by Manu SharmaJul 20, 2021
A common critique levied at digital arts practices is the lack of a certain ‘soul’ factor; that such artistic pursuits are devoid of a humanistic core which may be found far more easily within the canons of classical art. This is of course merely a broader protest, and iterations thereof may be found across more specific practices such as animation, music and the graphic arts. Those who field such ham-handed views may fancy themselves as the old guard of a glorious and wholly imagined creative past, yet the key aspect of art itself that they invariably fail to grasp, is that it has never been a static entity and that it is instead engaged in a constant state of give-and-take with the habitus it is created in, and as a result, is ceaselessly evolving and mutating in any way it can. And, with regards to the identification of “soul”, one need look no further than to practitioners such as Riccardo Franco-Loiri, who is part of a growing community of digital artists that are continuously attempting to channel the instinctual, emotional and ephemeral through a combination of techniques ranging from glitching to generative art, and everything in between.
Franco-Loiri hails from Turin, which lies to the north of Italy, and pursues a practice that is built upon audio-visual artistry. He tells STIR, “When I was 17, I was studying music and was simultaneously trying to expand my consciousness and my artistic knowledge in digital and electronic ways. After high school, in 2014, I attended the APM School of Saluzzo, and I got my degree in audio-visuals production. Then I started to work with studios and collectives all around Italy in video and audio production.” Franco-Loiri goes by the name ‘Akasha’, which is the Sanskrit word for ether, or what the artist considers to be a “universal glue that links us all in a spiritual web”. His body of work is diverse, and often blends recognisably human and natural actors with entities that are far more abstract. And while it doesn’t permeate through his entire oeuvre, there is a strong presence of glitch sensibility within some of the artist’s works as well, most distinctly of all, his many static pieces. Acknowledging this, Franco-Loiri explains, “In 2015 my father died from the consequences of a bad cancer that took his life so fast, it was the worst period of my life. All the things started to change, my personal vision of life became a horrific place made of pain with some spots of intimate beauty and wellness. During this period, I went down deep into glitch culture and music production. I developed a very personal relationship with glitch art. I think that through such errors, we can see the world in a purified way, free from the sterile contraposition between signifier and signified.” He adds highlighting an ephemerality within the medium that caused him to view glitched, digital corruptions as epiphanies. He mentions that these give him esoteric sensations, and make the artist feel as though he is an alchemist who is converting digital matter into gold through a transformative process.
Franco-Loiri’s initial years as an artist were just as hard as his time in college, with him having to experience the loss of four people that were near and dear to him. He mentions feeling as though he was within the eye of a storm; screaming and punching at the air around him in vain. Through it all, his artistic pursuits served as a way to focus himself, and he mentions developing more complex and structured projects during this time. His work gained nuance and began to explore the complexities of human emotions through a striking audio-visual format. Eventually, he would work towards diversifying his skillset by pursuing a Masters in 3D graphics, motion and CGI whilst simultaneously also studying New Media Art and Multimedia at Turin University. He does not reflect warmly on this time however, telling STIR, “University was the worst place for my creativity due to the inexperience of other people and the teachers, as well as the ruinous school system we have here.”
Things would look up for the artist in 2018, when he would meet light and video mapping artist, Tomasso Rinaldi, who went by the name ‘High Files’. Franco-Loiri would join High Files along with a third artist, Niccolò Borgia, hence beginning a fertile collaboration that since earned great praise and has seen the team collaborate with other entities as well. Discussing their video mapping work, the artist says, “We have a particular and deeply personal vision of video mapping based on digital illusionism: we don't use the architectures as a sterile canvas for our artworks, but instead try and put life inside the volumes and shapes through the light we cast. Light as a nucleus for the artistic happening; light as fuel for spiritual beings.”
Franco-Loiri’s pieces, along with the emotive work created by the emergent artistic culture he is a part of, have the power to create deeply spiritual experiences for a growing audience. However, in his particular case, it may be quite rewarding to experience works that mash together his glitch sensibilities with the moving image even more directly. The artist seems to be moving towards this as well, and one may observe a growing incidence of glitch within his practice. Undoubtedly, there are other fertile routes for Franco-Loiri to explore as well, and regardless of his path, his work will continue to evolve as digital production technology expands. It is a joyous sentiment to think that the times we live in, however strange and chaotic they may be, are also quite possibly the greatest era in human history thus far, for artistic evolution. Our ideas can hardly keep up with the rate at which our ability to manifest them grows, and what a happy predicament that is to have. Meanwhile, artists such as Franco-Loiri remind us that the beating heart of creative practice is very much alive, and indeed, is perhaps more nuanced than it has ever been.