Claudia Fuggetti’s new series Hot Zone explores humanity’s precarious future
For her recent project, Claudia Fuggetti recreates the looming walls of rock and distant spacespaces that once pervaded her dreams.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 25 June 2021
“My photographs always stem from a search and an existential need; very often they are the visual continuation of reflections aimed at imagining the future or analysing the present,” begins Italian photographer Claudia Fuggetti. In late 2019, these reflections were taking shape during a period of restlessness for Claudia as she struggled with insomnia. During this time, her reading of Jonathan Crary’s essay 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, which proposes the idea that sleep is “intrinsically incompatible” with the demands of non-stop capitalism, as well as her new-found engagement with the urgency of climate change, created a headspace in which the troubles of our time were all-consuming. Throughout this period, various images that were influenced by her world-weariness flashed through her mind, and Claudia felt the desire to preserve them by writing them down.
These notes became the foundation of a new photographic project, Hot Zone, which attempts to recreate both the mental images that Claudia was seeing at this time, as well as the resulting visuals that they created during her sleep, as they “spilled over to the subconscious layer”. In her photographs, we see other-worldly landscapes of rock that appear strange and lifeless, bathed in moody hues of blue, purple, green and pink. Claudia says she intended for these images to be “aesthetically very striking, amusing, and also a little bit on the edge”. The inhospitable environments we witness are supposed to “convey a sense of unease” – “the same feeling we get when we are ‘living’ a dream.”
Amongst them are depictions of what appears to be space, remote, covered in stars, and giving rise to moments of reflection, as contemplation of the wider universe always does. “I think that at least once in a lifetime everyone has dreamt of space, the galaxy, or the stars,” says Claudia. But these images are not simply of space, they are also a reference to the possibilities of AI in “exploring territories where the mind may not necessarily reconstruct everything through memory”. Neither are they simply camera-made images – they are actually the product of a neural network built by Claudia herself. “I became interested in neural networks at the end of my masters in photography and visual design at the New Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, where I made a project dedicated to [Google’s computer vision program] Deep Dream,” she explains. “Since then I have tried to build a neural network on my own. I made my own dataset and managed to program the necessary bases to be able to produce some images – a visual document of the lucid dream.”
Claudia’s application of AI in the project also touches on a larger theme that runs through Hot Zone: the future of technology. Whereas Claudia’s use of technology here “adds value to artistic research”, elsewhere there is an increasing malaise and angst surrounding AI’s constantly shifting role in society. As it becomes ever more embedded in our day-to-day lives, the question of whether it will ultimately be to our benefit or detriment remains uncertain. And it is this general feeling of uncertainty – towards our relationship to technology, our reliance on a capitalist system, and our ongoing disregard for the environment – that colours this project.
It was this feeling of uncertainty that initially kept Claudia awake at night and we can feel this apprehension in the unfamiliar landscapes and oppressive walls of rock that make up much of the series. However, these harsh environments are not just meant as literal references to the natural world, says Claudia, but speak more to our perception of it than the thing itself. “The landscape acts as an emotional frame rather than a contextual one. The relationship [between landscape and nature] is complex because it is contradictory, as we often associate art, nature, and beauty with eternity, but through the emotional landscape, we are reminded of the sense of precariousness that characterises our age.”
GalleryClaudia Fuggetti: Hot Zone (Copyright © Claudia Fuggetti, 2021)
Claudia Fuggetti: Hot Zone (Copyright © Claudia Fuggetti, 2021)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.