Italo Zuffi – Zuffi, Italo




Press release as a conversation between Italo Zuffi, Luca Trevisani and pinksummer

Luca Trevisani: Italo, your exhibition seems like an exhibition about reception, about audience. About the audience and the relationships that somebody else’s glance activates, when it lays down on an artist and his work.

Italo Zuffi: The exhibition should contain both the elements of reception and audience. A group performance structured in function of the word, of a couple of sentences launched in the final moments of the action: here, the public inside the gallery will be able to participate in a similar way to the one that, for example, determines the percentage of appreciation in TV programs (data that are sent to different centers physically distant). In another work, which consists in the audio trace of the opening of a recent exhibition by Eva Marisaldi, the public will instead get prepared for a reception in immersion, overlapping the presence and the behaviors of another public.

LT: Yesterday, while in train, I read two sentences, in two different books, these:

“The artist must be isolated, because only in such way he can become responsible for his gesture, without having to look for a general support.”

“Out there was an ‘actual reality’. The state of the universe changes – he once asked himself – if a mouse sees it?”

It reminds me of the story of the tree that falls in a forest, but nobody records anything, so, in some way, perhaps it is like it never happened…

IZ: The recording of a an event, even in its more algid and detached forms, is potentially always ambivalent, being able to re-activate a unitary and realistic image, or to generate a manipulated one. The level of responsibility the artist takes on, is also related to these two options. Regarding the question about isolation, certainly also what remains isolated is subjected to forms of recording, perhaps more localized and less methodical. I think that getting isolated, “getting out”, is useful especially to maintain autonomy and propositivity. Not meaning “isolation” like a withdrawal in the desert – I do not see it as a gesture determined by vanity, but indeed as a simple exercise through which it is possible to control what to leave outside and what, instead, to take inside.

LT: Are Italo Zuffi for the Italian audience and Italo Zuffi translated into English the same thing in different languages, or two different ways to pose, two different selections for two different looks? Or, rather, must the Italian artist be translated for abroad? And, for translating, I mean modulating/modeling for a distant glance… if he does not do so, does he risk not to be understood?

IZ: Usually translation is faced with the idea of “What will be lost?”. But to undergo alterations is inevitable inside the actual swapping frenzy, of acquaintances of always new linguistic and behavioral structures. And it is not useful to ask ourselves if this is the cause of a weakening compared to the “original” version. Anyway, on the elements of the clothing for the performance at pinksummer, both versions will appear: the one for the Italian market and the one that aspires to be on an international horizon. Regarding your question: for sure Italians are able to quickly understand the environment around, they have, in this sense, a phenomenal glimpse. Sometimes they use it to create chameleonic modalities, of a presumed adaptation, although later on you can notice this reaction was just temporary and superficial. Anyhow, I think that only few Italian artists have decided to translate in a permanent way their activity to get settled abroad for good. However, I think that the more intense looks and effects are produced exactly in front of forms which cannot be totally translated/transmitted.

pinksummer: Luca makes us think of Barilla pasta that can be found abroad in supermarkets: the same, but different. Is it possible to modulate ourselves for a distant look? What do you mean? A recent exhibition of Italian art abroad was titled the “Italian Syndrome”. Syndrome is a word introduced by Hippocrates to indicate a complex of symptoms where each one of them alone hasn’t got a particular meaning, but that, together with the others, creates a clinic recognizable case history. The exhibition included some forty Italian artists born between the 70s and the 80s, but the aim was to focus on the anomaly of the Italian way towards contemporary art, exclusively based on an individual initiative and on the incapacity/impossibility to create a system, or, rather, on our fantasy to make this impossibility systemic. It has worried us that the internationalization of Italian art would take on such characteristics. In a different, but similar way, it surprised us that Sofia Coppola in “Somewhere” would acknowledge to the Italian TV system the capacity to raise on an international level as a carrier of absence towards any value which is not an ass or a tit.

LT: The comparison with pasta is effective. Mediterranean diet is known and appreciated, besides that, for its intrinsic value, for the “narration” it has been object of, that has made it famous, requested, appreciated… The Italian artist has nothing to envy to the artist of another country, quality is not missing and never was, what I call narration – I cannot find another term – is missing. Italian art is not more complicated, weak, self-reflective or useless than the one born and raised abroad, and neither it lacks of specificity. What is missing is the ability to tell… The recently exported Italian has been able to transform the stereotype of cunning into a logo, otherwise he tells histories of the South of the Grand Tour… and of spaghetti eaten with hands. It seems like only in this way it is possible to get the most attention, and not through the not completely translatable/transmissible forms Italo is talking about…

pinksummer: For sure titling the exhibition Zuffi, Italo we are beyond the idea of an Italian syndrome, you denounce an actual pathology.

LT: Italo, you have divided your work into three areas of interest: architecture, competition, trembling. Thinking at this exhibition, but also in general, I would say that everything traces back to competition, meant as a possible relationship with the world: so architecture is the thing that manages the boundary between the inside and the outside, and trembling is the visualization of the tensions between the inside and the outside… I remember blind astronomic observers that do not see, walks that describe liquid perimeters, name of artists put in a competition as in the game of the tower… mine is not an interpretation, it is a provocation… a spur… what do you answer?

IZ: I like the analysis you do of the three ‘categories’, it’s striking: architecture as an edge, as a spatial limit, and trembling as an episode linked to the activities (often competitive) that happen around this border. I wanted to divide ‘somatically’ my works: actually, their allocation in those areas does not subtract them from belonging from a unique place/horizon. And, although not imposing to tend to a particular direction, the role played by the ‘competition’ has increasingly got stronger. I can interpret this tendency (both analyzing my single case and a broader scene – the result does not change) as the answer to a rather explicit stance of the artist, who uses reactive forms in answer to something that was obstructing/obstructs a full domain on his action.

LT: From what you say it seems like the category “competition” helps you finding a relationship with what is outside, with what happens in the world. It appears like one of the thousand strategies used by the artist to understand what he does, and therefore what he is, in the dialogue: there is the artist who does the curator, the one who writes articles, the teacher, the educator… all activities not at all new, but that in the last years seem necessary to the artist to feel complete, to see himself from the outside… to see which position he holds in the world, and from there to start again. It seems to me that your idea of competition is also this, an occasion to create and/or measure repetitions, to understand who and where he is at, in other words: it is a mirror.

IZ: I mean ‘competition’ especially in relation to specific questions that the artist asks, like “What am I working on now? What am I inventing now? What is the relationship between freedom and truth in my practice?”. Generally, what I like looking at in artists is the research for a clarification towards our position/role. At the same time, I believe that the increase of more ‘rigid’ formulations in our works (alternatively or together with the ‘normal’ studio practice), essentially comes from a declaration of weakness. The performance that I will present in Genoa will, in this sense, try to create an image that reminds environments where hierarchies live, but where a credible story about our work is almost absent. But, this last aspect is part of a shared incapacity: both the artists and their speakers have not been able to clearly set boundaries and criterions of that story. We both got lost in the barbarism of given orders, received orders, indulged orders.

pinksummer: About stories, missing or missed narration, do you mean news or History? Regarding actual Italian art history, it seems like the dense chronicle is not able to fix the turn inside history. Francesco Bonami, in his catalogue of Italics affirms that, about the voids and omissions made by Giulio Carlo Argan, Italy has been the victim of his critical rigors. But, choosing and discerning for History doesn’t also mean to take on the responsibility to omit with an authoritative, more than authoritarian, thought? Isn’t the “weak and diffuse modernity” of present curatorial practice equally authoritarian and less responsible towards the future? Tell us about your exhibition, it moves from a personal, contingent history, both regarding one and the other project you will present, and nevertheless it seems to recall something much less intimate and relative.

IZ: The exhibition would like to be a snapshot of my actual practice, broken in two by underscores of presence and the development of a thought disconnected by any dynamic of the bunch. You refer to Bonami and that is fine for me, because Bonami’s name will materially appear in the exhibition as a memory/trace of an encounter, even if the exact object of my reflection is not him: his presence is only the allegory of something incurable that has conditioned, in these last years, both the selected and the excluded: because, while the first benefited from the happy climate of some parades, the others were not able to plan any valid alternative. The incapacity to use collaborative forms, which characterizes us, has done the rest. The scene, meanwhile, was becoming more and more international – ‘international’ not in the sense of compromised, but in the literal one of ‘open to the world’, with the impetuous forms of its macro-pressures. The question then becomes: the Italian artist, after having interpreted the narrator of some idea of rurality in the passage towards industrialism, what can now re-invent?

pinksummer: We would like to end the interview to Italo with an open question, even though we should consulate you/ourselves with Beckett’s words “Try again. Fail again, fail better” (and, regarding rurality, do you mean Arte Povera? Germano Celant has never excused himself for his omissions and voids. Also Achille Bonito Oliva never did it. It would have made no sense. And yet, they are not art historians, and even less curators. Critics, for exclusion: the art historian works on what exists and creates a narration, the curator cannot synthesize, he is inductive and not deductive. Regarding these three figures, the curator, a more recent one, ‘uses’ artists to create his own thought, that’s why Italo Zuffi becomes Zuffi, Italo) but let’s leave this, let’s fix what we have got. What if these two projects of yours that refer to other Italian galleries, to other Italian artists: Eva Marisaldi and Luca Trevisani for the project of the press release, are a metaphor of the Italian system of the much ado about nothing inside a family, the Family – perhaps.

LT: Italo, must the Italian artist reinvent himself or rediscover himself? Or just be more confident? I ask myself why we have not appreciated and exported the aces, the bigwigs, that have avoided to praise rurality, doing much more… In the oscillation of taste the spheres of Oiticica & friends always come first and only later Gruppo T, first Eliasson and then Colombo, first Posenenske and then Lo Savio… The legend (true or not) of Michelangelo Pistoletto not seduced by the Americans, doesn’t sell his soul to the devil and refuses to become a pop artist with a green card, after the fact, 30 years later, has taught us anything? And what? A historical, beautiful work by Ed Ruscha says “Hollywood is a verb”. A verb, a state of mind, a mirage. Not a place, because it is not possible to look at Hollywood with eyes, it is not inhabited with body, but with desire, or envy. Here, if Hollywood is a verb, also Italy is; we must stop pretending we don’t know. But what kind of verb is Italy?

IZ: I perceive the line that goes from rurality to industrial as a same unique progression, where disorientation and immoderate optimism are linked to each other. I believe, then, that there will be a recognition for all those that have been able to represent that transformation from one and the other of its extremes. But at this point we can really close, and we would like to cite a passage of the interview to Marisaldi that accompanies her last solo show in Milan (at Rusconi gallery, exhibition where the audio that will be amplified in Genova comes from): “Subterranean dimensions of reality. Discomfort of the rough fellow”. A discomfort whose origin has not been clearly said, and that I have felt free to read in at least two ways: the non-adherence to a social and political distressing scene; or, the non-adherence to an artistic scene that, in substance, does not seem to work for the concept of hospitality – without which, how would be possible to embody that mirage, that desired condition you talk about? The glue then, also in a familiar environment, remains the paradox.