Arts and Culture / Beyond Michelangelo
Arts and Culture / Beyond Michelangelo
Our series dedicated to twelve emerging Italian artists that live or work in New York City continues with an interview with Paolo Barbieri Marchi a thirty-year-old Roman artist. His participation at the 52nd edition of the Venice Biennale, now in progress, has consecrated him and his group ‘Alterazioni Video’ in the empyrean of established artists on the world stage.
The Italian Academy at Columbia University will present until October 4th an exhibition by the intriguing title “Incompiuto Siciliano” (Unfinished Sicilian). This elaborate project, which features many stages, begins here at the Italian Academy in NYC with a selection of photographs, drawings and prints depicting the numerous public works in Sicily, since the end of the war, that were never completed. As Paolo himself says: ‘Unfinished Sicilian, presents itself as a project about reading the landscape that wants to change the perception of places and buildings spread all over the Italian territory: the unfinished public works’.
We went to visit him in his studio in Williamsburg where the energy and fervor of an old medieval shop are immediately perceived. The group he started with Alberto Caffarelli in 2004, is made up of 5 young artists (Andrea Masu, Giacono Profiri and Matteo Erenbourg joined the group) all coming from different backgrounds: art, computer programming, video, film and music.
The secret to their success is in a key word, ‘teamwork’: the five artists work on three different continents (they have a studio in Milan, one in New York and one in Shanghai) and they coordinate between themselves – regardless of time zones – working on a computer network and through internet chats.
Video Alterations? How did the idea of forming a group come about?
“In the beginning we came together to share our respective backgrounds, to give each other a hand and to survive with no market, to put together our computers and our contacts, but most of all because we were good friends and we liked the idea of working together. Everyone shares ideas and projects, using the experience of the others and developing them together … every once in a while, when we don’t meet deadlines we “brawl” online, but other than that we really consider ourselves a Collective Author."
Where does the name ‘Alterazioni Video’ come from?
“What can we say about the name “Alterazioni Video”!… With the first group of friends we wanted to start a collective that would produce contemporary art and we were trying to find a name that was as aseptic as possible. We flipped though an instruction manual for an old television and we saw a page on the alterations of rgb colors of a television; the chapter was called Alterazioni Video. It seemed like an appropriate name so we kept it. When Matteo Erenbourg and Giacomo Porfiri joined the group, they told us that the night before one of them had dreamt of a burning meringue pie with Alterazioni Video written on it, and we had no more doubts. This – which can even seem like parapsychology – was enough to confirm the name.”
The presence at the Venice Biennale is a huge recognition for a group of emerging artists. How did the collaboration with Robert Storr come about?
“After winning a 6 month scholarship at “Location One” for a cultural project that came out a collaboration between Italy, the US and the No Institution, we created an exhibition for “Location One”. One of Robert Storr’s (director of the Biennale) assistants came to see it since he had seen our work on the Internet. It was a very interesting encounter that brought to a meeting with Robert. We went to his house, filled with apprehension, but after we understood his expectations, we proposed a project that seemed the most appropriate for the situation. Try and comprehend our state of mind when they selected us for the Biennale, and when he told us he wanted to collaborate with us. Indescribable!”
‘Incompiuto siciliano’ is showing at the Italian Academy at Columbia University: What is it exactly, how did it come about and what are the stages of this fairly elaborate project?
“ ‘Incompiuto Siciliano’ came about from the idea to historicize and analyze one of the most significant phenomena of public architecture in Italy since World War II. For two years we have worked to collect and organize the large dearth of material on this phenomenon. Just imagine that as of today we have learned of about 380 unfinished public works in Italy of which about 180 are in Sicily. We went to photograph them and we recovered all the plans and the correspondence exchanged by the various institutions involved.”