by Mia Badham and Melissa Kreider
This interview was conducted in July 2014
Gaetano Cunsolo is young artist who is currently living and working in Florence. We had the pleasure of meeting him and viewing a few of his works. He has studied in many different parts of the world including Florence (Accademia di Belle Arti), Milan (NABA), and Minneapolis (MCAD, Minnesota). Cunsolo incorporates many different mediums, as well as various processes in his art. This practice is also vital in his approach to teaching at Florence University of the Arts. He has worked as a professor for the School of Fine Arts at F_AIR, since the beginning of 2014.
We have had the chance to see two installations of yours in two different contexts. In both of the works, you seem to have a deep concern for the social context. Do you have something to say about this?
To say that I am working in a social context infers that I incorporate social practice, and this is not sufficient. I would say that it is almost impossible to think about the human subject outside its own social and political environment. So in these terms yes, my work has social connotation.
Let’s say for a moment that I am using a social practice. The second thought would be that I am dealing with groups of people and communities collectivity. Already this is a problem for me. By using these terms, there is an institutionalization that I do not like. There is a rhetorical background which is impossible to delete. This is because our western society is used to thinking about the individual subject and the collective subject as a two separated and distinct things. Even worse, the two are considered to be opposing concepts, the individual on one side and the collective on the other. It is such a stupid thing. We act as though we are constantly living in two separated moments, one internal and one external. One which is individual and one which is collective; one private and one public. I’m not saying that there is not a clear distinction, but the relationship is more complicated.It is a back and forth that is impossible to recognize.
To give a simple example I can say that I work in public spaces, with communities, like I work alone in my studio. I honestly do not see a difference.
How would you compare working in Prato to working in Florence?
Florence can be a difficult field in which to display my practice. This presents a nice challenge. It is a postcard difficult to approach.
Prato, on the other hand, presents with the aspects of a small town, where the suburban life mixes up with the life of the city center. For me, it was easier working in Prato because the city was ready, in a sense. It gave me the opportunity to work more spontaneously;I was free to make choices as the occasion arose. The moment of idealization was simultaneous with the realization and the elaboration.
People could see me in Prato while I was working on the Laboratorio di autocostruzione per un rifugio (laboratory for the self-construction of a shelter), collaborating with the group of boys from Prato’s middle school. I used to sit and eat in the bar across the street from the square where I realized the lab and the installation. Everything was fine, easy even, although this may not be the best word to describe it.
What was it like for you being an Italian artist in America? Did you find yourself being influenced by a new place?
Sure. I am constantly influenced by new places and people, here in Italy like everywhere else. But I totally reject the idea of myself as an “Italian artist in America.” Sorry if I am doing a lot of complaining about specifics but I reject any connotation that comes from the idea of nationality.
The nationality is not the expression of my culture, it is just a bureaucratic boundary. It is difficult for me to think about Italian culture, American culture, German culture and so on. At least it is not enough. I think is more complex than this and this complexity is really something I look for. Even if sometimes I like to joke and make fun of someone by generalizing in terms of nationality, I know that these connotations are totally useless.
Anyway, I changed a lot in America. I went there with a scholarship from MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art and Design). I was almost finished with my studies, which gave me the chance to focus on my artistic practice without doing other jobs for money. I was free to frequent any of the lab classes there. I was lucky, because the teachers of the labs were all talented artists and curators. Through my experience, I found there many things that I was unconsciously looking for.
See, there is no model, there are different experiences, that is why I do not like to put a region or state name next to the culture word. This gives the impression a system, a model, creating the illusion of an easily understood context.
In the States I realized, or it was my impression, that people were paying more attention to the things that do work in a project rather than things that do not work. This, in a way, led me to a fruitful perspective.
As assistant curators for F_AIR, we deal mainly with networking through social media. You mentioned that you have mixed feelings about this approach. Would you care to explain your feelings on social media?
I do not have clear feelings nor irremovable thoughts. Social media gives a different layer to our relationships and sometimes it even seems to erase them. In what kind of way? Let‘s specifically talk about the finissage of Right Before I Was. The curator did the Facebook event and then a lot of people shared the event, showing their participation. Now, how many people came of them even if they said they were coming? Why would they say “Yes, I’ll participate.” with a click and then not show up? Our perception of reality is changing and this means that the language and its systems also need to be reformulated.Otherwise, the people who said they would come would be there. The funny thing is, we already know that we cannot trust this system of information, so, my question is, “Why do we continue to use it?”
That click is just a friend showing support, I know this, but at the same time we would like to have those friends actually attend the event. We need them, not their abstract support.
So the problem is that social media (Facebook in this context) plays a dichotomy role. You can answer to things, yes or no, maybe at most but it is all meaningless. I think that social media presents itself as a free and democratic way to express thoughts, but itis really doing the opposite. It flattens the possibility and complexity of the field of discussion. This complication and depth is really the space that I am looking for.
Which direction do you see your work going in the future? Do you have any new projects planned?
I am working on a book right now. I have not found a publisher yet, but I hope to find someone soon! I am also working on architectural models of bunkers and other shelter structures done with clay. I hope to put them in an exhibition. My first solo show? We will see what happens. I would like to do something outside of Italy again soon. It would be nice to do my first solo show somewhere around Europe.
Ah! Almost forgot… I will receive my master‘s degree the 8th of July.