Installation view

Equorea (di mari, ghiacci, nuvole e altre acque ancora) – 5.12/ Silvia Mariotti

ph. Simone Panzeri


Silvia Mariotti

Drowning Light, 2022

inkjet print on cotton paper and dibond, patinated brass frame

71 x 71 cm

Ed. 1/3 + 2 AP


Installation view

Equorea (di mari, ghiacci, nuvole e altre acque ancora) – 5.12/ Silvia Mariotti

ph. Simone Panzeri

Equorea – 5/12. Silvia Mariotti

05.05.2023 – 02.06.2023

From May 5th to June 2nd, 2023, BUILDINGBOX presents the artwork Drowning Light by the artist Silvia Mariotti (Fano, 1980).


Humans are said to have explored only 5% of the seabed, while the other 95% remains a mystery. In mythology and ancient cultures, our planet’s unexplored depths are a source of fascination, and represent a dreamlike, latent dimension. And from the 20th century onwards, they have been used in psychoanalysis to identify the subconscious.

Silvia Mariotti’s photographic project, entitled Drowning Light, is based on an observation of the process involved in creating cyanotypes using natural elements or cutouts of images that in turn reproduce botanical elements. The cyanotype technique is based on creating an impression of objects on paper, by means of a chemical solution that reacts to sunlight. Mariotti focuses on the process of transformation and the transition from the latent image to the final one, creating a kind of simulacrum; she captures this transition on camera during the developing process, while the chemical solution is being dissolved and removed with running water. The images thus use photography to capture a photographic process, short-circuiting the indexical nature of photography and generating ambiguous images that transform a mechanical operation into something undefined that evokes visions of underwater worlds.  These “games with water” are like traces of tiny universes that themselves tell stories or hide mysteries. The botanical elements floating in the images are like hints, clues or memories, secreted in a hypothetical seabed or who knows where, which conjure up unexplored areas or remind us of a distant past, a present moment or visionary dystopias, even venturing into the introspective, impenetrable realm of the subconscious.

For Equorea (of seas, ice, clouds and other waters) in BUILDINGBOX, Silvia Mariotti presents a photographic work from the Drowning Light project, set against an image printed on wallpaper that records an earlier moment in the development process. The work is surrounded by a neon constellation that represents signs of light, reproducing how light reflects on water; like an extension of the image itself, these reflections escape from the finite area of the frame, refracting onto the surrounding space and giving rise to luminous patterns that seem to slowly fade into the setting, leaving but the faintest of traces.


The exhibition is the fifth appointment of Equorea (of seas, ice, clouds and other waters), a project curated by Giulia Bortoluzzi, which involves, from January 7h, 2023 to January 9th, 2024, twelve Italian contemporary artists invited to explore the topic of water in twelve monthly solo shows, scheduled in a sequence that follows the lunar calendar.

The title references Eugenio Montale’s poem Falsetto (1923), published in the collection Ossi di Seppia (1925). The poem revolves around a girl called Esterina, described as an ocean creature (“equorea creatura”), and frames the sea as a metaphor for life and the wonder of living without worrying about the future: “The power that tempers you is water, in water you find and renew yourself.” Montale’s work picks up on the way we habitually associate water with life, a notion echoed by Mircea Eliade in A History of Religious Ideas (1949), which describes it as the total of all “virtualities”, the matrix for all potential life, the foundation of the whole world. Water is at the origin of all cosmic manifestation, symbolizing the primordial substance from which all forms arise, and to which they return, by regression or cataclysm. Water lies at the beginning and end of every historical or cosmic cycle. It will always exist, and never be alone, because it is germinative, encompassing the virtualities of all forms in its own undivided unity. In cosmogony, mythology, ritual, and iconography, water performs the same function: it precedes all forms and sustains all of creation. A symbol of life, it gives universal becoming a cyclical structure.


Following the cyclical pattern of the astronomical tides (which occur when the Moon, Earth and Sun are in alignment), at each full moon in the year 2023, BUILDINGBOX will play host to the work of twelve Italian contemporary artists, who have been asked to explore the theme of water: Ludovico Bomben (Pordenone, 1982), Jaya Cozzani (Mumbai/Kanchipuram, 1982),  Barbara De Ponti (Milano, 1975), Gaspare (Terlizzi, 1983), Michele Guido (Aradeo, 1976), Silvia Mariotti (Fano, 1980), Fabio Marullo (Catania, 1973), Elena Mazzi (Reggio Emilia, 1984), Ignazio Mortellaro (Palermo, 1978), Fabio Roncato (Rimini, 1982), Michele Spanghero (Gorizia, 1979), Virginia Zanetti (Fiesole, 1981).


The works presented in Equorea (of seas, ice, clouds and other waters) are site-specific (some are being exhibited for the first time, others are reworkings of previous pieces) and conceive of water as an emblem of all natural elements, and more generally as a form of life and creative potential. As a topic, water not only intrigues and inspires, but also elicits specific reflections on the future of our planet. Indeed, the life of all organisms on Earth depends on the presence of water and is shaped by its mutations: when it deteriorates, life becomes unsustainable.

There is as yet no proven scientific explanation of the origin of water on our planet. Whether generated by comets or meteorites crashing to earth, or volcanic eruptions in distant millennia, in the collective imagination it is associated with the mythological moment of creation, which contains the potential existence of all forms of life.