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A 3D dialogue between host Alfredo Aceto, curator Julie Boukobza and CFA’s lateral thinking

Stefano Pirovano

We met Alfredo Aceto and Julie Boukobza at the dinner party celebrating the artist’s current solo show at Bugada & Cargnel in Paris. Titled after a famous Italian “hermetic” poetry by Salvatore Quasimodo, “Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world, pierced by a ray of sunlight, and suddenly it’s evening”, in its original version as follows –

«Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
trafitto da un raggio di Sole:
ed è subito sera.»

– the exhibition gathers together visual metaphors which address specific places, theories and experiences that are somehow to be regarded as intangible elements accurately collected as pieces of a virtual ready made. In regards with the unspoken fil rouge connecting these elements, the beholder is allowed to speculate, for the exhibition’s introductory text produces only the ingredients for the recipe, not the quantities needed, or the indications about how they should be used. On the other hand, the hardware – a gate, a floor window, a curtain, a copy of prehistoric statue, a light stand, a clock, some pictures – composes a sort of tableaux vivant, or still life, merged with the gallery space and animated by artificial lights. In order to mirror the hidden structure possibly supporting this multi-layered interior representation – the orange carpet covering the floor turns the public gallery space into a private one, thus recalling Felix Gonzales Torres to all those who visited his recent show at the New Museum –, we organized a three voices email dialogue where the participants are interviewer and interviewed at the same time.

Cfa to Julie Boukobza. Among the many information collected by Alfredo in this occasion – from those related to the sad memories evoked by the city of Prypiat to the mnemonic technique of phonetic conversion invented by the German mathematician Stanislaus Mink Von Wennshein – would it be possible to pinpoint a dominant one?

Julie. I don’t believe Alfredo is collecting information in a way, more than it’s about an obsession to time and numbers amongst others. A city that existed only for 17 years, a woman that built 160 rooms in her house, things Alfredo learned as a kid and realized as a teenager, his very first and last show… We can quote names, people and places but the only thing that really matters in this show is this kind of strange film-set that gives many contradictory clues of a young artist life in motion.

Julie to Alfredo Aceto. Can you talk about your mentors in art, and your relationships to them? It seems that women play a central role, from Paola Pivi to Sophie Calle to name a few.

Alfredo. Despite never studying within the Italian school system, and not living in Italy for a very long time, I’ve been brought up in an Italian family. My mother used to work in the literature field, particularly engaged with the defence of women’s rights in a country which has never really paid much attention to this matter. I think this has led me since I was young to question authorities, while attempting to change the language which has induced our society to make the same mistakes over and over again. Therefore, I believe I‘ve seen in Sophie Calle and Paola Pivi, two strong women who were able to exist as women, no matter the context they worked in. I wasn’t influenced by their work as such, but rather by the way, as a young man, I saw in them portraits of strength and independence. We are used since birth to protect the point of view of the individual but this notion is bound to wear out over time and it is from this defeat that we begin to walk alone within a community which everyone should take care of. Going back to my mentors in the art world, most of them are friends, of my same age.

Alfredo to Cfa. It seems to me that in this limbo, where the past is already far gone while the future doesn’t embrace us yet, the emergence of technology has brought about, amongst many things, the research of an archaic and rudimentary world. Within this context, archaeology could actually become a shamanic act, rich of animism. How would you interpret the relationship that technology has with such comebacks?

Cfa. Technology is always at work to extend our possibilities. In our case, we see more, we remember more, and we better process the variety of information provided by our powerful technological tools. Let’s think, for example, how scientific analysis are helping the eye of the connoisseur. Or how the availability of images and info is extending people’s knowledge of the history of art. As recently stated by Jeff Koons, “today if I make a reference to Pussin it’s because Pussin feels like a great uncle”. And so it goes with archaeology, that nowadays can count on satellites and tomography, just to name a few of the sources of information currently at its disposal. Nevertheless We may say that art is still a way to speculate on how we feel about what we know; and that is generally what Arcadia make me think about when I see artworks addressing its myth.

Cfa to Alfredo. How would you describe the cluster of information related to your current show at Bugada Cargnel and its relationship with the pieces?

Alfredo. Those “pieces of information” are like intrinsic definitions in the artworks and I can’t separate one from the other, or else the authenticity of the whole discourse will fail and in that case all the forms become possible and equal (which occurs too often). Having said so, I believe that an artwork can be independent and able to involve the visitor without resorting to incredible theories. It is no longer the information or the language which should lead us toward the experience of a place, or of a object. The exhibition focuses on various points in time and space which come to live together in the same space. Somehow like an alternative form of reality wherein one can choose at what speed and where to go.

Alfredo to Julie. Some years ago I went to a talk by Romeo Castellucci where he lectured about the current situation regarding the production of images.  Since then, and especially in the works that I’ve exhibited in Paris, his words have been playing a considerable role in my own practice. Castelluci describes our life as a desert of images, so saturated to the point that it is almost impossible to observe them one by one. From my point of view, I’ve always found this reading, which at first may seem rather pessimistic, quite intriguing insofar as it implies the possibility of something else, which goes beyond the notions of author and representation or of a Marxist approach to objects.  What is your opinion about these ideas of cancellation and elimination?

Julie. Funny enough, I went back to the Odéon theatre last winter for the first time after a long break. The piece I saw was Oresteia (an organic comedy?) by Castellucci, a remake of his work first performed in 1995. In 1995 I was a teenager, I remember of the release of the movie Seven, I discovered some years later Matthew Barney, and as a consequence the possible affinity with Ed Kienholz, behind these settings, these costumes, these make-up, these excesses. We confided in earplugs arriving at the theatre, for protecting us from an extravagant sound editing. This piece aged dramatically. Nothing was more shocking, nothing was more provoking. However, by being so rooted in its own time, this show had lost its sharpness. In an attempt to reply to your question, Alfredo, without having attended this specific lecture, if we take this example, images do fade away, more than disappearing. Yet others will disappear with us, I think, without reflecting too much, of certain scenes of My Golden Days by Arnaud Desplechin, of some sculptures by Isa Genzken, of some pieces by Gabriel Kuri, or the images we related to the intimate and to certain faces. The images which fade at birth must have certain weaknesses.

Julie to Cfa. In which way Alfredo’s exhibition could shed light on what young Italian artists of his generation are doing these days?

Cfa. Alfredo was born in Turin, but he left Italy when he was 16. He studied in Switzerland, at École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), and is currently based between Geneva and Paris. As most of the Italian artists of his generation, he had to leave his country to build up his career. Italian contemporary art system is too fragmented and not efficient enough to support them. The main Italian contemporary art galleries have no more than one or two Italian artists in their roster, and rarely they are emerging artists. No contemporary art institution has been able yet to gather together the best collectors. On the contrary, most of them prefer to run their own spaces, even if they know that the stand-alone model may fail on the international arena. On top of it, Italian government is focused on preserving the extensive national artistic heritage, which is by the way an extraordinary complex and expensive task. It is somehow easier, in Italy, to became a successful art restorer than a painter. Having some good curators doesn’t help to cope with what I would call an alarming psychological subjection. At the moment what Italian artists of this generation have in common can’t be anything but the hope for a better future in their country.

November 7, 2018