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Meet the author:
Marina Srnka

These images are evocative and stark in their depiction of vacant spaces and emptiness. Could you tell us more about what inspired the context in which you created them?

I started this project at a very particular time, in very specific circumstances. For me, the locked-down Bologna was like an empty carcass waiting to explode and scream its own bloody story. All the meat, all the life, was gutted out. From a purely aesthetic point of view, I wanted to explore the juxtaposition between the silent, unyielding, mineral city and the memories of life in the tear and wear, the graffiti and the dirt, the concrete. 

I placed Anton in this space, as a ghost or an echo, as something that is fitting and unfitting in the landscape of the city, as something I was yearning for and missing. However, these photos live their own life. Looking at it now, what I see is myself. My loneliness, extreme fear and boredom, locked up in isolation in a small room in a foreign country during a deadly pandemic. It was my personal experience. But it was also a collective experience shared by millions. 

At the end of the day, the camera is a ruthless machine. There is something objective and impersonal about it. The camera captures everything, with no consideration for feelings or meanings. That technical aspect seems to make the artist invisible. There are no brushstrokes, no choice of words or notes. But that is just on the surface. The photographer is an onlooker, and as such intimately related to the public looking at the photographs. When you look at a photo, you are looking through the eyes of the photographer, and you see the world as she does. In that sense, it is the most intimate and subjective form of expression imaginable. 


What influenced your decision of the particular setting/s you captured in the collection? 

In my memories, the ‘real’ Bologna were the bustling Piazza Maggiore and Piazza Verdi, packed with students and life, the student hang-out at La Scuderia, late night friendships outside Pizza Casa, events at the Cineteca. These are the lively, vibrant, socialist spots in the red city, with constant encounters, activism, and politics. A student experience in Bologna is like a fictive narrative in a ‘red world’. An imaginary city, with students on every corner, day and night, night and day. When Covid hit, these red zones became more concrete and unfriendly – the red zones of quarantines, lockdowns, hundreds of frozen bicycles; state suppression and governmental control punctuated by infrequent explosions of rave parties and collective hysteria. 


In this new dystopian world, state authority extinguished all feelings of community. What was left was the empty concrete buildings, vast spaces and silence. How could we return to a sense of community in a world where the governmental protection of our biological existence had removed any sense of life? Bare life was all there was left. 

Can you speak to the narrative line in the collection? Is there any kind of transformation or character arc either the model or the space undergoes in the evolution of the images?

In Nanni Moretti’s Caro Diario, the protagonist rides his vespa around an empty Rome, first as a kind of flaneur, later with an acute sense of his own mortality as he passes from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what afflicts him. These photos are my own Covid diary. 

Locked in a small student-room in Bologna, I had a crazy urge to feel the world again. And I knew it had to be with another person, another mind. I met Anton by accident. We followed the same online lessons at the university. When we finally met in person, I noticed he had a strong presence, and a kind of instinctive bodily expressiveness. He was in control of his body in a very theatrical way. I really liked that. 

The photos follow our journey through the lock-down emptiness of Bologna. As we walked through the city, we experienced at the same time apocalyptic abandonment and the allure of the weird new emptiness. It was like encountering the city for the first time. The narrative follows the interaction(s) between the lonely body and the abandoned spaces of the city. 


Some poses repeat: A simple straight-lying body (self)-ironically put in different spots. Our project meant to tackle this irony, as Covid itself was (is) just an ironic sideshow of our profound environmental crisis and anxiety.

Do you think the images move us towards imagining the possibility of an Otherwise? How so?

There is nothing given about the way we organize our lives. As I have already mentioned, the photos are exploring the covid state of exception. I think it was a common experience to feel that Covid, and the dramatic changes of habits, attitudes and realities that it provoked, opened our eyes to the created-ness of our daily lives. The project itself developed out of this urge to experience the world differently, to inhabit our spaces differently, and to try to feel and interact with the ‘past’ liveliness of the city, through the memories embodied in the space.


Marina Srnka is a Serbian poet, photographer, and dance critic. She has a MA in European Literary Cultures from the Universities of Bologna and Strasbourg, and she is currently doing a second MA in Cultural Studies at KU Leuven. In both her artistic and academic work, she explores the role of the body in art and society.

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See Marina Srnka's photography Bodies in space

in the Bodies issue

This interview was conducted by Otherwise creative non-fiction and memoir editor Laura Moran

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