I spend a lot of time on my computer, up to twenty hours a day for roughly the past 25 years. When the pandemic came and we realised we were going to be locked in the house for a long time, I initially didn't think it was a big deal, it was what I have always done. However, when I found myself without the freedom to do what I wanted, I discovered how freedom is a fundamental value, even if we try to underestimate its importance in our day-to-day lives. The necessary restrictions were the hardest part of this experience for me, even much scarier than the fear of dying.
The difficulty in meeting each other and in being able to experience sociality, I believe, has been one of the most extreme things I have faced in my life. Although I have always lived a lot inside my studio, leaving little time for relationships, in these past eighteen months I realised that, although the time I dedicate to socialising is very little, it is fundamental.
I spent the pandemic in my home studio and that made everything much easier. When I think of those who lost their lives or their loved ones, those who were locked in cramped, crowded spaces, without outdoor space, those who could not do their work, I must say that I cannot complain in any way. The pandemic is not an individual phenomenon but a collective one and it is necessary to be able to go beyond one's own point of view and listen to others instead of just shouting out one's discomfort.
However, not being able to show my work, not being able to relate to the public, which is the main way to give life to my images, has completely changed the way I understand my life as an artist. In the first phase, like many, I took refuge in the virtual world of social media in the hope of being able to replace the physical and relational world with a sort of alternative space. It was an attempt, a way to say we're still here... but it was perhaps the most exhausting part of the pandemic for me. Nothing can replace interpersonal relationships and the physical dimension of art and after a while this absence became distressing.
In a way the pandemic, and being confined in the house without any external interaction, has made my work even more compulsive. I'm used to staying focused for very long periods of time, but in these eighteen months, it's as if time has been suspended. Losing a spatial-temporal dimension has literally projected me inside my images and my artistic world causing me a sense of vertigo that is necessarily reflected in my worldview and therefore in my artistic practice.
Italy was the second nation in the world to enter lockdown after China. In the first days of March 2020, I did an interview for CNN talking about my new book that had just been published and about my latest works. I started talking about the Atmospheres series, where gigantic cities are immersed in a fog that makes it impossible for the viewer to understand their size. Looking at the images you can sense that the gigantic buildings you see are densely inhabited by a hyper-connected humanity that lives reclusively inside the buildings, yet from the outside there is little trace of them. Then the journalist asked me what it was like to live in lockdown since we in Italy were already there while in America they were not yet. I replied that we were living in a suspended dimension, with the cities completely deserted and without any trace of life, despite the fact that we were all locked in our homes. And at that point she told me: 'It's practically like living in one of your latest works!'.
So, I would say that the Atmospheres series, made a few months before the pandemic, best describes what a few months later would become a global experience.