#6 Munchen |
#10 The Interviews |
#12 Berlin |
#13 Dresden |
#16 Copenhagen |
#17 IFFR |
#18 Riga |
#19 Conceptual Art |
#20 The Swiss Issue |
#21 Aktie! |
#22 Rotterdam Art Map 1.0 |
#23 Bruxelles |
#24 Maasvlakte 2 |
#25 Douala |
#26 Rotterdam Art Map 2.0 |
#27 Tbilisi |
#28 Budget Cuts NL |
#29 Italian Issue |
#30 Rotterdam Art Map 3.0 |
#31 It’s Playtime |
#33 Rotterdam Art Map 4.0 |
#34 Arnhem Art Map |
#35 Existentialism |
#36 Pascal Gielen |
#37 The Swiss Issue revisited |
We made this book at the invitation of the Nomas Foundation in Rome. It took about a year and a half before we got the financing sorted and could start planning our travelling residency. The funding is a mix of private and public money. This too is a reality this age, in which art and science are increasingly at the mercy of market forces, even in the Netherlands, considered by many to be an art-funding paradise: where money grows on trees and everyone agrees that art is important for society’s welfare. Well, things are changing faster than we could have imagined, even in the 10 months we’ve been working on this publication. Throughout Europe there are dramatic cutbacks in public spending, including culture, and nothing will be the same. Is the Italian situation soon to be our future? But there is one big difference: in Italy, at least you’ll always have Italy!
7 Partners in 7 cities, in 7 chapters
From January to May 2011, we travelled to the seven predetermined cities or territories, where our partners and knowledgeable guides provided hospitality, put a programme together and introduced us to the local art scene and the Italian art ‘system’ as a whole. The partners who participate in this project are highly regarded non-profit artist- and curator-run spaces, and are part of Nomas’ network.
In order to do this research in three months, we copied the model of the Grand Tour. Our method is usually a mix of ‘hanging out’ and ‘targeted research’, but requires much more time than was available. It’s been an experiment. In the old days of the Grand Tour the knowledgeable guides were called cicerones. The old term does not quite fit here, since the role of our partners goes far beyond that of a knowledgeable guide: they are active participants. The idea was to give shape to the chapters with their close collaboration. We also had another travel companion in the form of three books by Paul Ginsborg: A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943-1988; Italy and its Discontents, 1980-2001; and Silvio Berlusconi, Television, Power and Patrimony, 2004.
The aim of our journey was not to expose ourselves to the famous cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Italian Renaissance, but to explore as artists and non-academic researchers Italy’s contemporary artistic, social and political scene through active witnesses. We started in Rome and ended in Palermo, passing through Florence, Bologna, Lugo, Milan, Viganella, Turin, Rivoli, Lecce, Matera, Bari, Santa Maria di Leuca, Naples and Gibellina.
^Rob Hamelijnck & Nienke Terpsma, artists and editors
The Expanded Field of Art
Interview by Sheena Greene (student MA curating Zürich) for the online magazine ONCURATING.org is an independent international web journal focusing on questions around curatorial practise and theory. Publisher Dorothee Richter, co-Publisher Ronald Kolb
Here is a link to: ONCURATING.ORG
Italian Conversations: Art in the age of Berlusconi is the result of a journey through Italy in 2011 by Dutch visual artists and editors of the Fucking Good Art series Rob Hamelijnck & Nienke Terpsma, whose previous publications are The Interviews, International edition / Berlin, The Swiss Issue, and numerous zines, web-editions, and web-radio editions, as well as some special editions. The publication started with an invitation from the Nomas Foundation in Rome, who were interested in an outsider perspective into the complexity of the Italian contemporary art world, it’s spaces, people and models for culture vis a vis the current political and economic crisis. The funding came from a variety of public and private sources from Italy and the Netherlands. Rob Hamelijnck & Nienke Terpsma put themselves in the position of being outsiders in a local context, but they are insiders in the arts field and the art world. From January to May 2011 the authors travelled to seven different cities and regions in Italy where they had local contacts and well-informed guides, in the book, who put together an itinerary loosely following the model of the Grand Tour with the aim to explore and research the contemporary artistic, social and political scene from the perspective of visual artists.
SG: How do you work together as a duo, how are the tasks and roles performed? Do you maintain your own practice outside of your collaboration?
RH: Working together you have to learn by doing. Certainly we are equal partners in our FGA collective. We are both the artists and editors and Nienke is a designer. She did her masters in Typography at the famous Werkplaat Typografie in Arnhem with Karel Martens and Wigger Bierma. I do the internet stuff and sound editing, often writing applications for residencies etc. Together we transcribe and edit the conversations, and give feedback on the things we write. From the beginning Fucking Good Art was learning-by-doing. Sometimes we make jokes that we founded our own “master” or “PhD” degree program, and at the same time we are the director, editor-in-chief, assistant, coffee lady/man, and toilet cleaner in one. We started publishing the Fucking Good Art zine in December 2003. The format was an A3 folded to A5 sheet of pink paper in between the magazines we still publish the zines - printed by our printer and friend De Boog in Rotterdam. The first years we did Fucking Good Art at the same time as our individual art practice: Nienke was a photographer, and I was making text-based video and computer works. After 2 years we were too busy with FGA; it took over and we let it happen. We went with the flow, and this felt quite good actually. Fucking Good Art worked, this was a happy experience, it has a dynamic, people are interested in reading our conversations, and we want to share what we find.
SG: What was your motivation to start the collective in the first place. Were you looking for a new creative direction when you started FGA?
RH: Yes we were, and still are. That’s why we playfully connected to Goethe who had embarked on his Grand Tour because he had lost faith and was looking or hoping for a rebirth. We sometimes also feel lost in this confused art world dominated by money, up to the point that we almost lost our belief in art. So you could say that our travels are to bring back our belief in art.
N.T: The earlier editions were quite different. We started publishing the fanzines on paper and online, as pamphlets for art critique, to invite “makers” to write about art exhibitions and shows in project spaces but also in galleries and museums. There were so many small exhibitions nobody would write about. We are not academics but thought that maybe artists have other things to say about artwork than those with academic backgrounds. We are interested in going over these borders and seeing what differences occur in the different fields.
SG: Italian Conversations: Art in the age of Berlusconi, is an art travelogue of seven selected cities whose focus is an exploration of the alternative, fragmented and varied creative solutions to an art system surviving the pressures of political, social and economic crisis throughout Italy. Did the brief from Nomas differ from that of your previous publications? How did you decide on the format for the seven different cities?
NT & RH: The brief was interesting for us, as the situation in Italy seemed relevant for a wider audience in the arts. The decline of public institutions, a right wing populist government and the cultural policies that come with it, are things that are happening all over Europe. We thought that it would be interesting for people in other North European countries, who were starting to face similar issues in cultural policies that Italy had been dealing with for twenty years. It posed many curious questions, very much in line with our interests.
We liked the idea that the close collaboration would make it possible to create a dialogue of perspectives, between insiders and outsiders, rather than just presenting the perspective of outsiders, involving the ‘cicerones’ in each city in the editorial process. Nomas wanted us to visit the seven cities because these cities have such different cultures. We did think that it would be too much, but we liked the idea. The structure was proposed by Nomas, but was discussed and refined with choices made together. Nomas is based in Rome so that is very different to an art space in Milan. Milan had to be included because it’s Milan and everybody throughout Italy thinks that is where everything in the art world happens. Puglia is interesting for different reasons, like for the European grants for cultural projects, bringing people back to their region, and so on. In Italy there are well functioning local art worlds, or eco systems, with private initiatives, public initiatives, around 50 commercial galleries and 20 independent project spaces, so it is double edged. To get onto another platform you need to go to Milan, or something that many people do, is to study abroad. On other hand we were told that it is very possible to have a sustainable practice at a local level.
SG: Did the concept of the Eighteenth century “Grand Tour” for aristocratic tourists, accompanied by local “ciceroni” tour guides, help you develop your field trip and did you do much research into historical travel journeys?
NT & RH: Yes of course we were aware that the Grand Tour is a commonly used theme and although we played with that, it was quite tongue & cheek. The theme is so often used throughout the art world. To make our position clear we quote Catherine David from our issue The Interviews (FGA#10): ‘Art is not tourism.’ The Grand Tour is a very interesting history of course, and we read about it to some extent. However we didn’t have much time for the many historical treasures of Italy during this trip. We were quite busy going from basement gallery to white painted off space, to talk with people who are trying to formulate and actually experiment alternative ways of working in the arts.
SG: Why did you decide to produce this work as a book, did you consider producing an exhibition?
NT & RH: Interesting question, because we’re so happy with the magazine as an independent space, outside of the “white cube”. We like books, you can take them with you, open them when you feel like it, and their distribution is relatively simple and affordable. But we have been thinking for some time now about alternative ways to develop our research other than through print publishing. We like publishing, so we will keep doing this, but expanding into space would be another experience and change the role of the publication. This could be interesting; in our case it will not be a “catalogue”, it will be an independent object. We had a plan to, in addition to ’Art in the Age of Berlusconi’; to make a huge structure built up of ‘an institute of contemporary art in Italy’. A large scale model of independent spaces and collectives, all pasted together into one building, to show that there is an other important structure of independent spaces. There are many art worlds, not just “the” art world. This structure, or sub culture, is what we are very interested in: we talk about artist-run, curator-led, off-off, alternative, independent, no-budget, low-budget, high-budget, self-funded, non-profit, private foundation, discursive space, project space, art spaces, etc.
What all these spaces have in common is that they support experimentation, research, production and intellectual debate. Without these private initiatives (and some galleries belong to this group too) there would be no contemporary art scene in Italy. The reason we want to repeatedly show the independent spaces is that they are a fundamental alternative to the growing dominance of the art market. The problem is that the (art) market has become the criterion by which works of art are judged. We are against that. The Venice Biennale should not be an art fair.
SG: Do you see your role as being like the curator, by researching various elements and practices and assembling them together?
NT & RH: Yes we see what you are aiming at. There is a resemblance with how curators work. It is not really important for us. As artists we have the freedom to occupy different fields. On the other hand artists have always been doing research in and through art. Not long ago a good friend asked us when we were going to curate our first show, because he had the impression that would be a natural step to make, and because after almost 9 years our network is really big. You could say our art practice is out in the “expanded field” of art. It is not always easy. There are still many people who have very conservative ideas about what art is and what it is not, and how it should look. Fucking Good Art could be understood with historical references to the 1970s, the tradition of text works and artists’ publications and magazines.
S.G: I was struck by many of your interviewees’ comments on the poor quality of art education currently in Italy; yet some of these people who are lecturers, artists, curators and critics came across as having high levels of critical analysis and original points of view. Professor Concetto Pozzato, a retired Professor of art from Bologna Academy of Art states, “A great teacher teaches what he doesn’t know” What are your opinions of the art education in Italy and how does it compare to that of Holland?
NT & RH: We cannot have any judgment or claim any knowledge of art education in Italy, we can only tell you about the opinions of the people we spoke to from the art field regarding the art schools. What we did find interesting is that we met a lot of artists that had other backgrounds; they studied sociology or medicine, or archaeology, or architecture, but never studied at an art academy. This is actually quite an interesting phenomenon. We know of two friends who are academics and recently decided to become artists because in their own field there is no work in the first place, and if they find work, they experience a lack of creative space in their fields. It’s interesting also that there are people who feel the need to start schools due to a lack of good education. In Italy the lack they describe seems to be mainly about a connection to the art field. People say it is out-dated, unconnected and not realistic about the art world today.
In Italy there are also private institutions with a different approach to art education. One of the most well known is Cittadellarte Fondazione Pistoletto, but also Young Curators Residency Project at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Spinola Banna in Turin, and Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como to name a few. People now start private art courses, like summer schools. Also in Berlin Autocenter has for the second year planned a summer course. The students, who might or might not have studied art, get a complementary education. They learn about the art system; how to make portfolios, approach galleries, what are fair deals, so it is market focused and practice oriented.
SG: Having just visited the Milan Art Fair (2013) do you think that a public institution for contemporary art in Milan would be able to compete, and to offer the same vibrancy, vitality and energy of what is currently on offer through the non-public sector?
NT & RH: Perhaps the fact you find this vitality and energy around the art fair rather than in the public institutions is just an indicator of where the power and the money are concentrated at the moment. In your question you differentiate between public and non-public. We noticed that in some countries people make a division between profit and non-profit, in others between institutions and independents, in Italy people differentiate between private and state, with the knowledge that the marriage between state and big business is quite clear. Talking about art spaces you could also divide between big budget and small budget. An art foundation of a fashion company for instance can be non-profit but with a huge budget.
Anthropologist David Graeber in his book Debt: The First 5000 Years argues that the dichotomy between state and market is a false one, and that states created markets. We also confuse the notions ‘public’ and ‘state’, but it’s not so clear anymore if state institutions represent the public realm. In Italy it seems they are not perceived like that. In Italy many ‘public’ institutions have no budget; and we are told there is a big lack of cooperation and trust between the institutions, private initiatives and private individuals. At our presentation at ZHdK we showed a short video made in PAN Palazzo Arti Napoli. PAN was set up about 5 years ago with a big budget and high expectations, but the money has been pulled out due to cutbacks and politics. Curator Olga Scotto di Vettimo was now running PAN with no funding because they were in between elections. It’s interesting that in Italy some people in the arts argue that they have to claim back the public institutions instead of working in their own private spaces. Others say to forget the institutions, but let’s create a new structure to connect all these small private initiatives! In our book there is a list, compiled together with all the partners, of approximately 135 initiatives or aesthetic zones in the 7 territories we visited, but there are certainly many more. People do miracles without a budget, exploring different forms of production.
The Importance of Being Militant
eMail interview by Gabriele Naia in 7 questions.
This email interview was conducted during our artist residency in Parc Saint Leger center d’art contemporaine in Pougues les Eaux, France, in the summer of 2011. We decided on a format of 7 questions in 7 days, to make the interview focused and time based.
Q1, Monday, Jul 11
Gabriele Naia: During this week, I’d like to talk with you about your recent trip along Italy, where you visited Rome, Bologna, Milan, Turin, Lecce, Naples and Palermo, in order to formulate a possible conceptual and geographical map of Italian contemporary art scene. This ambitious research will become your next issue, presented at Nomas Foundation, Rome, on October 2011. But, to begin, let’s step back a while. I’d like you to talk a little about the Fucking Good Art project, about how it came out and why, about the specific forms you choose to transmit and put into action your researches. In other words, what is FGA?
Rob & Nienke: FGA stands for Fucking Good Art. F****** before the Good Art is an exclamation… meaning the magazine is on the look for it. Yes, it sounds a bit rude, but the intention is positive, and people tend to remember the name! Anyway we chose this name 7 years ago, and now we have to deal with it. It all started end of 2003 when we wanted to be more actively involved in the art scene in Rotterdam. Have our say. We wanted to influence the local cultural politics, and give attention to the many shows in independent spaces that were on display, but didn’t get any attention in the national media, never got reflected upon by newspapers, art magazines etc. FGA started as a zine for art critique by artists, by makers rather than leaving it only to the academics. We invited artists and curators to collaborate, and published in print; a A3 pink paper like Gazzetta dello Sport folded to A5, later also online. We printed 750 copies and distributed this locally and nationally, very informally, mostly by the contributors. We tried to make an issue every two months. The reception was really good. Then Fucking Good Art changed into a traveling editorial art project for research, functioning within different local realities.
Q2, Tuesday, Jul 12
GN: “Traveling editorial art project” is a nice formula to sum up what you currently do. Since 2004 you’ve been focusing and collecting specific issues on a lot of cities: München, Berlin, Dresden, Copenhagen, Riga, Basel, Zurich, São Paulo, Tbilisi. Finally, in early 2011, you approached Italy.
But, again, let’s go back a little, because you raised an interesting topic: art critique. It is rather proved that, today, the contemporary art scene is much more influenced and driven by curators and collectors than art critics or art historians. That doesn’t mean, of course, that art critique doesn’t exist anymore - it has just lost the very weight it could have 40 or 50 years ago.
Then what is, in your opinion, the role of a non academic art critique, and what can be its function in such a general panorama? Your operation, pursued by inviting artists and curators to collaborate on your website and printed issues, can be considered as a sort of meta-critique. How do you look at that?
R&N: If we remember well there was a crisis in art critique and maybe there still is. We bought the little paperback What Happened to Art Criticism? by James Elkins. It is about the loss of criticism as a craft, and at the same time it became perhaps too specialized and professional. Nowadays critics have to write texts for catalogs for artists and galleries to earn enough money.
On our Grand Tour in Italy we noticed that in Italy there is a confusion between the curator and the critic. In the past the critic was perhaps closer to the historian or the philosopher. We had a meeting with the über curator and critic Achille Bonito Oliva in his house. He said that there is no distinction anymore, the critic and the curator became one, in his person, ABO. We also learned that Achille Bonito Oliva is the one who introduced “Il Systema”, with very well defined roles and functions. Concetto Pozzati mentioned how since the war the artist disappeared from the centre stage, and became specialized as a producer, where before they were also writers, contextualized their work and taught. We are inspired by non-academic writing, and we’re interested in the point of view of the maker.
Our translator Gerard Forde just lectured us about artists from the past that came back into the spotlight because younger artists rediscovered them and studied them, and started a dialogue with the work in their own practice. These lines in art history are interesting we think.
Maybe writing on art lets not use art criticism is just another place where making and thinking meet. So yes our position is a meta position because we try to say something on art writing itself. The latest issues of the magazine aren’t about shows or works or art though, the subject changed to the whole context and humus around the production of art.
Q3, Wednesday, Jul 13
GN: I know Elkins' book, but I didn't read it yet. Achille Bonito Oliva, as you notice, is probably the most representative figure to summarize this fusion between the critic with the curator. But it must be said that a very few curators actually have such a preparation - that's probably where comes out the con-fusion you mentioned: if, today, curators and critics are usually embodied into one figure, nevertheless lot of exhibitions seem to lack a solid theorical (and theoretical) ground.
But regarding what you call the "writing on art": although in italy sometimes seem to lack in-depht researches and analysis, there are a lot of good art magazines as well, especially between Rome and Milan. cura.magazine, Nero, Kaleidoscope, Mousse, Exibart, Arteecritica, Flash Art, the brand new Artribune: despite the common place, there is a very vital and active debate. What is your impression about that, also comparing to other situations you came through in other cities or countries?
R&N: And SucoAccido in Palermo. First your first question: Yesterday we were working on the conversation with Adrienne Drake, curator from Giuliani Foundation in Rome. We were talking about this loss of distinction between curator and critic. She found it very problematic, because a critic should be free to write critically when he or she finds it necessary. Goal should be to Bring Art Further. A curator should be an accomplice of the artists in that.
But you cannot look at this without looking at the profane reality of everyday; in Italy to make living you have to, as Roberto Pinto said, write an article for 200 euro, curate a show for a gallery 1000, give a lecture for 150. It’s like the artists; patch workers. It’s difficult to gain an independent position like that.
About all the magazines and free press in Italy, It is really remarkable that in Italy over a period of lets say 7 years so many good art magazines were initiated. Nero almost started at the same time we did, but they have another path. We understood that one of the reason these magazines were founded is because it is so difficult for curators to find a job, start making exhibitions, and these magazines function as a space for curators, more than for artists.
We’re totally impressed by all these magazines, and we tried to figure out how they manage to make it anyhow, let alone for free. In a way they make a very good use of the fact so many Italians in the arts travel and migrate, it gives them a very tight and wide international network and reach. They are super professional, take different stands, look cool and manage to stay “on the wave”.
What we find puzzling with all these magazines is that they print 20, 40, or 60.000 copies and distribute them for free all over Italy some can also be found in other countries in Europe. The whole distribution looks like the distribution of advertisements, and off course the magazines are totally funded by advertisements. It is the logics of market, where only a huge overproduction makes you economically viable; it must be so expensive to print 20.000, but at the same time probably if you print a normal 2000 you cannot sell the advertisements. Each of these magazines deal with that reality differently. Nero plays with ads that are from a different world and estheticsthey’re smuggling subversive content into a larger field by packaging it into a contradicting popular aesthetics. Mousse we suspect cleverly curate their advertisements and show only the most renowned spaces, but we’re curious how it functions having to juggle between these roles. We once spoke with someone from a local newspaper, because we wanted to print one issue of Fucking Good Art inside that paper. The woman we had to negotiate with said something shocking and cynical, she said: “Our content is only an envelop for the advertisements”. So what if, as a free magazine, you have to deal with big fashion houses, galleries, museums, and what have you. I think they’re all totally courageous to go into that complicated field, and try use it to make something worthwhile, showing and introducing work and ideas to such a large audience. But who’s the Trojan horse, and who’s hiding inside it?
Q4, Thursday, Jul 14
GN: I agree with you. It’s a rather complex situation. Since, as you say, a lot of curators actually write for art magazines - and since curators can’t be completely impartial because of their “complaisant” attitude - there will difficultly be a free and uninterested critique. And the point you raise about the huge presence of advertisement is somehow part of the same problem, I guess, because, despite the more or less visual disturb, galleries and museums ads actually trigger other subtle dynamics of power. These questions take us to another interesting topic: no profit, independent or artist-run spaces, that usually seem to function on opposition to institutions and galleries. During your italian Grand Tour, did you meet interesting realities such like that and, if so, which ones? Of what kind do you think is the link between these independent or underground spaces and the more official context? Are there some connections, or they stand separated without communicating to each other?
R&N: We saw not so many really new models or totally exceptional artistic proposals from what we already know. But we saw many people who find some spaces and niches within the exciting structures to do interesting things, or to provide important things they felt were lacking. An example everyone agrees on is Careof, since 20 years the only archive of contemporary Italian art in Italy. And off course the magazines are a great example. Between the different cities and regions the situation differs a lot. In the south we saw people coming back after years in the north or abroad, introducing new views, and, very interesting, finding new free space for the arts. Where in the north the arts find refuge in empty industrial buildings, the south has a seasonal logic; tourism offers lots of empty spaces, but only for 10 month a year. Some of them also gain independence from the Italian reality by applying for European money. In Sicily and Lespedeza there are independent initiatives that make a point of reconnecting the intellectual discourse to reality and needs of daily life. In Turin the fact that the city wants to brand itself as the Italian capital of contemporary arts gives some more space to artists and initiatives. Rome is in an exited mood welcoming many new spaces and finding a new solidarity. Then there are the private academies that are interesting and also kind of problematic.
In Germany they speak of ‘Off’ spaces, like a switch you can be “on” or “off” in art. Ludicrous to desire to be “off”. But what would be a better name? Non-profit, no-budget, independent art space, NGO, etc. These negative definitions interestingly show what is considered the most important power structure. In Georgia, after so many years of communism, everyone calls themselves “Non Governmental Organisation”, in our reality “Non Profit” shows the power of the market. In Turin we met people who thought “independent space” was ridiculous and pretentious, where in GB and the Netherlands this is perfectly normal to say. (Even with a grant from the government!) In Holland in the beginning of the 1980s we called ourselves artist-initiative. This evolved into artist-run and much later in 1990s of course we saw the first curator-run spaces. ‘Project Space’ is quite neutral, just saying what it does, although seeing art as a succession of ‘projects’ is not neutral at all. The notion that an artist-initiative could also be called non-profit artist-run space came from New York, and has in fact a more economical connotation.
How radical is it to be a non-profit organisation? Bill Gates Foundation is a non-profit organisation with an endowment of US$33.5 billion. Non-profit means you have tax profits etc. For Gates it is green washing. He feels bad and wants to the people he exploited to love him. A non-profit or not-for-profit organisation is an organisation that does not distribute its surplus funds to owners or shareholders, but instead uses them to do good. So it is very complicated. That’s why I prefer still project space or self-organised space for contemporary art. But basically what we are talking about is commercial or non-commercial, or lets say ideological. I think. In Berlin alone there are more than 60 project spaces to compare, there are about 350 commercial galleries of which maybe only 20 are important powerful galleries. So what is the status of the other 330? Someone starting a gallery is also independent and auto-financed. Salon Populaire by Ellen Blumenstein and others in Berlin call their space a no-budget, because they simply have no money, and sell some beer and put their own money. Like 1:1projects did in Rome. The question is: what do you want? Do you want to contribute to the system, to Art, or do you use the highway.
It is clear however that it’s difficult to make time to run a space in a precarious reality in which “everyone for himself” is widely promoted. The new budget cuts in Italy as well as in the Netherlands will also have many consequences. If we don’t watch out, there will only be a few Bill Gates, Trusardi’s and Prada’s who can call themselves independent!
Outside of the arts there are also developments that are interesting and that the arts field could learn from; the slow food movement, and GAZ for instance, a new distribution network for ecological food from small producers. It’s connecting the small independent farmers who have some ideals about food production and landscape.
Q5, Friday, Jul 15
GN: I see. Your overview about the independent art scene is interesting, and actually spots out many tricky questions. However, it makes me a bit bewildered the fact you didn’t find any notable reality [nt1] during your Grand Tour. Since these spaces should be the very creative and experimental ground, to have a flat situation such like that means to have a very few energy for renewal. Isn’t it?
All the matter makes me wondering this: could the education system be part of the problem? Italian academies and art schools are quite old-style. Often they are not able to push students in the very core of the art scene, mainly because they don’t have concrete connections with the galleries or institutional circuit, but probably also because teaching methods actually don’t give a good preparation - able to put the students in a competitive position. Perhaps what I’m saying is a bit generic, nevertheless I think it is rather indicative that, in a recent interview, Hans Haacke stated that he didn’t know any remarkable italian art school, apart from Venice IUAV directed by Angela Vettese. What do you think about that? Have you been able to get an opinion about the topic?
R&N: Unfortunately we didn’t have a real impression from the academies. We wanted to, but perhaps it’s symptomatic nobody was very eager to take us, or are connected to people involved in the academies. The contemporary art scene and the academies are separate worlds. But there are exceptions off course. Nomas collaborations between visiting artists and the academy for instance, and we did speak with Alberto Garutti, who, we understood, is very important for the students of Brera. Then Venice, Bergamot, there is Naba for the rich kids, the summer academies Ratti and Spinola Banna are interesting initiatives, and about the academy in Sicily we also heard good stories. By the way; in Riso we saw the only very interesting group show of local artists, and I don’t know, but it could say something about the academy.
Jonathan Meese said we should close all art academies. It is a crazy idea. But there is also a truth in it. The art world is saturated with artists and curators. What will become of all these artists if we know that only 5 per cent will benefit from the system? I don’t want to sound too cynical, but this is a reality. In our Swiss Issue we looked for other models how to continue with art in this fucked up world. And in fact in our Italian issue which probably will bare the title ‘Italian Conversations Art in Times of Berlusconi’ we continue to look for different proposals, more ecological models. This means: it is not about big profits, super stars, and power galleries, but how can you make art and contribute to an interesting cultural and intellectual climate. Art and art education, and even government funding education all start to adapt the same market thinking and strategies. How can we make resistance? Who will make resistance? In Holland we have quite good art education. At least some of the art academies have a good reputation. Rietveld academy is the most international. But now with the budget cuts our minister of culture decided to stop the funding of post graduate research institutes like Rijksacademie and Jan van Eyck.
Of course we know a few spaces that have an interesting proposal, or have a strong position in the Italian art scene. And specially many many individuals have. But we are reluctant to name them here and single them out. In our Italian issue there will be all the names of places and people we met and find exciting. So I guess you have to wait until our Italian Issue will be presented in Rome.
Q6, Saturday, Jul 16
GN: Absolutely. As a matter of fact I'm rather trying to catch feelings and impressions, than specific names of people or places. That's why I'd like to ask you what's the flavour and the mood you finally breathed during your Italian Gran Tour... Which were your expectations, and which have been your conclusions - providing that there can be any?
R&N: We hoped to meet people in Italy from the art world - who have a less affirmative way of thinking. Who dare to think outside the art market and Darwinist competition. We believe in alternative networks. Because the (art) system that exists at the moment is good for few, and destructive for many. There is an economical crisis. And this crisis is there because of speculation and people having huge profits, while others end up with nothing. Read the book Hype! Kunst und Markt from Piroschka Dossi. This concentration on competition and the winners pinpoint a development: the escalation of inequality in our society. As an Italian you know about this. Right? Berlusconi has millions of euros, TV channels and real estate, while others have little. The art world is a mirror copy of this.
Ok, back to your question. But we also realized that so many people left the country and went to Berlin, Rotterdam, or New York. Like the artists from Transavanguardia. There is a brain drain. But we have also met a lot of people who came back to Italy because they think they need to be there to set up a structure and make some resistance. And finally; Italy is one of the most beautifull countries in the world. There is this wonderful daily material culture, it is one of the only countries where the supermarkets didn’t conquer everything and there are still small alimentary shops, great food and an incredible food culture, even in the inner cities; the landscape, the proximity of heritage and beauty of many centuries every step you take, outdoor life and always something happens in the streets, there are still a lot of small industries and crafts, and in cities like Palermo an incredible mix and inner cities that aren’t gentrified, elegance everywhere… Things have to be quite bad to leave Italy! The other day we were talking about the 50% budget cuts in the contemporary art funding and the severe cuts in education and public TV in the Netherlands, and how much this starts to look like the Italian situation. We were silent and sad, and then Rob said; ok, but when it all collapses, in Italy at least you always have Italy!
Q7, Sunday, Jul 17
GN: Perhaps it’s a matter of artists’ aim: I often have the feeling that, today, for many artists the very aim is to be part of the system, rather than to push on its boundaries or to push, as you say, Art further. And I don’t think that this is just an Italian problem... However, on next October the brand new Italian issue will be presented at Nomas Foundation, and there we will find everything about this exciting experience you had during these months. Just one more, this time silly, question: since you’re interested in alternative networks, underground realities and resistance, why did you choose the Gazzetta dello Sport-pink tone for Fucking Good Art? After all, Gazzetta dello Sport is one of the most popular Italian magazines, the very contrary of your militant spirit... (Laughing)…
R&N: Yes, radical content is best read through a pair of pink glasses. We take ourselves seriously, and the pink paper makes it a bit friendlier, makes it funny and therefore better to digest. The real story behind this color is that Nienke had some paper left from a card she printed for her sisters baby. So the first issue we used the pink paper that was left and it became the identity of Fucking Good Art.
GN: This sounds much more FGA!
Last Copies! 50,- euro
Fucking Good Art HQ Rotterdam / Berlin
Editors Rob Hamelijnck and Nienke Terpsma
Publisher(s): Post Editions, Rotterdam; NERO publishing, Rome; and Fucking Good Art
Book design and typography: Nienke Terpsma
ISBN NL: 9789460830624
224 pages / color & BW / 210 x 290 mm / softcover
English / Italian Edition
Nomas Foundation, Rome
Fonds BKVB, Amsterdam
Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Rome
Centre d'Art Contemporaine Parc Saint Leger, Pougues les Eaux
Colour & Books, Apeldoorn
Read the book review by Rachel Skimover from Berlin Independents Guide: http://www.bpigs.com/diaries/book-hook-italian-conversations
Nomas Foundation, Rome
Cecilia Canziani & Ilaria Gianni
Elisa Del Prete
Progetto Diogene, Turin
Raffaella Spagna & Andrea Caretto
Giusy Checola & Luigi Presicce
Morra Greco, Napels
FPAC gallery, Palermo
Participants / contributors
Achille Bonito Oliva
Daniele Del Pozzo
Elisa Del Prete
Giovanna Costanza Meli
Luco Lo Pinto
Maria Teresa Annarumma
Olga Scotto Vitale
Vincenzo de Belis