Amuse-gueules is a sculptural object, consisting of a dining table set with human body parts cast in porcelain and presented as food. Most casts are from my own body: my face, my right and left hand fingers, my toes, my ears, my breast, but also a heart and a brain (from life size medical models.) All the casts are arranged on the plates, and not fused with them, so that the body parts can be examined and manipulated.
Promise me is a sculptural object but it is also a game, that is played by me, and those in the audience that are also willing to play, during a show. As part of the game, players are asked to make promises to perform a certain behavior in the near future, involving eating patterns (like “I promise you I will not eat meat for 3 days” or “I promise you I will try a vegan drink.”)
A considerable impact on the environment is made by the production of meat and dairy products, and it is very likely that by the end of this century the consumption of meat will need to be drastically reduced or altogether halted, in order to decrease global farmland use and the connected production of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Becoming vegan is a solution, but it involves radical changes in people behavior and dietary patterns. Can art play a role in raising awareness and lead an audience smoothly through a behavioral change?
At the beginning of the II treatise of “The Genealogy of Morals”, Nietzsche writes that man is a promising animal, an animal that is permitted to make promises and able to hold on to them. With this in mind, I developed an artwork / game where players can win by making a promise to change, even for a short time, their eating patterns.
The initial concept for this work was made with paper, but the final work has been realized in earthenware and porcelain. The cards are made combining 80 g/m2 drawing paper with a thicker, canvas-like handmade paper, which I myself produced several years ago, in a workshop on paper making. The evolution of the game on the board constitutes a set of possible realization of the artwork itself, imagined as an interaction between the artist and her public.
2017 - 2019
Brainmeatwashing consists of a series of sketches visualizing a succession of four spaces / rooms through which I am imagining the audience to follow an obligatory path, each room representing a sort of emblematic step in the food chain. Taken together, the four spaces are meant to constitute a large Pavlovian conditioning structure, which will induce in the unaware spectators / participants a conditioned nausea at the sight / smell of meat. For obvious reasons, the project remains as a sketch, impossible to realise. To “brainwash” means to pressurize someone into adopting some radically different beliefs, by using systematic and often forcible means. Often, the idea is to attempt, through prolonged stress, to break down an individual physical and mental defenses. The indoctrination performed by brainwashing is usually associated with military and political interrogations, and with religious conversion. Pavlovian conditioning can also be seen as a form of brainwashing. The reference to brainwashing in my art project is meant to highlight the fact that, as an artist, I am imagining to use some form of violence on the viewer, to force a change in beliefs.
The first room, the Labyrinth, involves restraints on the body, mimicking the restraints that livestock suffer during their short existence. The second room, the Foul Room, involves display and contact with bodily wastes, to mimic the degradation imposed on livestock because of overcrowding. The third room, the Kill Floor, will make the viewer experience the act of slaughtering. The fourth room, the Dinner Table, involves the display of the results of the slaughtering as dead matter / food.
Overall, the work aims at denouncing the atrocities perpetrated with the ‘machinization’ of the animals employed in the human food chain, possibly generating in the viewer an overwhelming feeling of disgust. The message that I would like to pass on the viewer is that, whenever meat is involved, the human food chain shows traits of abjection. The production of meat involves abject processes and the result of an abject act of production keeps an halo of abjection around it. Whenever we consume such a result, it becomes literally part of us, and the halo of abjection becomes part of us too.
Ginkgo routes - The ways of the Ginkgo
A collaboration between Nandini Hasija and Manuela Viezzer, with the participation of Cody Takacs.
Usually humans choose trees because of how trees look above the ground. They rarely pay attention to tree roots. But roots are vital for the tree, so from the tree point of view roots have at least the same if not a larger significance than the canopy. The Ginkgo biloba in the Oude Hortus was planted around 1750 and is the oldest one in Europe. It is an impressive tree and by choosing to work with it we had the opportunity to collaborate with the botanical garden of Utrecht.
The project involved a two-months researching on the Ginkgo, and resulted in a site-specific installation in the Oude Hortus, illustrating the root system of the old Ginkgo tree that lives there. The woven sculptures of Nandini have been installed at the base of the tree, and also hanging from its branches, representing both the underground roots of the tree and its ability to form aerial roots.
All the scientific information that I gathered on the Ginkgo became the scaffolding for a story that I wrote taking the point of view of the tree. The story has then been used by Nandini and myself to loosely inspire the production of collages and drawings. These materials have also been used within the installation, arranged along the path to the tree, guiding the audience towards the tree and providing a sort of commentary on what was about to be seen.
Part of the story (the words that I imagined to be actually spoken by the tree) has been cut out and arranged in a single long line, that has been laid down on the path towards the tree starting roughly at the point where the tree root system extend (some 18 meters from the center of the tree trunk.) Approaching the tree, the story line has been merged with the woven roots.
Since one of the most recent discoveries in plant biology concerns the abilities of trees to use sounds to communicate (acoustic waves dispersed through the soil), Cody Takacs, a freelance bass player, has been invited to participate with an improvisation on sounds that have the same frequency range as those used by plants.
Now Eat Me
Now eat me results from an exploration of porcelain body casts. One day, while making a porcelain cast of my own face, I extracted the porcelain from the mold too early so that, instead of keeping its shape, it flattened on the table giving the impression of skin taken away from my face. It immediately made me think of a slice of ham, but coming from myself instead of a pig. This gave me the idea for a subsequent work: a plate, decorated with small pig figurines, and my ‘porcelain skin’ in the middle, like a sort of human ham slice. I immediately perceived the work as connected to the conceptual process of denaturalising the concept of animal. I also perceived it as connected to the critique of carnivore food that I have in mind. I decided therefore to produce a small series small series of works involving the casts of my hand and my fingers, and to present them on plates, as food.
now eat me
In a very general way of speaking, I am interested in contents that are qualified as ‘disturbing’.
The words disturbing / disturbance / disturb are related because they belong to the same word family, whose lexical root is turb- modified by adding the dis- prefix. In the noun phrase ‘disturbing contents’, the present participle disturbing acts as an adjective, conveying the meaning of causing anxiety, fear, horror.
The English terms anxiety and angst, together with the French anxiété, the Italian ansia, the German angst and the Dutch angst, all share the same etymology and derive from the Latin verb angō,angis,ānxī,actum,ángere, meaning to press tightly; when of the throat, to strangle, throttle hence tighten, suffocate, and therefore indicating the painful feeling of tightening at the epigastrium, with difficulty of breath and deep sadness which characterizes anxiety. The Italian paura and French peur (both meaning fear) derive from the Latin paveo, hence have a link with being beaten, and with shock; we can therefore take them to mean the shock that infuses the tremor of terror. The English fear has a different etymology: from the Old English fǣr meaning calamity, danger, it refers to the objective side of the anxiety feeling, to what is out there in the world and may cause it. The terms horror, orrore, horreur instead bring us back to the subjective side: from the Latin horrere, a misspelling of horsere, meaning to be rough, bristling, they are used when speaking of animals whose hair stand up in fear. Hence, they refer to the physical sensations that make the skin crawl and the hair bristles, sensations caused by something terrible or cruel.
If the relation with anxiety, fear and horror gives the notion of disturbing a link to the physical sensation of suffocation and lack of breath, the feeling of being crushed, and the involuntary quivering movement of the hair or fur standing upright away from the skin, a closer look at the etymology of the word disturb gives an insight on the reasons behind such uneasiness. The prefix dis- is an intensifier, meaning utterly. The root turb- means to break up or destroy the tranquillity or settled state of, from the Latin turba meaning confusion and derived from the Greek tyrbe, meaning disorder, confusion, commotion. It is the noisy disorder, the commotion of a multitude or a crowd, and derives from an older Sanskrit root tur- or tvar- with the original meaning of rapid movement. Disorder is the lack of order, the progressively being deprived of order. And order from Latin or-do combines the ending -do (working in this case functions as a formative element to produce a noun) with the root ar- or or-, which is common to several Latin and Greek words whose meaning is related to the idea of a way or manner to go, to proceed. Hence, order is the disposition of each thing in its place; the series or arrangement of things according to a concept (a rule); also, the disposition of things in the world as made by nature or by law. Because of the root tur- discussed above, in the turba the lack of order is brought forward by a rapid movement, which mixes up the natural positioning of worldly things.
Bringing together all the above information, we can say that an analysis of the semantic field surrounding the term ‘disturbance’ provides a definition of ‘disturbing’ as: causing anxiety / fear / horror because of the breaking up of the expected, usual order (often understood as being the natural order of things.) When the broken order is the order of taste (in Latin, gustus) we have disgust; so disgusting is also a form of disturbing.
untitled (there's no free lunch)
graphite, ink and acrylics on collage, 2 times 15x15 cm, 2016
untitled (floating bodies)
graphite, acrylics and cut-outs on collage, 50x35 cm, 2015
my death is unique
ink, acrylics and cut-outs on paper, 20x20 cm, 2015
graphite, acrylics and cut-outs on board, 30x30 cm, 2015
each death is unique
charcoal, graphite, acrylics and cut-outs on paper, 40x40 cm, 2015
charcoal and acrylics on collage, 25x35 cm, 2015
charcoal and acrylics on collage, 25x30 cm, 2015
charcoal, acrylics and cut-outs on collage, 25x30 cm, 2015
any representation of death can only be metaphorical (#2)
mixed media on paper, 50x70 cm, 2016
any representation of death can only be metaphorical (#1)
mixed media on paper, 50x70 cm, 2016
self-portrait as a death mask (#1)
mixed media on carton board, 80x80 cm, 2017
mixed media on canvas, 30x30 cm, 2016
study for a self-portrait as a death mask
graphite, colour pencils and acrylics on collage, 26x30 cm, 2016
self-portrait as a death mask (#2)
mixed media on carton board, 80x80 cm, 2017
A series of 6 collage / mixed media works on paper, the giantesses are large female figures looking at or co-existing with elements from another world, in an attitude of melancholic longing or sensuous surrender; the nudes are drawn from life models.
i will stare at your white roses forever
pen, pencil and charcoal on paper; 50x70 cm; 2014
she had fuchsia on the back of her mind
ink, charcoal and watercolour on paper; 50x70 cm; 2014
pen, pencil and charcoal on paper; 50x70 cm; 2014
charcoal, graphite and ink on paper; 50x70 cm; 2014
charcoal and graphite pencil on paper; 42x60 cm; 2014
she lies in berween
charcoal and graphite pencil on paper; 50x70 cm; 2014
The infinite plane
This series of collages witnesses my fascination for the odd, weird and somehow eerie, which reminds me of the absurdity of the human condition. I honestly think that our condition is absurd because absurd is the tension between the lack of meaning of our existence and the search for meaning that characterizes the activity of our brain. We have created an infinity of tales, with the only objective of giving mankind a special place in the universe. But we are unsolved enigmas, and the world around us is a strange world. We fight to give sense to all that and this is the reason why we are encircled by tales and artworks.
On the one hand, I strive to trap the viewer into my imaginary world and to confront him with a disturbing strangeness. On the other hand I feel that the trap works better if the depicted world is perceptibly credible. Hence the importance of the notion of space within my works.
I often use collage as a technique, because it brings forward the dimension of tactility and texture within the work. I try to exploit a systematic association of antinomic forms as a way to capture and transmit a feeling of disturbance and disorientation. I am also gradually developing into a mixture of figurative and non-figurative elements, because a growing concern of my artistic practice is the way mark making contributes to depiction.
The line is the mark left by the pencil, the brush, the ink pen, the charcoal, with the expressiveness of all its different forms. I draw, both with pencils and scissors, and the pleasure taken in drawing is revealed by the sensibility and attention for the marks. Lines are delicate and surfaces are never completely solid. The paper is carefully manipulated, and different textures, densities and colours are exploited to enrich the image and provide a sense of depth. There is a conscious exploitation of the tension between opposites, so that the final composition plays upon the juxtaposition of elements, view points and techniques.
graphite and coloured pencils on collage, 30 x 40 cm, 2012
graphite pencil on collage, 30x42, 2012
untitled (lungo le sponde del mio torrente)
graphite and coloured pencils on paper, 29,5 x 42 cm, 2011
fabriano 62.74.31 (the guardian)
graphite and coloured pencil on paper, 30x42, 2011
graphite pencils, crayons and gouache on collage, 38 x 55,5 cm, 2013
graphite pencils on collage, 45x60 cm, 2013
graphite pencil and ink jet print on collage, 38x65,5 cm, 2013
steinbach 51.35.00 (l’éclat)
graphite pencils on collage, 36,5 x 55 cm, 2013
some investigations on white, loosely inspired by the work of robert ryman
white is the possibility of the image, but also an absence of colour that allows for the heightened visibility of texture and other material elements
Some of my pencil drawings, made between 2010 and 2013.
The drawing paper is a surface open for scarification, the “act of covering with scratches or slight cuts”. The noun comes from the Old French scarification (1314), from Late Latin scarificationem, as a noun of action from Latinscarifare meaning “to scratch open," from Greek skariphasthai “to scratch an outline, sketch," which in its turn derives from skariphos "pencil, stylus," containing the base *skribh- "to cut, separate, sift”. The semantic links are thus with scar but also with script in the sense of writing. The process of scarification may turn into a story, but I do not want to impose a story upon my works right from the beginning: I want them to remain somehow open, in order to allow, even invite the viewer to explore the narrative potential of their representations. There is no unambiguous tale to be told, though many possible stories are always suggested.
I have a fascination for marks that has been left behind, often by children: I collect them, I re-work them, they are my visual basis and the point of departure of my artistic process. My work is a continuous process: old drawings of mine, children marks, left-overs are cut or thorn into pieces, fragments are analysed, dissected, brought together in a new way and then collated to generate a novel image. I am extremely interested in the process of unravelling and reconstructing which constitutes the ground for new images to arise.
I often find myself staring at scattered, not-yet-representational marks until they start moving around and start getting meaning, much like in the phenomena of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Images are evoked almost automatically, the outcome is unexpected and the end result takes on a life of its own.