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Alice Miceli

In Depth (landmines) / Diagram 01, 2012

MICELI:  Hi!

 

KUBEY:  Hello!

 

I'm superhappy to talk with you. Where are you right now?

 

MICELI:  Me too, this is so super cool! I'm in Rio.

 

KUBEY:  Nice. I'm in a cafe in Brooklyn.

 

So let's get started! Tell me about the diagram image.

 

MICELI:  Nice... I miss NY. I can't believe we did not meet during my months over there. I will chase you in November.

 

Yes, let's get started!

 

The diagram image: do you remember it at all?

 

KUBEY:  I do! I need some reminders...

 

MICELI:  Yes, I did remember you seeing it.

 

KUBEY:  You produced this image at MacDowell?

 

MICELI:  Yes, that was the first one. The idea to explore minefields came to me while I was there, working on another project.

 

KUBEY:  Wow, you were at beautiful MacDowell, dreaming of minefields?

 

MICELI:  I mean, that diagram was the first one that made some sense to me - it is relating focal lengths, vantage points and the magnification size in the image.

 

That’s s right. MacDowell was so peaceful. It was great to just let your mind wander.

 

KUBEY:  Can you walk me through the different parts of the diagram?

 

MICELI:  The focal length of a lens determines its angle of view, and thus how much the subject will be magnified for a given position. Wide-angle lenses have short focal lengths and telephoto lenses have longer ones. Wide-angle can indicate close proximity to subject, while telephoto can be done from a distance.

 

In the diagram, different focal lengths are represented, in successive vantage points, in order to always keep the subject in a constant magnification size in the image.

 

KUBEY:  So I'm seeing, for instance, the color green show up in three places

 

MICELI:  Each focal length is one color!

 

The shortest one is the closest one to the subject.

 

The longest one is the farthest away from the subject.

 

KUBEY:  Does the diagram relate only to your work in minefields? Or other projects as well?

 

MICELI:  It is now relating to another project, which looks into the gentrifying historical area in downtown Rio that has been the victim of successive gentrification waves since the colonial times until today.

 

The diagram was first conceived in relationship to the minefields to precisely activate the issue of position, at the time and place of the exposure, in a situation, where your position, where you step in the ground, is most critical.

 

KUBEY:  Right. I'm looking at these other images you sent. Step 01, 03, 05, 07

 

Alice Miceli

In Depth (landmines) / Colombian Series, 2015

Step #1

Alice Miceli

In Depth (landmines) / Colombian Series, 2015

Step #3

 

Alice Miceli

In Depth (landmines) / Colombian Series, 2015

Step #5

 

Alice Miceli

In Depth (landmines) / Colombian Series, 2015

Step #7

 

 

MICELI:  Yes! Those were shot in Colombia, where the mined areas, in Antioquia, are often uphill, in the jungle.

 

KUBEY:  And the subject is the mine marker at the base of the tree.

 

MICELI:  Exactly, the central one.

 

Alice Miceli

In Depth (landmines) / Colombia Series - Making of

Location: Caminos los Mesones, vereda El Palmar, municipio Nariño, Antioquia, Colombia.

 

 

KUBEY:  Ok, so I want to hear more about the moment when you decide to take on this project.

 

You're in this idyllic scene in New Hampshire and you decide to photograph minefields. What's that about?

 

MICELI:  When we were there, by the end of 2012, I was coming out of a long-term project that had dominated my thinking for a long time, which was about the landscape in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

 

 

Alice Miceli

Chernobyl Project, 2013

 

 

MICELI: Prior to that, I had not looked at landscape representation as a genre. Chernobyl made me do it, because over there, the landscape was the problem. A place supposedly empty, but filled with something invisible, completely pervasive, but never really perceived (by our senses).

 

It was an issue of impenetrability, which in that case was a visual one.

 

I mean, I wondered what the image of that could be.

 

The problem was what cannot be seen, and I wanted to see it.

 

KUBEY:  What did you discover? How do the images you produced relate to what you imagined they would be?

 

MICELI:  I had no idea what the images were going to be like. There was no reference, because it is not visible. I found out that the contamination has its own shape, a shape that repeats itself systematically in my radiographic images, and that these shapes do not obey the form of things as we have learned to see and identify them when reflected by light.

 

KUBEY:  Oh, so this is Chernobyl. How would you answer the question for Cambodia?

 

MICELI:  Light is visible radiation, and in Chernobyl the problem was the invisible gamma radiation emitted from everywhere from the radioactive fallout.

 

Oh, did you mean that question about the minefields?

 

KUBEY:  I did, but I liked your answer anyway!

 

MICELI:  ;)

 

Do you mean the minefields in Cambodia or Colombia (the images I sent you are from Colombia, in the jungle)?

 

KUBEY:  Colombia! Sorry.

 

MICELI:  The series in Colombia was shot after I had already been to mined areas in Cambodia, and in Northern Israel on the border with Syria (which I decided not to use in the research). In this work, the image was not so elusive because it is a photographic representation of space. That "space", in the case of the minefields, is now the problem.

 

Alice Miceli

In Depth (landmise) / Cambodia Series, 2014

Location: Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, field 24407, Battambang Province, Cambodia.

 

 

MICELI: Once in Colombia, I already had some experience in walking through mined areas in these other regions, and in terms of expectation, I was familiar with the procedure.

 

What is always surprising is what you actually find, that never really falls into what you expect!

 

In Israel in the Golan Heights, and in Cambodia in the Battambang Province, the mined areas were open, and already mapped.

 

KUBEY:  You chose only to show images from an unmapped area?

 

MICELI:  In Colombia, it was partially unmapped. That’s due to the nature of that landscape, a dense jungle, and to the fact that the demining campaign has just started. The mine contamination mapping is yet to be finished. So what they do have as signs are those red markers placed in the land.

 

KUBEY:  Tell me more about what you said -- that the "space" of minefields is the problem

 

MICELI:  In my work in Chernobyl, the nature of the visual and its borders were explored to show how radiation escapes visibility while defining that environment. If a place does not reveal itself in the visual, the question then was how to look?  The poetic as well as the physical operation of that work needed to reside in the capturing of the image, in the impression of a physical impact created by the means of radiation itself.

 

I think that with the landmines, I am continuing the theme of impenetrable, inaccessible spaces. What intrigues me in this situation is that the impenetrability is no longer visual, as in Chernobyl. Instead it lays in the actual depth of space to be walked through, and represented in the image.

 

KUBEY:  The depth of space, hence the title "In Depth" . . .

 

MICELI:  Exactly! The minefield work explores issues of vantage point and perspective, through the photographic medium’s intrinsic physical and optical constituents, by looking into how the parameters that create an image's depth-of-field shape the physical position of the photographer in the out-of-frame, as the means to penetrate these spaces where “position” is such a crucial element.

 

KUBEY:  You've said:

 

"An important point in the work is that I did walk across the minefield towards the tree in the distance and every inch of that ground could have been the last moment of my life; last instants that one can contemplate as far as the eye can see."

 

MICELI:  Yes, I think I was describing the minefield in Cambodia, where the central lone tree was my guide as I went across.

 

KUBEY:  When you're doing this work, are you feeling like you're about to die?

 

MICELI:  There is that risk, for everyone involved. But I try to be as safe as possible. That is why I only go to minefields where a demining program has started, and I only go across in the company of the deminers, who know the land the best.  The risk is a given of the situation I have chosen to implicate myself in.

 

KUBEY:  Remind me, what does your twin sister do for a living?

 

MICELI:  She is a diplomat in the consular track, now she is the vice-consul of the Brazilian Embassy in Dublin.

 

Before that, she worked in Tel-Aviv.

 

KUBEY:  A couple of serious women, traveling the world. How did you end up so adventurous?

 

MICELI:  Haha

 

I think for my sis it came with the job, it is required.

 

But she does settle for more or less long periods of time in one place - I envy that!

 

In my case, I do have an interest in no man's lands, in places that even nowadays, seem to be off the map. Places that remain, and remain in the sense that they are in the present tense, even if forgotten. Chernobyl, and the mine contamination – these are not just historical events in the past, but situations still happening now.

 

KUBEY:  You're moving, step-by-step, in your photographs. And you're spending your life moving from place to place.

 

MICELI:  Yes... I would like to have a home now though, even if it is just a place to go back to. I don’t mean not traveling, I think by now that is often a given of what I choose to do. But to have somewhere as a "base" would be nice.

 

I'm working on that.

 

In the minefields, there is no other way to go through, it needs to be step by step. And the relationship between where you stand and what you see, and by what means you see it, has always fascinated me. In that problematic space, where no one should in theory step into, I think these elements needed to be activated.

 

KUBEY:  You've said that mines claim the land. Is your work reclaiming that space?

 

MICELI:  Yes, even if only symbolically, yes.

 

KUBEY:  Reclaiming it for whom?

 

MICELI:  Yes. I think that when land is taken over by mine contamination, that’s an occupation that not only remains, but is also indifferent to the lived experience of that place, and to the people that might once been there. I think that the deminers become the first to be able to inhabit these spaces again, because their experience is incorporated. With their help, so is mine.

 

The attempt is to create a view that counter-aligns occupation, and, in that way, claims the land back, given that a point of view from within has now been offered.

 

KUBEY:  What do the deminers think of you?

 

MICELI:  In general they are very focused in their job, which is so extremely dangerous. They tend to think I am a journalist.

 

KUBEY:  Okay, as we wrap up, you've gotta tell me. As a kid, would you have imagined you'd be doing work like this?

 

This globetrotting adventure had to start somewhere.

 

MICELI:  I think so yes.

 

As a kid, I loved the jungle, the woods around in Rio.

 

I would walk alone for hours and I remember those experiences never being of fear, but of real presence, I took my time being there and I wanted to see what was further.

 

So, I'm still doing that somehow.

 

KUBEY:  That's a nice image to end on. Small Alice in the jungle.

 

MICELI:  ;)

 

KUBEY:  Thanks so much! I hope I get to see you in November!!

 

MICELI:  Yes, me too! I will be after you!

 

Thank you!