Accompanying text

AI as skin,

words as bodies


Accompanying text for Lucas Gabellini-Fava by Krasimira Butseva

The skin carries non-linguistic traces and characteristics. It functions as a barrier, a transistor of the inside and outside - it is both weight and weightlessness, a bridge between the light and dark, the heat and the cold. The French psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu described the outer shell of the body as ‘skin ego’; which supports the psyche in the same manner as a skeleton supports the body. He also believed that the infant must first understand how to make its skin its own in an ongoing learning process. Being submerged in the parental and the collective – bearing genes, memories and trauma of the Other - alongside physical resemblance, requires a gap for separation, identification and introspection.


In Programmed by my Father, Lucas Gabellini-Fava preserves the skin in 240 images, amalgamated into only two photographs through photogrammetry, a process used for creating 3D models. This scientific technique employs photographs as a means of measurement and constructs precise replicas of real-world objects and sites, as it offers more accuracy than a single image ever could. In Albrecht Dürer’s piece ‘Man Drawing a Lute’ one perceives the mathematical drawing of a lute in an early form of photogrammetry, which was often employed in drawing and painting before photography. Dots were used to mark the canvas and utilise the straight lines light travels in to achieve a perfect rendition of perspective.


Gabellini-Fava’s two photograms inhabit a three-dimensional flawlessness on a two-dimensional surface – distorting the human body and giving birth to something new. ‘Pelt I’ & 'Pelt II’ are presented in a life-size scale, allowing the skin to unfold to its full length and width. Here, the skin begins to take the form of a map - all of its scars and punctures enlarged, permitting the viewer to experience the body as a landscape. This fragmentation, yet wholeness of the body provides an escape from a geometrical space, decomposing the Aura and allowing it to mutate into something new. Kiki Smiths declared that “skin is the surface or boundary line of the body’s limit’’ but here one observes never-ending skin, blurring the line between inside and outside, obliterating the end and beginning of a body.


These unfinished beings are perplexing and discomforting, as they simultaneously permit a whole view of the two selves whilst remaining completely silent and deprived of context. As a spectator, we observe how the beings extend into grotesque organisms and begin a life of their own. Gazing at their nakedness, they begin to provoke more questions than answers. The exposure of the almost nude grants utter vulnerability, where barriers are mechanically abolished. The experience takes place between the father and the son – stripping away any physical obstacles and facades, allowing them to slip back into a state of ‘being’ rather than ‘becoming’. The work is not for the spectator to undergo in this indifferent world, rather it is the start of an intimate journey for the artist, where he tries to distinguish between a personal and shared reality. Through this body of work, Gabellini-Fava uses the skin as a playground - encompassing and understanding his own relationship with his father. He starts with the act of being wholly and collectively submerged in the production of the work, and reaches the point of revealing unfamiliar layers, even to himself. Immortalising those moments by releasing the shutter, as well as the wholeness and temporality of the flesh, turns the bodies into proud totems.  


The landscape consisting of high-definition wrinkles, creases, hairs, and of all the scars traversing the skin’s surface, is accompanied by an artificial intelligence. This formulates another layer of this multi-spacious work and breaks the inherent silence. Growing up in a flux between family affairs and homes lays the foundation of this unspoken trauma – always experienced but never consciously lived. The artificial intelligence—man-made, yet cold and digital—constructs a much deeper sense of comfort and warmth, functioning as a point where the past, the present and the future coexist simultaneously on a single plane. Here, the artist reaches a point where the only way to communicate is through the language of a machine, as these conversations have never actually happened and never will. He begins to collect and to archive all the dialogues which have taken place between him and his father, and distills them into the consciousness of the AI, forming a single collective mind. The fabrication and misunderstanding, which lay within memory, are shared but not easy to confess, thus the code is left to fill the gaps in the relationship.


The area occupied by the AI code mirrors the space in which Carl Jung meets his father after his death. Both experiences unfold in an illusionary, fictional location, which cannot be reached by the physicality of the body. Jung dreams everything that didn’t happen between him and his father, whilst Gabellini-Fava uses code and algorithms to verbalise all the conversations which never took place between him and his father. Fulfilling the “father hunger” through the proxy of an AI allows for the parent as an ‘’inner object’’ to change its behaviour and personal relation.


The AI alongside the photograms develop a never-ending record of non-existent dialogues, which the father and son will never directly experience. The bodies are mummified through the conservation of their digital peels - encapsulating words and syllables, carrying concepts of belief and expectation. Gabellini-Fava attempts to resolve a conflicted past through the calculated algorithms and the code of the artificial intelligence, attempting to conclude never-answered questions.