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Navigation technologies are weakening, little by little, our ability to orient ourselves in unfamiliar environments. Unlike paper maps, which require constant eye contact with the environment, digital navigation systems act as blinders, reducing the landscape to the width of the road we are travelling. Several studies show how by delegating the task of orientation to cognitive artefacts such as navigation apps, our brains stop doing the heavy lifting required to create and maintain mental maps. Instead, when we try to figure out where we are, and memorize a street or a building, that place becomes ours.

Embracing this idea, In 2021 I worked on the PARCOURS project in the frame of an artist-in-residence program in the French city of Clermont-de-l'Oise organized by the Diaphane photographic centre in partnership with Photolux Festival.

Since the city was unfamiliar to me, I oriented myself to exploring two different approaches. I started focusing my attention on the relationship between the outward landscape and the intimate landscape linked to memories. This resulted in a set of portraits where I let the participants choose a place they felt connected to. People's stories gave me access to a whole imaginary world foreign to me, which transformed completely anonymous or abandoned places into meaningful places to my eyes. Through photography, I was able to encode these environments exploring the intimate relationship between the subject and the surroundings. Human presence provides a reading of the territory in an anthropological sense, but it also stimulates a more poetic, intimate and even nostalgic vision of those places.

A wasteland, a forest, an old school or a dimly lit glimpse, assert their dignity as the protagonists of a human story.

Places that are difficult to observe, especially if guiding our gaze is an itinerary calculated by an algorithm or prescribed by an application. Inhabitants were thus both subjects and creators of a collective emotional map based on their experiences.

During my stay, I focused another part of my work on being seduced by disorientation in order to distil images that could fill the lack of a personal imaginary about the city. I recorded any detail or landscape that caught my attention. These visual notes are the result of completely random walks and are totally unrelated to each other.

With time, the combination of the portraits and the images born from my wanderings started to be meaningful. Like a map, these fragments helped me to orient in a new and fantastic version of the city, but also a very personal one and more familiar to me. It became mine.

The idea of creating a map of Clermont is indirectly a tribute to the Cassini dynasty of cartographers and astronomers, who moved to France from Italy in the 17th century, to whom the city of Clermont named a high school, a street and dedicated a monument: the bust of César-François Cassini. His first map of France, completed by his son, provided the most accurate representation of the country whose realization took more than fifty years of work.

PARCOURS is on exhibition at Photaumnales 2022 festival in Clermont-de-l'Oise.