Generating Change: Silvia Rosi upon art as a form of self-reflection and recuperation

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Creating Change is really a new fortnightly column highlighting collectives and individuals who are trying to nurture positive change within the art world and further than.  

Entrusted by Autograph ABP, Rosi’s latest project aims in order to visualise the many experiences associated with social isolation, demonstrating the way we can be unified by a collective experience

When the Covid-19 pandemic still left artist Silvia Rosi isolated alone in her London flat, she decided to exchange her apprehension into some thing she had agency over: a series of photographs and a shifting image work, Neither Could Exist Alone . Commissioned by Autograph ABP in response to the theme ‘Care, Contagion and Community’, the works are an example of how art making plus viewing can act as a form of self-reflection and recuperation. In so doing, they employ art being a tool to bridge the gap between us, by demonstrating that even in solitude we are unified by group experience.

Expanding on her broader photographic practice, in which Rosi regularly utilises props plus sets, the artist built a replica of a square room with viewfinder holes cut out in the shape of doors and windows. The viewer is given a voyeuristic glimpse to the movements of a person within isolation, which is likely to really feel familiar as we reflect back again on how Covid-19 has designed the last year of our lives.

Even though the work reflects on what was obviously a melancholic and fearful period of life for many, Rosi’s pictures communicate varied emotions of remoteness. Here, Jamila Prowse speaks to the photographer about how exactly, for her, exploring social plus structural isolation became a method of healing from inescapable doubt.

Jamila Prowse: What are the major reflections you’ve taken when looking back on the period of interpersonal isolation in your flat working in london?

Silvia Rosi: I remember following the news when I was there alone, to get a sense associated with what was happening in West Africa in my absence. A journalist was speaking about the particular pandemic in Sierra Leone, and in particular about a woman that fell ill. She was living by herself in Freetown and was wanting to go back home to her family town. She took a taxi, but when the driver realised the girl was ill, he ceased the car, dragged her out there, and drove off. No one that passed by ended to help her as the girl died, and that was due to the pandemic, and the fear of the ‘other’ that it induced in people.  

I realise only now how much this story influenced me to leave my flat in London, shift home to Italy, allowed me to come to terms with my own fear. It was an excellent decision to get some range, and the making of this body of work allowed myself to make sense of previous events and to deal with this experience, not by keeping it at the back of my mind but by transforming it into something useful.

JP: Can you talk me through the catalyst behind, plus process of, building the arranged?

SR: I built the set with the help of my dad. It had been a very engaging process of developing a space within another area. The room, in the shape of a cube, was erected in a enclosed porch with home windows that face the garden – where you could have a look from the inside, but additionally from the outside. The process of building the set was almost a lot more interesting than making the particular images, it was the first time during the lockdown that I felt like I was still creating something despite all the restrictions.

JP: Do you think items can be gained, both individually and in relation to your creative practice, from spending time solely?

SR: A good part of our practice is self portraiture which means I am by myself a lot when making the images. However in opposition to that I do spend a great deal of time observing people and connecting to them. That will period of isolation was various, as I could only notice myself, so after I constructed the set I had to create back memories of how I was in isolation and record my movements as I kept in mind them. I always think that watching somebody doing something is more interesting than actually doing it so I like to think of these images as observations from the self in isolation.


JP: Has been your hope to reach individuals through the series, who might possibly not have access to social cohesion, local community and art within public spaces in their daily lives?

SR: When making the images I was thinking in a more introspective way. My drive was to understand my experience of isolation and take control of something I needed no control over by building an area that I could enter plus exit whenever I wanted, simply a stage that I could control and transform. The work has been an exercise of self treatment, of using photography being a healing process, but I hope it may still speak to more individuals than myself.

Jamila Prowse

Jamila Prowse is an artist, writer plus researcher who uses her experiences as a mixed race, disabled person of Dark parentage to understand and subvert barriers to working in the arts. She is currently focusing on a series of films tracing a brief history of her ancestry via her relationship with the girl late father Russell Herman, a South African punk musician. Jamila holds a studio at Studio Voltaire and was a studio residency artist at Gasworks from January to April 2021. She has written for Frieze, Dazed, Elephant, GRAIN, Artwork Magazine and Photoworks.

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