photo credit: Ivan Divanto
Be as happy as possible, print, dibond, plexy, air-freshner, hardware, fragrance/ sandal wood and jasmine Bali, 35x25x7 cm. (detail)
Do you make your own fragrance?
I can’t and I don’t want to, there’s always a misunderstanding about this reason. People think there’s something romantic message but I am really not interested in it. I use very common fragrances you can find in low-priced discounts, very pop ones. They are used in houses and office and that’s the real point of my work. I discovered a banal thing, that people put these electric dispensers to cover the real smells in private and public spaces, these synthetic smells cover natural ones so the optimism planned by the positive modern way of thinking is always used to cover or to hide the problems and paranoia of life. Are they political? I don’t think so, I only like the idea of using things that people can discover in everyday life. They can recognize them and then start wondering “Why this guy uses these things?” and then, I hope, they can start giving answers about the choice. These perfumes are bridges to communicate.
Are the fragrances site specific?
I started working with fragrances without a real interest in specific spaces, I was fascinated by the idea of how windows were not part of the white cube environment. In these works it is important that scent does not disperse, that’s why the perfect environments must be clean, aseptic, artificially illuminated and abstractly sterilized. There must be no disturbance elements. The ideal would be to have a room for each of these works in order to avoid as much contamination as possible. Lately, I have been called to intervene in hybrid, exotic or contaminated spaces, so I'm thinking about evolution that has a greater harmonic connection with the environments.
Exit through the comfort zone, Print, dibond, plexy, air-freshner, hardware, green case, moquette, Fragrance: sensitive scients, 140 x 140 x 197 cm.
Why are you interested in working with scent?
I think it’s only because I was a bit tired about the only enjoyment of works by the web and social platforms. I really think there’s no problem with these methods of sharing. Today everything is mediated by web culture but when I decided to start with fragrances my idea was to leave something about a real experience. You can only look at my works by 50% on the internet. There’s something left to the imagination or you have to come to experience it. I also use these fragrances to let the Aura to develop the messages of the works. You have more semantic reading plans. You have images, phrases and fragrances, joined in a three-dimensional work.
How do you describe your work to people who can't experience it in person as fragrance has taken on an important role in your practice?
Well, your question in some way is also an answer. Unfortunately, I really can’t explain the effect of fragrances in these works. I can converse, of course, I can translate what the result can be by using my words and phrases. For example, if you’re just looking at these pictures you can only imagine what the final effect can be. I always have to make clear that fragrances take possession of the environment and make the artwork grows until the limits of the space. It takes back its own habitat and cuts off people.
Smile and the world will smile with you, print, dibond, plexy, air-freshner, hardware, Fragrance: Morning dew, 35x25x7 cm.
Smile and The World will smile with you depicts a naked woman with her legs spread out and her genital covered by a freshener. What is the smell of this freshener? Are you criticizing women?
Oh no, no, I love women.
But in some way, it’s possible to fall in doubt and consider this work as a critique, also because I used this image to reference the posters you see in Italian car workshops and trucks. The base could be a male chauvinist, but it's really not. It’s a very hard image but there’s much more. If you look at older works like L’origine du Monde by Courbet or Etant Donné by Duchamp, the main focus was on the vagina, that was the taboo to discover and shock people in those years. Today vagina is no more a taboo.
I was interested in the act of love and reproduction and how over we can go with sex experiences. It’s a primary possibility of love connection where an electric disposable gets inside a female human body. If you look at the electric outlets, for example, there's the male part and the female part. The male one gets inside the female socket on the wall. Why do we call these two parts "male" and "female"? The fact is that wherever there is a penetration we think of something sexual. If I look at this work I see a love connection. A sexual act that becomes universal by the quote that alludes to the world. Don't forget that these works are electric-powered and this means life to me. If you create current-powered artworks you have to believe that electricity is life. It's a metaphor of course.
The fragrance is Morning Dew and the sentence “Smile and the world will smile with you” is very famous and common. But if we take the vagina as a focus center we can see it looks like a smile, they are both cut. And if the vagina is a smile it's possible to associate with the world through the act of universal love. The union becomes a symbol, it does not mind if it is a real or a fake sensation. The reality is a lost concept in mind, substituted by a game of mirrors and shadows. Finally, if you look at the image no sexual parts are shown. No breast, no vagina... Nothing. Once again, It's something left to the imagination.
Stand by me, sex vibrating egg, paperweight gadget, inkjet print, remote control, 15,5 x 8 x 12,5 cm.
Is Stand by me based on the movie that shares the same title?
No, The title comes to mind thinking about the song, this little work was presented at the Cité des Arts in Paris. The work is inside of a grand piano, It is an assembly of some elements that enclose an idea of pleasure and voyeurism. There is an erotic female simulator that functions as a remote control, activating the percussion strings of the piano. There is a small stick with a green eye that looks at you and holds an image of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa D'Avila by Bernini, it is unclear whether the ecstasy is of a mystical or carnal type.
Do you consider your work as a form of kitsch?
I consider these works in the middle of an intersection, all my works try to be at the exact point of a cross between POP, Conceptualism, politics, and minimalism. I always start from this cross to make artworks and series. The kitsch you are talking about is actually just one of the components of the works. The use of scent is both conceptual and minimal because it imposes on space and allows you to travel. They also have distinctly POP characteristics on the use of colours, plastic elements, popular images and Word Art quotes. They are in a sociopolitical relationship with the optimist strategies.
Be as happy as possible, print, dibond, plexy, air-freshner, hardware, fragrance/ sandal wood and jasmine Bali, 35x25x7 cm.
Let's talk about typography, what is the font visually communicating in the fragrance series?
I used Word Art. I’ve chosen it because it is very popular and has a nostalgic feeling.
Looking back on your older work such as Untitled (M.I.D.), the font is quite different compared to the fragrance series, what does this font want to convey? How does the design influence people's feelings?
M.I.D. is about May induce drowsiness, the phrase on the canvas. This canvas is part of a series that addresses the phrases of risk and safety, these R-Phrases and S-Phrases are used internationally. I find them interesting to use on canvas for their specific functionality. They become absolute and abstract with no connotations but the fact of being extrapolated and then being presented in their absoluteness, it immediately shows the feeling of a more intimate dialogue with the audience. You are in front of this canvas. What causes drowsiness? What is the cause of irreversible risks? There are no answers. I only insert some elements to go with the sentences. Sometimes they are thin connections, and other times are nonsense strokes. Anyway, they are a rebus. That's why I called them Tapu Blanks because I wanted to have a connection with the deepest fears, our obscure taboos, there is a semantic emptiness of the phrases, detaching from its function or object.
Untitled (M.I.D.), Canvas, stickers, PVC, nonwoven, 150 x 100 cm.
You also co-run a gallery space called ULTRASTUDIO, Is it a half gallery half studio?
We like to call it a studio or an artist run space. We have four members, with me, there are also Gioia Di Girolamo, Ivan Divanto and Matteo Liberi. We are a family and a team. We discovered an exhibition space in the central area of an industrial warehouse at the outside of Pescara (Abruzzo-Italy) where we host personal exhibitions of international artists. This is the second year of GUEST and, unlike the first one, this has a curatorial fil rouge to whom we gave the name From Light to Dust and you will see a series of personal exhibitions where we will try to go on a journey from the Light, meant as a primal perception, to the obscure aspects of the human soul and social dynamics.
What is its mission? does it have a theme or certain aesthetics?
We do not pursue a style or a particular inclination, which depends on the fact that we are very different. Each of us has his background and ways of understanding art. Any project, whether inside or outside ULTRASTUDIO, comes out only when we find a point of balance, maybe this is our strength. if I were to tell you a common denominator perhaps I would say that it is in the will of a generational discourse. We like to work with artists of our generation, obviously already professionals, but in their doing they still have something to talk about our present. We do not like working with artists who already smell old.
What is your role in ULTRASTUDIO?
Like Gioia, Ivan and Matteo.
25+25+25+25= 100 and here's to you ULTRASTUDIO.
Upcoming projects for ULTRASTUDIO?
We got to take part in the latest FuturDome by Ginevra Bria for the satellite event of MiArt Fair in Milan, one of the most important shows in Italy.