Text by Anna Bulgarelli
All Images © Marina Caneve
Marina Caneve (Belluno, 1988) is a photographer exploring how our knowledge is shaped, and her interests include the complexity of places and their vulnerability. Her research is based on a series of levels of analysis using a multidisciplinary approach. In particular, her work is strongly focused on the contamination between scientific perspectives and vernacular-naive aspects.
Marina’s work has been exhibited internationally and some of her pieces are currently part of institutions such as MUFOCO, MiBACT, ICCD and National Mountain Museum. She is the co-founder of CALAMITA/À (2013-ongoing), an interdisciplinary platform with a focus on catastrophes. Since 2020, she has been a member of MAPS agency.
Her interest in photography began during her studies in architecture, when she understood that she “was more attracted to work with images and research than design architectures”. With Guido Guidi as her mentor, she graduated at Iuav University (Venice) with an experimental thesis on the use of photography in urban research. After several photography workshops, she studied at ECAL in Switzerland, and then graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in Holland.
One of her most appreciated works is Are They Rocks or Clouds? in which Marina Caneve aims to deconstruct the idea of an idyllic mountain. The work is a research on the hydrogeological risk in the Dolomites with a reflection on how the cultural memories of these events are built. Using archival materials, direct observation, science and experience, the project reflects on a flood (happened in the Dolomites in 1966) that, according to the theory of return periods, could supposedly happen again in fifty years.
In her work, we can see different disciplines, such as geology, photography and anthropology, interact and build a structured and layered narrative. Dealing with different themes such as destruction, resilience, vulnerability, protection and catastrophes, the idea behind the project is to build “a view on a complex theme that was not all-encompassing but simply created short circuits and moments of dialogue between the various disciplines”. In this case, photography became an instrument to observe and carry on a research that is both interdisciplinary and transversal.
The complex gaze used to observe the mountain is an element which is also found in the work Entre chien et loup. This body of work was built for the Mountain Museum, which asked to create a project starting from the materials stored in the museum’s archives. Caneve’s purpose is to face different stereotypes of the mountain imagery and to question the ways in which the cultural memory of this place is created. The idea of the mountain is usually associated with a series of clichés: the mountain is seen as an idyllic and bucolic place or sometimes as a cruel and ungenerous one.
Marina built a stratified story, where the mountain is always revealed, but never shown in its entirety, as she said “I wanted to build a free and open work focused on contradictions: sometimes they are formal, sometimes they are conceptual. I wanted to work on the idea of the image that is formed around stereotypes and at the same time go to tease these stereotypes”.
In Marina’s research, one of the main reference points are Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s drawings, where the idea of the mountain (in that case the Mont Blanc) is represented with a fictitious internal structure. The Matterhorn has become a symbol of the mountain par excellence, a perfect triangle. For this reason, in Entre chien et loup the main research field is in Cervinia, where the landscape is less iconic compared to Zermatt’s side.
Marina’s work is developed through different layers of meaning, building an articulated process that is deliberately non-linear, moving through metaphors, mixing the archive with the landscape, scientific elements with magical visions, building forms and then deconstructing them. Each piece
inserted within the work has a specific meaning and reveals the mountain in an ever-different way: from the vision of the mountain from the inside thanks to the cave, to the Giomein architectural complex that takes its shape, from the places to the people, and then again the use of the archive.
Another important project that questions the identity of places is A fior di terra. The work was part of an artistic residency where Marina Caneve was invited by the Comunità Cultura Patrimonio to work with the community of Lusiana Conco. In her photographic research she decided to involve teenagers in exploring the economy of their territory, with the main focus on marble extraction. In the Asiago Plateau, where Lusiana Conco is located, marble manufacture is part of the identity of the place, not only shaping the landscape but also the economy and the relationship between the community and the environment. A fior di terra is a cultural map of marble tradition. This element is speaking in some way about the future of these places, since the mining activity is experiencing a decline. in Marina’s photos There is a celebration of the everyday objects: we find small marble sculptures with symbolic forms that refer to the landscape and to the natural space. The narrative continues with a series of visual links – from marble animals, to stuffed ones inserted in a fictitious landscape, from the idea of dust to archive photos, from the model of the quarry to the quarry itself. The newspaper was chosen as outcome for the community, an artwork that could be public and accessible to all. The work is a sequence of metaphors and suggestions exploring the memory of the place, reflecting on its future, and investigating the relationship between the environment and the community that inhabits it.
The attitude to create stratified stories is a peculiarity of Marina Caneve’s artistic practice. She investigates the past and the possible future of the places with an approach that is both rigorous and methodical but also curious and exploratory. The elements of her narrative on one hand face complexity and on the other they open different scenarios and new visions of reality.