Patricio Cassinoni: Only One
From falling in love with an Irish girl on a bus in Barcelona, Argentinian born visual artist Patricio Cassinoni now calls Dublin home – with even the same ‘everyone knows everyone’ trepidation of your average native. Pato, as he’s known to most, plays with ideas of body, identity and an incredible social awareness that continues to spur his ongoing project, Only One. A huge collection of portraits, all similar in style, that ask the participant to bring one piece of clothing to be photographed with, and nothing else. Hoping that a social fear of exposure mixed with something cosmetic or emotional can bring about an ultimate exposé of the world in which we live.
I catch up with Pato in his studio in north Dublin.
How does Dublin compare to other places you’ve lived?
I like to think of Dublin as more of a big town than a small city really because I live in the city centre, I have my studio in the city centre and it’s really hard to go down the street and not see people you know after ten minutes of walking around. When you’re foreign this is great, Dublin people are really open and very friendly, you feel part of a community very fast but at the same time, sometimes I find it very small. Fantastic in a moment and terrible in another as it’s good to have your own space for solitude.
How do you find Dublin’s art scene?
I haven’t been very active showing in Dublin, this project Only One has never been shown here and actually most of the people involved are from here. I showed it in Barcelona last year, it’s going to Madrid next month. I think since the recession happened here, the possibilities to showcase in Dublin were reduced to a minimum.
What is it about the mediums of photography and paint in particular that interests you?
I studied photography 20 years ago, I wanted a faster medium, I didn’t have the patience for painting but 10 years ago I started painting as part of a backdrop for a photography project and it went from there.
What are your ideas behind Only One?
Most of the ideas around my work is how we understand the reality were inhabiting, the reality where we live and how we understand different concepts of cultural reality. I try to approach this idea from different corners. With Only One I found it was about something so part of our day to day and I think we never stop to think so deeply about it; to wear clothes and to choose our clothes every morning. I think we’d start to understand that we have different levels of consciousness around these things. I was thinking to refine this in, to make people choose only one item was to push them to make them think a little harder as to why they make these decisions.
What decisions did you find were a priority for most?
At the moment the project involves around 140 people and to be honest the response from people is so different. You can divide it into groups maybe, some behavioral and some choose things in a practical way because they cover or expose some part of their body, some people choose things because they have sentimental value, like a scarf knitted by a grandmother or clothes given to them by their girlfriend or partner. And some people choose things because they relate into the social group they want to or they belong to.
Would you say you’re more so trying to document the specific people or the culture?
I think we are living in moment when we are covered in images. The generation of images has become so democratic, everybody’s generating images. We are consuming, both consciously and not, images everyday. One of the things of the project for me from the very beginning is that I want to try and disappear from the photos. I took them very much in a documentary way and I don’t curate the Only One shows either. I want to put the energy in the people really but I wanted to use a fashion aesthetic as it’s fashion we’re talking about at the end of the day.
Why would you pick fashion, something that is often portrayed as narcissistic or materialistic to portray something genuine?
I only wanted to create a space for people to expose themselves. Everybody came with their own ideas and they show themselves in the way they feel about themselves. A lot of people found themselves in the picture and this is always very nice for a photographer.
You have a lot of people that will partially choose an item depending on whether they want to reveal or show themselves, how much of that do you think plays a part in the project?
I’ve shot around 90 people here in Dublin and another 50-60 people in Barcelona and I was seeing this cool effect as to how people dressed differently for the weather and the social way you communicate and the way you inhabit the body in a social space. I was thinking it was going to be a nightmare to get people in Dublin to be part of the project but actually people were really excited and super open. I thought there may be a distinction between different ages and how open they would be but it’s really about the person. A woman over 60 came up in to me in Galway and said there wasn’t any women in her age group involved and then she did the project with just a pair of glasses. I want to show people can be beautiful in just the way they are.
Are clothes a way of protecting ourselves or expressing ourselves?
Now we have the information to analyse clothes in human evolution, I mean clothes at the beginning were to protect ourselves. I think now it’s a combination of the two, you don’t pick a jacket just because it’s warm but because it also represents an aesthetic. It’s one of the first things we use to communicate with the social environment. When you cross people in the street it’s really really hard not to have a first impression just because of the clothes they’re wearing and we’re conscious of only different levels of that.
What is it about the body that so heavily influences both your painted and photographed work?
I think the body is charged with these cultural parameters of our history and I think it’s time, like other artists throughout the past couple of centuries, to show the body just like a body. We can expose these parameters and start to ask questions about them.
Words: Azzy O’Connor (@azzyoc)