“TWELVE” by Viviana Bonura

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There are two times, the science one and the soul one, the exterior and the interior, the whispered tick of a pocket watch, and the bum of our heart. A timing bomb, a hemispherical circle that slows down sometimes, but goes as fast as it can in others.
It is like the heart of the pig and I still remember when, in primary school, the science teacher brought one of them in our class, to show it to us. She was wearing a housewife apron, we, pupils, were dressed in blue uniforms and focused on the atria, ventricles, valves and arteries.
What is between one tick and the next, between one heartbeat and the other is the intermittence: they are the blurred and confused reflections of our lives, the daybreak dances, the impossible, devastating, and eternal moments. For the time of the physics, one year corresponds to the Earth’s revolutionary movement, which is made up of 365 days, about 52 weeks, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, and 31.536.000 seconds. The time of the soul, apparently less complicated than a mathematical equation but practically much more difficult to understand and explain, is surely more fascinating. Its flow does not follow the terrestrial revolutions or rotations. Sometimes it goes slowly like a dying bradycardia snail, other times it accelerates its rhythm like some tachycardia hare highs on cocaine. It is the time of hopes, daydreams, surprises, friends, and love, of ruination, of my God who made me do it, of disappointments, and dead ends.
Life is the sum of these two overlapping temporalities, although they seem to march like parallel paths. This time eludes and overwhelms us, does not respond to well-defined canons, is eternal and for someone cyclical. It sinks and takes us apart, draining us from our vital breath. We inhabit in it and play by its rules, in silence, as orphans, diligent children, and efficient bureaucrats. I believe I have read somewhere, but I don’t remember where, that we live in time rather than in space and we cannot erase, deny or destroy this fact. We can try to fight against this rule but without great results. Nevertheless, we can shape time, craft it as if it was clay, wood, or sticky glass.

Viviana Bonura is a young 20 years-old woman from Palermo. She studies Graphic Design at the Academy of Fine Arts of Palermo and deals with street and fashion photography. Through her pictures, she builds her own idea of time, experiencing and explaining it. With her photographs, she makes a deep dialogue based on the search of herself and the others. She talks about photography as if it was a ritual, a long journey, conceiving the use of the analogical as a sentimental and moral choice. Through an ambitious work, she has chiselled time, sewing inside it unusual and wonderful details. Her one-year project is called TWELVE because twelve are the Kantian categories, the octave semitones, the sons of Jacob, the labours of Hercules, the Olympians, the Charlemagne Paladins.

Viviana Bonura Viviana Bonura

How was your year then? What have you done in this period? How were the summer and autumn days? And what about the people you photographed? Did you make a wish watching the falling stars in August? How many promises did you break and how many plans did you wreak? How many roads have you walked by and how many people and places have you loved? Flaubert once wrote to George Sand: “I have always tried to go to the soul of things”, and I want, if you allow me, to reach the heart of your work.
My last year has been a full stop on the imaginary line of my life. I use to call it “point zero” even though it is not because what I consider a “point zero” is the moment we were born, a beginning in which we are not aware of what happens, a departure that occurs without establishing it. I symbolically wanted to put one on my own, because this year has been a sort of desired and intentional rebirth.
I think it is legit to the human being craving to understand time and its existence in the world and, in this sense, cutting out some inner times disjointed from Time. I wanted to scan one long a year, after graduation and the difficult experience in high school.
It was the only right thing I could do in that particular and delicate moment. A sort of revenge, a challenge to myself to understand how much I worth. I needed to know if I was as I thought and where my life could have gone from that moment on. I wanted to face my fears.
I had the desire to get out of my comfort zone because that moment was the right one to do something different. At the beginning, I said to myself: “let’s see where I will end up within a year if I take a camera in my hand, as my heart has been saying for a long time”. Then I made a list of the “things to do during the year” with both the silliest goals and the most ambitious ones. In the end, I achieved many of them, while others remain unfinished. I realized that the important thing was not to check them or follow my plans blindly. It is physically impossible since we don’t live in a crystal ball. You have to adapt yourself and move within the flow of things. I spent a lot of money and I have earned a little, but only after a lot of sacrifices. I had some identity crises, especially at the beginning, I lost a lot, I felt the need for things that I didn’t have, but I received something of immense value in return starting from nothing except a camera.

Viviana Bonura Viviana Bonura

Is photography a gift to you, a poem? Or maybe a meticulous work, a scrupulous technique?
In my opinion, photography is a way to comprehend, understand and communicate things. It is an extraordinary tool of expression and narration that has given me a lot and will continue to do so. I have chosen photography as an extension of myself and doing this reminded me of how people learn things for the first time. Photography allows me to be extremely instinctive and spontaneous, but also attentive and precise. It allows me to stretch out and enter within things and people, but also to dig inside me.

Viviana Bonura Viviana Bonura

Who are your teachers, your heroes, if you still have some? Which was the worst moment of the year that you told with photography? And which was the most beautiful?
My city is my teacher. It made me who I am and changed the way I see things. Palermo is very important to me. I believe there is always been a piece of it in my pictures, that is inevitable because growing up and living in an island is something special, even more in a city full of history and contrasts. Palermo disturbs you, strengthens you, amazes you. I hated it for a long time, now I would like to leave to be able to return. In the meantime, I try to appreciate it also with photography. People are my teachers, some of them have cameras in their hands and some don’t.
If it was up to me, I would tell everything I see through photography. The thing is that in certain situations people don’t like or even feel offended if you start taking pictures. On one hand, I understand them, regardless of the social status. Photography is still considered as a postcard of ideal moments, frames to hang on the wall so you can see them, remember something happy or an object you can show to the others to make them see where you have been. Many people don’t like being photographed in sad, ordinary, bleak and conflicting situations because they don’t want to see themselves or be seen like that.
This is why I would like to be invisible or maybe it’s only about taking the risk of being unappropriated. I take pictures because I want to tell my truth. I want to tell stories that respect human existence and for this reason, we must accept to be vulnerable. I photographed myself a few times during this year. Many self-portraits were born from the worst moments or from the need to process difficult things. I also remind that day when my family and I went to my grandmother’s old country house. The one where I spent many summers and weekends as a child, that house completely abandoned since her death.
It was a hard day when I realized that every corner of the house keeps happy memories and now is only inhabited by many ghosts. My father cried looking at the way the concrete had been eaten by the plants. In that moment, I only had my camera to understand what I was feeling. I took a portrait of him that day. Fortunately, for my psychological balance, I also framed beautiful moments like when I have met beautiful people, really light and picturesque moments that seemed surreal, crystalline and crystallized. In any case, all the moments that I pictured through the year are so important to me, even the ones that slipped away.

Viviana Bonura Viviana Bonura

When did you become aware of what you were creating with your photography?
DI have to tell the truth – and not to be modest or nice – I don’t know what I was creating with my photography. I dug inside myself, I tried to understand the others and I understood how I could grow up. I tried to give a dimension to dreams and reality, starting to place myself somewhere. I did what I loved.
But as I said before, this year was the starting point after which I certainly have drawn something, but I still can’t see the complete picture. Maybe it’s a way to get somewhere else, maybe it’s a house to live in. But that’s okay, it takes time to process. It takes time to understand if these constructions could resist and how to improve them. Honestly, I’ve understood that what I was doing was precious, at least for me. When my life started to change, when all of a sudden, I found myself in the cars and the houses of people that I didn’t know a few months earlier, I had some moments of disbelief and some of consciousness about the value of something started from scratches. I could share it with other people capable to enrich my experience, to whom I could give something in return because I had discovered that I also had something to give.
When people said to me: “I know you for your photos and I wanted to tell you that …”, I understood that photography can build bridges from one heart to another. I had the same feeling when at the presentation of my first book people wanted to support me financially and with their presence as well.

Viviana Bonura

A year is a long time, the photographs that can compose it have been chosen wisely, I guess. Looking at them, they could bring us everything: perfumes, specific notes, a particular circumstance. If you could suggest a song, or more than one, to listen to while looking at your photos, which one would you choose? Or do you prefer that we observe them in a sacred, rigorous silence?
Yes, the pictures have been carefully selected because they all have a great value to me, regardless of the final result. They are photos that I have chosen to take among the many never taken. I decided to share them for this reason. I am trying to learn that I cannot control the way others will look at them, so I leave you the choice, but I’m glad you asked me. I only wish they were seen and not simply looked at, but each of us has a different perception and I am aware of it. That’s why the printing and the publication of Twelve is so important to me because I let people read myself like an open book. I take off many protections and I expose myself without knowing what will happen. Sometimes telling about yourself to strangers or those you know a little can prove to be useful and liberating. So, see and listen as you wish. Draw on the photos, cut and paste them in different ways, but afterwards, come and tell me.

Viviana Bonura

All images © Viviana Bonura / Instagram: @vivianabonura
Interview by Iole Cianciosi – Translated by Valeria Piunno

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