Choice of winners by Marinella Paderni

1st prize to the English artist Victoria Ahrens for her photographic work ‘Arkadia I’ for having given the best interpretation to the theme of the competition - the error as a random accident occurred during the process of realization of the work. From both the conceptual point of view and technical, Victoria uses the error as an element of image enhancement also in its aesthetic dimension.

2nd prize to the Italian artist Emilio Vavarella with the photographic work ‘The Sicilian Family’ for the innovative and creative way in which he uses the error to process and construct photographic images and their memory.

3rd prize to the French artist Nathalie Dallies’ video ‘Maria’ for her creative ability in transforming the impossibility of a situation and the unexpected which occur during the construction of a project, into a work of reflection and research into the psychological nature of the subject.

A special mention for ‘Capturing the soul’ by Roberto Dapoto and ‘Kuonesa Seeing Beyond’ by Cornelia Mittendorfer for having turned the idea of an accident into a very intense series of suggestions on the psychological and emotional concept of perception.

Error’s charm

The success in 2012 of the first edition of Celeste Network’s prize dedicated to photography and video could not have been a better stimulus to present this year, a second expanded edition, which includes an even larger number of finalists, passing from last year’s 10 to this year’s 15. Among the strengths of the prize is the choice of a central theme which reflects the lines of research of contemporary photography and the expressive tendencies toward which artists are directing their gaze. In this way, the prize has become a special, international occasion for each artist to present his or her current state of research on the most innovative language of photography and video within artistic reflection. Not only is the finalists’ exhibition a place and a time for dialogue between artists of differing nationality and generation, but a moment in which different cultural visions in contemporary art can dialogue.

For the 2013 edition, I intentionally chose a theme that was both specific for photography, but also universally appreciated within current artistic practice. For years, I have been studying the ways in which works of art are born, their genesis and ideal design. Talking with artists, we often come across those ‘accidents’ which decide the fate a work, impressing a direction to its formal and conceptual development. Sometimes these incidents are sought after by artists because they offer them the opportunity to experiment with new expressive possibilities or to reinvent the language of photography itself.

The results of this random process have always fascinated me as well as the rare ability of artists to get involved through errors: To rely on the uncertainty of chance and encounter with the unexpected, as if the fate of a work of art was something inspired by a higher power, a kind of alchemical magic in which the artist cannot and does not want to escape. The singularity of this experience - the artist who confronts himself with an error or an unexpected incident renegotiates the random nature of his work – I admire his ability to transform a slip, a mistake, a failure into a point of strength for his work of art. History is littered with images of these sudden and fortuitous occasions, which arrive as a gift, and are intelligently transformed by artists into cognitive devices designed to explore what seemed at first glance to be impossible or unlikely; remember the provocative experiences of the Dadaists, later resumed by Conceptual Art, which transformed the error in a moment of verification of the postulates of the language of photography and video.

The concept of Lapsus has aroused a great stir among artists, who have felt the call to participate in person in a process of learning about these mysterious and imponderable phenomena underlying the creation of art. The 15 finalists were selected by a panel of experts from hundreds of projects – the jury included Martin Breindl, Elena Ceratti and Silvio Wolf – who show us what a wonderful tool can a slip become if it increases the ability of images to show us the beauty of the ephemeral, the uncertain, or the improbable.

On the other hand, the competition was also an opportunity to reflect on the meaning and value of the concept of ‘photographic error’ in our times, when electronic devices allow us to freely edit images to create errors virtually (especially with programs such as Photoshop), thus emptying out the artistic sense of an experience of the unpredictable or changing the initial assumptions of the work. Accidental errors have a very special aura, impossible to recreate digitally, which photography and video are able to bring to extreme consequences in relation to the action and process of the medium; what remain are mere, well packaged, glossy pictures, far from the unthinkable destinies of things.

Of the 15 finalists, 10  are photographers and 5 are videoartists, all provide a representative cross-section of the theme. This year, the presence of international artists has increased, many of them originating from continents which are culturally more and more present on the international art scene.

Some of the selected artists have worked on Lapsus in the sense of a technological failure, arrived at accidentally during the project, without the artist’s knowledge. In the development phase of a project the error brought out a different substance of reality, less visible or perceptible but of greater intensity. This is the case of works by Shira Liberty, William Miller, Ilona Stanska, Julia Valenti and Karina Zen. For others, however, it was when they transferred from one device to another to change the nature of the image that the beauty and uniqueness of the defect revealed itself; as with the work on landscape by Victoria Ahrens and on family memory by Emilio Vavarella. In the images by Cornelia Mittendorfer the search for photographic error is a cause for reflection on the limits of vision and the ability to extend boundaries, as it is for Michaela Talia Limberis who photographed the luminescence of the sun.

Lapsus can also have a more psychological and internal nature, unpredictable and revealing in the relationship with the other as is clear in the video by Nathalie Dallies, or the unconscious dimension of the ego in the video-installation by Roberto Dapoto, or self-portrait as a form of survey in Elizabeth Roan’s work, or the representation of songs of a clandestine cinema, damaged by time and by its own cultural origins in the foundfootage by Gloria Oyarzabal. Finally, in the videos by Peter Bill and Cher Brown, error can be transformed into a performance designed to build the work through the layering of casual gestures, repetitions, deletions, détournement.

Marinella Paderni
May 2013