Capturing the daily life on campus for the portrait wall in Omnia

In the coming months, Giacomo Sardonini will become a familiar face on Wageningen Campus. Sardonini will shoot hundreds of hours of video as part of his project to modify the wall of portraits of rectors in Omnia. Who is Sardonini and what is his vision for the portrait wall?

Giacomo, how did you get involved in the process of modifying the gallery of portraits on the wall in Omnia?

It was very random, actually. I was in one of the Dialogue events of Simone Ritzer and she mentioned that there was this idea of redesigning the wall. I was standing there with her, looking at the portraits and I was just brainstorming, very casually, what could be a nice idea. And then she said she liked the idea and so she wanted to let me know when there would be an official meeting of the Portrait Gallery working group. I joined the meeting. I presented my idea in a slightly more structured manner, and everybody ended up liking it.

What is your background?

I have a bachelor in environmental sciences, but I decided to quit sciences and then studied cinematic storytelling by myself, so all self-taught, for the last three, almost four years now. So, if I have to describe what I do in one term, it's visual storytelling.

Visual storytelling already hints at what we can expect. But could you describe your idea on the changes to the portrait wall in Omnia?

The idea is to visually tell the story about daily life on campus. We plan to have a video series that shows what it means to be on campus every day, not just the spectacular things that get told on TV and newspapers and articles, but to show all the mundane parts that take place during campus life. What that is supposed to do is tell what is behind that one article that gets published or that one discovery that is then promoted.

If I go to Omnia in a couple of months and look at the wall, what will I see? Will I still see the portraits?

The design is basically to keep only the portraits of rectors, and add screens showing these videos. And what this is supposed to tell is how rectors have managed to come to this point, thanks to all the members of the campus, the students, professors, staff members and such. The screens are going to show videos that are going to be around six seconds long and it's going to show a series of everything that goes on on campus. Leisure activities like people hanging out outside of campus on a sunny day, having a chat at the cafeteria or the common areas around campus. There will be people looking at their phone during their break. And there's going to be the people that clean the windows, and the gardeners, there's going to be students in class meetings, et cetera.

The idea is to level every job, whether they are better paid or less paid, have higher status or lower status. It is thanks to the people that clean your windows that you can do your job, which can then be noticed by your manager, who can deliver something interesting to their boss. Everything is related. Hopefully, this will allow us to value everyone’s job.

Give a voice to the people that don't feel heard because they think ‘I'm just a cleaning person. I’m not that important because here is someone trying to find a way to end the water crisis’. As much as that can sound more relevant, important, and more globally impactful, it's not that we don't need you. We still need someone to clean the building. Because otherwise we don't have a space to find a way to end the water crisis.

We like to also mix in people in complicated compositions, where we show a little bit of the frustration of being on campus or the hardworking long hours that we spend on campus. It will also show faces, sometimes from far away, sometimes close-up.

Was your idea like this at the very beginning of the process or did it evolve in response to feedback?

I don't think it evolved that much. Maybe it evolved in terms of understanding the more specific criteria that the community was giving. But it was actually like what I was proposing that first time.

I reckon you need a lot of videos for this idea. Will we see you a lot on campus?

Yes. I Will become that annoying fly that you have in your office, but also hopefully a more pleasant presence to have around. The idea is to portray those people that are not seen by everyone because they're doing something enclosed by four walls. So, I will try to go to as many places as possible on campus. I intend to cover at least all the buildings of campus, but then, it will be nice to cover all the departments too. I have to reach out to everyone that is involved for access and permission.

Did you shoot some video already?

We started almost a month ago and went around campus three or four times already. We had some issues in terms of bureaucracy every now and then. And also, some people feeling a little bit embarrassed at being filmed. We really like to establish a trust connection with the people on campus. But at the same time, we don't want to impose this on anybody. It is important that people get to know us. We’re doing this for them, in a way, but if they don't agree with the concept or they feel shy, there is no problem with that. Of course, we do not want to obligate anybody.

I can imagine if people are hearing or reading this, they have some ideas of their own and would like to give you suggestions, on what to film for instance.

Absolutely, that is something very important for us. We would love to get in contact with people actually asking us to record, maybe something that they find particular in their working environment here on campus. They can reach me, either through my email: or also through the Omnia-email. Basically, anybody that is involved with communication can refer back to me. However, at the moment, not everyone is aware of our existence. So slowly, more and more people will know that we are here and then everyone can refer to us in one way or another.

Are you looking for special images? From events, for example?

We want to keep the project as broad as possible. We want to have those specific events that might take place in a specific department, like a research department, or even student associations that are having events. We would like to portray these people for sure. But at the same time, we want to capture those very intimate moments of people in their working environments that only they know because they spend eight hours every day in a lab, for example.

They know that the sun comes in at a certain time and shines on a specific thing and they find that beautiful and unique; that makes their working environment personal for them. That's something that we really would like to capture.

It sounds like we're not talking about shooting video for a week. How long will you be shooting?

The idea is to go on until June. We will likely have some sort of opening of the modified portrait wall earlier than that, but it's not that once we do the opening, then no more videos can be made. We just want to present the idea, that this is happening in an official way. After that, we can still add, remove and change videos. The idea is that it's ever changing.