“The Purple Line” – Interview for ‘La Lettura’ (2021)
Art, politics, commitment. Your work revolves around these terms. How can these different concepts be combined?
These are not different concepts. They are all in one, because art is only possible with absolute commitment and if it’s art it must be made politically – as example I am thinking of the art of Caspar David Friederich. “The Purple Line” is also an example: the freestanding uninterrupted wall, the purple paint, the decision to show almost all of the “Pixel-Collage’ is the form, and to engage for this form means ‘working politically’. I never, ever, use the term of ‘Political Artist’ or ‘Political Art’ – each artist is completely engaged in its and with its work – if not there is no chance to get any critical response.
Do you consider yourself an heir of history painters or a traveling companion of contemporary photojournalists?
I consider myself as an artist. An artist is – I think – somebody who’s question, who’s problem, who’s mission is: To give form. To get a position and to give form to this position. I am asking myself: How can I give an universal form? And how this universal form can reach beyond economical, cultural, social, aesthetical habits?
In your poetry, you oscillate between action and testimony. Your “monuments” are an expression of a need for action: you behave like an activist. Your collages show a need for testimony. What does it mean, for a contemporary artist, to act in the body of society and witness some dramas of our time?
I am an activist, I am the activist of my work of art. It is simple: I am – as such – an activist. Without my activity as artist there is no form of mine in the field of art, therefore I need to be activist, entirely committed to my form, engaged completely within my work. But this activity, the activity of hope – which is constitutive for doing art – comes from being a witness of our times, the time I am living in, comes from the desire to confront our reality, the reality which is mine, and comes from the will to encounter our world, my world. I want to struggle with the factual reality affecting me. I want to act, I refuse the role of a commentator, or of an observer. I need to put a new light, and I need to invent a new perspective. I want take each chance or opportunity – in and toward my work – to affirm Equality. Yes, I believe in art and I have faith in art. I think the mission of an artist consist in doing a work of art which reaches beyond history, a work of art which touches – coming from my historical field – an a-historical field, and a work of art which – in any cases – resists historical facts.
Your work always offers itself as a montage between heterogeneous fragments and distant ruins. What is the role of editing in your philosophy of art?
In doing collage I use printed matter: it’s not editing, it’s gluing. I use printed matter, either from a Newspaper, a magazine, an advertising or as well a print-out from my computer. What is essential is that there are prints. It’s decisive because – contrary to a ‘montage’ – the Collage-Work integrates the distortions, the gap between the sizes and everything which does not match. Often a collage does not at all – or at least not completely – fit, and this is absolutely crucial for doing collage, because it’s the part of mystery, the part of chance, the part of non-prediction, the part of genius in the method of collage.
Can you tell us about your idea of collage on which the cycle now on display at Maxxi is based?
I love making collages. It is something fundamental, something essential that I have always done, in two or three-dimensional works. I love the collages of John Heartfield, Hannah Höch, Kurt Schwitters and the three-dimensional «Grosses-Plasto-Dio-Dada-Drama» by Johannes Baader. Making a collage is simple, it can be done quickly and it is fun. There is nothing more common than a collage, it doesn’t require technique, it’s unprofessional and easy, and almost everyone has once in his life, made a collage. Making a collage always has something to do with headlessness. That is precisely what interests me, because there is no other means of expression with such a great explosive power. A collage always remains explosive. A collage is resistant; it escapes control, even the control of the one who made it. The body of work called “Pixel-Collage” is made of three elements: A paper print-out from the internet of a destroyed human body, a print-out of the advertising part of a fashion magazine and a pixelated part. After gluing together the two first prints I use the pixel in order to link together both pictures and I want – beyond the link which reunites them – propose an abstract lecture of the collage. It’s abstraction – throughout the pixelation – which gives the possibilities to reach the visible as truth. It’s abstraction which helps to reach and to confront the image, if not to understand it. It’s abstraction which gives the truth. It’s not the information about a fact or the document about an actuality which creates truth. Facts, information, documents can only be verified – this is journalism – but they’re not about truth. Truth, only art and philosophy again can reach. There are 118 “Pixel-Collage” presented at MAXXI, almost the entire series which counts 121 works. The only 3 ones not at MAXXI are either too large, on exhibition elsewhere at this moment or too expensive to transport to Italy.
Collage, for you, is a way to give voice to the dissonances of our age and to tell the entropy of the present time?
Doing Collage is a method of work but also a way to reach the world I am living in. Doing collage means to work with already existing elements, sometimes very different, dissonant, or even contradictory elements of this world, to glue them together and – in doing this – to create a new world. Doing collage is a form of expression based on the confidence that everything on this world is linked together. To do a collage gives a form to this hidden, secret, confidential links, therefore a collage – all kind of collage – is always a positive, an affirmative, and a joyful act.
How did you combine disturbing news images and fashion images in The Purple Line?
Each of the “Pixel-Collage” in “The Purple Line” wants to propose an extension, it is the extension of understanding the term ‘abstraction’. Abstraction is the key-word in this body of work. The “Pixel-Collage”-Series wants to extend the comprehension of our world, time and reality in taking the pixelated part of the image as an entire part. It’s the try to understand the pixels as abstraction, an invitation to think ‘abstract’, to accept the dimension of ‘abstraction’ in the picture. “Pixel-Collage” wants you to understand the world, the time, the reality in their abstraction. Thanks to the abstract pixels we can reach with the picture. It’s the refusal to read the pixelated, abstracted part of the image as something forbidden, censored, secret, hidden, negative. It is a complete change of the meaning of pixelation. “Pixel-Collage” wants to extend facts, to extend information, to extend documents. The extension leads to abstraction and in no cases the extension leads to more actualities, to more facts or to more journalism. I want to look at the world with my eyes, with no information and I want to say: Every wound is my wound! I am part of the world and all the violence of the world is my own violence, all the hate is my own hate. I am not interested in escaping the cruelty of the time I am living in. I want to put the whole world into my work. I want to put everything in, the whole universe. I want to express the complexity and the contradiction of the world in one single work. By the way, I never use the term ‘disturbing’ because who defines what is disturbing to whom? I ask you: What is really ‘disturbing’ today? Images of fashion-advertising, destroyed human bodies or pixelized images or part of images?
How do the repressed and the hypervisible coexist in your new job?
You say it – they must co-exist. This is precarious, this is the fragile, this is the uncertain, this is the affirmation but also – I believe – this is the future: Co-Existence!
Can art be a useful device for bringing to light the repressed of the present?
Indeed, with philosophy, art is the only light. It’s the only ‘inner-light’ or the ‘light-as-such’. Art is the only light which lightened up as such, which lighted beyond any limits and also which consumes itself . Therefore Art can – because its art – establish a direct contact, from one to one, with the other.
In your opinion, is art a magnifying glass that allows us to better look at the pains and dramas of the news? Those pains and those tragedies that we often observe distractedly.
Yes, art is a magnificent tool. Art is a tool to encounter the world – we are living in, art is a tool to keep contact with the time we are living in and art is a tool to confront reality which surrounds us. If I get in contact with art – which is its power and its strength – I can’t do it with distraction, neither can I do it as an observer or commentator – I need to get implicated. Implication means to be touched, to be changed, to be transformed by art.
The Purple Line orders many works on a single line. Could The Purple Line be read as a contemporary frieze, inspired by classic friezes?
My inspiration for “The Purple Line”, beside the meaning of the limit of visibility of the color ‘purple’ in the spectrum of colors, comes from the will to propose – in the remarkably strong architecture of MAXXI – a dense, charged and absolutely autonomous logic due to its content – the “Pixel-Collage” – and also due to its formal aesthetical decision to draw a line, a 266 meter long freestanding, purple-paint wall – hosting the “Pixel-Collage” works – which wants to stand resolutely non-related to the building, to the art-institution, and to its location as museum.