Lab27: a place for meeting, discussion, study, training, exposure for photography
Every time I log into my smartphone I can’t help but think about how useful technology is but, at the same time, how easy it is to misuse it. At least questionable. Every time I access social networks I think about how essential it is to communicate but how it has become alienating to do so through an interface. Through a filter based on algorithms guided by marketing needs rather than by cultural motivations.
Art has always been a question of communication, an invitation to reflection.
Art, including photography, is a space for discussion. Above all physical.
For these reasons I was intrigued by Lab27.
Lab27 is a cultural space built 2 years ago in Treviso (north east of Italy, close to Venice) in a former manufacturing building; a white monolith in the first outskirts of the town. The facility has a big exhibition room and a conference room to show photography projects and have discussions about them.
A big playroom is the access to the building and, in a certain way, is a good metaphor for the idea that is behind Lab27: a place for meeting, discussion, study, training, exposure for photography but, over all, a humanistic crossroads where dialogues can be cultivated in a convivial, open and hospitable atmosphere. A place to enjoy an exhibition or a conference or, maybe, relax playing billiard or table football. Or, perhaps, talking about your photo project calmly seated around one of the big tables right where I found Steve Bisson reading a portfolio.
Steve Bisson is a teacher at Paris College of Art in the MA/MFA program in Photography and Image-making. He is co-founder of the international program ‘Blurring the Lines’ which supports intra-academic dialogue and awards the best thesis work in photography and visual arts by supporting them with publication and dissemination. For over 10 years he has been involved in artistic direction and curatorship, collaborating with festivals, museums, galleries, foundations and independent spaces all over the world. He started Urbanautica Institute, an online journal of visual anthropology, a reference destination for scholars and photography enthusiasts. More recently he started the Penisola Edizioni publishing house to research and disseminate Italian authorship. He is co-director of MOVE CINE ARTE, a traveling Brazilian film festival on art and architecture. Since 2019 is the artistic director of the Ragusa Foto Festival.
Steve is the artistic director of Lab27. He warmly welcomed me and took me to discover the lab and its spaces.
In the exhibition hall two exhibitions were under construction. The first one, named “Ambientale”, in collaboration with Urbanautica (a study platform on visual anthropology and cultural landscapes) offers a selection of works of different authors (Noad Addis, Simon Carruthers, Giuseppe Desantis…) that invite us to reflect on our habitat and glimpse possible prospects for the climatic crisis.
The second is the personal exhibition of the photographer Francesco Merlini. ‘The Flood’ tells of the flood that hit Tbilisi in 2015. People died in the catastrophe, many families were left homeless, a zoo was destroyed and the capital of Georgia became a desert full of dangerous beasts. The project works on the message that nature advances beyond the illusions of being able to contain it.
At the end of the tour, before returning to the playroom and continuing our discussions about life but, above all, photography, I visited the lab27 library where, between a photo book and another, I met the founder of the association, Andrea Bianco, together with Davide Degano. Davide Degano is a promising photographer who has dedicated the last 5 years to his “Sclavanie” project.
Sclavanie is a term that indicates the Slavic origins of the first populations who inhabited the mountain area on the border between Italy and Slovenia, where part of the roots of the photographer lies. He explored, with an anthropologic gaze, the themes that most characterize this area, such as emigration and the depopulation of small villages. He moved through this research to the rediscovery of childhood places in a journey that then becomes an opportunity to think on the values of living and making a community, on their transformation, degradation, extinction but also rediscovery and flowering.
I had the opportunity to preview Sclavanie and I was able to touch its quality, its “important” format (the book has 272 pages). I was able to appreciate, concretely, the depth with which Davide Degano’s research is articulated.
In practice, the mission of Lab27 is to encourage dialogue, training, confrontation within the production of images in the contemporary, moving beyond the rigid conventions and elementary prejudices. Through a critical, transversal, inclusive, tolerant approach, Lab 27 intends to favor the convergence between knowledge and the exchange between different visual cultures. Without forgetting the urgencies of society. In this regard, Lab27 has an ethical purpose: all the revenues deriving from the initiatives carried out are fully donated to cfponlus.org to contribute to projects in support of children in Ukraine.
I think that photography, in Italy, has great lacks from a historical point of view and from an infrastructural point of view. There is a need to go back to sharing and comparing; and touch, hold, smell. Get passionate.
And I think Lab 27 is one of the right places to do it. Worth a visit.
Strada Scudetto 27 a Treviso (TV).
Tel: +39 0422-1726450