Interview for Exibart no. 77, February 2012.
Last Spring saw the birth of a spontaneous movement called A.R.I.A (Roman Artists in Assembly) in the Roman art community. How was it born and why?
A.R.I.A started thanks to the stimulus offered by the creation of a consultatory Board for Contemporary Art of Rome. I don’t know if we can call it a ‘movement’, I don’t think it has that sort of cohesion of intents and of perspectives. It’s a mobile assembly which meets when it sees fit to do so. The first ideas we fixed were the result of a sharing of different imaginaries, which span a large space between the wish to brighten up everyday life and deeper ideas about the role of formation and of exhibition spaces. It’s about confronting big ideas with small facts. For example the need for a space which we’ve called Bar, a term which evokes the places we meet, in a way which isn’t always logical or always sober, and which is fused with this imaginary place which we have mostly devoted so far to the elaboration of ideas. Now all of the ideas written in our first document (Bar, School, Newspaper, Museum) have become concrete ideas, but they’re first and foremost imaginary spaces. At least for me. Besides, I think what we’ve mostly done so far is create a sort of gymansium in which to rehabilitate the desire to know each other, to look to each other and, I hope for the younger members, to go beyond what has already been done.
There are many artists nowadays posing the problem of how to reinstall art into the centre of a larger cultural debate, and you also speak about it in your manifesto. I’m thinking about John Dewey’s ideas abotu the continuity between common experience and aesthetics. What direction is A.R.I.A. Travelling in, in this respect?
“[…] For Dewey it’s from the characters of experience that you get to art, that is, art is nothing other than the intensification of attributes of experience, of any experience, which is why the field of aesthetic experience is much larger than what we normally understand as the field of art […] the limits of this kind of definition have become clearer and clearer (low or inexistent informativity, circularity, difficulties in accountability for the initial states of art or of art made outside of the official circuits, illusion of being able to give the concept of art as purely evaluative, etc…) […]”.
This quote from philosopher Paolo D’Angelo (La critica dell’esperienza estetica nella filosofia analitica angloamericana In Esperienza estetica a partire da John Dewey, Rivista del centro Internazionale Studi di Estetica, Palermo 2007) allows me to clarify the reasons why the question of experience and of the sensible should acquire an absolute priority in our modes of perception, comprehension and analysis of art. Introducing parametres for judging art which don’t belong exclusively to its conceptual or formal origin helps us consider art as something wider within human experience, as well as (following D’Angelo’s advice) a vehicle for knowledge and for the transmission of a deeper understanding of nature (phenomena such as dawn, sunset, etc). Apart from revealing its intrinsically political nature, as experience of dramatic collective belonging: I use the word ‘dramatic’ because this belonging, this collective property, is certified by a subject, that is the artist, who guarantees the authenticity of art for the community who’s watching. Its mise en scène is founded on collective experience, it engenders collectivity. In this sense, the day we organised on December 11th last year at the occupied Teatro Valle, dedicated to the notion of ‘Disorientation’, was very significant: the succession of acts and actions over the course of 12 hours gave the sense that artistic experience begins with a ‘liveness’ which can’t be undone from artistic / political words and practices.
You often speak of the need for new relationships, what do you mean?
New relationships should initially regard artists themselves. In one of our first meetings, maybe our first, somebody asked: ‘who’s our enemy?’. I thought we could answer ‘ourselves’. Our first enemy is masked in false subjectivities (which forbid us from truly exploiting our solitary aspects) or in political fakness, which cuts us out from all forms of dialogue; I say this simply to speak of the most extreme aspects of our cultural behavior. These vices of ours are, of course, the place where most of our relationships in art come from, be it on an institutional level or on a spontaneous one. These new relationships should be founded, first of all, on the risks created by the meeting of subject and object. Between the subject of art (the artist) and the object of art (the world), between the artist and the institution (where the artist becomes institution and the institution becomes subjectivised), between the artist and the public (when the artist undoes him/herself from what he/she does, leaving the work naked so the public can try to conquer it), or between artist and gallerist (creating an ethical exchange which would do the work good), but principally between the artist and him/herself. These are just my points of view, which I like sharing with others.
The repositioning of the artist vis a vis his/her context strikes me as fundamental in understanding the necessities at the heart of this initiative.What do you mean by ‘distancing ourselves from the generically creative’?
It means considering creativity as something which has to do with everything that lives. So the creative act is a gesture which, more than others, puts in common artistic making and any other kind of making. But in spite of this, artistic making doesn’t resolve itself in the creative gesture. The fate of creativity is the confirmation, the rooting and the perpetuating of rules, thanks to which you can guarantee the existence of a species (including the human species). Whereas art always behaves exemplarily, but not in the moral sense of the term; rather, it tends to undo itself from its fate, especially when that fate appears as stable and completely shaped: art refuses to guarantee its support to any kind of survival. Which is why considering ‘creative’ work alongside the work of the artist is a mistake, although the border between the two practices is constantly being redesigned.
Another central theme in your debate deals with exhibition spaces. Your reflection includes the very concept of museum, which you define as place for narration. Could you explain this further?
The museum is the place of narration, not for narration. In fact any space, public or private, large or small, becomes a narrative space the moment art dwells within it. The exact opposite of the concept of white cube which disappears into a celestial elsewhere, untouchable by experience, distant from us. By narrative space we mean an environment determined to tell something in which the mine and the ours belong to each other (the opposite of what postmodernism tried to do). We need spaces which push us to negotiate imaginative acts, within which we can exchange energies rather than forms, stories rather than news items. We need to be able to put time and space on hold, and prepare for a new temporal dimension: await while living, and while participating in life.