We all know it. And we have said it. In Italy there aren’t enough medium size urban exhibition spaces to see artists through their progress from independent or non-commercial shows to the symbolically more prestigious, or simply larger, venues. This explains why the art produced in Italy is generally unambitious and wanting, overshadowed as it is by the presence of the gallery. It should be easy to take over new spaces. But this rarely happens. There is a widespread obsession pushing artists to produce full bio-bibliographies rather than engaging in more ambitious and liberated experiences. The dramatic moment then arrives, when these artists no longer enjoy the protection of large collectives and their final-year student exhibitions, when they feel almost invisible, powerless and perhaps quite unprepared to face the pressures of the wider world. Naturally, as with all generalisations, there are notable exceptions. The distribution of the new and most exciting public exhibition spaces appears eccentric (Sardinia, Trentino and Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Tuscany and Sicily), but they all conceal a surprising commitment and professionalism, even though they are often dogged by limited resources. Glaringly obvious is the total absence of such spaces at the centre (1).
I have put forward Anna Galtarossa, Andrea Dojmi, Michael Fliri, Luca Trevisani and Nico Vascellari for Emerging Talents because they all share, despite differences of style and technique, certain fundamental qualities:
- Authenticity: in the quantity of their work, their dedication, constancy, intensity; in their generous output at the risk of being compulsive or excessive. They are aware of the risks of making mistakes but are prepared to take them: they are not afraid (in fact recognise the virtue) of suddenly changing track or going wrong.
- Collaboration: in their work they remain curious and open to other artists, whether visual artists, musicians, designers, architects, or in film.
- Restlessness: both physical, causing them to travel (to take up residences, travel scholarships, and especially to undertake personal work projects) and creative, experimenting radically with form, technique, method, disciplines and context.
- Visionary: feeling the need to create their own world-universe and to move beyond reality without ever losing sight of its urgency.
- Singularity, unusually vivid, complex and distinctly personal imaginations. But also, an openness to experimentation with technique in which a knowledge of traditional forms (drawing, sculpture, performance, cinema, video, music and graphics) leads to new often empirical procedures.
There is not much else to be said. If not perhaps that the emptiness at the centre, referred to metaphorically above, is, to be more explicit, political. But it is also the abyss of the large centres which set themselves up as the best platforms, as opportunities for encounter and exchange. But as platforms they rise completely above the more or less fast moving currents beneath them. At a local level. They end up generating anxiety and paranoia. Of course the problem is deeper and refers to particular social, cultural, and political issues. My personal impression is that the attitude adopted by young artists is just one small, however interesting, indicator.[…] It is as if the centre no longer holds. Cities seem to be losing the capacity they have long had to triage conflict - through commerce, through civic activity […]. Although in this apparently random quotation Saskia Sassen, comments on yet another act of urban terrorism – in Mumbai in November 2008 – and attributes the aggression found in large cites and their centres in particular to their impoverished social and civil life, it might also lead us to reflect on the emerging arts. On their function and significance (2).
In Italy imaginative life comes into being outside the city centres, where it appears sooner or later before beating a hasty retreat. With rare exceptions (certainly Turin), neither Milan (especially) nor Rome (for other reasons), no longer welcome (or do not yet welcome, depending on your point of view) energy and imagination. Neither do they fertilize, incubate, or cultivate creative attitudes.
And that is why, a different approach – starting with five artists selected for Emerging Talents – might be to try and hang on to how these artists are grounded.
In Italia, means for example putting aside use of the adjective “Italian”, and starting to give time to understanding the line of research followed by the artists as individuals. This should be grafted onto more serious biographies, onto accounts of context, networks, scenes and how they fit in. This, of course, goes further than merely local considerations or regurgitations of self-contained identities (3) without overlooking the claims of generation. These do not emerge from a homogenous scene, but maintain a commitment to their own means, their own vision and their own roots.
It is in the earthy anxieties of the punctiform Veneto, with its monsters and obsession about stereotypical or more sophisticated styles, in the tropical and “surf” Rome, in the isolationalist Dolomites and in the less touristic, most genuine, improbable and contradictory Alto Adige that they are grounded, more or less, the biographies and therefore the worlds of Galtarossa, Trevisani, Vascellari, Dojmi and Fliri.
Each of them touches in their own way central aspects of the best in international contemporary art: the new identity of sculpture (non monumental, domestic, critical), a more profound relationship with the history of modern art and its narration, performativity extended to the environment, reaching out to the postcinematographic and advanced music worlds, to a sensibility to popular rites and to cultural material more in general, to a disenchanted understanding of the political potential of their own work.
And they keep on going.
In fact nothing can stop them.