My experience as visual artist in social environments
Berndorf, Museum Arterra, is an Open Air Museum near Wien where I was invited to touch the place with my big ambient sculptures, the Rounds. During the work and at the end of this I was reflecting: “working in this context, this big nature park, I was feeling like a divinity. It was like to define a sort of Cosmogony, creating new, respecting the place. The change is almost big, but the nature harmony is respected”.
Creation can be a possible synonym for Cosmogony, and I would like to quote the South American Indians Makiritare (Venezuela) and their story about it:
«Man and woman knew that God was dreaming of them.
God was dreaming of them while singing and moving his maracas, under the clouds of tobacco smoke, and he was happy and at the same time worried by a doubt and mystery.
They knew that, if God was dreaming of food, he would create fruits and feed them. If God was dreaming a life, he would create and brings into life». «…They were dreaming that in the God’s dream the happiness was stronger than a doubt and a mystery; and God, while dreaming, was creating them…» (Civreux, Mare De, «Watunna. Mitologia Makiritare». Caracas, Monte Avila, 1970).
I remember what my friend Guaranì, José Changaray, said about the women of his community: when they meet and do «Okka» to discuss their questions; they are sitting in a circle, so that they can see well each other. The women discuss various themes telling their dreams and explaining them symbolically as prophecies. In other words, a dream offered by a woman who generates fruit of life is like organic matter which shows the way towards the future.
So, once again we have a dream.
When I started to think about it, and afterwards defined it «Cosmogonia», it was like seeing or perceiving, it was like «dreaming», it was like a new way of thinking, sure not in a bohémienne style, but in a metaphoric style, as the native people do. I believe in humans, even if we see everywhere how many disasters we made and we are making and I am speaking of a concrete and socio-political thinking, that I’m trying to explain in this my brief essay.
The attention to the position of art in the relationship between man and society (the connection of art with the social dimension of life) was and is also a thread in my artistic research.
Since some years I have dedicated my work analyzing the concept of the border: maximum reduction of the pictorial material (only using the glazing and layering technique), distinguished by lightness and transparency and at the same time by stratification and a great richness of details: layering upon layering of putting glazing color to reach something that is not a body of matter, but a transparency with thickness, with weight, very light, that take his own power by depth. The spaces, so built, are furrowed by signs, traced not with light hand using brush or pencil, but using an edged blade that cut, but don’t tear, and that make the trip indelible, sign that cross like a walk in a vast landscape. So that there is no loss of history, no loss of variety, no loss of complexity, even if there is an apparent absence of things represented.
The basic idea is linked to the «borderline» concept in a technical and socio-political point of view: everything that is on the border has the characteristic of being extremely unsettled. This situation has an enormous capacity, the power of changing.
With regard to that Josif Brodskj (preface to «Poems of Carribean» by Derek Walcott, Limited Editions Club,1983) says…»Since civilizations are destined to end, the moment arrive when the centre no longer holds. … Then the duty «to hold» falls on the people of the provinces, of the border. Contrary to what we usually think, the border is not the place where the world end – it is exactly where the world decants itself.».
The model considered takes, on a collective dimension, the relationship with a “borderline” environment. This gave rise to the experience of collective paintings, such as the fresco on a church wall in a Bolivian Indian’s Guaranì village (1989), the experience in Rio de Janeiro favela (1991) that I will tell you about and the one in an old person’s home in Italy (1992). All the experiences, although very different in their development, had the same common denominator: to have as their final goal in a social promotion not trough an educational process, but with the realization of a work and the happiness of the doing it, constructed by the human relationship between the artist and the surrounding environment. [flussi d’incontro]
What I mean is that the act of doing something together is the way, for my opinion, that I see to be conscious about what you want to point as remarkable. I believe that this is mostly true when you are creating something that can be thought unessential as a work of art.
Little and simple examples:
- in Favela S. Marta, in Rio De Janeiro, the group decided to make the work on the walls of a terrace, that all the people of the favela use as the square of the village. Every day before starting to work we found the place with every kind of garbage and every day we cleaned it to begin to work. Than we finished the work and we made a party there with all the people of the favela. I was in that place, for chance, after two years and I found that place completely clean. I was really in emotion.
- in Villa Solaria, the old people’s home, the guests were use to pass the day hours without many relationship each other or with the nurses. During the work we had a continuous speaking each other about what we are doing there and so the work grow and the people had a reason to speak about (in favour or not). After several months from the end of the experience a psychologist made interviews with the inhabitants of the house and concluded that the relationship levels were grown after that experience.
- we made that fresco in Ipitacito del Monte, Guaranì village , with six children of the village. Some years later in Palmarito, another Guaranì village, I was to repeat a similar experience with children of that village. A man called me and said “Mimmo, I am Pedro, do you remember me? I was one of the children in Ipitacito del Monte that worked with you and now I am professor in this school of Palmarito. Please, let me explain to my pupils what we are going to do together “ and became so enthusiastic to speak about his experience in Ipitacito and than we started to work in Palmarito.
I think that after bread we need art.
I have been working since 1992 to a large project connected to this intersection of the artistic and social dimensions. The project point to a reflection on the role as ‘health helpers’ that works of art can play if planned and produced purposely for hospitals, and which has found its initial expression in the Symposium «Art and Hospitals» (1998) and the Acts related..
When I talk about planning visual art in a hospital, I mean that the entire structure must be involved, even its most intimate parts, that is to say the wards where the patients stay.
To put signs of art in the rooms offers a kind of harmony in the place, that can help the ill in their relationship with their disease: I mean that, as the illness is a fracture in the interior harmony of our body, to give the ill something that possesses the characteristics of an object-harmony might create more suitable psychological space, leading to a restitution of the broken balance.
On the other hand, cold surroundings can work as a resonance box for anxiety. In the last analysis, the goal is to oppose the feelings of alienation and isolation through feelings of regeneration, which should stem from the contact with works of art.
Coming back to Bolivia. I followed my relationship with the Guaranì people during 20 years and now what is happening? They, the Guaranies, asked me to plant an art school in their region and I’m working, in this moment, to a project for funding a School of Visual Art and Music. The school will born in a renovated old Franciscan Monastery, where will be invited several artists and musicians from every part of the world, becoming from Bolivia, to have stages with the students, working with them to a concrete, operational and executive projects, for the time of 3 years to complete the study.
In the last years I’m working to ambient sculptures that involve the space as total concept: I named them “Giro/Round”.
The “Round” or “Giro”, which will form an ideal unity, just like in a children’s rondo, is an installation or ambient sculpture born of the translation into space of a series of paintings by the same title. The need to move into the space, which is also a peculiarity of my paintings, arose to realize a more self-evident hat of concept of space and volume in my work.
Lines tensed from a wall to another wall, directly from the wall the lines go out, directly into the wall go in, are signs of a link between humans, solidarity between population. In other words: memory of the thousands of human destinies: meetings, disagreements, embraces, perspiration, perseverance, toil, pain, love, thought, derange, omnipotence, poverty, filth, innocence. Beyond their cross road we can imagine the meetings.
The direction I see is more and more to the necessity to catch an absolute need of silence, but not a passive silence, on the contrary very active and distinguished. I want to reaffirm a kind of aesthetics of beauty, maybe not showy, not unbecoming, subtle and sensual, that comes from that silence necessary to be able to hear a possible dialogue between ethics and aesthetics.