Diego Marcon and the Ludwig paradigma

Stefano Pirovano  -  May 30, 2018

Diego Marcon has been shortlisted for 2018 MAXXI Bulgari Prize. The winner will be announced next October. Meanwhile Ludwing will keep on lighting our darkness.

The animation Diego Marcon is competing with for 2018 MAXXI Bulgari Prize – the most important contemporary art prize in Italy at the moment together with the Max Mart Art Prize for Women – presents a child sitting on a crate, inside a completely dark cargo hold of a ship at the mercy of a violent storm. Thunders and lighting are striking outside; inside it’s pitch black. However, instead of being frightened, the child is looking after his human condition. He lights a match (this could call to mind certain Mannerists’ night painting, from Gherado delle Notti to Correggio) and sings an aria which relates how depressed he is to the point he would ‘kick the bucket’ – which is an effective expression precisely because a child would never say it (the text was written by Marcon himself, the music is by Federico Chiari). Hence the real thunderstorm is happening deep within himself. The lied is cut off by the burning down match which burns his fingers. Then the neo-romantic hero – it is no coincidence his name is Ludwig – lights a new match and starts over singing the piece, thus triggering an eternal return to the moment when the match burns his fingers again, and he lights a new one. Like many recent works by Diego Marcon, such as Monelle, that was shot in the ex Casa del Fascio in Como, or il Malatino (both from 2017), also Ludwig mirrors a psychological scenario pending between autobiography and collectivity. On the one hand, there is the artist, a seismographer of the energies that move the world he lives. On the other hand, there is an entire generation struggling with the traps you come across in life and its darkest places.

Perhaps not everyone knows that you are a fan of Federica Pellegrini.  Why do you like her? Swimming is not that typical sport that fires up crowd. It’s more about effort and discipline.

I’m struck by the great effort and the commitment put into a gesture that is over in just few instants. I remember when she won the gold metal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic; it was great. There is a difference, for instance, between Federica and a MotoGP idol like Valentino Rossi.

Are you a risk-taker?

I recall the day when Ayrton Senna lost his life in Imola, in 1994. I was a child, and my parents had brought me to a stable to go horse riding. Just after straddling the horse, my eyes swallowed so much that I had to be taken to the hospital. There I was applied eye-pads that I had to keep on for some days. At home, that night, I remember hearing the news about the accident. I could hear the reporter’s voice and the engine sounds; but I couldn’t see the images.

Do you have any other allergies?

I’m extremely allergic to cats. My mother has seven. I can’t stay at her place for more than a few hours, else I have to get a cortisone shot.

Do you play any sport?

No, I’ve never really been keen on sports. I played football when i was a kid, like most of the other kids. However, a few years ago, when I was living in the suburbs – a kind friend let me live in a house he couldn’t sell – I used to go swimming to the public pool nearby.

Are you one of those who counts laps, or checks the time?

I counted laps.

Have you stopped then?

Now I live in Milan and there is a swimming pool not too far from my place. I’ve been planning to get a membership for at least one year; I haven’t done it yet.

Every change of state implies the application of a force.

Yes, it maybe. I remember what a psychoanalyst I went to for a while told me. We had an agreement. As I couldn’t afford the therapy, we decided that, the moment I thought what he had done for me was worth one of my works, then I’d give him a piece. He made sure to point out that it wasn’t about economic value. He used to tell me that if you don’t achieve something, or you don’t do that certain thing, it means that you don’t really want it. He also said that if you live a miserable life it means that somehow you enjoy this feeling of misery. But in this case you should ask yourself, why do I desire to live in a state of misery? Evidently I don’t want to go swimming that much…

Also the economist Richard Thaler recalls how Daniel Kahnemann, his master, praised his laziness. He told him that, after all, this is simply how the brain selects what is really important to do, in order not to waste effort. They both won the Nobel Prize.

I’m very interested in sleep, inactivity, laziness, boredom, starting from their formal aspect. A body collapsed on a couch is more fascinating to me than one operating a forklift. I’ve been curios about the resistance forces acting against productive activities since I was a teenager fascinated by punk culture. Or, better, by punk in the rave environment.

Has punk kept on working for you?

Yes, punk is an attitude and it still does work for me. Even though my life is now more structured and regular. In the morning I’m generally in a good mood and I work better. From 2 to 5pm I become more melancholic. It’s that time of the day I struggle to do anything and nothing I do gives me pleasure. After 5pm, however, when the streets are back to life and the people from the neighborhood come home from work, then I also feel alive again. I wake up very early also on Saturday and Sunday, and these are possibly my favorite days for working. Actually Saturday, to be honest. On Sunday I go back to feel rather melancholic again.

How old are you?

I’m 33. It’s too late to die like a rock star.

Is art a job?

My father says you can call it a job only if you make money.

Your father is probably right. But then there are some jobs where you don’t get paid on a regular basis. In art what you are doing now may be recognised only later on, also in a very far future. Would your father claim that Van Gogh has never worked in his life?

True. Yet, lately, I’ve been spending time in coordinating the various parts of the project, which really a sort of office job.

What’s your relationship with art collecting?

I don’t know many collectors but I’m intrigued by this attitude. I’m thinking, for instance, about a friend from Genoa who, besides art, collects many other things, including airplane or snacks gadgets, design objects, action figures or cigarette packets. His collections are all incomplete. it often happens that he becomes excited about something hence invests all his energy in finding those specific objects. After a while, however, he gets tired of it and starts over with something new. All of his collections are actually aborted and sad in some way. With regards to art, I like the idea of a collector which is part of the creative process and takes care of the artist’s production.

Do you collect?

No, and I’ve never had the desire to own a work of art. I like books.

Can you give us some examples?

I like Heldenplatz by Thomas Bernhard very much. In Italy it was first published years ago by Ubulibri and today is re-edited by Einaudi, together with Ubulibri itself. I prefer the Ubu’s editions to Einaudi’s one, despite being identical. So I collected most of them – which are few, five volumes and a booklet.

Do you think through images or messages?

I do think through images, even if they tend to sicken me. A lot of my recent works stem from this rejection of images and their hierarchies.

Is this what you are interested in?

Until 2014 the subject of my videos and the form my works were taking were strictly related, in order to carry on a metalinguistic reflection on the medium itself. For instance, salut! hallo! hello! (2010), shot in a print shop where they print postcards, tries through clinical, analytical, detached shots on the production process to record the moment when the object-postcard becomes the image-postcard, that is a visual fragment which is able to crystallize a very strong collective consciousness. The job fails the intent, yet it opens up to something else. From being a documentary, the video slowly becomes a rhythmic and abstract composition based on the same elements that compose the image. Or, in Litania, which was shot in Medjugorje, the videocamera follows the pilgrims around various praying stations during a solar day. While getting closer to the Apparition time, the same video loses its sight. The image becomes entirely dark and nothing is visible any longer. At this point in my production there isn’t any subject more important than another, or a hierarchy between different subjects. Somehow the process of the image’s production has taken on the central role in my work.

And now?

At the moment I can’t think about a video, or a movie, kept together just by the cutting. Nevertheless, the cinema continues to represent for me a stimulating discipline, not only for the countless archetypes of its genres, but also for its sentimental elements. Many art videos could easily turn into ads campaigns by simply adding a logo. This is not a problem as such, but I regard as important that my work is also read in the tradition of the experimental cinema.