Angelo Picozzi / 00:00:45:00
August 2018 Interviewed by Christiane Monarchi
Angelo Picozzi is a Glasgow-based artist exploring photography and time based art, whose recent work 00:00:45:00 evokes notions of personal and communal memory around the bombing of Hiroshima, with an engaging combination of moving and still imagery. This Vimeo link enables Photomonitor to share the moving image component of this work, 00:00:45:00, and ten stills from the work are selected to share in the grid at right. Below, Christiane Monarchi recently asked Picozzi more about the background to this work.
CM: I’m intrigued by the presentation of your project in time-based, digital slide format to present 15 found images within 45 seconds, the time it took apparently for the Enola Gay took to drop its bomb on Hiroshima. Could you tell me a little bit about the background to your interest in Hiroshima?
AP: 00:00:45:00 came about by chance. I was visiting my parents’ home and the local newspaper had an article about a local artist who was on a guard ship in Tokyo Bay at the end of World War II. The man who was called George Wyllie RSA/MBE was recounting his experiences of visiting Hiroshima approximately 11 weeks after the atomic bomb (Little Boy) had been dropped over the city. In the article Mr Wyllie recounted how one day the Captain of his ship asked the crew if they would like to visit Hiroshima, and how he and three of his fellow shipmates put their hands up to go. There was something that captured my imagination about this event and I decided to try and contact Mr Wyllie to interview him personally about his experience of Hiroshima.
Luckily Mr Wyllie was listed in the local phone book so I called him to try and arrange a meeting. Initially we met at a local Gourock cafe and talked about his life and wartime experiences and I learned that he had taken photographs whilst on his visit in Japan. We got on well and Mr Wyllie could see that I was intrigued by his experience of war and Hiroshima, so he agreed to further interviews and granted me access to his photographs of the trip. I had recently graduated from digital imaging and time based art degrees and so I was confident that I could find an interesting perspective to display my research and access to his photographs. I decided to take every photograph that Mr Wyllie took on his trip and digitally solarize them and present them chronologically as a sort of conceptual documentary. The documentary has a symbolic duration of 45 seconds because this was the length of time that the pilots of the Enola Gay were told that it would take for the bomb ‘Little Boy’ to detonate after being released from the plane.
CM: The photographs originally were black and white, and you decided to digitally solarize them; you tell me a little bit more about this technique but also what the aesthetic feels like for you, in this rendering?
AP: The fraction of a second after the atomic bomb was detonated a blinding flash of light would have been created. This made me think of the effect a sudden flash of bright light has on photographic prints when developing photographs in a traditional darkroom. I always admired the work of Man Ray and through his work became aware of the solarization technique whereby the the image recorded on a negative or on a photographic print is wholly or partially reversed in tone, and dark areas appear light and light areas appear dark. I decided to digitally solarize the original pints by scanning them into my computer and using the solarization effect within photoshop to achieve the effect that I wanted. I decide to alter the surface of the original photographs to try and imbue them with another layer of meaning, to try and create a new connection or dialogue with the time and place that the photographs were first taken.
CM: Did the photographs seem to depict destruction and damage as well as normalcy? It is sometimes difficult to infer in the solarised format, as the eye is not that able to read contrasts in the same way, I find.
AP: I like to think that my work is not prescriptive; I always try and remove my hand or eye as much as possible from the work that I create. The photographs in this piece already existed, and were taken in this chronological order. The photographs are composed by George Wyllie and document two separate trips he took in Japan. The first six photographs in the piece document a sightseeing trip he and his crewmates went on to a mountainous area in Yokohama. The following nine photographs document his visit to Hiroshima with two photographs really documenting the devastation of the city. For me the work is about the photographs a man took in Japan shortly after two nuclear bombs were detonated in the country. I was intrigued by the original photographs precisely because they were so normal; they were essentially holiday snaps documenting the sights and scenery every holiday maker records on their trips, it just so happens that within this roll of film there were two photographs documenting the utter destruction and devastation of Hiroshima.
This work exists as a forty-five second video piece, but also as a sequence of fifteen photographic prints. I think the viewer can appreciate the contrasts when viewing each individual photograph separately that they are denied when watching the video piece.
CM: Do you think a viewer would engage with the concept just seeing one still image, or stills without the time based piece? So much of visual communication (even here – you will have to choose a ‘thumbnail’ to identify this interview on this site) relies on this overused but practical ‘hook’. Is there one image that works strongly for you?
AP: I don’t think its possible for the viewer to engage with the concept of the piece seeing just one still image. I studied time based art which means that duration is an integral dimension or component of the work which unfolds to the viewer over time and I used George’s photographs to create a time based piece, this was my primary focus at the time. Later I thought that having the sequence of photographs exhibited alongside the video piece would give the viewer more information with which to formulate an opinion or response to the work.
00:00:45:00 toured as part of a video art group show entitled ‘War and Peace’ in 2007 and the thumbnail selected for the publicity was the very first photograph in the video’s sequence. The first photograph shows George’s crewmates posing for him by leaning out of the window of a funicular before they embark on their sightseeing tour in Yokohama. I see this image as an appropriate introduction to the work because the photographs literally depict one man’s journey in Japan but also take the viewer on a journey.
For me all the photographs are strong because I see them as being linked and working together to create a bigger picture, which can create a variety of interpretations or meanings. The closest one single image from the piece could get to establishing to the viewer what the work could be concerned with is the ninth photograph in the video piece and photographic series. This is a photograph taken of George and his three crewmates standing amongst ruins with what is now the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in the background. This photograph could potentially communicate the time and place that these photographs were taken as the Peace Memorial was the only building left standing in the area that was essentially directly below the central point of the explosion and became a symbol of the destructive power of the atomic bomb. The audio that accompanies the video piece is a recording I made of the click created from pressing the shutter release button on the camera George used to take the photographs.
CM: Lastly, could you tell me about the way you have titled the piece, it certainly anchors these image in time, although the particular details emerge only after additional enquiry.
AP: I think that it is important to understand that I created this piece a few months after graduating from art school. The only personal exhibition experience I have was gained by putting on two degree shows. I always thought that the title of a work was a very important entry point for both the artist and the viewer. My work in general is concerned with the passage of time and its relationship with memory and experience. It seemed an important and interesting detail in my research of the bombing of Hiroshima that the pilots were briefed about the amount of time it would take for the bomb to explode after being released from their aircraft. I admit that this is not a well known fact, even the wikipedia page on the bombing makes a note of 43 seconds; I got the 45 seconds from a television interview I saw on youtube with one of the actual crew. But moulding the visual information of the video I think creates an interesting tension within the work. The denial of being able to really hold an image in your head as you view the piece is interesting to me.
About the artist:
Angelo Picozzi holds a BA Hons Fine Art and MSc Electronic Imaging. Shortlisted for the inaugural Jerwood Moving Image Award in 2008, Picozzi’s work explores notions of time, duration, history and memory. www.angelopicozzi.com