Within a growing reality of thoughts from elsewhere, Enrico Boccioletti poses an encounter that is, above all, lasting. Despite the eventual ties of memory that come alongside a past that has been actively lived—in this case our weeks-long conversation over google docs—it is not a generic feel of experience that survives after having talked to the Italian artist. But hints of genuine impact that won’t easily come undone. And I’m sure of that. It’s hard to explain the inner profundities that emit while being in dialogue with Boccioletti. Things revolve around art, like they do with others, yet somehow there’s a parallel life of an almost absolute self-awareness that also includes the one of the other. Persisting. Maybe, triumphing. There’s his availability, not habituated by naiveté but a symbiotic state of presence. And whether it’s intentionally or unintentionally implemented by him, it doesn’t really matter.
Based in Milan, Boccioletti has built an artistic practice that ranges between the material and immaterial, pieces that exist both within the physical as well as the digital world. Although at times totally independent from one another, the overall union between the different languages seems to locate itself within the ethically-curious investigation of human conditionality. Absence versus presence, what does it mean to exist physically within the nonmaterial? How has the context of our circumstances shifted ever since the internet has become our stream of life? Boccioletti doesn’t give answers, and neither does he want to. He’s too considerate to wanting to occupy such presumptuous territory. Yet within his ongoing research, there are moments that could come close. Like fragments of some of his statements, “... to have compassion not just for others but also for oneself.” Despite Boccioletti’s natural artistic genius that becomes fathomable immediately, it’s his absurd sensibility that makes him singular to me. And what’s a better praise than deliberately living in a quasi-stranger’s memory?
The more time I’ve spent with your work, the more I’ve discerned your hyper-awareness. While utilizing different tools of technology, and internet’s general landscape, there’s a constant stance of human sensitivity. Yours, to be precise. I still tend to separate these two matters, perhaps drastically. The internet still poses consequences of sterility. In most traditional ways, it is intangible. Whereas human sensitivity is able to exist, substantially, within the physical world. It’s much like absence versus presence.
These thoughts of yours indeed activate more than simple identification. They do evoke an eerily feeling of alienated familiarity, gentle, affectionate, while distant and disjointed. Nothing is fortuitous, but everything is partial. I can’t help but conceive this kind of awareness as pathological, embedded from the overexposure to gigantic piles of contradictory information. I cannot conceal I’m thinking also of the conscious operation you are doing with your instagram activity, for instance: a meticulously compiled ongoing composition of disembodied intimacy and speculative writing of dramatic poetic urgency.
Yes, it makes use of the internet as a means, I receive your updates through the feed of my account, yet it's conveying waves of affective density way larger than the mere attempt of stressing the boundaries of a contradiction: there is more polyphony than dualistic counterposition. I may be wrong but it looks to me we are pointing fingers at the same horizon, trying to decode an expression of the inexpressible, eavesdropping on the membranes of unvoiced instruments that could suddenly tune up a revelation in disguise. That is why I approach my research to an activity of listening subsonic frequencies rather than to the industry of production. Weirdly enough baritonal is the anagram of anti-labor. Perhaps afraid of missing some part of the puzzle, I’ve come to believe that sometimes doing nothing is the necessary condition to engage in significant somethings; to become aware (that could possibly be the reason why you are perceiving me as such?) about the range of potential outcomes in taking action. I can’t tell if this resembles more the mindset of panic attack or the one of conscious evaluation anymore, possibly a balance between the two—at alternating phases.
Anyway that’s the kind of blurriness which renders this awareness half painful and half twistedly enjoyable; a feeling so acute of being your body to inhibit one’s ability to move, it’s paralyzing. I feel alluringly traumatized by technology, that’s maybe why I can’t let go of it. Existing here and now, as it’s always been, is a complicated assignment for everybody. I’m tired of hearing banal talks on the Anthropocene: we cannot return upstream neither fully escape this acceleration yet we must acknowledge our bodily vulnerability; “Beauty is the call of the vulnerable flesh and the fragile glass.” (Timothy Morton). To desire one’s body happening after the commodity, in order to apprehend care beyond built in obsolescence.
A type of personal trauma necessarily evokes fundamental consequences. In what ways has your life been affected by technology, by the internet? Do you think we’re already old enough to experience its consequences that are everlasting?
There is a character, a young woman, in a recent movie by Jean-Luc Godard—Film Socialisme (2010), his second to last more precisely—who, after having called (together with her younger brother) her parents to appear before the court of their childhood, states the following: «Well, Mother, we’re entering an age with digital technology, where, for different reasons, humanity will have to face problems that won’t allow themselves the luxury of being expressed.»
Moving from a different generational awareness but leading perhaps to a similarly oriented inclination, together with Swiss-based French artist Marion Goix, we initiated a collaboration in the form of a conversation piece, inspired by the request of common friend to write a contribution for her MA dissertation around the themes of love and the end of the world. An ongoing work in multiple episodes, originated from personal thoughts and notes revolving around Millennials as the living legacy of a “soft apocalypse,” DID I BORN THE 31 DEC 1999? overplays a sense of urgency by means of an ill-formed capitalized question to interweave a theory-fiction about hallucinations, affectivity and extinction, dreamtime, currencies, monuments, and the invisibility of catastrophe. “May the end be absence of explanation, or the excess of description?” we come to ask, almost at the very beginning, while a laconic affirmation precedes the (temporary) conclusion: “One says that the biggest catastrophe appears when no one can see it.”
Information technology, technologies of seeing and listening, nanotechnology, biotechnology, technologies of desire, they all are omnipresent—the idea, or the potential thereof, when not the very being there—it’s an all-encompassing placenta we’ve been bred into, exponentially. I am unsure whether we have the powers to comprehend if the consequences could be everlasting, but indeed I believe this very incapacity to verbalise the core of the trauma (happening with and within technology) to be one of the most gigantic unresolved questions for our generation
I’m not sure we’re able to verbalize trauma that’s freshly bred. After all, it’s always the passage of time that permits us to examine and feel things in their actual reality. So it might not be a matter of generation, but a mere matter of recency.
I agree indeed. From the gaze older generations project onto us, we evidently must appear to be a “lost” one. Franco “Bifo” Berardi, who’s also been one of my teachers at the Brera fine-arts academy in Milan, has long kept insisting on this wasteland-like scenario and the lack of sensibility of a generation who have learned more words from machines rather than from mothers, seemingly unable to develop solidarity, empathy and autonomy.
I feel somehow half embarrassed, and half culpable, to indulge in this perspective, even if that creates an awareness, mainly because it evidently seems to me leading nowhere else than to some self-conscious “work of mourning.” It might be a mere matter of recency, I am joining you in hope, there must be much far beyond this privileged western white male’s culpability-driven inferiority complex. The power of imagination can revive the dead, such is the potential of fabulation and imaginative practice. As Simone Weil put it, “Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.”
In the wake of a renovated wave of conservative anti-intellectualism, which situates deep roots in the mythology of praxis, justified from the neoliberal ritornello worshipping meritocracy, professionalism, expertise and ultimately ruthless self-entrepreneurship, it is urgent we re-establish a practice of thought, of taking action in reformulating alternatives. I believe an activity of thought to be a means of activism. Change happens minute by minute, in the deep intensity of long-term activity that trepasses the boundaries of individuals and generations, similar in qualities and configuration to the sparkling intensity of poetry in its capacity to go beyond language, exist beyond language, and fabricate new meanings by vibration, reverberating longer beyond the short-term of agreed grammatical concordance and syntactical significance. Down with experts, hooray for wanderers: beyond the bottlenecks of causality there is uncontrollable correlation, not in the ambition to retrieve a main drag yet in curiosity for the unknown.
What if we cease indulging in the critique of the diseases afflicting patriarchal capitalism and we rise up against the whole of it? Piercing through the bleak bounds of its limited horizon and finally gaze in other perspectives, telling the need for new storytelling, evaluating the eventuality of deviant values, and differing lastly in different differentialities? Should it be named optimistic nihilism or planetary anarchism or, perhaps, trans-species bonding, it is a matter of conceiving chaotic alternatives to dismantle the nonsense of wage-earning, the colonial worldview of privileged welfare states, and ultimately the phallocentric authority of the author―at length problematic while still predominant.
In ways, the accelerated existence of online presence has also generated a differently active toward what is human. The continuous push toward an alienated self within the physical world might inherently generate the opposite, uniting us once again within what is still material.
Honestly your question makes me think about a paper I’ve been recently writing for a PhD candidacy, which I still find quite meaningful although the proposal didn’t went through, at the end of the day. I am shamelessly taking back some parts in our conversation here almost in their entirety as, speaking of alienation, I’m always more frequently coming back at myself as a human being of very limited resources rather than behaving as a “factory” of content production. To be alive—here, now, there, once, and tomorrow—is a fragmentary task. We may, for a good reason, assume this assignment as the inexact discipline about a contradictory axis between necessity and desire, which is the (ever mutating, always ongoing) attempt to learn how and comprehend why, come to be in, and relate to the world.
From a human position, this process questions the inner features of humanness and how to learn to live, as well as, perhaps now more than ever, it investigates the boundaries of sustainability in the temporal and spatial expansion of this existential project, as it relates with unprecedented magnitudes and uncertainties. Both at the human infra-personal, social, and planetary scales (as sexualized, racialized, and class-divided individuals; as communities; as part of hegemonic or declining cultural narratives; as a species), along the points of intersection with multiplicities of thinking and not-thinking forms of life and non-life—as natural as artificial. Here I am taking into account animals, plants, minerals, software, mutants, cyborgs, intangible worlds, ungraspable quantities and undulated temporalities, super-human asymmetrical forces and autonomous supernatural sentient entities, also including hybrid presences of any kind. I was born in Europe at the advent of digital and information technologies, from heterosexual, married, same-nationality, (Italian in my case), secular Catholic parents, who did not attend higher education―not unlike many of my generation―coming of age in a moment of critical social flipside and technological acceleration, over the long tail when analog and digital overlapped (a process which is still ongoing).
The western mind struggles to retrieve the shreds of a unitary subject that cannot be regained. This simply cannot be accomplished through oppositional/binary logics, neither in passive postponement, heads in the sand, in expectation that the head-aching tangle of imbalances and complications may suddenly vanish. Complexity is here to stay; what has been seen cannot be unseen, as the popular internet meme asserts or, to say it with Donna Haraway, while “being in this together” we should apprehend how to “stay with the trouble.” It might be needed to disappear to reappear completely.
Your work offers an overload of information. There’s a type of organized chaos, channeling your stream of consciousness. A systematic emotionality, sometimes overwhelmingly intimate and human.
Thank you, I would take this as a generous remark, if I can. Again, I believe mine to be a practice of listening rather than of seeing, that withdraws from what is immediately visible or accountable, attempting to escape the simplicity of spectacle and the ease of transmission. What I am constantly struggling for is a dynamics of transformation greater than explainability, cultivating a fizzy core that exists in transposition between the rifts of encapsulated practices or alleged final destinations or, more precisely, spreading out across modules and media with a resolute perception of being suspended, the feeling of being in the middle, in love and hope of futurable things which are yet to come, and the belief that there is much more than what meets the eye, the tongue, and the rationale.
I’ve been often trying to delve the universal to come and comprehend the personal, a tiny portion more at least. Artists must be prepared to become non-artists, to perseverate in practices of non-practice, or a practice of reality jamming. This is the point of intersection where the actual and the possible overlap, engendering poetic action. We cannot accommodate requests to settle for any practice less than practices that embrace change by very nature, which believe in generosity without paternalism, “ecology without nature,” and value without speculation and (self) exploiting. “A condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.” To be oneself and not-oneself at the same time: that is listening in the affirmative mode, or affirmation through listening. To become at once emitter and receiver, to perceive the vibration of entities and forces beyond addressability, while resonating in tune, and out of tune, in feeding back waves of affirmation and sympathy with the human and the nonhuman.
What is the difference between listening and seeing?
It is, at first, a matter of legacy, there is a political side to this, and a socio-cultural one―as so magnificently unravels through the writing of Rosi Braidotti, via Deleuze and Guattari, on acoustic environments and the becoming-minoritarian of music: “Considering the epistemological privileges granted to vision—the King of the senses—in our concept of subject formation: think, for instance, of the importance of the gaze for phenomenology and psychoanalysis. And, given that visualization techniques and the invention of appropriate visual technologies are the fundamental motor of Western science (Galison and Daston 2007), we can only conclude that vision is a hegemonic aspect of our culture’s self-understanding. This point was radicalized by Foucault in his analysis of biopolitical regimes of surveillance and control in the technologically mediated globalized world. As such, it is saturated with power relations, which is less prominent in the case of sounds or the acoustic regime. Sound is more abstract, less prone to immediate commodification because less codified by power.” (Rosi Braidotti, “Nomadic Theory: The Portable Rosi Braidotti”)
(There is also a flipside to this, as it is becoming no longer true that biopolitical power acts mainly through vision; on the contrary, despite the fashionable gestuality of putting duct-tape over the tiny cameras in our portables, a way more dangerous potential belies in the listening capacity of any smart-enabled connected device, which are capable of shaping desires and control subjectivity with algorithmic precision through speech data analysis and acoustic transmission. This is factually in the end-user licence agreement of the majority of apps and software we are using right now, and not some eccentric dystopian future or bizarre conspiracy theories—neither it requires forensic accuracy and exceptionality, rather it is in the banality of the everyday. Notwithstanding that, the ontology of listening do not imply a centrality of the subject in the violent power-relation of who observes (actively subjectivized by defaults) and what is observed (passively objectified), definitely not from the traditional perspective of European humanism.
“In music, time can be heard. It is a pure form of time through the mediation of rhythm,” we can follow reading in Braidotti, “Technologically mediated music denaturalizes and dehumanizes the time sequence. It can push speed and pitch to posthuman heights, but it can also fade them to prehuman depths of inaudibility. How to make us hear the inaudible, the imperceptible, that roar which lies on the other side of silence, the cosmic buzz, is what is at stake in this process [...] The becoming-minoritarian of music is the core of becoming-insect. It offers a way of reconstructing the subject’s relationship to his environment, earthly and cosmic, in a nonrepresentational mode.”
Much of this has very to do with a tendency that has been a primary, but sometimes unvoiced, effort in my (non)practice, the attempt to tear down an ingrained notion of identity: “The be-coming-minoritarian of music produces a practice of expression without a monolithic or unitary subject that supervises the operations and capitalizes upon them. It literally brings the cosmos home. Music increases the intensity of becoming: it is about crossing as many thresholds of intensity as the subject can sustain. All becoming is transgressive; it also aims at approaching the imperceptible, the unthinkable, and the inaudible.” (Rosi Braidotti, “Nomadic Theory: The Portable Rosi Braidotti”).
Sound seems to embody a much stronger capacity of exercising power than visualization. Manipulation, especially, since it happens first within the unconscious as it’s invisible.
It seems to me that sound has been historically associated mainly with the power of subliminality, which to a certain degree is nothing else but the consequential fall-out of existing in subaltern position to vision, over centuries of retinal hegemony. We could possibly say that, from the way we appear to understand the world, anything that eludes the realm of seeing seems to be automatically more mysterious, complicated, deeper, intangible, even some kind of “magic.”
Doesn’t this have to do also with a system that rewards and value all that is countable, well-defined, material, and discrete, while looking with disregard, or at least a certain amount of suspect, to things which are transitional or continuous, not addressable, or open-ended? As you also pointed out referring to what happens within the unconscious, what seems to last longer, and stronger, in our memories are but vague feelings of indeterminacy.
Inversely, what I meant to point out, in terms of existing technologies and power-structures, is that we have come to be (un)voluntarily surrounded by listening devices, which indeed have equal, if not greater, biopolitical value as data from cameras or GPS; sound is capable of outputting an array of very detailed information about our habits, lifestyle, needs, and desires and, however we are not sure whether something is even listening, being conscious of this potential can enable one to disrupt such power relations and even suggest ways of struggling within the infrastructure (of power) itself. Really I believe awareness to change pretty much everything in the game, it allows one to visualize the plurality of grey areas, to avoid polarization and dualistic oppositions, to feel empathy, and to have compassion not just for others but also for oneself.
Speaking about the universal versus the personal—isn’t the personal just as universal as much as the universal is personal? It’s been my experience that people really like to separate these two realities, especially within the art world. Work that confronts the universal seems of value, whereas personal works get typically branded as self-involving, pathetic, etc. Roles of gender also have a great impact here. A female artist producing personal works is doomed to embrace a positionality of the diaristic. A man—in most typical cases—grants the gesture of vulnerability.
Yes indeed, in the art world, while not only there of course. As a matter of fact I find it very dreadful. It is a prerogative of the macho-author (an operational mode also passively embraced by several female authors sadly), which is given the privilege to engender a pretense to disguise instances of histrionic narcissism as universalistic oriented investigations. Sometimes it appears, to art world insiders, to exist in a different kind of parallel reality, where the dynamics of the struggle for succeeding (or desperation in failing) reflow in a continuous catharsis of “being high together” or the mise en scène of cocaine-driven unavoidable socialising. That’s a very similar ambience to what one can experience among clubbing “professionals” and the djing scene where, at several levels, getting sober is often reason of disqualification or emargination. Many could relate, I am wondering, comparable, although specifically situated, paradoxes in a number of other “creative industries,” first and foremost fashion and cinema, perhaps. What enervates and saddens me the most is the passive acceptance of procedures mimicking the turnover of euphoria and depression typical of productive cycles and financial bubbles, which normalizes and renders boringly harmless such a lot of associations of personalities and minds that could be potentially disruptive, as well as turning profit-oriented even the most well-intentioned initiatives, drying out the exuberance of rebellion to professionalized nothingness. Everybody is dying to have fun, where everything looks fun but anything is painful.
Fernando Pessoa has written: “Happy are those who can make of their suffering something universal. I don’t know if the world is sad or bad, nor do I care, because I feel bored and indifferent in the face of other people’s suffering.”
Don’t misinterpret me, we sail in troubled waters and I’m in the same anhedonic boat, as I’ve been long through depressive moods or in the shelter of self-induced autistic attitude, due to my very own inability to cope with the complexity of the whole picture, neither to engage in dynamics of sensible, even though minor, change. Nevertheless I am not able to give ear to the flattery of complete withdrawal or the possibility of an “outside,” as it seems to me again a rhetoric of individualist unaccountability. We are not supposed, as individuals, to undertake the unsustainable weights of whole systems of worlding, but in these anguishing interstices is precisely where personal struggles come to collide with universal struggles.
How much can we take in the name of self-affirmation or self-sufficiency, for instance?
Where is the threshold between individual safety and the failure of collective space, or the limit where willpower ends and unavoidability begins? Which divide separates legitimate cultural promotion from gentrification? And what’s between enchantment and cultural appropriation?
Concerning your last note, strikingly accurate as painfully relevant, on the “diaristic” positionality in which female artists who deal with the personal end up to be placed almost automatically, am I going somewhere wrong or imprecise if I come to think it draws again from patriarchy and female subalternity? It’s a perverse dynamics, allegedly natural, in social assets deeply rooted in patriarchal fundament, where the typically masculine figures of the expert, the mentor, or the master—how disgraceful—have been reserved to male occupation throughout the ages.
In this position of subalternity, or pre-digested attributions of which exact fixed location the feminine and the masculine should inhabit, it appears absolutely “in the order of things” for women artists to be able to express their innermost feelings, even proper, thus nothing special, and confined to the feminine peripheral activity of one’s own diary. On the contrary when it comes to the straight man (artist or not) to embody features of sensitivity, it always appears as the world has been turned upside down. Apart from and far beyond being a risibly poor mindset, in Italy this is bluntly dramatic, where women artists simply go unseen or heavily underestimated, or come to get some recognition only after having gone, or having returned from, abroad; no one, other than smaller groups or (female) individuals, is even having an open discussion about that, and the issue is still totally overlooked by the vast majority of the art community.
Thinking about Pessoa and the general state of being personal, it’s interesting and somewhat funny how the personal innately refers to a sense of suffering. It’s another issue with society’s fixed definitions, hailing from generations far in the past, not just our present time. Pessoa often gets brushed over as the voice of a depressed man. His way of having accepting the world, not its indifference, is typically the secondary conclusion.
Ironically, we seem able to perceive our being fully only through dramatic events, or the most one becomes aware of oneself the most one is placed in conditions of uncertainty—perhaps there is a spectacular twist in this, to some degree. In a study on the work of Giorgio De Chirico (Le Mystère Laïc, 1928), Jean Cocteau describes absolute beauty as the conscious instant of an accident, as if one could be able to see, and enjoy, in slow motion the very happening of a catastrophe. It looks like realism is often associated with states of depression or the exaggeration of personal intuition of the external turning inwards. But what if no one was exaggerating anything but instead just pointing out, in different scales, the inborn inconsistencies of our social structures and economic order? Perhaps it’s just me, as I’m growing increasingly concerned with the inner workings of systems of distributions, but it looks also fairly evident how given privilege, and strategies of preservation thereof, play a fundamental role in designing unhappiness—not that happiness could be reduced to a matter of “design” only, but still—rather than establishing a virtuous circle to provide instruments for imagination and the fabrication of chances, in terms of possibility of happiness-shaping. Too often to operate, and to think, within the bounds of “realism” must signify having to deal seemingly with the bleakest compromises, or the acceptance of toxic truths, which are revealed and perceived as absolute dogmata—or the range of the personal misconceived with the realm of unscrupulousness and, as you pointed out already, suffering. Doesn’t such a negative acceptation only call out enough for a change of mind?
Your work is also on the quest of wanting to understand the conditionality of human happiness. I’m not sure if it’s just a mental matter, or also physical.
It’s not been until kind of recently I didn't realise there is somehow a very therapeutic drive to it, something I’ve been even ashamed of in the past, which is situated in the innermost aspects of my personality, as well as a genetic predisposition to depression and non-acceptance of the self. I’ve been long struggling with the “normality” of my body in the post pubertal years when undergoing growth hormone treatment, and with the perception of having failed myself as human being among others, as a sort of abnormal kind of specimen. Unsurprisingly enough this led me through unstable refluxes of introversion and insecurity, but also to solid desires for change, healing through (self)consciousness, and possibly to some detached vibe of “togetherness.”
That’s the reason why perhaps I’ve been so concerned with structures of empathy, dreamtime, and the longing for happiness typical of states of unhappiness. Also, I don’t know if you can agree on this, but at least from here it seems to me that our generational bonding has been dispersed by a powerful rhetorics of culpability, meanwhile growing up infantilized, indebted, deprived of imagining a future, and eventually accused of being incapable to deal with reality. But we do have the powers to fabricate compelling antidotes: could it at least be an enchanted materialist storytelling; an apotropaic realist magic to disarm the suicidal embeddedness which belies into our social structures, within and beyond individual understanding and agency.
This is the kind of fabulative sorcery I’ve been trying to materialise through Angelo Azzurro (2014), for instance. A midsummer night’s reparatory dream in which carnivalesque unconscious blends with history, attempting to mend the traumatized genes of EU-culpability: a reader of hyperlinks mainly composed of bits and clips of press lamenting the disintegration of the “Eurozone” alternated with ecstatic testimonies of liberation through raving, eleven postcards of temporary imaginary scenarios dedicated to European-born suicidal thinkers, and a docu-fiction musical made up of found footage, poisoned cocktails and eurodance
Your interests to explore within your work must have shifted a lot over the past years. Has there been something especially constant, seemingly inexhaustible?
Yes it shifted indeed a lot over time. One fulcrum has been possibly intimacy in the trans-personal mode, “and not the lifetime of one man only / but of old stones that cannot be deciphered,” (T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”) in which the inaudible has a major part over the audible, in finding affinity beyond cause-effect, or worlding-beyond-understanding. Existing between manifestation and elusivity, my practice happens in the middle of trajectories of making, unmaking, remaking, and making again, as a diagonal method for deeper receptivity and sympathy for the unspeakable. Three recurring unnamed nonhuman entities, materialized as abstract 3D renders, loom across From Settlement to Nomadism (2015-2016), a recent work comprised of a script, three sound compositions, and a single-channel video I’ve been presenting for the first time in Mexico with La Plage. The auditive pieces simulate orchestral drone music (while originating from extreme digital stretching of ringtones from a Samsung consumer mobile and long-term labor limae). Recorded on tape as a whole, resampled, and printed on transparent dubplates, these musical elements are “temporal reprocessors” inaccurately translating, partially transposing nonhuman time depths. Together with this, and openly relating to each other (non-hierarchically intertwined although consequential), two other motives marked out my most recent research―Intense 2 intense/Phantasmagoria, 2016 and A shade of what remains unsaid, 2017―all of which have been concerned with the collusion of poetry and unmaking, listening, and storytelling. They are complex bodies of work putting in place subterranean correlation between their limbs; the tentacular brainchildren of quantum uncertainty relations; encrypted instances of imbalanced patterns; and experiments of hope in their own sustainability.
One of your artworks of the show ‘Taylor Shift’ (2015), there was a phrase installed: “I don’t feel unique, I feel tautological.” The conflict with uniqueness seems to be very present within our generation. Whether we consciously strive for it or not, somehow we are in constant dialogue. Perhaps it’s mostly a consequence of the universalization of social media, us becoming suddenly aware of everyone around us and therefore making us question our individuality. Do you think uniqueness still implies the same strive for mortality, like in Ancient Greece, or has it somehow shifted? What do you think people mean when they say they want to be unique?
That statement is kind of programmatic, and it addresses planetary dignity, or agape in the expanded field, a lowercase empathetic sentiment weighting in subliminality, or a queering toward all things, and with all things at once. “Taylor Shift” has been an experiment in discovering how what has been taught can be unlearned or at least joyfully sabotaged. Or what has become sclerotized can perhaps be re-inserted in the vitality of flow. If any liberation is to be, and can be, pursued, the most urgent of all is liberation from the self, especially the always-present self, with its lurking thick shadow of willpower and the insincere promise of self-realization. This is a very problematic spot for anyone in the field of creation, in particular as an artist operating inside a system that glorifies the demise of authorship while rewarding recognizability as value, production (both immaterial and object-based), individualism, and fierce competition. A model that mirrors the schizophrenic drive of advanced capitalism in materialising phantasmagorical short-term objects of desire without engendering any prospect for long-term fulfillment.
Inspired by The Manual, a book by The Timelords (Drummond, Cauty 1988; better known as The KLF), Mattia Capelletti and myself established for seven months a conversational affair “between premeditation and self-sabotage”―in his own words―associated with a circle of friends and peers around smoking breaks, the Way of Tea, the intensity and potential of laziness, and possible alternatives to productivity. (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) recites the subheading of the book, which is a step by step guide to achieving a No.1 single in one week with no money or musical skills, effective to the point it led their single Doctorin’ the Tardis to really reach number one of the UK Singles Chart in June 1988. Outstretching each day to one month while escaping the success-oriented paradoxical purpose of our inspiration, we presented an abstract sound loop (I don’t feel unique <3 I feel tautological, 2015) to be listened individually through a bundle of borrowed earphones, in the format of a solo presentation by me curated by Mattia (“Taylor Shift”), set up in an environment loosely adorned as a Japanese chashitsu (茶室), the architectural space designed to be used for tea ceremony gatherings (chanoyu 茶の湯). Wordplay here corresponds to worlds playing, smirking at Taylorism from a distance, while the poetic shift oozes from thick air suspended, engendering its ontological quality in being aesthetic, or rather non-conceptual, non-manageable, non-efficient.
In a corner of the room, we set up a ready-made presentation with a DVD loop of this extract from Final Fantasy VII (Squaresoft, 1997), a reminiscence physically reproposed in the same small sized cathodic-tube TV where I’ve been playing the game at my 13. In the sequence, old sage Bugenhagen tells our crew of eco-terrorists about “Lifestream... In other words, a path of energy of the souls roaming the Planet” by means of a simulated universe: “In fact, all living things in the universe, are the same. The spirits that return to the Planet, merge with one another and roam the Planet. They roam, converge, and divide, becoming a swell, called the Lifestream.” This is too way problematic, as well as romantically simplistic, but I really ended up believing so at my 13 and although we don’t believe all living things in the universe are the same (it would be such a hazardous dead end in terms of understanding difference and problematizing complexity at least), some part of me doesn’t let somehow this feeling go. I was asked by Mattia to bring in the show an object that was dear to me, and this passage is one of the dearest “objects” I’ve been encountered over my life.
As we approach the end of our conversation, I guess I’m also curious about my very own observations and feelings concerning our dialogue. I’m aware this might sound moralistic and, perhaps above all, female, (another absurdity of having arrived to this possible verdict), but I think it’s beautiful to have been able to speak to someone that grants a safe space for expression. Being able to state genuine concerns, like this future of ours that seems to become and less and less human. A growing reality of hyper-exaggerated interactions that are—when it comes down to—everything but authentic. It’s a rare scenario. Perhaps more so the situation itself, and what does that imply about the current state of society…
And that’s a pretty non summable sum, we could for all one knows say. I seem to believe the same, although I want to address thoughts of hope in all of the possible absurdity. It hits me severely to having you apologise of “sounding female” for being concerned about the widespread, apparently unstoppable, tendency to become affectless, as the by-product of demands of constant presence and over performativity. This is where, we could sum up finally, loose universal matters encounter the quotidianity and urgency of personal ones. They apply, reasonably, to everything and nothing at once. These thoughts, these concepts, are not properly answers, nor solutions, to the problems we are confronted with, here in our conversation, or elsewhere—and even if they were a plausible answer, it would not be in itself a solution to our problem—in fact solutions are always bound to coexist with problems. “Concepts do not solve the problems that events generate for us: they enable us to surround ourselves with possibilities for being otherwise that the direct impact of events on us does not.” (Elizabeth Grosz, “Becoming Undone”).
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