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16 June 2020

Research, Faith, and Identity of Two Astrological Twins

16 June 2020 - Written by Giuseppe Oliverio

Photographer Martina Zanin met Ana on a dating app and soon discovered they were both born on 16 June 1994, and with almost the same astrological chart. It was the beginning of her latest project May My Two Again Become One.

© Martina Zanin from May My Two Again Become One

Italian photographer Martina Zanin's relationship with Ana started in 2017 on a date application and it has been strange since its beginning. Long before they found out that they were sharing the same birth date - 16 June 1994 - and astrological birth chart, Martina had discovered that Ana was stalking her by connecting a false GPS application to the dating application. Martina thought she was a bit psycho, but instead of stop talking to her, she kept developing a long distance relationship. Beside misunderstandings and fights, they promised each other that they would have met sooner or later. It happened at the end of 2019, two years after the virtual encounter. Nowadays they exchange messages, mostly about the visual project that Martina started after this peculiar and somehow life-changing event.

Ciao Martina! Let’s begin with astrology. When did your interested started and how did it develop over time?

It all started with my mother. She was into occult practices, such as astrology, palm reading, and tarots. Before the existence of the now common websites for astrological reports, I remember she bought a box set for the calculation of the birth chart and started doing it to everyone. So, astrology laid inside me from childhood. It came out again in my teenage years, experimenting with my friends, and having fun guessing which was the sign of the strangers that we met and reading Paolo Fox’s horoscope everyday. We used to wait until midnight together eager to read the new horoscope. As many people do, I believed that the Sun Sign and Rising Sign were the most important and the only aspects influencing an individual. I discovered instead that astrology is something deeper than the daily horoscope in the newspaper. There is a whole world to discover and it opens new perspectives on the role astrology plays nowadays - using it more as a guide. As Geoffrey Cornelius said: “The Stars don’t persuade nor force, they indicate.”

© Martina Zanin from May My Two Again Become One

Why did you decide to explore yourself through this faith's connection and what did you learn from it?

The encounter between Ana and me has been something so otherworldly, considering its dynamic, that it disoriented me. Getting to know a stranger through a dating application and discovering that you share the same birth date and the same astrological birth chart is such a phenomenon that I needed to know if there was a reason, an explanation. I needed to discover if there have been synchronous events in our life course, and similarities in our behaviours and characteristics. My project started more as research on coincidences, on the role of astrology in the case of Twins, and Astro Twins - who are two unrelated people born on the same day, at the same time, with almost the same astrological chart. I also wanted to represent the feeling of ambivalence within human beings and how opposites coexist. The more I dig into these various themes and get to know Ana, the more I became aware of certain behaviours, about my past and identity. Initially, we interpreted our birth charts, from which came out aspects about my past and myself. Then, we met in person and started playing games of confrontation. For example, we wrote what we thought of the other at first sight; what we perceived asking questions on which was our favourite colour or our future expectations.

Many times I recognize myself in her and she in me. We walk at the same speed - a very fast speed - we use the same wordplay, we remember all the dates and codes very well, we are both lesbians and we are very determined about our future. The biggest difference between Ana and me is in our path: she is a mathematician and I am an artist. This made me laugh because my father always wanted me to study math and I thought that maybe I could have studied it! The whole experience reflects on the relationship with the other, how much this defines our identity, and it tries to solve the mystery of this casual encounter. There is confusion in the project’s narrative, where our identities merge. We become one through knowledge, confrontation and sharing, until regaining our own identities, though mutated and forever connected in/to the universe.

© Martina Zanin from May My Two Again Become One

The project is articulated and uses several ideas to develop its narrative. Which photographic strategy have you implemented to tell this story and all the complex elements it ties together? Were they planned or more something that you discovered over time?

In this work, photography takes different inclinations: it suggests, describes, connects, moves, and hides. The same goes for the text, which takes embodies different intentions: it describes, informs, becomes a clue or generates curiosity. The story unfolds through evocative images, details, documents, places, and portraits, oscillating between the two media. The theme of the double is strongly marked throughout the work. I link it to internal conflicts, the multiplicity of the human soul, the confrontation between the two characters, and the constitutive duality of nature: spirit and body, reality and magic, light and shadow. There is also a double within the double given by our Sun Sign and Ascendant - Gemini and Pisces. The theme of the double has been central to many narrative works since classical times as well as in cinematographic works. Some of the project’s references are The Double by José Saramago, or Krzysztof Kieślowski’s movie The Double Life of Veronique. I used mirrors, transparent surfaces, spheres, and shadows as they reflect and distort. They allow me to refer to an inverted self, an opposite or a mirror copy, or a hidden part of ourselves that is reversed; another reality. Twelve portraits reveal and conceal our faces during the sequence. They are linked to the planetary motion and to identity. In the end, the faces are intended to vanish in the black, which represents the universe. The work starts and ends with two black images that resemble each other but whose meaning is the opposite. One is the subtraction of all colors. The other is the sum of all colors. One is light, the other is pigment. Eventually, you do not have an answer because it is impossible to find one; but you have accumulated a lot of information and clues to elaborate your own beliefs.

The work is still in progress. Which elements are you still developing and are you working with the idea of making a photobook out of it?

The work is composed of many different layers and I am trying to place them on top of each other without dropping anything. Right now I am still developing material to include in the project as well as working on a series of poems and melodies made from the birth chart. In art history, in literature, and music, elements and astrological maps were handed down through codes and symbols within frescoes, poems and melodies. They were also used as spells and tools to communicate with the divine, to attract divine energies into our world and reach the truth. Just take as an example, Aby Warburg’s writings on Astrology from the Renaissance to Palazzo Schifanoia, or writers such as Yeats or Hughes, who used occult practices - including astrology - as sources of imagery and symbolism for their poems; as a way to articulate the invisible realm.

From the beginning, the idea was and still is to make a photobook out of it. Being a project composed of images and texts, it would be the most appropriate way of fruition, and the format I generally prefer. The real challenge will be to find the right balance and the way to include all the elements. I like the possibility to play more with the central themes of the project through the editing and the design of the book. It could give life to two different versions, or to a book that can be read from both sides.

© Martina Zanin from May My Two Again Become One

For this work, you have collaborated with Ana and a few astrologists. How was to develop a collaborative project and how did it enrich the narrative and your expertise as a photographer?

Being an artist gives you the possibility to embrace different subjects, to visit places, and make experiences that other jobs would not grant you the chance to. As much as I prefer to work alone, there are situations in which the collaboration is required to create something more elaborate and deeper as well as to become aware of what you are dealing with and telling. My best collaborators are books: novels, poems, and essays. I always read everything that can be inspiring and related to the topic that I am facing. In my practice, there is an interest to create plots of points of view on the same subject. In May My Two Again Become One, for example, there is an overlap of voices, perspectives, and topics. This has been the first step. For future projects I see more collaborations and intersections coming. I will collaborate with professionals and intertwine a variety of media according to the subject.

Identity, personal history, faith, and the randomness of life are some of the key questions we face in the course of a lifetime. How does this work relates to your previous work I Made Them Run Away and what do you expect now that the public will start interacting with these existential questions?

There are some points of intersection between I Made Them Run Away and May My Two Again Become One. Aside from the titles that each time are longer - lol - both use photography and text, both come from experiences I lived in the first person, and both weave together two points of view on the same story. I Made Them Run Away deals with memory, past, and the influence they have on the present and future; May My Two Again Become One, instead, deals with my present situation and it reflects on identity and its shape in relation to the other. One of my next projects will focus on the future, and photography will work as a tool to predict and create what we have not yet experienced.

I actually don’t know what to expect from the public. Initially, I was worried to deal with a subject such as astrology because it is burdened by strong prejudices and my intention is not to discuss its efficiency. However, the project embraces many different topics that I hope will serve as a key to open new possibilities of discussion and confrontation, as well as raising questions.

Why have you opted to focus your photography on personal and intimate stories in this early stage of your career?

It has not been a choice, it happened. It’s what I felt and still feel to do. What I love to do. I don’t think someone chooses rationally the focus of his own practice, it is spontaneous. If it’s not like that, then something’s wrong. At the moment I see my practice as based on my personal experiences but that embraces wider themes, such as relationships, memory, identity and other sub-themes based on the specific work.





© Martina Zanin from May My Two Again Become One

--

24th May by Martina Zanin

Black sky - black screen

A virtual encounter

A written destiny?

How many probabilities could have been

to meet a stranger who is me?

The sky, it says, it is the only equal thing we share

Tough it is not the truth, as the sky always moves

Two different places on earth do not have the same influences

but we got.

We got caught in mystery

that 24th of May 2017.

Written by

Giuseppe Oliverio

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