Marzia Migliora & Elisa Sighicelli: Pitfall

This is Elisa Sighicelli's first film made in collaboration with Italian artist Marzia Migliora, inspired by the Encyclopedia of Diderot et D'Alembert (1745).

Ceri Hand, Director of Exhibitions at FACT asks them how they came to make the work:

CH: What attracted you both to working together? How familiar with each other's work were you prior to this? ES & MM: …a mutual regard for each other's work and our close friendship. Our collaboration arose from a desire to bring together our thoughts in one joint project. We think that to collaborate with other people creates new synergies, which feed creativity by introducing new and unexpected elements in the work.

CH: How did you arrive at the idea of working with the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert? ES & MM: I (Marzia) found a reproduction of some volumes of the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert in a bookshop in Turin. One day while talking to Elisa about the project for Zurcher Gallery in Paris, Elisa showed me her drawings of small and delicate landscapes, and I immediately thought of the etchings in the Encyclopedia and showed them to her. As soon as Elisa saw them she was excited. We then began to imagine how to develop an idea around the book. We took as our starting point the plates in the Encyclopedia dedicated to the hunting and trapping of animals. In this way we united two recurring themes in Elisa's and my work: Elisa's interest in the landscape and my concern with people who find themselves in dangerous and precarious predicaments. I (Elisa) was fascinated by the idea of the Encyclopedia, a book which aims to represent the world, in all aspects of human activity.


CH: Could you tell me a little about the work itself and also why you chose animation over photography, film or video, which you are both so well known for? Was there something specific in the dictionary that you refer to in the piece? ES & MM: Pitfall is a 3D animation to be projected on a wall in a darkened space. We made it with the help of Paolo Lavazza. The idea in fact comes from one of the illustrations of the Encyclopedia of Diderot et d'Alembert, which represents the masterpiece of Enlightenment, based on the positive ideas of progress and reason. Our work transforms some of its illustrations into a dark wood, a symbol of fear, a place where you might face the unknown, the loss of control and sense of direction.

It's an engraving in 18th century style which represents a wood with a pitfall: a section of the ground has been excavated and substituted by a movable surface, so that the victim, if they walk over it, will fall into the excavated hole. In our animation the pitfall moves slowly to suggest an idea of danger but also of equilibrium, even if impossible, which acquires metaphysical and existential connotations. The animation has a subjective perspective. The viewer finds him/herself walking inside a wood, looking for a way-out. In fact all the different 'paths' arrive at the pitfall.

We have found very interesting the contrast between the use of new technology and the style of 18th century engraving. We liked the idea of making a three-dimensional space from the two-dimensional image.

We would like to thank Paolo Lavazza, Ruben Levi and the Galerie Zurcher in Paris for their help.