The Opening Response: Luca Staccioli
The Opening Response titles a special series of interviews with artists, curators, writers, composers, mediators, and space-makers around the world. Dialoguing within and around the thematics which have rapidly emerged as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we offer within this frame a differentiated, honest, and beautiful bid at understanding. Weekly, distinct doors are opened into the lives of the contributors; into their experiences dawning on pleasure, productivity, metaphysics, and paradigmatic shifts. Hopefully, these conversations can act as way-posts and lead to furthered empathy, unison, and co-creation. The Opening Response meets the need for weaving the autonomy of a web of conscious communications in times of extreme perplexity.
Luca Staccioli, visual artist and researcher, studied philosophy, painting at Ligustica Academy of Fine Art in Genoa, and visual art and curatorial studies at NABA, New Academy of Fine Arts, Milan.
He won the Fabbri Prize, emerging art session 2018, and in 2017 the second prize of Talent Video Awards, Careof, FIDMarseille, Mibact. Among his recent solo shows: 2018 – Donner à voir, Fondazione Pini, Milan; 2018 – The other other, familiar other, curated by Bite the Saurus, Riot Studio, Palazzo Marigliano, Naples; 2017 – Studio Visit duo show curated by Pietro Gaglianò, Museo Masaccio-Giovanni Mannozzi, San Giovanni Valdarno; 2017 – Je m’ouvrais pour la première fois à la tendre indifférence du monde, Waiting Room JONAS, Trento, Italy. Among his group shows: 2019 – Teatrum Botanicum, curated by Giulia Mengozzi, Pav Padiglione di arte vivente, Turin; 2019 – Voi rubate del tempo alla fretta, a noi il mare ci impone lentezza, CASTRO project, curated by Alberta Romano e Vincenzo Di Marino, Villa Di Lorenzo, HYPERMAREMMA, Ansedonia, Grosseto; 2017 – The Great Learning, a cura di Marco Scotini, Palazzo della Triennale, Milano; 2016 – NESXT, Kalki Club, Current project, Q35, Torino. The artistic practice of Luca Staccioli is research-based, process-oriented and involves different media including videos, photographs, paintings, drawings, collages. Conceived as narrations, his artworks question pre-established values and forms of colonialism, the exploitation of emotionality, the imaginaries becoming flattening tensions. The research of Staccioli stratifies and combines micro-histories, uprooted memories, as well as daily objects and nomadic images proliferating from global-local dimensions and technological apparatus, in order to re-narrate the models of representation and discover new ecologies.
Josseline Black – Reflecting on this recent period of forced isolation, how are you articulating your response in a public discourse? What is your role in this larger conversation?
Luca Staccioli – During the period of isolation, I felt sad. The solipsism of physical distance brought to light a deep social isolation, submerged by the violence of the crisis narrations produced by the media and slyly overwhelmed by virtual life sharing on social networks.
I think none of the surrogates of presence that we use to communicate and exchange at distance could fill up the void of physicality: the nostalgia of presence is intensified. I have the feeling that working remotely and through digital interfaces, people are more efficient but less emphatic. The crisis, its public responses and its chronicles, is so deeply influenced by anti-ecological politics on social, cultural and environmental fields, that I am not so surprised by these, even if I am quite scared.
JB – Did isolation happen all of a sudden or were we already experiencing imposed isolation, normativity, models of representations, hyper digitalisations of life?
LS – In spite of this, I think we can catch glimpses of a precious suspension of functionality here and there. Like a blooming crack on a piece of glass, which could run on the surface, breaking the barrier.
There is something magical in the suspension of habits and performativity, it could open a political space to imagine alternative meanings for the present times.
As an artist, I should question the iconographies of power and the consequent alienation they provoke in individuals and communities. Art could be a fundamental and critical lens for knowledge. I think doing art today, without simple statements or self-referentiality, but with an intimate, vertical and re-imaginative approach, is a strong way to speak to communities.
An ecology of representation is needed and it could open to ecological ways of thinking in all the other fields.
For this reason, I would also like to have a role in education. Today almost everything is image – products, marketing, communication, selves etc. The importance of an understanding of the image in its continuous process of falsification, stratification, exploitation is underlined by the need to identify the role of images in cultural and social mass narratives. This is a fundamental part of an ecology of representation in order to achieve a more spread mental and social ecology, an alternative and not homologated holistic vision of awareness.
JB – Has your artistic practice changed through isolation?
LS – I think my practice is becoming more intimate as well as political and imaginative at the same time.
I continued to develop the idea of a new video titled Touch me, I’m sick: a family of avatars is living in a disembodied reality signed by a viral and pervasive colonization of life under the yoke of expectations and performativity. The members of the family are performing a tutorial to be pitiless and productive (10 ways to improve your SEO ranking – 10 ways to bury your friends). They consider their baby sick, due to its continuous pissing everywhere and crying. But the baby, refusing the adultness (metaphor of neoliberalism), is a hero, freely transforming itself in alternative and animistic forms. Illness stops to be a category of the power to depict, and it appears, in its suspension of functionality, as a form of liberation.
Even if the project seems influenced by the period we have been living, the recent and actual crisis just confirmed many ideas I have been developing in previous artworks. For instance, my last video Please stand behind the yellow line DHG (2018-19) depicts the solipsism of a highly regulated reality. In a grotesque and perturbing domestic environment, everyday gestures are marked by the alarm clock of a mobile phone, signed by yellow rubber gloves that everyone wears. The body disappears: it is the dissipatio of humankind. However, remains still survive; having lost their functionality, objects and fragments of memories become images of another life.
Moreover, I started to paint, looking for an alternative kind of materiality and gestuality in response to the negation of our social one. The project is called Familiar pics, and it re-creates an album of familiar memories comprising landscapes, bestiaries, herbarium. Every form is composed by de-functionalising and re-modelling instructions for use, semiotics of tutorials, logos, nomadic images found on the internet.
JB – How has your practical capacity to produce work been affected by the pandemic?
LS – Through the void of suspension, I found a fertile space to think. It was a pure speculative moment, not aimed at producing shows or whatever. It was not about being productive, nothing but trying to be reflexive and dig deeper. Suspension is a fragile epiphany in which we can attempt to create new meanings and alternative visions of the world.
JB – What is your approach to collaboration at the moment?
LS – I want to start some collaborations. Painting on one side, as a field of intimate experimentations, while on the other side I would love to develop the new video Touch me, I’m sick collaborating with an artist and a writer I deeply appreciate.
JB – How would you define the present moment, metaphysically/literally/symbolically?
LS – A disembodied wasteland crossed by mass media porno-necrography, biometric monitoring, necropolitics and hyper-digital communications.
Physical and social distance, normativity, as well as the colonization of imageries produced and continue producing fractures and oppositional categories. For instance, concepts as vitality, illness, health, as well as community, productivity, progress or nature are exploited, in the majority of cases without taking in consideration a holistic contact with reality and experiences.
Extrapolating from the contest, the Italian poet Camillo Sbarbaro wrote: “[…] Perduta ha la sua voce / la sirena del mondo, e il mondo è un grande / deserto. / Nel deserto / io guardo con asciutti occhi me stesso.”
JB – Do you see the potential for renewed support for cultural production in spite of macro and micro-economies which are currently rapidly restructuring?
LS – I am sceptical, but I hope there will be space for cultural production support. There is an interesting project called Art Workers Italia. In Italy, we really need changes in this field.
JB – E.M. Cioran writes: “in major perplexities, try to live as history were done with and to react like a monster riddled by serenity”, how do you respond to this proposal?
LS – I would like to answer just with Studio per un figlio #1 (2018). At the centre of Donner à voir, exhibition I realized at Fondazione Pini, Milano, there was a figure, a sort of self-portrait: it was the son of History and its alienating narratives. Studio per un figlio #1 is an ambiguous body: a non-identity made of domestic and everyday lefts over, signs, post-family and post-History flesh. Is it a cradle or a cage? Fragmented memories destroyed and recomposed figuring a creature inspired by Wols paintings.
JB – How is this time influencing your perception of alterity in general?
LS – Illness and social/physical isolation brought me to reflect on the violence of proximity, the alienation of distance and the idea of suspension. Illness is a sort of alterity: both exotic and endotic. In a plural and coral point of view, it is lived with impulsive emotionality, fear, estrangement, superstition.
Alterity is the unknown, the incomprehensible: an individualistic as well as mass process of depiction. It is a category that regulates every kind of extraneous element not aligned to the momentousness system of value.
We recently read and listened to many of these representations in response to the fear of something not controllable, at least in Italy during the crisis. Just to give a few examples: the alterity has been framed as the Chinese restaurants, the outside, the streets, our friends, the tourist, the “movida”, the young, and so on and so forth. It is very both moveable and monumental at the same time, and its use is underhand.
I did not change my perception of alterity. I have been developing considerations on otherness in many of my artworks: in Windowscape (2015) a journey on a window-pane as an abstract geography shows the ambiguity of representation; in Please stand behind the yellow line the alterity is running on the surface of everyday life (the other other, familiar other); my video titled Was it me? Screen memories (2016-17) is a voyeuristic journey through familiar memories and unknown places, filmed on the computer screen. Images flow away due to the misleading annulment of geographical and existential distances, driven by the processes of acceleration and by technological progress. The project raises questions on the creation of the otherness and on the role of images in cultural narratives: the identity appears as a doubt.
In my opinion, alterity could be a precious suspension of established value: an inversion of meanings is absolutely important. Living the space between our self and the alterity is enriching: trying to build memories and imageries from what destabilized the commonly accepted meaning gives alternative perspectives.
JB – What is your position on the relationship between catastrophe and solidarity?
LS – Fear makes humans more individualistic. As long as emotionality is exploited by market and communication and catastrophes are depicted by mass media as soap operas, I don’t think it is possible to discover a holistic social ecology that can open to the deepness of gift and empathy.
JB – What is your utopia now?
LS – I can say that logics of profit, driven by models of representations of History, identity, and consumption continuously create a process of simplification, through which a fluid and holistic complexity is reduced to categories and rigid structures. Complexity does not find time and space in the current social accelerations and hyper-stimulating modalities of communication. On the contrary, I radically believe there is something magic in facing complexity – and, for instance, when confronted with the current degeneration of individualism, or with the overwhelming issues of neo-liberalism, the value of complexity could be a cure. A kind of Utopia.