In January 2021 in the middle of Italy’s second Covid-19 lockdown, photographer and director Raffaele Salvoldi’s work took a different turn. “That was a tough time since I wasn’t working and had a lot of free time. So, I started to build small forms to keep my hands and mind busy,” he tells Colossal, sharing that he tapped into the nostalgic, childhood activity of tinkering and stacking simple wood blocks.
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At the base of Salvoldi’s towering, temporary installations is a single component: KAPLA planks. Devised by a Dutch antique dealer in the late 1960s, KAPLA are an alternative to chunkier blocks that make it easier to build long or horizontal features like lintels and roofs. Initially, Salvoldi started with a set of 1,000 of the wooden construction bricks, and as he amassed thousands more, his constructions became increasingly voluminous. Spiraling columns, delicate towers, and airy apertures emerge gradually from a foundation on the floor, and the structures are often illuminated from inside and reveal dramatic effects in cavernous spaces. Each piece responds to its environment, drawing the eye upward to unique settings like the historic, neoclassical Casa Bossi. “The only limit is your imagination and, of course, gravity,” he says.
One of Salvoldi’s installations can take between three weeks and four months to complete, and rather than opening a show with a completed work, viewers are invited to observe as he adds piece after piece over time. “I believe it isn’t just a performance, rather a kind of a window on an artistic process,” he says. “That’s why I like to define it as a living, mobile room or atelier that people can visit and see the installation growing day after day, week after week.” When a show closes and the work must be disassembled, visitors are invited to deconstruct the installation by throwing additional planks at it until it crumbles, or the artist will devise a domino-like path of KAPLA that strikes at the foundations.
In May 2022, Salvoldi founded the project Wood Arc through which he continues his research into architectural and structural forms. Between February 12 and April 2, he will exhibit a new work at the 16th-century Villa Bono, just north of Novara, Italy. Find videos and more of his work on Instagram, and learn more about the project on his website.
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