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Critical Practice

Elena Lo Presti

My name is Elena Lo Presti, my pronouns are she/her, and I am a multidisciplinary artist originally from Roma and now based in London. Prevalently working with ceramics and writing, I am interested in creating an alternative form of visual narration where the personal and the domestic become the main vehicles for sharing.

I have studied at Arts University Bournemouth, Kyoto University of Art and Design and more recently at the Royal College of Art, exhibiting internationally from Kyoto, to Oxford, to the online realm during more recent times.

My most recent group exhibitions are Pending at San Mei Gallery (London), SISSI Club x Everything Forever at SISSI Club (Marseille), Quilting the Commons at AMP Studios (London) and the upcoming Not a Sphere but an irregular shape approximating a biaxial ellipsoid at DOOResidency (Amsterdam).

My written work has been published on New Critique (2021) and The Paper (Edited by Good Press, 2021).

I have had the pleasure to be selected as one of the recipients of the Youth Innovation Fellowship 2021 organized by Business Launchpad.

I’m part of Thiasos, a multidisciplinary performance collective working within intersectional feminism, based internationally.

My interest in storytelling starts while listening to my nonna, my grandma, while I am growing up in Rome. When we cook together she tells me many different things: “When you roll the pastry for a strudel, it should be so thin that you can read a love letter through it”, or “You need to wrap each tortellino around your finger, like a ring with a precious gem: close it tight so it doesn’t break”. My nonna also teaches me how to knit and crochet: she makes me dolls out of waste yarn, with colourful skirts and long braids. I observe her fingers moving and as she crochets their belts. I imagine all sorts of stories hidden in the fabric, in the sewn smiles of the knitted dolls. And I want everyone to know.


For me and my nonna, food and knitting and the stories behind those actions (told and untold) are ways to connect. I have developed these connections through a practice that focuses on how memory, food and crafts can intertwine with fiction, forming a reality in between what is imagined and what is not, utilizing multidisciplinary media such as ceramics sculpting, knitting and writing, video, sound and participatory community projects. I think there is where a sense of community and of communal feeling can lie, in this space filled with nostalgia and novelty at the same time.

This interactive multiple-choice text-based game was created in an attempt to find a way to make reading and exploring a narrative more accessible, giving the reader a way to interact with the text itself instead of the reading process being a passive interaction. Unabashedly Vulnerable is a collection of autofiction texts: the reader can pick where they would like to go within the story, allowing for the text to take very different turns and to be experienced each time in a new way. The structure of the game itself is circular, meaning that the text has no end, as every pathway you encounter will fold back on another one.

Medium:

Text-based game
Unfinished Bed-time stories (tra il Mar Tirreno e la Manica) — Duration: 7:26 minutes, 2021.

A series of relics, codified artefacts, containers of meaning. These vessels were hand-built with flecked white stoneware following the shape of ancient ceramics: the reliquiae are decorated on the outside with handwritten texts. They were born after thoroughly researching Egyptian canopic vases and Korean placenta jars, all containers for bodily remains. I imagined building containers for “memory remains”, and passing down knowledge through them through the decorative texts. Just like ancient pots had a story painted over them, I am writing down a narrative as well, sharing a variety of contents relating to my exploration of the domestic in relation to fiction (from cake recipes, to diary pages, to ancient Greek hymns). 


Medium:

Moving Image

Medium:

Stoneware ceramics, knitted cord
Bozza (Draft) — Duration: 2:00 minutes, 2020.
I didn't know who you were — Duration: 2:05, 2021.

These two moving image pieces were created using only materials from my personal archive. Memories are developed through an evolving auto-fictional text and imagery referencing life in Italy, displacement and comfort.

Medium:

Moving Image
Little pizza-toasts — Duration: 5:50 minutes, 2021.
Pane, burro e zucchero — Duration: 2:58 minutes, 2021.

These two audio pieces revolve around traditional Italian dishes, addressing memory, the formation of community and intergenerational narratives. For me, it's extremely important to amplify the domestic and personal space because I believe that’s where fictitious and reality meet. In a personal space there’s memory, there are dreams, there’s the body, there’s simultaneous awareness of past, present and future.

Medium:

Sound