During the past few months, we took part in a one-of-a-kind project involving Fabian Oefner and our friends at Bellini Nautica. The final output is ‘Disintegrating XI – Riva Aquarama’, a mesmerising image that shows the timeless runabout exploding the most magnificent way possible. Our team documented every single moment of the entire process, developing a photographic and video reportage recounting the whole, incredible journey.
‘Disintegrating XI – Riva Aquarama’ has now been added to Oefner’s Disintegrating series started in 2012. For the occasion, the Swiss artist ventured for the first time into a non-automotive context, successfully bringing to life 2.600 images with his unmistakable style, permeated by a meticulous analytical exploration: a sort of surgical operation that drives us in appreciating the charm of an Aquarama from the inside, resulting in a reinterpretation of the reality we know.
I have been captivated by the beauty of the Riva boats since I was a young boy. I remember walking along the quays of the Côte d’Azur, where I first saw these magnificent boats. The deep, saturated honey-brown hue of their hulls shone in the afternoon light, while the sun cast reflections on the chrome deck fittings. This fascination for the exquisite craftsmanship of Riva boats has stayed with me ever since. The connection is so deep that when it came time to create the first image in the Disintegrating series that ventured beyond automotive, it was natural to choose a Riva Aquarama as the subject. The memories of those ports, the breathtaking aesthetics and the unparalleled craftsmanship of the boats were my visual and conceptual compass during the creation of this piece.
To fragment reality is indeed one of the possible approaches to better understand reality, considering it as a collection of many small elements that form a larger picture. Elements to explore the link between time and space, reality and illusion. Each of Oefner’s works is characterised by thousands of shots depicting the singular components of the object under examination; shots that are juxtaposed to create the illusion of an explosion.
‘Disintegrating XI – Riva Aquarama’ depicts the split second in which a 1963 Riva Aquarama literally disintegrates, while running at full throttle over crystal-clear blue waters. Although the photograph seems to capture a fleeting moment lasting only the fraction of a second, it is in fact the result of a meticulously orchestrated process that required several weeks. Oefner photographed more than 2.600 components of an original Riva Aquarama that Bellini Nautica’s Rivad’s Vintage Restoration Department carefully disassembled: hull, dashboard, seats and even the two V8 engines. Panel after panel, screw after screw, Oefner’s shots captured every single detail down to the tiny mahogany splinters that magically “exploded”. To accomplish this, Oefner also jumped onboard an helicopter that hovered a few metres above the surface of the lake, giving him the right perspective that allowed him to immortalise the Aquarama running on water driven by Martina Bellini. Back in his US studio, the artist juxtaposed the 2.600 photographs into a single image depicting a moment that never really existed.
“Disintegrating Riva” serves as an exploration of our perception of time and reality. Oefner’s fascination lies in the paradox between what we see and our conceptualisation of time and reality. While the first glance convinces us that we have witnessed the disintegration of a boat at top speed, closer examination reveals the impossibility of the moment. The rapidly receding parts appear unharmed, perfectly in focus despite their apparent supersonic trajectory. This cognitive dissonance challenges the viewers to reconcile visual impressions with scientific understanding, creating a moment that our eyes affirm as real, while our brain affirms the opposite.
A particular memory emerges from the creation of the image. While photographing the various parts of the boat at the restoration workshop in Clusane, I noticed in a dimly lit corner a stack of mahogany planks. On top of the stack I found a sheet with a series of descending numbers. Confused by the sight, I approached one of the craftsmen, confiding in my limited Italian, and asked the meaning of these numbers. With a smile, he explained that they represented the wood’s moisture readings. He went on to describe the process involved in restoring the hull of an Aquarama: wood intended for use must be stored for at least five years, with regular checks on the moisture content of the planks every few months to ensure that it drops to the required level. Immense passion and patience. So, in a way, both our works are about the passage of time. This is what comes to my mind now, as I look at the finished work of Disintegrating Riva.
The work has been previewed during an invitation-only event on December 5, 2023, at the Spazio Gessi in Milano. On stage, during the unveiling, to present the ‘Disintegrating XI – Riva Aquarama’ to the guests, Fabian Oefner, Martina Bellini and Alberto Vassallo, founder of Car&Vintage. The original artwork is now showcased at Bellini’s private Riva collection.
In addition to the original work, printed in 8 units of 180 x 100 cm and framed in Aquarama-style mahogany, we print a Car&Vintage limited edition of 281 C-Prints — the same number as the Aquaramas built. Sized 45 x 75 cm, it comes with a numbered and signed Certificate of Authenticity. You can choose between Print only or have it framed in an elegant walnut box frame with antireflective museum glass. It can be purchased at the following link: https://fabianoefner.com/product/disintegrating-riva-print/
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