By Elsa Hawkes. Cover Image: Asia Niero, Hide and Seek, 2023.
Absence is the presence of nothingness, the non-existence of a person, emotion, or object.
Asia Niero is a first-year student in Multimedia Arts at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Her style tends to be minimalistic, creating an intense contrast between expressive emotion and nothingness. Niero emphasises that there cannot be existence without non-existence; there is no presence without absence.
THERE IS NO MEAT
Non c’è la Carne directly translates to “there is no meat” in Italian. Without meat, there is no substance, and nothing is genuinely in its place. Niero’s project is a contemporary picture book of black and white photos that visually interprets a lack of substance, denoting the powerful emptiness of something.
Colour is absent and, ultimately, personal and genuine. The artist hoped to depict what is ‘present’ by showing pictures of absence through a collection of photographs.
Within the blank pages in Niero’s visual essay, the viewer is placed in a position to interpret nothing. There is quite literally nothing on twenty-six of the seventy pages in the artist’s visual essay.
As I look at the blank pages, I search for meaning. I look for a mental image that I can translate to absolute nothingness. I am looking for something in its place.
But instead, my mind is blank, like the pages themselves. My eyes only take in what is given to me; in this case, it is nothing. The artist has given me nothing.
However, this was her intention.
She doesn’t want there to be a meaning, she doesn’t want there to be something in its place, and she doesn’t want the viewer to think of an image other than a blank page. She wants it exactly as it is; she wants it to be nothing. She wants her project to be silent.
BLACK AND WHITE GHOSTS
While looking at the scenes of empty hallways and non-present people, the viewer is caught by a sense of uneasiness. I can’t help but feel a bit disturbed while studying the images, as the presence of nothing is completely absurd. There are ghost towns, unoccupied seats, and freshly left comforters. After deeper inspection, the photos look rather depressing with a touch of discomfort.
The black-and-white pattern and the topic of nothingness are perhaps the artist’s way of translating abandonment and a personal feeling of loneliness into an art form. It is an outlet to reveal inner thoughts and create a pattern that she could share.
UNUSED CANVASES AND BLANK POLAROIDS
The visual essay leaves us with a debate of absence versus physical reality, a hot topic during the rise of virtual worlds.
Inside Niero’s physical picture book are three blank polaroids representing frames of reality perceiving nothing. Other examples of her work in Non c’è la Carne include an erased drawing of a portrait and a photographic print of an unused canvas.
Regarding the title, Niero adds a picture of an unused counter at a butcher shop. There is no meat in these photos. Instead of meat on display, there is nothing, only the reflection of fluorescent lights onto clean silver surfaces and plastic windows.
In a project about absence, it makes sense to have no subsistence. Niero retains the project’s bones, and she decides to add no extras. The project simply does not need it. There is no better way to convey absence than to show no “meat”.
Elsa Hawkes is a Fashion Styling and Creative Direction undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Asia Niero is a Multimedia Arts undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.