An interview with Pascal Ito
“Scientific discoveries are so dazzling that our relationship to space and the world in general has changed fundamentally in recent years, just as our perception of strangeness has”
Pascal Ito won our second ‘OPEN CALL’ and final theme of Life Framer Edition IV, with a strange and beguiling conceptual image that our just Brian Paul Clamp described as both humorous and disturbing, noting the myriad of narratives that it hinted at. Keen to learn more about his practice, we posed some questions to Pascal, and his responses were as fascinating and provocative as that winning image…
Hi Pascal. Congratulations on winning our Open Call theme. How did you react to Brian Paul Clamp’s comments?
Thank you, I am really honored and proud to win this prize. The comments of Brian Paul Clamp reveal the ambiguity of the image. The characters are lost in this post-industrial landscape. Who are they, what has happened and what are they looking for? I didn’t want to be dramatic with them, just to be mysterious and enigmatic. They look clumsy. That gives the humorous touch.
The image is from the series ‘Anomalies’ which you describe as representing “the moment when the anomaly becomes the norm”. Can you elaborate on that a little? What was the genesis for the series, and where did the motifs of orange jump suits and sparse, monochromatic industrial landscapes come from?
After several years working in the studio, I wanted to create a series in natural scenery that could associate landscapes with characters while evoking ecological, human and scientific upheavals such as the Fukushima disaster, global warming and its consequences, genetic manipulations, dehumanization and the migration crisis in particular.
With Nicotepo we wanted for a long time to work together on a common artistic project in photo and video. After several work meetings, we decided to create a fiction representing creatures without identity whose form and color would create a distortion with the environment, an anomaly in some way leaving the field open to the interpretation of each. The color orange has imposed itself, as an intermediate color between the diaphanous white and the ebony black of the different human skins. The orange color is also a solar color that makes these creatures more attractive. The idea is not to create fantastic monsters but rather dehumanized characters.
The choice of the virtual absence of colors on the landscapes translates my vision of the progressive destruction of the planet with the disappearance of certain animal species and vegetation. Landscape images post Chernobyl and Fukushima inspired me strongly. Regarding the relationship between the anomaly and the norm, the latter is always likely to change from one era to another. Scientific discoveries are so dazzling that our relationship to space and the world in general has changed fundamentally in recent years, just as our perception of strangeness has.
Pascal’s winning ‘OPEN CALL’ image
The images are ambitious in their staging and execution, with these alien figures populating stunning and empty environments, and in the case of the winning image occupying quite precarious vantage points. Can you describe a little about the practicalities of shooting – how you found the right locations and staged the images, and so on?
For the choice of sets I already had ideas following previous scouting. They are all located within a radius of 100 km around Paris. Then we went on an adventure with the models (2 or 3 in general) and when the place was of interest we started a session. Once the frame was chosen, I asked my models to walk in space to look for a composition and a situation to play, and gradually we built the image. With Nicotepo we worked separately and in turn to create a staging adapted to our respective media.
Can you tell us a little more about this collaboration with Nicotepo?
Nicotepo, a friend of mine, is a director and videographer. With this series we were able to share our ideas and sensibilities to create an interactive photo and video installation. This exciting adventure culminated in an exhibition in Paris at Galerie Claude Samuel and then in Lille at the Maison de la Photographie.
From browsing your personal projects, I’m taken by the eclecticism in both your subject matter and approach. Are there particular themes or concepts that drive or unite your work?
Through simple, clean and pictorial staging, I particularly like to address the themes of identity, the human condition in today’s society and particularly the vulnerability of man in his environment.
The masculine identity with “The men who cry” (2009), the transidentity with the series “Divines” (2011), and the lack of identity, the dehumanization and the ecological danger with the project “Anomalies” (2013). In 2014 I started a new photographic project entitled “The Dreamers” which is still in progress. In 2017 I started a new series titled “#neveragain, the end of innocence” which I completed in late March 2018 and that questions the problems of violence experienced by youth.
And similarly, from where do you draw inspiration? Are there other particular artists who inspire you?
I am inspired by everything that surrounds me: news, my travels, my readings (Bret Easton Ellis, Philip Roth, Malaparte, Kawabata, Houellebecq, Garcia Marquez …), Painting (Goya, Caravaggio, Hopper, Bacon, Matisse, Rauschenberg, Pollock, Peter Doig, Pierre Huygues…), contemporary dance (Pina Bausch, Eckman Alexander, Ann Teresa of Keersmaeker, Crystal Pyte) and Video Art (Bill Viola) to name a few.
And finally Pascal, what can we expect from you over the next couple of years?
As you mentioned, I like eclecticism and I am very inclined to continue my creative research in areas that I have not explored yet. As such I have started a new series of minimal nude photographs and I am finishing my series “The Dreamers”.