of time, memory and history interweave and interreact. The metaphysical background of de Chirico’s art as well as Mollino’s practice of photographing in his house myriads of women using an assortment of props accentuate a roleplay between past and present. The images of the EUR district buildings document the transition from the realm of past to the realm of present via the conduit of memory and historical reference, and vice versa.

Specker’s lens seduces and isolates targeted objects concurrently paying great attention to the solemnity and verve of the chosen entities. Although these are remnants of bygone eras, they encapsulate their energy and still radiate an aura that makes them far from inanimate. Specker’s visual language is a study of memento temporis, where objects and buildings collide in a vortex of history and time. Kostas Prapoglou

Heidi Specker talked to REVma -/+ about her exhibition and work:

REVma -/+: What attracted you to the surrealism of Giorgio de Chirico and the aesthetics of Carlo Mollino?
H.S.: I just stepped into Giorgio de Chirico’s apartment, next to the Spanish Steps, expecting nothing special but recognised immediately that I had found it – the epicentre of Italian Surrealism. The experience made me embark on the TERMINI project. De Chirico himself called his paintings ‘metaphysical’ and this is a character of images I am also looking for; something beyond the repetition of reality.
SUR-, or META, referring to an experience elevated from the obvious realities, and REALISM which for me related to PHYSICS, the hard facts of life. After de Chirico, I searched for another artist, a person in Italian history who could be said to have been a kind of milestone. I settled on Carlo Mollino. In his apartment Mollino created a setting for taking photographs of his models. This was the opposite of de Chirico’s home. Mollino’s apartment was not public at all. An absolutely hidden place. Mollino’s aesthetics are also artificial. He visited the Egyptian museum in Turin many times and believed in taking things with him after death. In the end it’s also metaphysical.

REVma -/+: What is your personal connection with time and what led you explore its properties through your work?
H.S.: I was given a residency for one year in Rome, at the Villa Massimo. When I arrived I initially thought about spring, summer, autumn and winter – the year divided in seasons as a concept of time. But, of course it’s more. De Chirico was born in 1888, Mollino in 1905. So Mollino was a child of the twentieth century, born 3 years before my own father. Photography can be really unclear (alternative: has a certain ambiguity). Many of my images could have been taken today or a long time back. Since colour has a particular meaning after 1900, I decided to use both black and white and colour photographs in order to un-sharpen the connection of time.

REVma -/+: Your narrative has a pronounced metaphysical element. How challenging can it be to encompass and encapsulate this into your photography?
H.S.: The general expectation of vis-a-vis photography is still documentary and based on notions of time. My strategy is to strip things and images of their narratives, and to close in on the object in order to eliminate the link to its surroundings, and hence to reality; to make it less obvious and more questioning.

REVma -/+: What would your dream setting be for a future project?
H.S.: I bought a book about Man Ray’s portraits and want to rearrange his settings. The idea is straightforward: simple light, simple setting – his studio/my studio – and to remake the same work 100 years later. He portrayed visitors, but also clients, who were asking for a portrait. I am thinking, you might say dreaming, of doing portraits for a long time. I don’t want to break with architecture or interiors, exteriors, but portraits can be something interesting to add to my work.