Flash art, 2010 / Interview by Luciano Marucci, published in Flash Art, July 2010
Paiting and Sculptire in Physical Cultural Emotional Spaces
Luciano Marucci: In revisiting your artistic career we deduce that your current production has become more open and complex, although it remains firmly subjective.
Alfredo Pirri: Subjectivity and openness aren’t completely in contrast; an attunement of the two allows me to speak to others from an individual and locatable position through the work. This is an open gesture, a generous one; an offer with no safety net… the work projects itself towards the eyes of those who watch, it travels towards them to create a complex relationship. In my work I’ve always realised how necessary, and at the same time how hard, that balance is. I think the artist – at least in my view – runs after his own work, he follows is as it moves from one extreme to another: from the large to the small, from the private to the public; its path is real, it isn’t metaphorical. In moving, the artist takes with him a portion of one side and pours it into the other, attempting to homogenise something which is different, by nature. This toing and froing creates a dynamic and harmonic tension which gives the work its very life… my work happens in this movement.
LM: The spatio temporal and ideal expansion also points to a will to ‘expose’ thought, through words and through writing in order to make it become part of the work.
AP: Writing and talking aren’t integral parts of the work. If anything, we could say that the work produces words within us. Through words we attempt to give shape to a rituality and to a community which we want understanding and caregiving. Through the work, day by day, we build up our vocabulary: without the work there would be no vocabulary, one generates the other, but the act of speaking never comes close to the act of making, in fact it tends to keep itself at a distance from it; in the best cases, it is so distant that from its place words wouldn’t suffice to describe it. I myself feel authorised to talk about my work to prove that I have a distance from it, from the pieces which result from these processes. If I owned the work competely and integrally, showing the work to the world in a perfect symbiosis with words, there would no longer be a reason for the work to exist. The true aim of words is to give musical shape to the distance which separates us from the work, letting us hear the melody of that distance.
LM: In your constant experimentation you follow a para-scientific method, which combines traditional and more evolved techniques. Do you think this engenders new creative possibilities?
AP: All techiques are based on the necessity of reaching a certain result, the result for which they were initially developed, and it’s normal to mix techniques in order to obtain a certain result. It’s the principle of every composition. Earlier, I was speaking about the necessary complexity for a work to take shape: this complexity isn’t only about a way of working, but also about a way of knowing which allows for a synthetic work of art to appear. This is my method, it’s what I’m interested in; I’m not that interested, on the other hand, in finding the new. I’d like my work to be unoriginal, something to be gazed upon with simplicity and immediacy.
LM: This circular activity, which passes through behaviour, construction, communication, is undoubtedly to be applauded. But doesn’t organicity run the risk of limiting innovation, or the exploration of other themes?
AP: The organicity (as well as the organism) of a work of art is a result which completely outweighs the sum of behaviour, construction, communication. Its quality isn’t determined by the life of its author, by the way it’s made, by the language it speaks. Its body is unstable, subject to change; it is modelled according to how it’s held in a given moment. It’s like holding a baloon tight in your hands: the air you compress on the one side always appears on the other. The part in excess, the one whose formation we hadn’t predicted, is the part which wanders off in search of new forms, of different meaning…
LM: Isn’t instability in contrast with the search for an equilibrium?
AP: An equilibrium is the result of a continuous movement, of a set of uncertain steps; we shouldn’t see it as still. After all, a tightrope walker who stays still for too long eventually falls off.
LM: The reccurring projectuality, the use of extrapictorial materials, compositional accuracy, and starkness of the work make me think of a common ground with design…
AP: Design is based on such a dangerous balance… it offers us the choice between a useful object and pointlessly playful one. In my work, project and materials disappear into the piece, they no longer affirm anything about their presence, they don’t wish to attract or seduce, or to seem useful or useless.
LM: Recently, are you thinking more of institutional spaces? And are you particularly interested in religious spaces? Does the artefact aim to transcend, apart from interacting with with physical and cultural, historical or modern space?
AP: I’m interested in the shape and in the narrative charge of these places, in how they attract us to the point of embracing us… and then leave us lonely. I’m not only talking about religious spaces, but of all choral space: the square, the museum, the historic site… spaces where the collective and the public merge with the individual. Places that form alliances and disaporas at the same time. The pieces I develop for these places combine these opposed aspects, producing a narrative which is fragmented but evocative of stories. I like to think that the same thing happens in smaller or more private, more intimate spaces… Maybe the work always turns a space into something undefined which belongs to everyone’s memory and history.
LM: Could we see these projects of yours as extensions of painting and of sculpture into space, aimed at a simultaneous vision?
AP: I think any project that works offers that, an ample and simultaneous vision capable of holding together distant times and places: the big and the small, the past and the future.
LM: Visual arts need other constitutive elements to define and transmit its identity.
AP: Of all arts, it’s those we call visual which pose the questions first, while other art forms tend to arrive later. It’s the only true avantgarde, maybe because it doesn’t have the influence of temporality… that’s its privilege, and its curse. Its primacy is develped in linguistic and social microscopic folds, where its diapason is prepared, and which eventually attunes the other arts and taste in general. Sometimes, though, reality ferociously anticipates its visions, and the avantgarde becomes terrorism… This is what often happens: reality hijacks the space of art, displaying all of its destrictive clumsiness… I don’t mean art should self-generate, but I do think it can be characterised by something atemporal: not outside of human time but in constant opposition to historical time. Art is a well, a sort of black hole within which all disciplines precipitate, and from which they reappear in a renewed form. And naturally, it has its genesis in a relationality to everything else; my work is also like that, just that for me the best art happens when it forgets its origins, when it shows itself unbound to all the facts, images, phaenomea which pointed it to this or that solution.
LM: What are the most functional contaminations, in your work?
AP: I’ve spoken elsewhere of a performative aspect of my work; by this I mean something which comes from the work but which is diffused into space and invades it, not something real, or something concerned with time – an opening up of perception which is at the same time theatre, architecture, narration… a completely imaginary dimension which keeps the work immobile yet in motion for the viewer’s gaze. Even when I work in real space, I want it to come across as if it were representational, rather than physical, space; spaces which are also transformed by the spectator, whose presence or movement alters the image. I’m interested in creating the living impression of being inside an image, but not of being still inside it: rather, giving the sense that the spectator enters into a struggle with the image’s essential solitude, and with the contaminations which generated it. My work takes shape in a friction, between a bastard knowledge on the one hand and, on the other, a feeling of belonging to the specificity of art, to its legitimate and direct filiation.
LM: Do you frequent artists many in Rome?
AP: Meetings happen when the right places for meeting exist, and these no longer exist, or not yet. Frequentation, amongst artists or amongst anyone, happens when you share facts and ideas, and these are no longer meeting grounds, but grounds of mere exchange. So now frequantations have become singular, and the sharing of ideas has become a sharing of information…
LM: Do you spend time mostly with intellectuals and experts, to better your knowledge?
AP: I try not to frequent experts of any category or discipline; specialists bore me. Whereas I happily spend time with open people who don’t use their knowledge to offend, but who offer their knowledge to you like a headily scented flower.
LM: Do you have an ideological relationship with the everyday?
AP: When I was a student I was an anarchist, and I was fascinated by the writings of the Situationists. I fondly remember Raoul Vaneigem’s Traité de savoir-vivre à l’usage des jeunes générations. I have never given up on the idea that ideology is constructed every day, rather than once and for all.
LM: Do you think the work of art (which is generally meant for an élite) has the power to modify the perception of the world?
AP: I think the destiny of the work of art is to become an integral part of a people, to offer a people a form, a way, an imagination. More precisely, I think the pathway of the work of art and the pathway of a people run parallel, and that as such, they’re destined to meet at the point of infinity, where the dream of art and the popular dream will finally come together.