I met Michele D’Aurizio in a late, rainy, night at Stazione Centrale, in a bar in front of the bus station for Milano Malpensa. The idea of having a meeting when flying to another city is always fascinating, and Milan’s railway station is, for me, one of the most beautiful places in town.
I can’t remember exactly when I learned about the importance of Michele. I broke into his social life several times but he never really addressed a word to me. But I kept checking the art facts related to him for more than a year, admiring everything he wrote, or curated. In spring the esteem I had for him became an urgency. The necessity to talk about precious things with someone who understands them.
Being in presence of Michele D’Aurizio is like being in Bergman’s film “Persona”. Michele takes care of every single word in the conversation, including delicacy in every gesture. That night I was expecting to face a totem, and instead I had the strange impression of being in front of a mirror during the whole talk.
I. How would you describe the scene in which you grew up and how it has changed as you got older and became an active player?
As of now, I have spent two-thirds of my life in a small town in Central Italy and one-third in Milan. I can state that my entire practice strives towards drawing a cosmopolitan vision of the phenomena of the province, and at shifting the provincial ethos into the urban environment—a lifestyle based on empathy and the search for communal relief, not so dissimilar from everyday life at the oratory.
I can talk to Italy, because I’ve learnt that I embody the country’s contradictions myself, feel the weight of its obscure history, and tuned myself to the right amount of cynicism for not feeling trapped in the nonsensical functioning of its institutions. Despite a friend recently telling me that our country doesn’t want to be rescued, and I sincerely agree, I have no intention to leave—let’s say that I am afflicted with trench syndrome.
II. “Brianza Eleganza” is the title of one of your recent articles, published in the Spring Summer 2014 issue of PIN–UP magazine. How do you relate to Milan as a whole? Do you feel like your cultural research and program is unique in Italy?
I love Milan because of the pragmatism that the city distills—but not more than Naples because of Neapolitans’ subtle inventiveness… As is true of Brianza, everywhere Milan claims “yes, we can do it”—and you can do it pretty well, or better: in the shape that your own professional community understands as the most avant-garde and thus sharable with its international branch.
My research is not unique per se: it is just among the few agendas developed by Italian young curators that is a little bit know abroad. And it is known abroad because it is developed in Milan.
My feeling regarding the city is indeed based purely on utilitarianism.
III. When did you start feeling a responsibility to present the art scene around you thought Gasconade’s platform? Do you realize how explosive is your own potential?
Gasconade is born out of the endeavor to offer myself and my artist peers a reason to stay in Italy after graduating from the art academy and to test our professional vision before entering the proper art industry.
Hence it took the shape of a ‘space’, that is first of all a place to share; and developed into a program of exhibitions and events which pursued rather canonical formats, such as the solo show—Gasconade has been giving emerging artists what they needed: a structured presentation of their art that could work as a calling card.
The nature of my commitment to my peers is probably more ‘human’ than ‘political': it stems from my Catholic and middlebrow background, and serves to face the loneliness and the abstractness of Milan social landscape.
IV. Do you understand Gasconade as a project space, or do you think more about it as an abstract entity that provides a home and a purpose for a major dialogue about contemporary culture?
Gasconade is a curatorial platform aimed at fostering a community of emerging artists and art professionals. As I stated above, the first installment of the project was—strategically—an exhibition space.
This stage is now over: our last presentation, “Tufo” (a group show including works by Gianluca Belloni, Daniele Milvio and Mattia Pomati) closed in June. During Summer we have developed a number of off site exhibitions (such as “La pace tra gli animali” [Peace among the Animals] at Galleria Civica G. Segantini, in Arco (TN), and “Mess on a Mission”, for the 2014 edition of Art-O-Rama, in Marseille).
All these projects introduced a sabbatical from the exhibition activity. The 2014-15 season will be indeed devoted to the collective writing of a coming-of-age novel, Le petit jeu, which will recount the ‘growth’ of our community to professional ‘maturity’. Accordingly, Gasconade will turn into a writing workshop—and it will keep changing its identity according to the nature of project we intended to promote.
V. How the novel will it be structured? And what’s its ultimate goal?
The writing process will develop throughout the entire season. It will involve more than twenty writers, who will work autonomously or in small groups in order to draft a broad range of ‘anecdotes’, short stories that will then constitute the volume’s chapters.
I will write myself and contribute to the writing of a few chapters, but I will serve mainly as editor of the different submissions.
The chapters will be structured in parts and each of these will frame a theme in the narrative: from the outline of the social background of some of the most significant members of our community, to the commentary of our lifestyle specificities, to the account of the interplay with our international peers, to the proper report of Gasconade’s program and hence the drafting of a critical reading of this phenomenon.
VI. So the doors of Gasconade’s space will shut down for this project. What are your curatorial plans for the Expo Milano 2015?
We are moving into a sort of off-the-radar location—that anyway we are supposed to open from time to time to welcome our audience to partake readings of the novel drafts.
Actually I like the fact that during an extremely animated season for our city, we are not going to feed the cacophony of the Expo 2015 and the hundreds of its off site events, and will ‘withdraw’ into an intimate project that anyway is conceived as an homage to the city…
VII. An editor at Exibart introduced Gasconade into a column labeled “The beauty of nonprofit”. Doesn’t it lessen the importance of your research? Does your image have any importance in your practice?
Of course, but I don’t intend to take to trial the sloppy journalism of some internet art platforms…
In Italy there is no ‘beauty’ in the nonprofit. It just means that you need to count on private funding, quite often your own… I guess the only advantage is the possibility to set your own degree and ‘understanding’ of the institutionalization process: as a nonprofit platform, you can call yourself an institution, but also go out of business if you are tired or bored, move in wherever location, chance your identity and role within your local system, truly experiment with formats and outputs… You can even not feel responsible towards your own community of people if you don’t care…
At Gasconade we do, so we chance and move and experiment according to the community’s requirements.
VIII. Do you feel like someone else in Europe is pursuing a curatorial endeavor similar to yours with Italian artists?
New Jerseyy, in Basel, was a project space that I admired because of the systemic attitude that led their programming… Today, I feel that a similar attentiveness towards the dynamic at play between a specific community and the larger art world can be traced in the program of the New Theater, in Berlin.
That said, I am very sympathetic also to spaces that pursue a more solitary research. I think, for example, at what was Studiolo, in Zurich, or at what is now Piper Keys, in London: programs that, because they value a sophisticated curatorial vision, suggest how the communitarian agenda, despite allowing you the freedom of ‘doing’, sometimes clips the wings of intellectual drifts…
IX. Rivista Studio’s editors described you with an efficient term: “rightness”. I totally agree on this definition. How do you feel about it?
It is a term, or better a pursuit, that I learned from my artist friend Alessandro Agudio. Among Alessandro’s early works, Bravissimi (2010) is a couple of plexiglass planks which serve as speakers—indeed they are provided with an mp3 player charged with a dance music mixtape. Bravissimi is conceived for amusing their viewers and in doing so perceive a ‘right,’ appropriate presence in the context of the exhibition space.
The search for ‘rightness’ that the journalist highlighted is, on the one hand, a striving for quality and aptness within a specific professional environment, on the other, a purely human relief deriving from the sense of belonging to a larger social group… In other words, it is one more embodiment of the teenage inquietude and ambition that still ‘haunts’ my practice and preserves its naiveté and genuineness.
X. In “The Renegate”, a script you created for an artist book by Diego Marcon, to be published by cura.books, your character goes through fourteen tableaux, some of them featuring an explicit sexual content. Do you think that writing goes hand in hand with sex?
Last March I gave a lecture at the Ecal, in Lausanne (on the invitation of Allianz, a platform run by Alfredo Aceto and Emanuele Marcuccio) which recounted a number of sexual relations of mine and their consequences on the understanding of my professional role. The text of the lecture can be downloaded here and I guess that a brief reading would fully answer your question…
XI. Numéro featured Gasconade within a survey of emerging galleries tamed as “the new wave.” Isn’t it an old school concept to define what is happening around you, or do you still feel in that spirit?
I sustain myself working as editor and art journalist, so I am quite sensitive to sensationalistic labeling…
I appreciate the program of the other galleries that were mentioned in the survey (High Art, in Paris; Lars Friedrich, in Berlin; and Real Fine Arts, in New York), and I believe that all of them are ‘pioneering’ in their own way… That said, I feel that we are all still far from true innovation—and a truly cutting edge ethos—that necessarily comes through the questioning of the formats we inhabit, and isn’t always brought forth by the presentation of art that is supposed to be groundbreaking only because it is the output of a young mind…
For Gasconade it is not even the case: we are not a proper art gallery; but for an emerging gallery, in the current scenario, what should be after Liste if not Art | Basel?
XII. You have been collaborating indeed with several art magazines. From Mousse to Kaleidoscope, to Spike. Today you are Managing Editor at Flash Art International. What about the environment here? Will you be able to impress a fresh touch?
Flash Art is the oldest art magazine in Europe: it was founded in 1968, and had released the manifestos of a number of seminal XX century art movements, such as Arte Povera and Transavanguardia.
Of course I am knowledgeable and I care about the publication’s legacy, but at the same time I strive for not feeling trapped by it. Hence, since I took up the position last January, I worked at rationalizing and accelerating the production of the magazine and structured the edition in order to balance the information with the research, the editors’ choice with the art industry ‘requirement’.
I don’t want Flash Art to look ‘fresher’ than before… I want art enthusiasts and professional to see the magazine as a well-respected, receptive, reliable and compelling tool. This is definitely my next challenge.