Luca Trevisani is an Italian artist based between Germany and Italy.
A conversation with Luca Trevisani about his work
Conversation transcription below
Laura Mazza: In your work you play rather a lot with matter: you join different shapes, different materials and different processing techniques. How do you carry out your research and how do you decide on which material to use? Do you experiment or do you have an idea right from the start based on which you choose what to work on? Or rather, coming to contact with a certain material gives you the idea?
Luca Trevisani: It’s all of these options together, really… It depends on the individual project. Sometimes it all starts by already knowing what material I am going to work with. What I mean is that my work is also about the research on materials, keeping in mind that – while a writer uses words to tell a story – I have to look for the words that I find most needed and useful each time. As such, I created a pallet of colours, of materials, of possibilities that I have in my head, which I know I can access and acquire to create a specific work rather than the other. So, I become familiar with the behaviour of certain materials, I keep them in mind and then one day I just say “Ok, this time I need that thing”. It’s not about falling in love with a thing that’s beautiful to see or strange and peculiar. It’s just like a sort of experiment: if you want to obtain a chemical reaction, you need to mix this with that, otherwise the result is something else, something different from what you wanted. This is how I work. It’s often as if the work was the result of many layers. Some layers are conceptual and others are often about a story and therefore how to tell it: what that story recalls, what material is already in it. Listening to all these possible directions and understanding which are the right ones and which would instead lead you adrift allows building what I refer to as a “presence”. I’m interested in giving the viewer a sculpture: something that “is” in a space that is entered and with which one relates. It’s often like going to a restaurant: knowing the ingredients of the recipe is not important, but when you eat it, it has a specific flavour. When you get on a specific car, be it new or not, regardless of its scent or its shape, the way you stay in it, the way you feel at ease, the way you feel comfortable change. This is just the point and what I’m interested in achieving.
LM: Besides experimenting with materials, you also experiment between matter and meaning, between words and shapes. To clarify: I am referring to “Frozen Flames”, the making of “Glaucocamaleo”, which highlights the title’s oxymoron as well as the contradiction in the video itself where water takes several shapes. What is this sort of detournement‘s role in your work?
LT: It’s not always there, it was in “Glaucocamaleo” but not in others. I want this presence I mentioned earlier on to be very strong and to tell the things I want to say; this is why I have to work hard with genres, with the properties of materials or with all possible rhetoric weapons in order to rise interest, strike and convey the message I want to convey.
LM: As for “Glaucocamaleo”, feature film that opened the 2013 Rome International Film Festival, can you tell us how the idea, the project came about and how it was developed?
LT: I’m often interested in sculptures as a language, because they’re a way to narrate something and I’m very much interested in the idea of sculpture as not permanent, not eternal. As it’s just a relationship between an incarnated idea and your body, this relationship cannot last for long: more often than not, the shorter and feebler it is, the stronger it becomes as it remains in memory and becomes even more precious. Thus, I started thinking about how to make sculptures – I have done and will continue to do sculptures that don’t last for long, that break, melt or rot because they’re made with fruit or natural elements – and I thought about doing something with ice. Not only because ice is something that changes state – from rigid it becomes liquid going through soft, water is something you can’t stop – but also because I liked it as a metaphor of our identity: something that continues to change, always equal to itself yet always different. So, I though about the ways to narrate this flow of water, not in a didactic way but using it as tool to discuss exactly this vision of identity. I started collecting a series of locations that I already had in mind, just like with materials; I didn’t start looking for places, no “location scouting” for me: I said to myself “I read such and such thing that time, some other time a friend of mine told me about such and such thing…”. I started looking for these, to travel, to understand that they could be the protagonists of a video, of a film. Little by little – I was initially invited to do an exhibition at the Marino Marini museum – I started to consider how to work on it: I really thought about creating an ice sculpture, but it would become too epic, too bombastic and not really interesting, so I sublimated it all in a film that in time became increasingly ambitious. I found the people that could help me in producing it – film producers – and once again I considered the problem of format. How should I communicate with the viewer? Why is a film different from an art video? Not only because you view it in a different place: it also has different rules, it speaks in a different way; thus, it is a translation exercise, knowing that materials are important in the translation because they say things in a different way when compared to another method.
LM: As you experimented with different techniques, do you think that video is more effective when compared to other media? What changes in communication?
LT: A lot. First of all, humbly, in my view – I’m only talking about what I’m interested in as an author but also as a viewer – my interest in time is already included in the moving image. I can just turn on a camera and do nothing: time is already moving on and it’s there, as such the idea of change is already in the chosen media. The second point is the work I do with materials, which is not only a work of construction and peculiar assemblage, but also a work of sensitiveness; with the choice of locations and editing I achieve the same thing. Moreover, the screening in a dark space builds an environment in which your body is inevitably involved. The cinema’s dark room – it may sound trivial, but it is a welcoming and uterine thing – and especially the relationship between the passing time, the moving image, the sound and the colours, become a synesthetic solution that to me is extremely interesting. Sculpture becomes as such abstract, light as a scent but powerful as a memory. And, above all, the several efforts you go through lead you to work in a group, in a team, and this is very interesting. Because artists – and not only artists, but writers, anybody – have always had a work group, and depending on the work group you choose you create a different work. It’s a bit like with the materials I was talking about earlier on: human material is not only immeasurably interesting, but also leads you to places you would never reach alone. Besides, using locations as materials is rather stimulating, but you can only do it with moving images or with a narration, as I did with the book “Water Ikebana”. In the film it’s very interesting: instead of only using copper sulphate, crystal, water, soap or a type of plant, you decide to use that cave, you decide to use something you couldn’t transport and that you can’t tell somebody to go and see because it wouldn’t be the same thing. With a camera I can turn that thing into an ingredient of my recipe as much as a tea leaf. This gives freedom as well as a very stimulating work option.
LM: I would like you to talk a bit about the “Resident Artist” experience, the last one of which you had with the MACRO. What’s its impact with the way you work?
LT: I have had many residencies and I am shortly going to go through another one. I always really like them, they’re chances to meet cities that you may already know, but especially people. It’s a way to see yourself from outside, in the sense that you often find yourself in situations where the things you do or think are seen in a different way than what you are taking as granted that they are, thus they lend relativity to your daily certainties, even the pettiest ones. It’s a great lesson of humility and complexity. It’s also very interesting to get out of your studio, to get to another place and quantify your change. You have automatisms, schemes: you reach another place, try to do the same things and they will come out differently. Drawing or going elsewhere is similar to writing with your left hand: let’s see the result. There are great and extremely lavish occasions where you receive help, and other ones that are complicated, that may turn out even badly because you relationship with the place is not as productive, but even failure is productive. The point is seeing yourself in different places, different relationships and getting to know new possibilities.
LT: I have been invited to conceive an artist’s crèche. I found this rather enjoyable and also very stimulating: the idea of having to work with a tradition not only in terms of religion but also of material. In a way it’s the opposed situation to that of a residency, in that I’m going to a place that has locations, costumes, a tradition and I am called in not to question them but to interpret them, see them and look at them. So I asked myself: what does creating a crèche mean in 2014? What does making a work of ceramics mean, how is it possible to give it sense, to avoid doing it just because you have to, because it’s a tradition – in the sense of repetition. What came to my mind is that if there’s an interesting thing that Christmas can give us it’s confidence in the future, in a future that comes every year and nurtures us once again. Not hope in the biblical sense, but a very pragmatic idea: the future should be celebrated, it’s a positive thing that gives us energy. As such, I looked at the idea of birth, of the coming of this child in a totally secular way and I thought of what we all do, of what people do when they have a friend waiting: they give them small woollen shoes – or at least, this is what I always saw in my family and in those I grew up with – so, I thought of doing the same thing. To give to oneself, to all of you, to Savona and to whoever comes in connection with this thing, this idea of future which is also very simple, intentionally very dry. Simple things are also the most difficult ones to do and I thought that such a simple thing should also be very difficult, that it should be a challenge also from a technical and technological standpoint. You see, creating a ceramic woollen shoe looks easy but it’s actually not easy at all. Rendering such a texture really well without showing the mould. Difficult things are those that seem to have always existed when you look at them, that show no productive effort and you go “Wow, sure!” and it’s very difficult. In fact, it was a very sophisticated work from a craftsman’s standpoint, and I’m glad it shows the quality of Albisola’s technological know-how , because a thing that’s so effectively simple comes from a tradition, from an Italian craftsmanship’s know-how that is celebrated in these small shoes.
English translation: Fulvio Giglio.