Chromosoma, an installation by Italian artist Enrico Tommaso De Paris, takes the viewer inside human DNA, guiding him along a path composed of microcosms and miniature floating communities, animals and humans floating in a sea of colored silicone, as one art critic so eloquently put it.
De Paris, an artist with a keen interest in technology and science, describes his work as a “three-dimensional, poetic representation of one of the most important biological elements of our body where, between active and passive genes, the life of human beings develops at temporal and structural level. Memories of our ancestors (dna) and contingent factors create the man of the future. ” It’s also a funky-looking series of four large steel sculptures, each more than eight meters long, made of test tubes, blown glass, silicone, PVC, monitors, videos, lights and audio.
The installation, housed in a 1,000 sq. meter builiding in Venice’s 16th century Aresenale as a collateral event of last year’s 51st Venice Biennale, attracted a lot of attention in Italy and De Paris went on to sell two of his Chromosoma sculptures for a reputed $50,000 apiece.
De Paris developed an interest in immersive photography after seeing it at a trade fair in Milan, but didn’t know where to hire a panographer. Enter Toni Garbasso, a Rome-based photographer (he frequently does work for VRWay), who had a professional relationship with Thetis, the maritime engineering company that hosts a section of the Biennale exhibition. Garbasso was happy to oblige when Thetis asked him to shoot some panoramas of one of their exhibits. After Garbasso showed De Paris a panorama he had shot of the artist’s installation, he was commissioned for the project.
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“He gave me the commission to shoot some panos at dusk,” Garbasso explains, “because the sculptures have a lot of lights that are not properly visible during the day.” The way the sculptures were positioned, however, precluded capturing them all in one pano. “I proposed that I shoot some normal panos to describe the system space/sculpture-installation under the requested light, but to make an experiment too, making a photomontage with all of the sculptures,” he says.
Garbasso and De Paris met one hot summer day in the Thetis space, where Garbasso shot two panos with the appropriate blue sky of dusk, and another four for each of the sculptures. Once back in his studio, Garbasso realized his photomontage concept would be difficult to implement, as it wasn’t so simple to cut off the sculptures from their context.
Garbasso describes the next few days as a nightmare: “It took me about four days to make the masks in Photoshop and to mix them in one pano. The background was first all black.” When every detail was finally retouched, Garbasso made the first submission to the artist, and while he was happy with the two simple panos at dusk, he felt that a sense of proportion was missing in the composite pano. “I agreed.” says Garbasso. “As a photographer, I knew that the perception of the volume of an object is described with shadows too, and in the [composite] pano the shadows were retouched away.” So he replaced the background with a fantasy background, but the results were too “kitschy”.
Thinking of how the sculptures had a space-age quality about them, Garbasso went on the hunt for a starry night panorama. “Landis Bennet immediately had the answer, and in a few hours provided me with a full resolution panorama of the sky (using Starry Night software), representing the stars as they should appear in the Venetian sky on the date and hour the panos were taken.” Both Garbasso and De Paris I liked this solution. The final touch was adding a collage of background sound, using GarageBand, taken from the original audio used with the sculptures.