Anna Giordana's Venus project, where she digitally manipulated classic Renaissance paintings of the ancient goddess, caused quite a fuss in recent months. As an Italian, messing with near-worshipped images from her cultural heritage was always going to be a risk. Her twist? Slicing away at the curves and flesh lauded all those years ago to make Venus resemble the relatively skeletal body type revered now. We spoke to her about how personal experience informed the project, whether the discussion on body type and confidence for women is still relevant, and how art in all its forms can influence social commentary on a wider scale.
Alexandre Cabanel's The Birth Of Venus, and as manipulated by Anna below
To start, how long had you been thinking about starting the Venus project?
I started Venus a couple of years ago, and uploaded it onto my site in March or April last year. The idea came while I was retouching photographs for a friend's book and I was thinking about our society, social networks and the urgency of being accepted; in other words, all the dynamics behind human evolution, the natural consequence of our past.
I chose paintings depicting Venus because she is known to be the goddess of beauty. One of the topics touched on by Venus is the change of the aesthetic canon, so it seemed appropriate to choose the icon of beauty. However, I recently discovered that I am not the only one to have given the paintings "virtual surgery": similar projects were also developed by Nazareno Crea and Joshua Marr (all in the same period, last year!). I had an interesting and pleasant exchange of views on the subject with them.
Angelo Bronzino - Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time as manipulated by Anna on the right
How open do you think most young women are to the conversation about body image that your series starts?
Judging by the rapid and large diffusion of the Venus project, both online in blogs and forums and in physical newspapers (even in magazines dedicated specifically to women), I suppose that the issue is a rather delicate topic of discussion among women.
What's been your personal experience so far of people's reactions to the project?
There have been positive and negative reactions: some people didn't understand my provocation, other people and (especially) the press have lauded the project and my choice to stimulate debate around several themes.
Your PopBottles (above) are also controversial and interesting to look at. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind them?
The idea comes from a dream I had on the night of July 26th last year. PopBottles is first of all a provocative way to highlight consumerism and also alcohol abuse by teens.
What role do you think art can play in the discussion on consumerism and modern insecurities, that are themes you touch on in your work?
I think that artists (in any field: poets, writers, painters, sculptors, musicians) have the ability to capture the "zeitgeist" of the period in which they live. The role that art can have in that same period depends on what and how art and artists are considered "important" in their societies. Really we live in a time of strong global crisis and, at least in Italy, funds for culture are decreasing... To tell you the truth my work has had very little feedback in my country.
Boticelli's Birth Of Venus, as manipulated by Anna below
Finally, what new work have you got in the pipeline? What else does 2012 have in store for Anna?
First of all Venus is currently shown in the exhibition Why Goddesses are So Beautiful: Love and Beauty in Antiquity at the Valkhof Art and Archaeology Museum in the Netherlands until the 12th of August.
I'm working on a new photographic series but I can't give any more away! In May I also have an important shoot (I'll be both the model and also the curator of the project) in Edenlandia. It was the first attempt at a European theme park, founded in Naples in 1965. Currently the park is undergoing a period of difficulty, along with the zoo attached to it, so me and some creatives from Campania have studied a relaunch campaign for the park. There will be a little 'magic'!
See the rest of the Venus series, and Anna's other work on her site.