‘Portraits from Slices of Life’ by Ottavia Castellina

3 Mar 2016 – 20 Mar 2016

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A selection of portraits from the book ‘Slices of Life’ by Elia Romanelli, Piero Vereni and Ottavia Castellina (BRUNO, Venice), featuring portraits, life stories and recipes from 31 perfect strangers met in the streets of London.


The exhibition features 12 portraits of ‘perfect strangers’ randomly met in the streets of London portrayed in their own houses by photographer Ottavia Castellina. The portraits are taken from the book ‘Slices of Life’ by Elia Romanelli, Piero Vereni and Ottavia Castellina (BRUNO, Venice) Presented at the Art Book Fair in New York, the book is now making its round in London.

‘Slices of Life’ is an unusual cookbook, that consists of life stories and photo portraits where each recipe becomes a blind date with someone you don’t really know. The book is a collaboration between two anthropologists and a photographer. The recipe suggestions come from a diversity of cultures. Strangers, usually just glimpsed, here become trusted maîtres d’hôtel who give you the opportunity to look deeper into their lives.

‘The book also offers itself up as an informal guide to London, where the city and its hustle and bustle stand in sharp relief to people’s stories. A guide where a suburban backstreet may be as meaningful as Big Ben in the quest to understand the city and where the real difference lies in the people we meet and the stories they tell of this vast metropolis teeming with human life. It is a guide book that invites you to take wrong turnings and a cookbook that says it is okay to accept recipes from strangers.’ says Elia Romanelli, the project creator and director.

In the series of photographs presented in this exhibition, people are portrayed in their homes surrounded by their “stuff” – the things that accompanied them through their lives and represent them best. Ottavia Castellina’s portraits are inspired by 15th century Flemish art paintings, perceiving the domestic as symbolic ground. However, here staged objects represent more than social status and official roles; they trigger self-reflection and embody people’s experiences, memories, emotions and dreams. Each person is depicted as part of his or her own private ‘Wunderkammer’, made up of personal belongings of their choice. Selected objects were staged around their owners to create a sort of ‘portable domestic altar’. The people in the photos not only agreed to open the doors of their houses to complete strangers; they also allowed the audience to step into their ‘sanctuary’ (the house) and worship at their ‘shrine’ (the objects). They agreed to be and to perform as their own characters on their own stage.
During the show a few events will take place both inside and outside the gallery space involving the audience in activities related to art, anthropology and food. All events will include elements addressed in the book such as conviviality, food traditions and multiculturalism.

‘With the current ‘food craze’ in the Western world, everybody seems to want either to learn or to teach something about food.’ says Piero Vereni, the project story builder ‘We hope that the people who were interviewed for this project, with their common but unique stories and their ‘homemade’ recipes, will stimulate the reader’s interest in the secret ingredient no professional or celebrity chef can offer to his or her devotees: the sweet and sour taste of life’.

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