Questions of Space and Time: An Interview with Florence Iff

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For Switzerland-based artist Florence Iff, existence and life are questions in which we humans often want to understand and answer. The main inspiration for the project "67P" was Rosetta, an orbiter that was set out to investigate a comet named "67P" in 2004. The orbiter reached the comet in 2014 and sent back gathered data before Rosetta hit the comet's surface.

Through landscape collages of images from a space mission, she tries to find her own truth of the universal and metaphysical questions that ancient philosophers and scientists have long been asking. Read our in-depth talk with Florence here in Lomography Magazine.

Hi Florence! How are you doing these days as a photographer?

Since I’m working with photography as a medium and teaching photography to make a living I consider myself as a teaching artist more than a photographer and commissions are limited in my daily routine.

Let's talk about your series 67P. You mentioned once that it's sort of a study on life and questions on life, relating the aesthetic to the Big Bang. May you share with us how you came up with the unique aesthetic?

On the one hand, I have been collecting old negatives, glass plates and photographs on flea markets, from family legacies of friends and also some of my grandfather’s because I was interested in the subject of memory and what remains from us as heritage. I was especially intrigued of deteriorating, fading and double-exposed images since these are considered worthless and are mostly discarded. But these imperfections have a poetic quality and add even more mystery and unknown to the past and I have used portraits of familiar and anonymous people for other projects before.

At some point during my researches, I've seen a documentary on the mission "Rosetta" and was thrilled by this endeavor. Although at first sight the two subjects of old and advanced, of the past and the universe were very disparate they did fit so well that I decided to combine one with the other. The aesthetic of the different subjects was given during the process of dealing with various materialities and assembling them.

Researching the subjects mentioned above I was looking for web-based pictures provided by ESA and NASA and assembled them with my collection of old photographs and medical images. Some of the latter I found on dumpsters and some are of my body and of my family members' made due to illnesses. Dealing with these imminent threats the questions of life and death had an impact on my work as well. From this quite big amount of material, I tried to connect them in a way to contextualize the visual qualities with the content of the subject. Since the material of the pictures was very disparate (included were a printing plate, glass negatives, x-rays as well as CTIs) I decided to re-photograph and scan them and finally to assemble and elaborate them digitally.

Your images remind us of what life formation or deterioration may look like. How important are images to holding on to the fleeting?

When I talk to people about their earliest memories these are mostly connected to photographs taken by that time. As much as I hated my mother taking pictures constantly from us I appreciate now looking at family albums remembering parts of my past through these frozen moments. Although they help to recall, one has to bear in mind that our personal history is made up from parts of a flow, which is in fact the opposite of a photograph. Memory works like a concatenation of images, scents, sounds, colors etc and every photograph is always a subjective point of view in a fleeting world. Contemplated this way, photographs help to remember but might be part of a rewriting of history.

You also talked about parallel universes in your work. Are the images supposed to be a glimpse of what parallel worlds and selves may look like?

You surely can make this connection, especially in some of the images like PHILEA, OSIRIS, COSIMA and MIDAS. And looking at oneself in old photographs has somewhat a similar effect: in this past time I was another person in a different world.

If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, artist or person, dead, alive or fictional, who would it be?

For different reasons there are many I could imagine or would have liked working with: like Laurie Anderson, Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Vivian Sassen, Trevor Paglan, Luigi Ghirri, Francesco Jodice and many more. And indeed sometimes I do collaborate work with other artists I know.

Describe to us -- what's a day in the life of Florence Iff?

Due to my school of photography, I, unfortunately, have a lot of administration to manage and that’s the first thing I do before leaving my studio working on a project. And twice a week I teach gardening to schoolchildren which is a good equation to many hours in front of the screen. Since I’m self-employed, I, fortunately, have options to organize my day as I feel or as necessary but my dream would be to be able to work exclusively on my art.

What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?

There is always a downtime after an accomplished project but since I’m experienced with this phenomenon I know how to tolerate and bear it and my next plan is mostly connected to the last one, so there is more of a flow in my way of working within longtime projects. And yes, there are different ideas seething in my mind which I’m very excited to realize.


written by cielsan on 2018-07-06

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One Comment

  1. pan_dre
    pan_dre ·

    Love it :)

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