Cesare Viel will be included in the upcoming edition of the Treccani Encyclopedia. In this conversation he talks about this wonderful and totally unexpected news and his upcoming projects. He also refers to the present social and political situation in Italy and ponders what role artists and intellectuals should play in this very complex context.
Cesare Viel ponders about the role artists can play in the very complex Italian context (February 2013)
Conversation transcription below
Try wearing a different language, and challenge the ridiculous
Try to move yourself within a different language, and to weave unexpected connections
Try to orient yourself again into your body as a foreigner
Try to become an uncanny familiar
Try to make a perimeter with all of this, and stay inside it
Try dragging words, voices, actions from outside to inside and from the inside to the outside
Try to translate the untranslatable
Try everything from the beginning again
Try singing a different language
Tiziana Casapietra: What good news! How did it happen?
Cesare Viel: I haven’t seen the Encyclopedia’s entry yet. A few days ago, I got an email message from someone who was asking the correct pronunciation of my last name for an entry to be included in the upcoming Treccani Encyclopedia.
TC: What are you working on at the moment?
CV: I have some projects but I will not reveal the venues yet, just in case. I am working on a series of new works that combine objects and sound. Things of my memory are also reemerging. The art I am more connected to goes towards dematerialization and strives as much as possible to become energy. But from time to time I also like to include something physically present, objects. What does it mean than? It means working with voice and text, and inserting my voice into objects that can be easily confused with furniture elements or design. It could be a piece of furniture, a vase; it could be in wood, or ceramic.
It is the beginning of a new path in my art research which astonishes even myself. And there is also a part of my work, the one linked to the writing, that becomes sound or an installation element, it becomes an object, as my work connected to the production of carpets where you can see how phrases become carpets. Besides this there is also the idea that art should go towards dematerialization, towards an energy that cannot be possessed, but perhaps it is the energy that possesses you.
TC: What role do the artist and the art world have in such a catastrophic condition as the one we have now in Italy?
CV: It is not easy to answer. I am very bewildered and shaken. I am also wondering what I should do. Alone you do not manage to do much. In Italy we have recently witnessed to collective signals, very interesting ones, such as the “Se non ora quando” (if not now, when) women’s demonstration, which signed the beginning of the ending of Berlusconi.
But at this moment we need to face what is happening now, with the result of the last political elections that has put us in an even more chaotic condition. We are living, as a country, the Berlusconi’s last ditch effort. As the film director Nanni Moretti once said, this endgame is long lasting and is even more tragic than the game itself. I do not have recipes, because I have myself also lost all of my benchmarks from a political and social point of view. Even if I voted for another political party, I think that the interesting data of the last election is the success of M5S (5 Stars Movement) which should not be seen only as a chaos generator, but also as an opportunity. In any case, I am waiting to see what is happening next, but at the same time I feel that we have to pay attention and keep alert. I think that our generation, I was born in the Sixties, has failed from a political point of view. We have not being able to leave traces, important signals, for the social and political development of the country.
We have inherited big radical movements, such as the feminism, the social fights of the 1960s and 1970s which have been essential for me. But in the course of the time, they all got diluted into something that has led to nothing but this disaster.
TC: What is the role of the artists then?
CV: I can give you two answers. The first is that we have no social role. But at the same time I can also say that we have a very important role. In front of me I see the uselessness of the artist role but also the big value that art and culture have to describe and narrate a country to the future generations and to the others, to the foreigners.
I have always been against the decorative element of culture. Culture helps to describe a country. But when too much noise is involved, as it is now, nobody is able to listen what culture and art say.
TC: How is this tension contaminating your work?
CV: Yes, it does, and it is probably right and fair. I am even ready to lose pieces of my research, of my work, if this helps to better understand reality in this moment. I feel that this moment is very important in all senses.
Interview by Tiziana Casapietra. Special thanks to Sarah Watson for editing the English text.