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Marco Pantaleoni Interview

Marco Pantaleoni uses photos as part of his process to create artistic 3D rendering images.

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Marco Pantaleoni is an artist that works with the innovative technique of 3D live scanning, combining design, technology, new media and communication within his practice. The abstract images that the scanner createsa combine elements of photography and 3D rendering that create an interesting intrepretation of the human form. 

Marco will be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair, Hampstead from 11-13 May 2018, where there will be the opportunity to be photographed alongside the display of his work. 

Marco Pantaleoni Lyto

Image © Marco Pantaleoni

Tell me a bit about yourself - where did the interest in portraiture come from?

I am an Italian Architect and visual artist, based in London. I am genuinely interested in the way technology, as strategic forms of interaction and comprehension, influences our perception.

In my practice, I utilise technology to render human forms, expressing the surprising mystery of the digital uncanny; a great fascination comes with the interplay of digital and physical models, through processes that create a dialogue between materiality, two- and three-dimensional data. The main subject of my work is human beings, seen through the eye of technology which visually interprets their forms, capturing qualities often hidden or unseen by the human eye and generating fragmented results.

The act of portraying people deeply reflects on my own vision and represents a self-discovering journey I have embarked on with a series of portraits and self-portraits, analysing the way my work depicts human subjects through “filters” that have been applied to any visual occurrences.

My work aims to engage in questions of identity and fragility. Technology can be a powerful tool that analyses the public realm, however, it can also be able to disclose private individual’s “complexions”. I engage technology in my process as an accessible and current approach to reality, in order to contextualise the intimate message that my work aims to convey. A fascination of the mask and what it represents is very evident in my work and in the process I follow in order to result in the end piece. This attraction initiated from a very early age, when still at school, I read the work of the poet Pirandello. My curiosity for the theatre, at the time mainly directed towards its spectacular architectural superstructures, acquired a different orientation when researching for my more recent artistic work and investigation.

The aim of my research is to link the concept of the mask with the idea of deformation, in an attempt to discover whether there are ways to express the emotions of the face that lies behind the mask, even after undergoing a process of interpretation and destruction that might occur when creating the mask itself.


Tell me about the thought process and ideas that came into play for this project.

A mask, the way I try to explore it, is defined as a covering for all or part of the face, worn as a disguise, or to amuse or frighten others; it is a tool that has the function of concealing our profound and sincere nature from other’s sight. Everyone is, consciously or unconsciously, aware of the mask they’re wearing. Wearing a mask can sensibly touch sides of our personality that we are not aware of and can facilitate the process of understanding who we are, just by simply showing who we are not.

The ideas and questions that I have been trying to investigate are: is wearing a mask an inevitable need, linked to the deepest nature of each of us? How is it possible to determine specific identities when the social context and the activity of human interaction always change and challenge the development of our personality? I firmly believe the core truth of a person needs to be expressed and the human contact to be encouraged.

Marco Pantaleoni Midicos

Image © Marco Pantaleoni

How did photography fit into the aesthetic of your art?

My pieces try to create a synergy between portraiture, spatial composition and tension in the narrative. I think architecture gave me a robust sense for composition, balance of the volumes, shapes and weights.

Photography plays a crucial role in the aesthetic of my art: the 3D scanning sessions are very similar to a traditional photo shoot, in which the type of lights, focal length and position of the camera affect the end result dramatically. Moreover, the scan acts as a long exposure photograph, freezing in a frame a fairly large amount of time and movements; the way and the speed the subjects move during the sessions influence the accuracy and deformation of the 3D model.

After the capturing, the 3D software I use to render the model, allows me to set virtual camera and define parameters such as focal lengths and field of view. Adding virtual lights that create shadows emphasise the tri-dimensional features of the models.

It is important for me that the technical process and the adjustments that can be added in postproduction, leave the model as more intact as possible; in fact, my interventions are mostly oriented to define a composition and a narrative within the canvas rather than applying effects or manipulate the model itself.
I am always very surprised with the level of distortion and abstraction that the machine provides and, being this the core of my research, I want it to keep it as spontaneous as possible (if “spontaneous” is a term that can be referred to a machine).


What did you set out to achieve from this project?

The first time I had the chance to put in practice my research on 3D scan and to apply it to a wider audience was in January 2017, when Tate Exchange, in association with Central Saint Martin's School of Art, hosted 'This is an Art School', taking over Level 5 of Tate Modern's Switch Building for 7 days.
I and two other MA fine Art students (Boaz Torfstein and Natalie Lambert) ran The Enrolment Project, concerned with bureaucratic systems, identity politics and the physical and virtual mapping of data; we proposed a playful and provocative enrolment process for visitors/students to engage with when they entered the art school.

I had the chance to 3Dscan a large number of visitors and in that occasion, I appreciated how important was the interactive aspect of this work, in which the process is deeply engaged with human emotions and feelings. Having the opportunity to scan a wide and heterogeneous amount of people, allows me to translate physical and emotional features into my art; it’s a constant adapting, learning and discovering, that constantly brings me new ideas and potential applications. I am always astonished by the different reactions of people when they see themselves in 3D right after the scan; it’s such an intense experience and I am delighted to see the level of active participation and involvement of the subjects.

Marco Pantaleoni Teknica

Image © Marco Pantaleoni

Can you tell me a bit about the kit/setup used to capture the images?

I am using a sensing motion device as a 3D scanner; it captures both the RGB image and the depth values, to create a 3D model as an output.
After the 3D scanning phase, I usually import the resulting models into a couple of 3D software (3DS Max and Rhinoceros) that I use to set virtual cameras, position lights and define materials; these software programs allow me to render the image at high resolution for digital print or as a base material for screen printing and painting on canvas.


Is it important that your work be interactive - letting people take images themselves at the gallery?

The core of my practice is the interaction with the subjects and the interpretation of their emotions by the machine. There is a great level of chance in the process, which is the most exciting aspect of it; however, the device needs to be calibrated and several parameters to be set in order to obtain the result I want and to “control the mistakes” and the digital uncanny. I misuse the technology, expressing my particular point of view and interpretation; this controlled and attentive process enables me to achieve specific visual results.

As for the traditional portrait photography, the relation between the photographer and the subject is crucial, it represents the core of the work, the factor that adds emotions and feeling to a shot. It creates a sort of intimacy.

The same happens for the 3D scans, where a level of engagement between me and the subjects guarantees a more powerful, sensitive and expressive result.
The fact that this result might be partially or totally distorted by the machine after the scan was taken, it’s a sort of surprise for both me and the subject; together we discover it, when the 3D model is generated and appears on the screen.

Marco Pantaleoni

Image © Marco Pantaleoni

The pictures can seem a little alien - was it your aim to keep an element of abstraction there?

Yes. Abstraction and deformation.

Distortions, errors and glitches inevitably occur during the 3d scanning process. They reveal the imperfection of the surfaces; however, they still allow the intimate essence of the character be expressed; the deformed and fragmented digital bodies depict the imperfection and asymmetries of the superficial layer, encourage the viewer to go beyond the surface and look deeper in the substance of each individual. I consider the glitch, as an error in interpreting a shape, a mistake in calculating an operation or as a lack of some sort of information. This seems to give it a negative connotation, but failing to accomplish the right task, leaves an open level of opportunities of seeing beyond the ordinary. This lack of information that the glitch conveys allows us to fill the missing parts according to our imagination, to correct the mistaken shapes just with any form we feel is appropriate, following our instincts and emotions as a guide.

I see the combination of technical, unpredictable error and the human sensitivity and emotion, a powerful tool which could be able to produce very emotional pieces of art. I am interested in exploring that fine line in between recognisability and unrecognizability; that line that still allows the viewer to capture the humanity of the subject, just a moment before it gets distorted and deviated by the machine. This line of exploration lies in between elements representation and abstraction, narrative and sensation, figurative and figural.

Where does the line that separates recognisability and non-recognisability lie? What is the point beyond which we can no longer associate a mask with a human face or body? The point beyond which a human face starts to detach itself from the reality? The deformations I am interested in are the digital glitches and technical errors; these can be random, driven by chance or can be consciously applied and controlled.

 “So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
(The Holy Bible, Corinthian 4:18)


Do you have any further projects lined up which include photography?

Having an architectural background, I have been always interested in designing physical spaces and objects within them.

Space needs to model and transform itself in relation to the needs of the users, the way they behave within it. This results in my rethinking and destabilizing the architectural space, reassembling it into a new perspective, through a multidisciplinary approach; art is a great “tool” in modelling and transforming the perception of the space and how it is experienced and used. I am interested in the potential synergy between space and people and in the dialogue that can emerge.
My aim for the next projects is to locate the subjects of my portraits within a real space, be it external or internal, private or public.

I believe that capturing human forms in a way that they are contextualized within an architectural space would be a very interesting way to explore the social dynamics related to it. I am aiming for a work more related to the contextual meaning, which seeks to link art, social and cultural transformations.

Moreover, I am currently experimenting with an open source toolkit (generously shared by J. George and A. Porter), that would allow me to implement the quality of my images; it basically substitutes the RGB data taken from the 3D scanner, with the data captured through a DSLR camera, that needs to be properly calibrated, improving the final resolution of the image that can be used to texture map the 3D model.

This toolkit also allows me to develop volumetric videos, merging moving images with the tri-dimensional data captured by the 3D scan; adding the element of time to my work is an incredible potentiality for my next projects.


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