Nosy parkers

With geometric shapes, clean and bright colors and a minimal aesthetic, Italian artist Valentina Loffredo’s new project looks like her previous ones: visually relaxing and pleasing. But upon closer inspection, these multimedia works are a little creepy, with human noses (without the corresponding faces) that don’t quite fit the scene.

Titled Nosy, Loffredo’s solo exhibition at the Novalis Contemporary Art Design Gallery in Wan Chai collaborates with the Italian Cultural Institute in Hong Kong and comprises photographs, installations and a limited-edition book. The exhibition runs until November 30.

Loffredo said the project mimics the conflict between technology’s seductive power and its dark side in an age of surveillance.

“Tech innovation, social media, smart objects and so on all have amazing features and have a way to pull us in that makes them irresistible – even to babies,” said Loffredo. “My project aims to recreate the same trick we fall for as digital citizens – to present a curated world that is at first glance happy and eye-catching and that, only after deeper reflection, shows some creepy features: the noses.”

Unlike her previous works, which used monotonous and uniform backgrounds, bold colors make the scenes fun and attractive – just like today’s hyper-entertaining social media environment.

Though humorous, the noses are also meant to be disturbing – to mimic what happens with digital devices. People are fooled into accepting the aggressive features as part of a fun experience – such as allowing apps to access photos and locations on cell phones – and end up being monitored and manipulated.

While spying eyes might evoke the same feeling of being violated, Loffredo thinks the noses do that while being more visually disturbing.?

“It works quite well practically too, as noses stick out from our face and I can shoot a person behind a panel or a wall and show only their nose,” said Loffredo.

One constant in her work is encouraging viewers to question things they take for granted- such as scale, gravity, balance.

This time, her theme is privacy, and the new feature in Nosy is the fact that the series “is built around the experience of the viewer and completed only by that experience.”

She shows the creative process in the exhibition’s booklets. Upon opening, the brochure turns into a panel with a hole which audiences can stick their noses inside to recreate a three-dimensional version of one of Loffredo’s photographs.

Another part of the exhibition, a limited-edition book, is Loffredo’s favorite creation, comprising another interactive element on a smaller scale. Besides featuring all works from the series like other conventional exhibition publications, the book’s accordion binding allows it to stand on its own while displaying a detachable nose on the cover. Handmade by the artist, the book is available in four skin tones, transforming the publications into a sculptural object.

The show is not just restricted to the gallery. Loffredo is also placing 200 sculptural noses in public spaces, restaurants and bars around Hong Kong, mainly in the Wan Chai district. These yellow noses raise questions and awareness about how surveillance tools are all around us, not only affecting our digital lives, but also our offline lives.

“Many installations are in shops that are open to the public, but also private businesses, offering the perfect excuse to literally stick my nose into other people’s businesses,” said Loffredo, who uses clay, resin, silicon and other materials to create the silly snouts.

If you’re lucky enough to spot these noses, post your sightings on Instagram using #NosyInTheWild and tagging @thatsval and @novaliscontemporaryartdesign to stand a chance to win a limited edition print photo signed by the artist. The winner will be announced on December 6.

(This article was published at The Standard on November 27, 2020: Weekend Glitz: Nosy parkers )

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