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Piazza di Spagna at Somerset House

A photo and video installation by British Director Mike Figgis and Italian photographer Massimo Vitali.


A little bit of Rome has landed in London. The iconic Spanish Steps were the inspiration for 'Piazza di Spagna', an art installation between British director Mike Figgis and Italian photographer Massimo Vitali. Having admired each others work for a number of years, a mutual friend, Vito Di Rosa got them together for dinner where the idea for a collaborative project was hatched. Then with the help of agnès b, the project could be realised and have its World Premier at Somerset House this August.

'Piazza di Spagna' juxtaposes Vitali's still photography with Figgis' moving image in an ecclesiastical triptych composition. The large format photographs capture the hoards of tourists who flock to the Spanish Steps every year and envelop the quadrant of velvet-bordered LCD screens that brings to life the activity within the photographs.

Through four female characters that seem plucked off Vitali's Spanish steps, one actress, rising star Katy Saunders, acts out the glimpses of life captured by Vitali. Taking on the guise of a street robber, femme fatale, student and glamorous teen, your eye flickers from screen to screen as the characters action overlaps and synchronises in true Figgis style, very reminiscent of his 2000 braking convention film, Timecode. The cheorgraphed action demands the viewer to examine with childlike curiosity the detail embodied in Vitali's photographs. We also become fascinated by the sociological dynamic as hundreds of single portraits emerge from the crowds. Setting the tone to the entirety of the work is the moody score composed by Figgis, which reverberates through The Terrace Rooms as the action unfolds on screen and photograph.

The intention of the work is to explore the relationship between static and moving imagery, however, the latter out weighs the former as the films dominate our attention. It's the difference between the eye of a film director and that of a photographer and the consequential narrative they each create, which is more interesting and successful.

Piazza di Spagna at Somerset house until 10th August

Open daily to the public from 10.00 - 18.00

Admission free.

Click here to watch an interview with Mike Figgis and Massimo Vitali by Freire Barnes and Sophie Smith.

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