Irene Fenara


“I am interested in trying to observe the mechanisms of seeing through attempts that somehow awaken a sense of wonder in looking at things again, questioning what is taken for granted or established”

AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?

IF: I am from Bologna, the city where I studied and formed myself also thanks to the Fondazione Collegio Artistico Venturoli where I had my studio for nine years, even before having a proper research I had a place to work, a space for thought too.


AT: When did it become serious?

IF: Perhaps from the moment I had a studio, I felt the luck and the responsibility of having a space of my own where I could do something independently of other contexts, but at the same time close to people with more experience than me from whom I learned a working method.


AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?

IF: Certainly many of the people I’ve met and shared a path with. Then there are few trusted friends I have a common language with whom I always ask for opinions, even if I don’t always follow all advices. Sometimes just saying things out loud makes them clear or stupid.


AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?

IF: My research focuses, in different ways, on the act of vision. I’m interested in trying to observe the mechanisms of seeing through attempts that somehow awaken a sense of wonder in looking at things again, questioning what is taken for granted or established. In fact, I’m interested in all those devices that capture images but that were not created specifically for photography. In particular, I observe, investigate and interpret the way machines look.

“Supervision”, 2021, Print on blueback paper, cm 280×380 | installation view at Gelateria Sogni di Ghiaccio, Bologna (IT)

AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?

IF: I am interested in making thoughts, situations and perceptions visible. I always try to find new ways of seeing because I believe that if we are able to see in a different way then we can also think differently than what we are used to.


AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?

IF: I have always been interested in using different tools that aren’t necessarily created for the production of a well-defined aesthetic, because I see in these limitations a potential for meaning that brings an additional layer to what the image itself represents. A device that is not born with artistic aims seems to me freer, even if limited in many other things such as technical limits or limits linked to a specific and delimited functionality. What interests me about less usual technological tools is that they can help deter the human attitude to recreate something we have already seen and internalized.


AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?

IF: I try to make the bravest choices I can, trying not to compromise too much with my ideal. I usually do things instinctively and then try to figure out what I did and why by writing about it. I try to make every choice I make meaningful. For me it’s important to work as freely as possible and then reflect on it later. The final result is a mixture of these things.


AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?

IF: In a way I like to keep them open, I work a lot with seriality. Finishing a work scares me a bit because it’s like saying that you will never change your mind again. Anyway, the works always develop in the thoughts and in the eyes of the beholder.

“Three Thousand Tigers”, 2020 | Installation view at UNA, Piacenza (IT) | ph. Andreas Manini

AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?

IF: Questioning what I see.


AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?

IF: Yes of course, many great loves because they make me dream.


AT: How important is the role of social media for you?

IF: I like to trick the locative media and geo-tags of social medias and locating myself in a place, even though I’ve never moved from my desk posting images I save from surveillance cameras around the world. I like to reflect on the representation of mobility connected to these apps, a virtual real hybrid space.

“Self Portrait from Surveillance Camera”, 2020, Inkjet print on Hahnemühle Photo Luster paper, 43×57 cm | courtesy the artist and UNA, Piacenza (IT)

AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?

IF: It is the two-fold nature of work, the paradox between a free process and a rigid system. Between big dreams and everyday life. Someone once said that we work at the same time on immortality and survival.


AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?

IF: The hardest thing might seem to be the process of research because you don’t know where it’s going to lead and if it’s even going out to anything, when you’re in the process it always feels like you have nothing in your hands, but looking back it’s actually one of the parts I love the most. It makes me happy. In the end you see all those uncertainties take strength and then form and it’s beautiful.


AT: What do you do besides art?

IF: Everything I do is more or less related to art. I was an assistant professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, where I now teach. Sometimes I like to skate, years ago I founded a roller derby team.


AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?

IF: The foundation of someone’s imagination of the future is in their dreams, what I expect is to always be able to afford pursuing them.

Irene Fenara in studio
Irene Fenara (b. 1990) is an Italian visual artist currently living and working in Milan, Italy.

Her work investigates the gesture behind every photographic operation: watching. In particular, she observes, investigates and interprets the way machines look. There are hundreds of mechanical glances in front of which we pass every day. Irene Fenara focuses on generative algorithms, surveillance cameras and Polaroids. The images they show are often unclear, dirtied by a series of errors, such as an obstacle in front of the lens, a lack of resolution or an evident chromatic alteration. Just like our eyes, they (re)see and transform reality, catapulting us into an alternative and mysterious universe.