"Our future looks bleak and, as always, trust and hope is placed in the youngest generation. They will become so smart as to fix our problems. Techno-optimism. But this time, perhaps, there's nothing to be fixed. Must we, rather, change our habits, tell different stories about the force of nature, our ambiguous relationship to and our image of our (so far) only Earth ? How to face Gaia from now on – that's the question."

Excerpt from text V, Taco Hidde Bakker

Invited to realize a project in Cavallino Treporti, a small city near Venice enclosed between the Adriatic sea and the Venice Lagoon, I focused on teenagers and on the greenest part of the landscape. In connection with these urgent historical times, I reflect upon adolescence as a phase of life characterized not by physical fragility, but rather by an emotional search for a balance - in relation both with others and with an outside world where nature and culture intertwine, where critical situations arise and expand.

Marina Caneve

In the short presentation of The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water you talk about your interest in adolescence, as a phase of life defined by the search for balance. The question of balance is also connected to the territory represented in this work,  a lagoon between land and sea, between natural spaces and urbanization, an ecosystem full of fragility. This description struck me and made me think more in general about your artistic practice, especially the relationships of human beings with their environment, of communities with the habitat. I am thinking for example of the project Calamita/à, about catastrophe as a lack of stability. Would you consider this reflection on balance as one of the main threads in your research?


Definitely yes, as are vulnerability and complexity. Balance interests me, if you want, in both a figurative and conceptual sense: figurative in the visual experimentations and explorations around this idea, conceptual in connection with complex systems, as the search for a delicate state of equilibrium between perspectives, disciplines, different knowledges. My work process follows the direction of an encounter between intuition and research and vice versa, and as such it necessarily deals with the construction of balance, while catastrophe can certainly be understood as a lack of stability; in this sense, the catastrophe is introduced, first of all, as a perceptive catastrophe, it’s about the engagement with themes apparently too complex to be represented.

Unlike Calamita/à or Are They Rocks or Clouds? where the catastrophe is evident, in The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water it is latent. Taco Hidde Bakker, in one of the writings that accompany the images, asks us what will become of these places once the sea level has risen, how will this society - the new generation - adapt to this contingency?

And if the catastrophe is latent, the portraits of the children are a sort of bridge between the memory, identity and future of those places.

Marina Caneve, The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water, courtesy of the artist

Your research is often long-term, based on archival, anthropological, historical, and social investigations - for example Are They Rocks or Clouds? or the recent La valle tra le cime e le stelle (The valley between the peaks and the stars). This, on the contrary, is a shorter project commissioned by Cavallino Treporti Photography. Did you already know the city and this area? What was it like to develop a project with such a different temporality?

In truth, I had never discovered before this strip of green land that separates the much more built and mundane Jesolo from the Venice lagoon. This project not only has been realized in a very different time-scale than the ones you mention, but also had already a history of 9 previous editions, each one with an author, including some of my masters, who has developed reflections on the identity of this place.

It is important to mention this, because inevitably the baggage of these works made me feel the need to make very specific choices, right away. First I tried to look at the territory in a clinical way and I was guided by some intuitions linked to the specificities and to the economy of the place. The people, the kids, absolutize the project, the landscapes instead bring it back to a particular place.


Marina Caneve, The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water, courtesy of the artist

The concept of landscape, which plays a fundamental role in your work, is multiple and diverse. In addition to the aesthetic dimension originally coming from painting, as view, scenery (which always implies a point of view), a landscape always tells stories of relationships between communities and territories, of connections between people and places, of transformations and traditions. Can you tell us more about your interest in landscape and how you chose to represent the territory of Cavallino Treporti?


It is not so much the landscape that interests me as the environment, understood as a complex system made up of relationships between us and what is around us, understood as space, memory, culture. I am reminded of an experience dating back almost ten years, when I was working on my first project, 1km - the Labyrinth, which focuses on the construction of the point of view in urban analysis and photography. It is when I realized that I was interested in how urban planning closely deals with our relationship with space, and in particular with the delicate balance and the vulnerabilities that flow into and from the relations between man and environment.

For example, something that fascinates me in urbanism (and that it shares with photography) is the need for a rigorous attitude on the one hand and a curious, exploratory one on the other.

In the case of Cavallino Treporti, I became immediately aware of the dichotomy existing between the lagoon and the sea, so I chose to explore this universe. Naturally, I refined the process while being there and experimenting on the field my initial ideas. The landscape, in particular, has become the greenery and the use made of it, especially the contamination between two forms of vegetation: one recalling the landscape of the lagoon and the other a marine environment. There is also a series of images taken from a high point of view, referring on the one hand to the control of the territory, on the other to its history, more specifically to the presence of ancient telemetry towers.


Marina Caneve, The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water, courtesy of the artist

There is a certain inherent vulnerability in the act of being photographed. I find that portraits, more than other photographic "genres", highlight the ethical issues involved in the meeting and exchange of glances, the responsibilities implied in framing, showing the other and oneself, in the relation established between the subject, photographer and spectator. In the encounter with the other, the desire to reveal and to conceal are often entangled, in a complex dynamic of intimacy and distance. Years ago, I was struck by a term used by Walter Benjamin to describe the photos of the Scotsman David Octavious Hill: “discreet distance” - it came back to me while looking at your portraits. Can you tell us more about this part of your work?

I consider my vision more lateral than frontal, more discreet than intrusive, brazen. Speaking of photography and in particular of documentary vocation, one of my greatest references is the catalogue of the first major exhibition of documentary photography in an art museum in Europe, Cruel and Tender (Tate, 2003). What particularly intrigues me about this "event" is the gaze that emerges for almost all the involved authors, summarized by the description that Lincoln Kirstein gives of Walker Evans' work: empathetic but without pitiful attitudes. While working on portraits, I often thought about this definition and the idea of ​​proximity and distance between the teenagers - natives and tourists - who populate the area of Cavallino Treporti; the edges of the photographs are very often tainted by elements that enter precisely to evoke a connection with the outside, as well as with the other.


Marina Caneve, The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water, courtesy of the artist

In the book of The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water the photos are accompanied by an essay in six chapters by Taco Hidde Bakker, written for the occasion. This dialogue between image and text (but also archival documents, scientific research etc), often presented / created thanks to publications, seems to me to be an integral part of your artistic process.

I think I can define myself as a curious person and I like to see how photography can interact with other disciplines and contexts, not so much because I consider that photography cannot be enough in itself, but rather because it intrigues and stimulates me to experience what is generated through contamination, collisions, epiphanies or confirmations. This way of working adapts very well to book format and actually trying to organise in editorial form the materials I produce (even in more transitory objects), helps me to make order and also to elaborate on my initial intuitions.

Perhaps I repeat myself, my work is part of a process of discovery and the presentation is an integral part of it. Where the pieces of a mosaic take shape, where sometimes the materials interact. I imagine books and installations as labyrinths, because they allow me to carry out an exploratory process where photographs taken today, archival images and any other material are equivalent; but above all they induce us, through collisions of meaning, to remain trapped between confirmations and contradictions. If I were to think of a literary reference, for example, I would quote W. G. Selbald, who in his texts focuses on a sort of maniacal dialogue between fragments. Roberto Gilodi, in a portrait of Sebald appeared on Doppiozzero in 2012, wrote " Its weaving is based on a maniacal hermeneutic of the fragment, as if it were a question of finding the Ariadne's thread that can lead out of the labyrinth, even if the labyrinth, instead of taking to an elsewhere, leads straight to the center of the tragedy, into the deep layers of the troubled psyche of those who lived it. " I draw inspiration from this in my work.


Marina Caneve is a photographer working within an interdisciplinary approach. In her work Caneve addresses the issues of vulnerability, environmental, social and cultural, and the construction of knowledge through the visual arts. Since 2019 she teaches at Master IUAV in Photography. She is co-founder of CALAMITA/À (2013-ongoing), a research platform focusing on the topics of catastrophes, changes, memories and politics. CALAMITA/Á has born researching the Vajont story (1963) and it involves a group of international artists. In 2016, she curated the publication “The Walking Mountain”/CALAMITA/Á. In 2018, with Gianpaolo Arena and Vulcano agency, she founded Osservatorio Cortina 2021. Her work in Cavallino Treporti was published in the catalogue The Shape of Water Vanishes in Water (A+Medizioni bookstore, 2018) with VI short essays by Taco Hidde Bakker. She is represented by MAPS agency.