Manipulation is a sculptural installation recounting the experience of Covid.
I had the very first idea for this project during one of the heaviest wave of the pandemic: my business was running slow and we were all closed in our houses. I felt suffocated. So I translated this feeling into my work, creating the very first vases with hands squeezing and choking their necks.
Moreover, there was a peculiar duality to consider: I felt psychological suffocated, while physical suffocation was the main symptom experienced by severe Covid patients. Therefore, the vases represented both the ill and the sane, all feeling scared and trapped.
Around the same time period, I was given the chance to exhibit my work for the first time, and I decided to showcase the hands vases, but I wanted to make more. Originally, I had intended to make ten, each one with hands choking it. However, as I kept going, the hands became gradually less bony, the tendons were showing less and less, they appeared softer and no longer clenched in hard poses.
Spontaneously, a narration was coming together. So I divided the vases in 3 groups:
- The vessels from 1 to 5 are the "Vases Of Constriction",
Where the hands are hard, tense while clenching and choking the necks and bodies of the vases. Here, the hands are always positioned outwards, as they represent the difficult events testing us. The bodies of the vases symbolize the subconscious part of the mind giving in to fear, becoming passive while being subjected to the events and shifting to survival.
- The vessels from 6 to 9 are the "Vases of Reaction",
Where the hands are positioned inwards (except in one case). It was important for the hands to be placed and posed differently in each vase, as they represent the different steps and emotions we go through as we react to an unwanted situation, such as anger, grief, helplessness and finally, the desire that gives us the push to react. Vessel number 9 represents the moment in which we take a step back and get out of our head to observe the situation from an outer perspective.
- The vessels number 10 and 11 are the "Vases of Acceptance",
Vase number 10 presents two right hands, one coming from inside the vessel and the other coming from outside the vessel, meeting and almost touching each other, a light hint and a homage to the master Michelangelo Buonarroti. The two hands represent the conscious and the subconscious parts of our mind recognizing and accepting each other, when we consciously choose to take ownership over our feelings and take the decision to begin healing.
Finally, vase number 11, represents self acceptance, when we embrace ourselves and our pain, a necessary step to create a mental space of love and self awareness. I consciously choose to mimic the hand gesture of the pregnant woman over her stomach, because I wanted to represent a universal gesture of love and care.
The whole process of making these 11 vases took me roughly three months. Hereafter the practicalities of it.
First, I made the vases on the potter's wheel. I spent a lot of time researching lines and shapes: most of the lines of this series are inspired by ancient urns I saw at Bari Archeological Museum, which I had visited just before starting to work on the project. I liked the contrast between antique vases' lines and very contemporary looking pieces.
After a couple of weeks during which the vase gets drier and harder (leather hard), I'd trim the bottom, removing the extra clay. At this point, I would start sculpting the hands; it might seem like the longest part of the process, but it was actually the fastest, as I was mainly guided by intuition. The line of the vase would suggest me the pose and the shape that the hands should have: the hands were created to complement the shape of the vase, not the other way around. Sometimes I would place the hands where there could be an handle, sometimes I'd have them play with the curve of the vase by opening its body and making the hands go through the wall of the vase.
I'd sculpt each hand individually, then attach it to the vase in the pose I felt was right. A few days later, the hands would be further refined and polished. Finally, I would leave the vase to dry, which can take from two to four weeks. Once the vase was completely dry, I would bisque fire it, glaze it in the inside and finally fire it again at 1250 Celsius degrees.
The last step was to sand them thoroughly, to remove any imperfections.