The artist’s word
People say that artists should allow their works to speak for them. I don't agree. An artist can guide us into the deepest layers of intent and meaning in his or her works. Particularly when we are talking about the Italian art system and its rusty mechanisms that have virtually ground to a halt, artists need to shoulder their responsibility as thinkers, contributing to the construction of a productive cultural debate. A debate of that kind still hasn't got off the ground in this country, leaving the field free for the kind of sterile scandal and bickering that fuel our collective weakness on the international stage. So I've decided to put together a few fragmentary testimonials from the five artists selected because I think they offer a perceptive if brief panorama of the state of young contemporary art in Italy, caught as it is between lucid analysis and passionate participation, between irony, disenchantment and the seeds of hope.
Italian-ness isn't a deliberate intention, it's a fact, a marvel that resides in the details of an artist's work, probably without the artist even realising. In other words, it transcends the artist's intention.
There is an Italian art system that is extremely reminiscent of the best farcical comedies, consisting of amusing stumbling blocks, huge outbursts of passion and petty pranks, as though a carnival were being played out around the work of art.
Our works of art are sophisticated in their elegance, a far cry from the rowdy raucousness of the United States, which may well explain why Italian artists almost hanker after that while, at the same time, earning their US counterparts' mild disdain.
I've often wondered what it would have been like to grow up in a country other than Italy.
I'm deeply attached to my country and my trade has a solid umbilical cord keeping me firmly rooted in this country, yet, as with many artists of my generation, I love the flavour of absence; I love missing Italy and looking at it from other places on the planet.
I'm amazed by the extent to which my work as an artist is appreciated abroad on the strength of the fact that I am Italian.
Our system lacks courage, yet incredibly I find that courage in our artists.
THE ARTIST'S PROFESSION
The beauty of the artist's profession, which at the same time is also a trap, lies in the fact that it's impossible to really break away from it.
Italian artists of my generation seem to share the need to express a certain malaise, a search for balance. I can't define it exactly, but it is as though we lacked any real focal points. And the artist's profession does not enjoy recognition, either. That is a problem with deep roots on every front, from politics, to the economy, to culture and to society in general. Artists still aren't seen as professional people. As far as contemporary society is concerned, being an artist is a job that simply doesn't exist.
We Italian artists need to build bridges with other countries, to move around, to get to know the world by working outside the "boot" of Italy.
I was born in Milan, I went to school abroad, and now, after returning to this country, I've decided to stay here for a while. I think it's necessary at a time like this to stay in direct touch with the dynamics that are developing in our country, while at the same time we need to familiarise with the way people see us abroad. I have a deeply felt need to take my measure against different scenarios outside our country's borders and outside the medium I work in. This is because I believe that the clear-cut distinction that's always made here in Italy between art, film and the theatre can't lead to genuine osmosis, to any true exchange of vocabulary.
Where the art system is concerned, I think that the greatest difficulty lies in finding economic and cultural backing in the institutions for ambitious projects, which sure enough tend to depend on private-sector sponsorship for their completion. I hope the attention and energy of a few enlightened people in the art world can help to build up and to export a platform of valid Italian artists and works of art.
For some time now I've had the feeling that young contemporary Italian art, while truly impressive in terms of its quality and substance, was geared to a large extent towards popularity, towards getting a foot in the door of a system that has inevitably changed and that's going to go on changing, because it's so deeply linked to social change. But what I'm afraid of is that there is no spirit of cooperation when it comes to addressing work in our country, when it comes to being able to invest in collective practices.
Being an artist today means a whole number of things, in terms of popularity, that I don't believe serve any purpose and that sometimes add a pointless side to one's work. Whereas that work is an ongoing, constantly developing effort that requires as much of a professional approach, as much dedication and earnest and, above all, as much research as any other job
Generalizations often serve very little purpose and the information they give you doesn't necessarily reflect reality, but having said that, I believe that for some time a certain generation of artists took less of an interest in study than they should have, but that trend now seems to have been reversed.
But what I think has really influenced the work of Italian artists of my generation is the uncertainty of the market, the absolute need to get into given circles if you want to survive; and those circles all have a strong influence and are extremely difficult to ignore. I think that that's a major flaw in our country's art system, although the quality of the work being done is extremely interesting.
Translated from italian by Stephen Tobin