Devla, devla …: five Roma hidden by a room divider will read the future to visitors of a historic Italian art fair (Arte Fiera in Bologna) who will want to ‘use’ their clairvoyance.
Devla, devla … comes from the Romanistan project, a journey / work in which Luca Vitone retraced the emigration journey made by the Roma people from India to Europe. For Vitone the Romani culture represents a modern and transnational ideal of people, which assumes almost a “precognition”, also in light of the mass migrations that are upsetting the socio-political balance of the planet. Together with three other projects “to live and participate” of as many artists, his performance is curated by Silvia Fanti, historical soul of the old Link of Bologna (and of the current Xing).
It was a long time that we wanted to meet Luca, an Italian globe-trotter artist. We finally did it. It seemed an ideal time to chat with him now to allow you to meet him if you will be in Bologna (a crucial city in his constant migrations) or … to always know where he is (reading this interview you will discover how).
Your life in just a few lines right from where it begins: family, studies and constant migrations. On your website there are spatial coordinates … Do not forget to mention the great value that I think Bologna represents for your studies, your cultural, affective, and not least relationships …. of performance organizer
I was born in Genoa on May 18, 1964, I lived there until 1984, then I enrolled at the Dams of Bologna in 1985. I lived there until 1990, I moved to Milan where I lived for 20 years (as a base), many tours for professional reasons – in the 90’s Cologne and New York above all, in the Zero years always Germany (minus the United States plus the rest of Europe). In 2010 I moved to Berlin.
The geographic coordinates on my site are linked to my mobile phone and inform each number of minutes about my location.
I’m not very digital: I owe it to a dear friend from Bologna (Luca Ghedini, webmaster) based on a design by Daniele Gasparinetti. Born about ten years ago, it had to be a start to make a real site but it remained a work in movement … I wonder if it will be enriched by some other content!
Bologna was a very important gym for building relationships – from Link to Artefiera. A city that you seem to have been fond of, but maybe Berlin is your dominant city from a “statistical” point of view in your migrations
Now I’m back in a transition phase between Berlin and Milan so I can’t really tell you where I am, but Bologna was very important because in my university years I met some people who became important friends like Daniele Gasparinetti and Silvia Fanti with whom I worked in a discontinuous way in a collective of the DAMS of the second half of the 80s: that, yes!, it was a gym of organization from the bottom and of relations, fundamental for life and for work.
I then left Bologna but I kept – thanks to these friends and some work contacts as with the Neon Gallery in the 90s – a solid foundation in the city. Since then, once the Link opened I was invited by Daniele to think about a programming path for the visual arts and that was a wonderful moment of experiences, a unique contemporary factory …
I attended it a lot in the years you talk about, then it changed but it was always the best Italian meteor in terms of crossover night experiences (electronics, art and theater: definitely not a social center like the others opening in the same years in other cities Italian)
The first series of performances I organized was in January 1996, Incursioni, once again on the occasion of Artefiera: designed in that week precisely to have a greater public and to make the space and its attitudes known to those who came to art with something that was not pure exhibition but ‘acts’ that took place only in the evening, at a fast pace. From there we then created four editions of Incursioni first and two editions of Hops! later and many other activities during the year, for what concerns me related to the visual arts with performance elements that could use all the available spaces of the Link during the night hours.
First of all you are a person of your time and starting from this you work as an artist and often with long-term projects. Perhaps the preferred subject is the “human” landscape but works with often unusual means for an artist. Two above all, cartography and food. Both acted from a non-dominant view and by no means didactic. The first work and the one you are most fond of?
The first work with these media is not the first one I created but the first one that reached the audience having been shown.
It was called Beauty Case, dating back to 1983: a small box covered with maps with three objects – an outside handle, a porcelain rose and a lava stone inside.
A favorite work does not exist, perhaps there are works that are more interesting and others less.
The first operation with food is on 1992. After working for years with cartography and the sound of popular music, I came to food thinking that music and food were the two elements of material culture that best lend themselves to a relationship between people and therefore to communicate a culture with its conventions. I worked on food as a tradition of the territory and presented it as a usable and consumable sculpture.
Music is often a mean and a goal, other artists try to work in the same groove. Do you think music is more instrumental than other means to ‘address’ the viewer to unusual and unexpected potentials in the visual art that you always consider very ‘political’ (less decorative and less aesthetic)?
Speaking of visual arts, no: painting remains the most useful, most identifiable and strongest medium because we have been looking at painted surfaces for centuries and the general public accept it more easily.
Music in the twentieth century has had its importance in the arts, depending on the periods and authors, naturally, as well as fashions, trends and ideologies.
When I started using music as a medium in my works – it was 1989 – we came out of a decade of painting dominance and was perceived as a relatively new language and research in visual arts. In the 90s it became quite common and towards the end we get to talk about sound art that I was never interested in (I didn’t want to formalize a sculpture through a sound, rather to transform a gallery into a soundbox).
Music has always fascinated me when combined with a place and its idea. So to a cartographic condition, which I tried to move to different elements (music, food).
I have always liked to experiment, I do not say using new things (it is difficult to place oneself on a furrow of absolute novelty in this area) but to use something unexpected or alternative as it was for the smell.
I agree: painting is the most immediate work that is expected of an artist, but I would like to concentrate on the act of painting and sculpting.
You have turned painting into a political as well as an aesthetic gesture. It is difficult to forget a work that you have created starting from an olfactory instance (for eternity, at the 2013 Venice Biennale where we were faced with a monochrome with the smell of rhubarb, dedicated to Casale’s Eternit pollution disaster, which excited not just me but all the people around me) but also the monochromes of dust that are now in Palazzo Riso (Palermo). Not that people want to forget but it is often very sad to remember and prevent it.
How did you come to the determination to translate painting and sculpture into memento mori and then social denunciation?
How is it received by collectors and how does it fit into galleries?
The olfactory sculpture is an evolution of what the powders in painting have been. It is not an easy object if we talk about the market and collecting. Even if for eternity had the luck – for me and I hope for him too! – to have been bought by a French-English collector.
I am not a painter, as I am not a pure carver, although it is easier to make a non-classical discourse after Dadaism. Painting with dust was born in the Zero years, I always liked painting and I have always dealt with recent and past authors. Authors and people who reflect on the object to be represented through the bi-dimension.
At one point I reflected on how I could relate to this object and I thought I would use an anti-pigment, the dust that settles on flat surfaces and always comes back, it is persistent as long as we commit ourselves to removing it. It is an object that if it does not ruin, compromises the status of the painting itself – each museum has its own Restoration Cabinet to remove it. I chose this element as a pigment, I mixed powder and agglomerating water to create watercolors, reasoning about the idea of painting, time and place (the powders are subtly different, even if we don’t think about it, as far as the colors are situated always between grays and ocher). We consider painting universally as a testimony of the West which, from Spengler onwards, is in crisis, for which dust is perhaps a metaphor for the end of the Western dream. This was my desire.
From the ‘mercantile’ point of view, without taking anything away from the wonderful collectors that exist in the world without whom we would not survive and would not carry on our research, dust as a two-dimensional object to hang on the wall has had much more success than all the others I’ve created in my life over the last 15-20 years.
Your work on dust fascinated me because I find it the most democratic substance in nature. It covers, erases in spite of any other intervention. And so I read, again, a social and political instance. Your position as an artist always denotes a political message addressed to the viewer beyond the mediation of the gallery and the institution that proposes your works.
What do you think of giving your city – I consider Berlin even if you are on the move again – and what do you think it gives you back as a citizen?
Berlin certainly gives me emotions and experiences that allow me to live and develop my thoughts. What am I giving? My works, I dedicate projects to them, reading their physical and social and anthropological conformation. From time to time I did it in other cities.
In fact I was thinking of asking you, if I can, what you were working on for Genoa after the tragedy (a year and a half ago) represented by the collapse of a nodal highway viaduct to connect the Morandi bridge to the west and east.
In addition to literally breaking the city in two, 43 people died and the damage is frankly incalculable. You have already worked in Genoa enough (especially with a gallery, Pinksummer)
In the last 30 years apart from the private galleries, the first, Galleria Pinta, between 1987 and 1990, which allowed my debut and the second, Galleria Pinksummer, from 2010, only a few non-contextual works in some collective exhibitions. I have never worked a lot in Genoa if we take a public exhibition as an example.
The Flight of the Grifo that I presented by Pinksummer was dedicated to Genoa, then the exhibition on eternity immediately after the 2013 Venice Biennale and finally with the dust exhibition, a sort of wunderkammer where they covered the whole gallery.
Genoa … The Boeri studio has presented a project entitled The Park of the Bridge that will be built under the new bridge Genovese architect Renzo Piano is building; they asked me to present a work that is difficult for me to talk to you not only because it is not yet defined, but because it is something that touches me very much.
Although I do not want to talk to you in depth about the project, I can say that my contribution is designed in the form of a forest composed of 43 trees of different species, endowed with their own individuality.
Each tree is dedicated to a personality of Ligurian culture through the anagram of his name. It is both of those born and those who have lived or worked most of their lives in this land. A link between a past and the future, with the memory of the victims at its center.
I must develop a detachment, it is an accident and not a a terrorist attack, so I need to think about different levels of interpretation towards what happened. It is however the result of a chain of responsibilities that came from the society in which we find ourselves immersed.
The music (not yours) and the book you have now with you?
When I was younger I listened to music even when I was working, now it’s harder for me. I want to devote my own time to music, otherwise it distracts me and I don’t like to use it as a background or pastime. When I can do it, I listen to classical music from the last century, jazz from the 60s (pre and post free) and heterodox music from the 90s. I don’t have great loves to mention at this time.
I am reading the correspondences of Morandi (with Longhi in the first place and with other critics of his time) in relation to the participation in the Biennials in the post-war period (from Italian: Morandi chooses Morandi: correspondence with the Biennale 1947-1962), on the artist’s responsibility to occupy the space of the exhibition.
And then a collection of conversations-essays by Philip Roth, one of my favorite writers, published by Einaudi last year (from Italian edition: it’s a collection of Roth’s essays of the years 1960-63).
What do you feel you’ve learned so far?
Learned? I wonder if I really learned something …
The cover picture of this interview is by artist Giancarlo Norese.
To meet the artist and to join his performance at Arte Fiera, he will be in Bologna (Italy) from 24 to 26 January, 2020.
Read a teaser of his new Italian/English book ROMANISTAN we publish in our section Short Stories and discover more about the public presentations of the new volume published by Humboldt Books in Italy