De Strip Architects. The urban revolution is a colourful sketch.

De Strip Architects (Filip and Mohammad)

My encounter with De Strip Architects is one of those random suggestions of the Instagram algorithm. Occupied, as we all are, in dodging crypto-currency miners, life coaches, and whatnot I was happily surprised when I bumped into their account and started following them. I immediately figured that I was in front of something peculiar and for sure something refreshing compared to the average architectural/design we see on social media, that is why I was immediately intrigued. Their approach and ethos resonated very much with me, so I wanted to learn more about their story and practice.

De Strip Architects is a socio and architectural design duo based in Brussels since 2019, formed by Mohammad from Palestine, who, among other things, has worked as Senior Architect Urban Planner at the UNESCO Urban Planning unit for Palestine; and Filip from Macedonia, who has worked in several architectural and urbanism practices in Skopje and Brussels.

They are using social media (Instagram, YouTube) to enhance a movement of opinion on social and architecture topics: they talk about, critic, and discuss architecture and urbanism, showing the logic (or absence of it) behind the spaces we go through every day, stripping them down to their basic elements and recombining them with unexpected outcomes. But most of all I was fascinated by the profusion of sketches they make, which in a way is like stripping down architecture itself and bringing it back to its root, drawing. Imaginative, visionary but also ironic and irreverent, and as they put it, “We show social aspects of architecture in a colorful and entertaining way to bridge the gap and bring everybody on board.

Local Architecture Strikes Back (Courtesy De Strip Architects)

De Strip Architects dare to re-imagine the city sharing their knowledge and toolbox with everyone, theirs is a process that demystifies architecture, trying to erode the barrier that keeps people away from it, making architecture accessible.

When I started my research about them, I found on their website this very strong statement about their vision and their practice that says “We dominantly strive to fight against project-discrimination. Regardless of the invested capital, social status and political power, every project should be treated in an equal, proportional, and profound manner”. These words struck me, for it is quite unconventional for an architect’s studio to claim this and for sure it might feel like David against Goliath, not only from a practical and financial point of view but also from a cultural one. Filip admit that “while this remains a goal for our practice, treating equally all clients despite budget constraints and social background, it is quite hard to put it in act when you are a small studio although it is a cultural fight worth carrying with other means”. On this regard Mohammad added “the majority of the inhabitants of the city is made by middle or lower class and these are the people who need more help, why all the focus must be on public commissions or fancy shiny project?”. The assumption for the cultural shift is to refound architecture and urban planning on the principle that everybody deserves well-thought-out homes, buildings, streets, squares, in short, good architecture.

We are recovering from a pandemic that, among other things, ruthlessly showed how not all the homes are comfortable and pleasant to live in 24/7. While a few people were (re)discovering the pleasure of baking and meditate and considering this event a sort of blessing for self-development, many others found themselves stuck in small apartments fundamentally not designed to be fully inhabited, where you can simply sleep, eat, wash. The philosopher Emanuele Coccia in his book “Philosophy of the Home” describes very poignantly what is a home, “It is not only a spatial problem. Inhabit doesn’t mean to be surrounded by something nor to occupy a certain portion of the earth. It means intertwining a relationship so intensely with certain things and certain persons that makes our own happiness and our breath inseparable”. But if your home is not designed properly and has not enough space, it might be quite difficult to breathe and find your own happiness in it. The inequality that has informed has convinced people of being grateful for living within four walls and under a roof and that they cannot claim the right to have a nice home and not simply to have one. I believe this is one of the reasons why social housing is usually poorly designed.

For example, one of De Strip most interesting videos makes a stringent comparison between social housing in Brussels and in Singapore with the aim to break the stigma around social housing blocks. Basically, social housing in Brussels (but also in other countries, Italy for instance) are conceived to be cheap, not to be pleasant to the eye and not to be really lived (sleeping neighborhoods). In Singapore instead, the tower blocks are imagined to be fully experienced, for instance the space in between the tower has always urban equipment such as benches, playgrounds, and even communal fridges. Or the fact that the space is designed to incentive the interaction between people and objects, so your apartment is not confined to your kitchen and bed, but it spills out in the public domain. They also analyzed the sound atmosphere, while in Brussels reigned an eerie silence, in Singapore there was a lively sound of various humanity interacting and playing. Quite an eye- or, better, ears-opener.

The Message of Gentrification (Courtesy De Strip Architects)

In one of their sketches, De Strip tackles the issue of the gentrification in progress in the canal area in Brussels, it’s the hyper-recognizable shape of the ex-Citroen garage soon to become the modern art museum Kanal-Centre Pompidou, with a middle finger stuck on top of it. When these kinds of operations take place, they seem to imply, we need to ask ourselves and then to the city institutions, who is doing this and why? Why the surrounding neighborhood is being neglected and 200 million are being invested in renovating one building? A museum that opens in a disadvantaged area of the city should be an opportunity first for the communities that live the neighborhood and not one of the reasons why they soon won’t be able to pay their rent. A big museum should not be the flywheel to gentrification but a space where the communities experience the pleasure of art but also meet and identify with themselves, all the rest is art-washing.

On their social media, Instagram especially, there are many sketches on the most diverse topics: from the new public buildings that look like cakes with the claim “People asked for better public service and they received a cake” to the parasitic churches pointing out how churches are underused, from the architecture of homelessness to witty reinterpretations of famous buildings and landmarks.

Architecture of If They Don’t Have Bread to Eat Give Them Cake (Courtesy De Strip Architects)

De Strip’s approach in their sketches is quite utopian, unrealistic, and imaginative but not for its own sake: on the contrary, as Filip says, “the idea behind why we use the sketches like this is to set the threshold as higher as possible so when someone comes to downplay it, even if this happens the result is always above. Your starting point for negotiation is still way higher”. This made me think of the forgotten lesson of Machiavelli according to whom “You should do like the cautious archers, who figuring the place where they want to hit too far away, (…) they set their aim way much higher than the intended place (…) to be able, with the help of such high aim attain their plans”. In a world where is getting difficult questioning the status quo it is a breath of fresh air to see their works, breaking the norms and looking at things with an oblique gaze.

Roof of Noise (Courtesy De Strip Architects)

*These works have been allowed for the purposes of this blog only. For any reuse of the works De Strip Architects will have to always be credited.

“To anchor your own reference to the South is painful. But necessary.” A conversation with Chiara Arturo

I discovered Chiara Arturo‘s work thanks to a friend of mine who showed me her Instagram account and I was amazed by such a profound, challeging and poetic work. The more I saw the more I wanted to know about it, especially when I realized that this poetic and sometimes dreamlike work was the result of a thorough and indefatigable research. I don’t want to say more. Enjoy the reading.

Versione Italiana qui.

You studied architecture specializing in Landscape Urbanism. Can you tell me more about it and how your education has impacted your artistic practice?

Chiara Arturo

I studied Architecture and I graduated with a thesis in Landscape Urbanism on environmental contamination in Campania entitled ‘Far Waste‘: in our thesis work, with Eva Di Jorio, we map pollution and interconnect environmental data with health, economic and social data to reveal the dynamics that led to that scenario (rather apocalyptic). Once we became aware of the dynamics, we planned proposals for action which were often more political and artistic than architectural in the strict sense. It was an interdisciplinary work in which heterogeneous data and heterogeneous scales were intertwined, ranging from micro to macro, deep in the history of Campania Felix. This was a group work involving various figures and institutions such as the Basin Authority and Arpac. In addition to the thesis, more than half of the examinations carried out in Architecture were group examinations. Teamwork and multidisciplinary approach are among the things I bring with me of my training.

In general, I believe that my research and artistic practice are closely linked to the fact that I studied architecture, both as a methodical and thematic approach, but also as a way of seeing the world. Many of the topics I am addressing today I have started to explore them during university. I think of the landscape and its meaning, the area and its fragility, environmental and climate issues, the Mediterranean as a basin embracing and hosting its shores, issues relating to the space, representation, and scale of the representation. Being an architect helps me to work with constraints, and to think my works both as finished objects, which have a three-dimensional character, and as an installation in space. I have never thought of photography as something flat, but I have always thought it close to sculpture. I very much like the fitting-out part of the exhibition, even more so when I can measure me with a space and I can think or rethink my work in a site-specific way.

Chiara Arturo – Fragmentum

I work for many years on the same theme, I dig into landscape as I dig into myself, in the same way and for the same reasons”. This part of your statement shed a light on your artistic practice, and I want to know more about it.

A quote from Marx that I love very much says: ‘Being radical means going to the root of things. But the root of things is the man itself‘. Most of my work arises from obsessions or needs of micro and macroscopic nature. It is as if I use art and photograph to shed light on myself and the world around me. My work is always reflection on issues that I feel close to. I believe that we can work on personal issues in a universal way, and vice versa, and this is what I try to do. For me it is important that there is a real connection with the issues that I deal with, photography allows me to think and make my reasoning visible. There is a big map in my head and every work is the ramification of a key topic that brings with it other issues. My research is like the exploration of an area that is still partly unknown, such as a map that I enrich or customize from time to time. Over time, I imagine that my works will be increasingly intertwined. This is the sense of working for a long time on the same topics. Although many jobs now seem distant, in my mental archipelago is already connected.

Chiara Arturo – Esercizi per Immaginarti Isola

As an islander myself I was immediately intrigued by your deep interest around the subject of insularity. I was also brought back to my prehistory studies and what I once read about this topic, insularity is not a state of being, absolute, perpetually stable, and perpetually fixed; it is rather historical and culturally constructed, as the identity of the island itself (Knapp and Blake). How did your research about insularity start and how has it developed so far?

Chiara Arturo – Insula

I understood that I was a hopeless islander the first year of university, when the posting made me understand how much I was connected to my places. I think that is insularity is hardly something you acquire. Most people think of the islands as small summer havens or holiday havens where to shelter their daily lives, they use the island as escamotage, as a diversion. For me, the island is a refuge, a den, the only one possible, it is also a point of reference, polar star. As an islander, although I live part of my life on the mainland, I never hesitate to look for confined, protected and self-sufficient environments. The island has taught me that I can look for it and find it everywhere. My search is not a didactic or descriptive, and perhaps not even about identity. This is more of a phenomenological approach. It is as if the island had shaped my forma mentis and how I perceive and experiment the world. I spoke a few days ago with a friend of the islander’s need to stock up, store, and stack. This is because when buriana arrives, you do not know how long it will last and how long the islander will remain isolated from the mainland. I am living as an islander even this pandemic, I imagine it as an endless day of scirocco, which then turns on libecccio, and so in loop interrupting all claims of normality. All of this creates a new space that nobody thought to have and is forcing to cope with the changes we are facing. There is another key aspect of the islander: adaptability and ability to create new spaces in the same square meters.

Chiara Arturo – 18 miglia

I live the dualism of the island as an opportunity to reflect on our terrestrial and aquatic condition. Talking about my research, everything began during the LAB, Antonio Biasiucci’s irregular laboratory. I attended the first edition, which was September 2012 when I entered the Biasiucci study for the first time. This two-year masterclass has radically changed my approach to photography, he has steered my research. With ‘18 miglia‘ I map the sea space between the island and the mainland, retracing it and creating my coming-of-age novel, I recognize the main characters. Immediately afterwards, I started working on ‘Insula‘, a work on my idea of an island that develops in chapters and is still ongoing. Sincerely, I do not believe it will ever come to an end. Now, there are many aspects that I would like to investigate, and I am moving on a step by step. While the concept of insularity was initially linked to the discovery trip and its mapping, this year the reflection on the island was inevitably intertwined with that of the isolation we all experienced because of the pandemic, this created the two works that are part of ‘Immaginarti isola’ and a series of notes that are still new. “Radure” also contains traces of insularity, but this time is seen as a node from which new and unprecedented relationships can unfold.

Chiara Arturo – Immaginarti Isola

Disarmonie — Esercizi di interruzione’ is a series of diptychs realized at the border between Puglia and Basilicata. It is a body of works with a sort of ominous and enigmatic light in it and that signatures of the notions of foundations, past and present and the possibilities of the in-between vision of the inside and outside. Can you tell me more about the genesis of this project?

The project was born during an artist’s residence for a few days between Metaponto and Ginosa Marina. Precisely the short duration of the AIR was decisive for the choice of using Polaroid, a machine inherently imperfect, which allowed me to move without total control over the result, something completely unusual for me. I was in a border area, the homeland of the myth of Janus and the location of the Pythagorean school. I moved in these few kilometers of the coast, walking, and pedaling between nature reserves, agricultural land, beaches, and archaeological artifacts, mapping a Pythagorean itinerary. The area always provides me with important insights into defining the work, I move in almost in a cartographic manner. In this case, the 15 Pythagorean taboos (a series of allegorical bans with deep meanings, rich in symbolic metaphors, religious, ethical, and moral imperatives) accompanying the 9 diptychs, served me to reveal the oneiric and surreal part of those places. The myth of Janus helped me in building the diptychs. They are pictures of two faces, with ambivalent meanings.

Chiara Arturo – Disarmonie

I see that in your work the discursive dimension plays an important role. Your photos are accompanied by thoughtful texts. How is your relationship with words, not only for the direct link to your work, but also as a source of inspiration?

I write a lot and I read a lot. Each work starts with a long list of terms and is accompanied by one or more notebooks in which I record thoughts and extracts of texts or notes that I think are important. Above all every work is fed and feeds into readings that often bring me to very remote and unexplored places. In general, writing helps me to shed light on my thoughts and set out the reasoning. This close relationship with words understood as reasoning is another thing behind my training in architecture, I believe, is linked to the search for bibliography literature. I also love graphics, printing (as well as topography!), poetry and artists who have worked with words, one of my favorites is Jenny Holzer.

Chiara Arturo – Isole

To this regard I would like also to talk about Isole, a project of ‘bookish tapestry’ based on a text by Valerio Magrelli. How was working with and for someone’s words?

Magrelli is one of my favorite poets and working with his words for me was an honor. Isole is part of a project of Ilfilodipartenope, an artisan publishing house, involving more than 80 Parthenopean artists. We were asked to work with and on that text, leaving the cover only intact. The collective project is inspired by Magrelli’s verses: “this is where I have to weave/ the tapestry of my thought/ and set the threads of myself/ draw my figure with me”. I was in a residency at the BOCs Art of Cosenza and the experience of the last three weeks shared with 22 other artists with completely different paths had flooded me with stimuli for my work. At that time, I felt the need for the island to emerge that is why I used the pages of the book as the layers of an orographic layout and just as we look for fossil from geological stratification, I have sought words in which I recognize myself. In this work, I believe that this work brought me much closer to architecture.

I am fascinated by the ongoing series Radure (Glades), a project that you are developing within Covisioni, a collective vision on how human relationships changed during forty-nine in Italy. In this picture we see a desertic landscape that I think condenses two layers of interpretation: from one side the empty space used by the lockdown but from the other we see a land of new possibilities for new types of relationships between humans, animals, the space, etc. Can you tell me more about this project?

Yes, that image, which is the first of the series (still ongoing), is precisely this duality of scenarios. It leaves room for new possibilities. I would like to point out that (although there are many of them in the work) it is not a black and white photo. In this work I am trying to think visually about what are or should be the scenarios after this pandemic. The labor input came from reading Chthulucene by Donna Haraway, an illuminating book, from there the image of the glade, then linked to the woodsy metaphor of Lichtung in Heidegger, and of this new space in which relations must be sparse but branched, stratified, intertwined and, above all, multispecies. Through this work, I am also codifying my way to survive, visually, the new we expect. I am trying to understand how to restore places of refuge, accepting the disaster, exiting the human exceptionalism, and abandoning the anthropocentric perspective. I think it is absolutely the work I am studying the most, but I believe that systematic and structured deepening is the only way to try to decrypt this historic moment. I should finish it by May 2021.

Chiara Arturo, June 2020, Tuscany
«The tentacular are not disembodied figures; they are cnidarians, spiders, fingery beings like humans and raccoons, squid, jellyfish, neural extravaganzas, fibrous entities, flagellated beings, myofibril braids, matted and felted microbial and fungal tangles, probing creepers, swelling roots, reaching and climbing tendrilled ones. The tentacular are also nets and networks, it critters, in and out of clouds. Tentacularity is about life lived along lines — and such a wealth of lines — not at points, not in spheres. “The inhabitants of the world, creatures of all kinds, human and non-human, are wayfarers”; generations are like “a series of interlaced trails”.» (DH)

You collaborated with the NGO Cuamm in Tanzania and Uganda. Can you tell me more about this experience and how do you think it is for an organization like that to have a photographer like you document their work?

The two experiences in Africa with CUAMM were among the most intense in my life. I will never stop to be grateful for these opportunities and I hope there will still be in the future. Speaking of these two journeys is difficult, as in that part of the “La Frontiera” by Leogrande, when he writes almost at the end: “The base of each journey is an unclear background, a shadow area that is rarely revealed, not even to ourelves. A grip of secret impulses and wounds that often remain so”. With CUAMM I have been in the most remote areas of Uganda and Tanzania, places far removed from our idea of the world: rural villages are hundreds of meters away from the first well, straw and slurry houses, encroachment, and desert landscapes. In Uganda, I had to work as an assistant to Antonio Biasiucci on a cover on maternity for IoDonna (Italian weekly female magazine t.n.), two intense weeks to photograph parts in Karamoja. I still remember odors and sensations. The second time, in Tanzania, I was alone, or rather, with Samuele Zamuner, who at that time worked in their communications office. This was also an intense journey, we had to document their work on a large territory. We have followed prevention and information campaigns on HIV/AIDS and malnutrition in some regions in the north of Tanzania, between Mwanza and Serengeti. I do not know how important it can be for an NGO to call to document a photographer like me, perhaps to escape a classical reporter\ documentarist gaze. But I am sure that these experiences have been important for me. I have my heart filled of incredible memories, as when we met a shaman that protected his albino nephew (in Tanzania the albinos are persecuted, mutilated, and even killed due to myths and survivors linked to alleged magic powers). Of course, both journeys have significantly changed my mind on several issues that were already at my heart, such as colonialism, racism, land grabbing, climate change, etc. They have helped me to de-structure thinking.

You have been selected for the Luciano Benetton Imago Mundi Campania project, with the work Salsedine (Saltness), which is a small work about the sea seen through the salt. You say that your gaze has always aimed towards South: how does this perspective informs this piece and broadest your entire research?

For me, looking to the South is a political, as well as a poetic act. It is a necessity. This small work is a manifest of intents, it is a meridian eye with saltness that burns the eyes, because to anchor your own reference to the South is painful. But necessary.

Chiara Arturo – Salsedine

“Where are all the women?” Randa Maroufi hacking urban space.

The space we walk through is never neutral. Perhaps if you’re an heterosexual white male you might think the opposite, or more likely you’ve never thought about it. It’s not a matter of being guilty, it’s the air we breath, it’s the society we live in. What you haven’t noticed is that our cities are crowded with interdictions, symbolic walls, boundaries, no trespassing signals. It’s something that you learn quite quickly growing up, you internalize this set of unwritten rules: “don’t go there” “can’t stay in this place alone” “don’t pass by there with that dress”, I imagine you are already continuing the list.

I’m a urban trekker, I like to explore the city I live in, often trying bending these rules, I tend to go in places where usually people don’t go unless they live there.

A couple of months ago I was with my bike, passing by some neighbourhoods of Brussels, nearby avenue Stalingrad and other areas between Schaerbeek and Saint Josse, bars and other shops were full of people and they were all men. Walking back home I only had one question in mind “Where are all the women?”.

Randa Maroufi – Coiffeur, Barbès, 2019

This question kept coming to my mind and I said to myself that I should start doing some research to get some perspective on this matter. But with lockdown and restrictions I couldn’t do much so I put it aside for a while.

Then art came, once again to put new lymph to my idea of research. I visited the Mu.ZEE in Ostende during the holidays and there I discovered the work of Randa Maroufi in the exhibition Being Places which addressed the same topic in a series of photographies called Les Intruses (The Intruders). Before reading the description I had the sense that something was strange about these pictures and immediately the question came back “Where are all the women?”. Thanks to Randa Maroufi they were there, hanging out in a bar in Saint Josse where a football match is on the television, in a kebab place, a barber shop in Paris.

Randa Maroufi – La Princière, Barbès, 2019

Maroufi hacked the invisible yet well-known norm of those spaces, she infiltrated women in places that usually are men’s jurisdiction, they also mime attitudes and gestures that you’d see among men, playing cards in a bar for instance. The fact that looking at these pictures, even if you don’t know what it is about, you feel that something is odd, out of place, it means that the gender division of space in the city is something that maybe you’re not aware of but we all go along with it in an unconsciuous way.

Randa Maroufi – Mhajbi, Barbès, 2019

This series of photos is a poignant visual representation of the feminist’s slogan “Safe streets are made by the women who walk through them”, an important claim used against the conservative rethoric of more cameras and military on the streets for women’s safety. It is fundamental to dismantle the culture of “you had it coming!” and stop focusing on the invididual behaviors and accidents and pay attention at the systemic extent of violence and oppression women, in this case, suffer.

The question “Where are all the women” is still open and so Maroufi’s project as she plans to infiltrate new urban contexts.

“Staying within the lines is hard”. A conversation with Steven Antonio Manes

My first encounter with Steven Antonio Manes was at Wolfgang Tillmans’ exhibition at Wiels. We both were waiting for a common artist friend, Julie Pollet. We both figured out that we were waiting for the same person but we didn’t dare to break the ice, so we let the job to our friend. However, walking through the rooms we discussed and I was very intrigued by his personality and I kept wondering how his work would have looked like. After that, I went on his Instagram and website and I was captured by this roughness, by his impetuous way of drawing and his raw and yet very emotional sculptures. We stayed in touch and now I decided it was about time to ask him some questions.

You are a very young artist so I’m very curious to know when did you decide that you wanted to be an artist? What did you study?

I’ve always been a real daydreamer; I remember as a kid I could stare at a wall for a long time. I didn’t feel bored, I could see faces or animals in the small cracks or imperfections of the wall or door or whatever I was looking at. Even just an abstract stain on something triggered me and, in my mind, I could start a whole fantasy story. I loved to look and stare at things and I think this also defined my gut feeling for composition in combination with colour and shapes. It kept on developing as I grew older. Later I would use this internal knowledge to translate into drawings how I feel inside.

Steven Antonio Manes

That’s also what I wish to give to viewers of my work, to be able to recognize themselves in a drawing or start their own story by looking at a work. It’s a way of escaping if you wish. The world today has a lot going on and I believe art can offer so much beauty, so we can daydream again as when we were little.

When I was 14 years old, I went to the Arts School Pikoh Kunsthumaniora in Hasselt, I think there is where I really got the chance to continue exploring my potentials, I really liked going to school. The good guidance of all my teachers helped to bring out properly what I already knew inside. I didn’t know back then if it was possible for me becoming an artist but of course I always thought about it and believed someday I could reach that point. That is still today actually, it’s always an ongoing journey.

When I continued my studies in Sculpture at LUCA in Ghent and occasionally sold an artwork to teachers who dropped by in the atelier, that is when I also began thinking about it as something I could do as a living. I must thank my teachers who always motivated me and believed in my way of working as an artist.

Italia drawing 2019

You have southern-Italy roots, to what extent they have influenced your work?

Yes, both my parents as all my grandparents are Italian and so every year in the summer we returned to where my mother is from in the South of Italy, a small town, Nardò in Puglia. I enjoyed every second of those trips, even the 2000km long drive with the car to our destination. The older I got the more I started appreciating my roots and connecting more and more to that place. From the moment I arrive there it feels like coming back home a bit, even though I’ve always lived in Belgium and consider this my home too. But knowing I have history there is something that fills my heart with love and happiness.

As my work is also very earthly and grounded, I get a lot of inspiration by the landscape there. What I like the most is the abstract shapes and structures of the rocks. They feel hard and sharp but also soft and huggable at the same time (yes, I sometime hug a rock when I’m there). I love to touch them and feel the stones with my hands, sitting by the sea. I love this feeling of being connected to a place, to the earth and especially if it’s a place where you know your roots come from, I think that is a bit why I feel such attraction with rocks (earth as element). Next to the abstract rock formations, of course, also the movement of the sea, the warming sun and exotic plants and vegetation are a great source of inspiration.


In many of your drawings one can perceive this sort of horror vacui. How much of it is due to a formal choice and how much is instead an existential need to fill in gaps and voids?

You say it right, it is mostly an existential need I have. It feels very liberating to me as I’m drawing, it’s like all my energy and emotion flows throughout my hands into the drawing (or sculpture or other artwork I’m making). I never really have a fixed composition on forehand about how the work is going to look like when finished. I just start and throw myself into it. In my head there is maybe some sort of composition I want to have as an outcome, but it’s never fixed. A drawing can change a lot in the process. As with sculptures, this takes a bit more of preparation.

I like so much your work Restare nelle linee è difficile (Staying within the lines is hard). How much is difficult for you the stay within the lines? Whether is your piece paper but much broadly, can you stay within the lines of the art world, of the market?

I think staying within any kind of borders takes a lot of effort. I like to search for the borders and asking myself whether it’s a good thing or not to cross a line. Of course, this is all very subjective and a bit contradictory. In a world where there would be no borders there would be absolute freedom for everyone, but we’re not living in such a world and therefore are always reckoning with others around us. Even though everyone is always saying, ‘Do whatever you want’, it’s not easy without hurting someone else. So yes, I find it difficult to stay within the lines.

In making art therefore I find an escape because there are no rules for making art. In art you can do whatever you want. I think it offers a good way out from everyday life. I think I certainly can stay within the lines of the artworld. I feel very motivated to keep going and doing whatever it takes to go forward. The experiences I had up until now were all relatively positive.

Very recently you took part to the first edition of a new art fair in Milan, REA Fair. How was the experience of an art fair? What about the reaction of the Italian audience?

It was nice, I liked it. It wasn’t a really big fair but even with the pandemic going on there were many people showing up, which I didn’t expect. I had a lot of good reactions and I’m very grateful I could take part (since only 100 artists were selected out of more than 500 applications). The organisation of REA really did their best to make a success of the fair. Also, I love Milan and its vivid art scene. I always wish I could stay a little longer.

Your main influences are abstract-expressionism and Arte Povera. Tell us a bit about these influences.

Ever since I came across the work of Jackson Pollock, I instantly was a huge fan. I fell in love learning about his way of working and the very emotional side of his paintings. I clearly recognized myself in this way of working, to be able to completely lose yourself and express yourself to the fullest (borderless). Arte Povera taught me the more poetical side of making art. Being Italian helps to connect to this art movement even more than usual. The use of words in artworks and to work with simple materials, natural earth-like materials influenced me, especially in sculptural works. It doesn’t always have to be a more complex mix of material (I’m thinking about epoxy or something artificial like that). I like this simplicity in working with few materials, I think it’s very honest and it brings out the purer version of yourself. Keeping it simple, showing the raw. Like clay and plaster, metal, stone, …

Also discovering the work of Giuseppe Penone was touching. As an earthly person myself I can agree with his way of connecting to nature and the relationship we as humans have with it. I love this poetic, grounded side of the Arte Povera movement and it’s something I also wish to bring inside my work.

You are represented by Bruthausgallery. Tell me more about your relationship with the gallery.

I joined the gallery very recently. A good friend introduced my work to the gallerist, Joris Van der Borght, and he instantly wanted to meet me. I went in the following day and we had a good talk about my work and art in general. Afterwards, he offered me to join the gallery as one of the represented artists. I felt we had a good connection, so I was more than happy to accept the offer. It’s clear that good collaborations will flow from this, I’m honoured to be part of Bruthausgallery.

Figura in gesso

Your sculptures are very emotional. In my personal view, the ones made of steel or metals in general, you bring out a certain combative vibe. Those made of plaster and sackcloth, lean more onto disenchantment and reflection. Tell us more about your artistic practice, the process, and the relationship with materials.

I studied sculpture because I wanted to not only work on paper or canvas, but also find a way to bring the two-dimensional work into space as 3D sculptural work. In a certain way I’m trying to translate my drawings into sculptures. But this is much more challenging, and I still don’t think I’m quite there yet, it’s always an ongoing process. So, in my sculptural work I’m trying as hard as I can in different materials to create works in the same manner I do in my drawings. I love clay and plaster which I could use in abundance during my school years. I should do this again since clay is organic and you can shape it anyway you want with expressionistic results. As for the metal sculptures, this is a more recent experiment. I thought this could be a good material since it’s very solid and asks for a different approach. Instead of building something up (like is the case with clay) I must work with the material, modifying the metal with my force which as you say brings out a more combative vibe. I’m not sure yet where this will eventually lead to, but I believe it’s a good part of the ongoing process.

Non pensavo

The question I’ve been asking to all the artists I have spoken with so far is about your reaction to the pandemic as an artist and how lockdown and restrictions have affected your practice and work.

I can say I was actually at peace, during the first lockdown. I could just wake up and be able for most of the time to just make art without too many distractions. Not having to go to work or meeting with people felt as a relief. I had time to think and new thoughts and experiments could flourish and come to existence.

Projects for the future

I feel like making sculptures with clay and plaster again now that I finally have a studio with enough space for it. I’m spending as much time as I can working in my studio. Next to that I’m looking forward to working closely on future exhibitions with Bruthausgallery. Some exciting collaborations with fellow artists and designers are also in progress. I’m feeling very motivated to keep going.


Scenes of a Post Growth World at iMAL

In a recent series of articles, the Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason, author of On Time and Water, a novel about climate change, deals with a crucial issue of our times: the lack of impactful words to explain what is happening to the climate. Better, terms like global warming, acidification of the oceans or glaciers melting aren’t capable, it seems, of penetrating our consciousness and make us sense the urge to strongly demand our governments to put these themes on top of their political agendas. We believe we understand those terms, nonetheless Magnason argues that if we would really understand their real extent, we’d be more than worried. Newspaper headlines are a sort of white noise which prevent to fully acknowledge the situation. For these words to become meaningful for all of us it might take years but human activities are leaving traces on earth like geological eras used to do, it’s been called the Great Acceleration, the most visible sign of Anthropocene. We probably can’t wait decades for those concept to sediment within us.

Of course, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has shed a new light in a rather traumatic way, showing that all these issues are connected and concern the way we live in the world. It might contribute to reduce the white noise that hinder our comprehension of the state of things. For the first time in decades, we are experiencing that the very structure of our societies is at the core of the situation we are suffering.

Slowly the idea that our economic and development models are playing a big role in this health/environmental/social crisis is getting much more credit from a broader audience. But still, we need words with the capacity to convincingly affect our vision of the world. One of the claims that was spreading quite widely at the beginning of the pandemic was we won’t get back to normal because normal was the problem. After almost 9 month this claim seems to have lost its rupture strength.

iMAL, Quais des Charbonnages

Before being softly reconfined and seeing all the cultural spaces shut down again I went to see the exhibition POST GROWTH at iMAL in Molenbeek, curated by DISNOVATION.ORG with Baruch Gottlieb, Clémence Seurat, Julien Maudet, and Pauline Briand.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this exhibition and the result was quite surprising, a sort of visualization of the assumptions I’ve just talked about.

DISNOVATION.ORG is a collective which operates at the crossroads between contemporary art, research and hacking, mixing different media and ways to challenge mainstream narratives, techno-solutionist myth, and the ideology of the infinite growth. I found their practice very much in line with the need of finding the words that will help create a symbolic horizon that will make us realize that the situation is critical.

The exhibition consists of two main parts the Post Growth Toolkit and Solar Share, the first one leans towards the creation of a shared vocabulary that creates a common ground for the post growth societies, mainly with the means of the interviews. Solar Share is an artistic research which aims to challenge the prevailing economic models that seems to ignore the material conditions required for the persistence of our form of life in the biosphere, and most important, it visualize the energy systems that govern the planet’s metabolism.

Solar Share – The Story, 2020


The interviews are short videos where scholars like Bill Tomlinson, Geoffrey Bowker, and Rose O’Leary discuss terms and expressions that are crucial in the development of Post Growth ideology. I’ll report a few examples and the other ones you can find on


The idea that there might be some contexts where, when you learn about the system, what you realize is that there should not be a technological intervention, let’s not add more technology to this, that isn’t the right way to solve the problem. There’s also the field of undesign which is looking at, if you already have a lot of computational systems in place, should you extract some of those systems, is there a way to reduce the number of computational systems or the complexity of the computational systems that you’re interacting with.

The 7th Generation Principle

So, the 7th Generation principle is just that anytime that someone makes a decision, they should think about its impact seven generations into the future. And make that decision mindfully and with care and responsibility for the health and welfare of the seven generations into the future.

Rethinking Kinship

The idea of kinship is recognizing that we don’t have any kind of special place in reality. The old religious idea was the great chain of being, where there were people on top and then the apes and then we kind of go down and down and down until we get to the bacteria, and it’s a kind of hierarchical system going down like that. That’s not the way in which we can and should understand the world. The world is much more rhizomatic than that, it’s not ordered into a nice, neat hierarchy. It’s rhizomatic and being rhizomatic means we’re always connected with each other and with the world around us in all the ways you can’t imagine.

I find fascinating the idea of building a new lexicon for a future world, for our way of staying in it and imagine new interspecies relationalities. What I do appreciate in this approach is that there is no preaching or unnecessary catastrophism. It is not intimidating but stimulating at the same time. Another proof of this approach that aims to reach as much people as possible is The Game, a tactical card game that proposes to reshuffle our world-views and to share stories, concepts and objects to re-examine how we are programmed and to stimulate new modes of understanding.

Post Growth Toolkit – The Game (courtesy of DISNOVATION.ORG)


Solar Share was for me the most intriguing and thought-provoking installation of the entire exhibition, it makes visible processes that we’ve taken for granted for so long and reveal in a tangible form what are the energetic costs of our society.

Solar Share – The Coins

In The Coins they use the concept of Emergy which acknowledge as vital contributions to life processes that are extremely slow and vast and in the great acceleration era are not for granted anymore. Basically, these coins, made of PET plastic, which we can see as ancient sunlight concentrated in organic material over millions of years, embody the same energy of 1m2 of a yearly solar irradiation in Brussels, for example. Processes that needed millions of years are now reduced in a few grams of plastic; one thing is reading it another is visualizing it through these coins which is somehow staggering.

Solar Share – Energy Slave Token

In the Energy Slave Token, the term energy slave is used to describe the energy required to power modern lifestyle, the tokens are weights made of bitumen which represent the quantities of physical human labor time, in this way we can be aware of the energy that is consumed mostly from fossil fuels in order to power our lives in this society.

Solar Share – The Farm

Finally, in The Farm, they question the contemporary myth of vertical hydroponic farms in cities claimed to be the potential substitute for much farmland. Unfortunately, the kind of plants that grow like this lack of carbohydrates, protein, or fat, which means good for leafy greens and tomatoes rather impossible for cereals, so they cannot feed our big cities. Moreover, and this is well shown by the 1 m2 of wheat exhibited, this way of farming relies on a massive availability of cheap fossil energy and considerable technical infrastructures. The Solar Share installation makes visible and concrete all the relations and interdependencies that our socio-economic model tends to hide, in order to deny pollution, social inequalities and prevent people to fully understand events like immigration of which we see just the last segment of a much longer chain of events.

Lately, also because of this exhibition, I have been thinking a lot to the book 1177 BC. The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline, I find it an inspiring reading for these times, we don’t want to end up like Late Bronze Age societies in the Mediterranean and Near-East, which collapsed, almost at the same time, for many factors like droughts, famine, earthquakes, and invasions by the infamous and mostly unknown Sea People. Some scholars argue that their vision of the events was myopic, and they could have prevented their complete destruction, some others say that it was hard to see that conjuncture of events coming. They didn’t have the predictive models and advanced tools like we do. Although, as we’ve seen, these tools can’t suffice, we need the right words and symbolic imagery which resonates within ourselves, 2050 and 2100 are not that far away and we’ll be unprepared.

“Art is the visualization of a dream”. A conversation with Corrado Lorenzo Vasquez.

Sometimes you have to leave a place to discover the artists living there. I spent most of my life in Catania but I have never met Corrado Lorenzo Vasquez, a talented photographer and director. We still haven’t met in person but we had a very nice conversation about his work, the relationship with his land and so much more.

At a young age you decided to live in Catania, a city with such an important history, an enormous artistic tradition, and a vibrant cultural life. Tell me about your relationship with the city and how much it has influenced your work and aesthetic.

I was born in Syracuse, I lived in different cities between France and Berlin, but Catania is the city that adopted me, I have always chosen, consciously to live in its peripheral or popular places, probably the most authentic even if often degraded. I have the impression that in some quarters time has crystallized in ancient rituals and popular customs. However, it is a multi-ethnic city where the Sicilian culture coexists mostly peacefully with other realities from around the world in a mixture of cultural influences. I like to tell stories in the frame of black lava, the folklore, identity, defined contours, and traditions, but also ethnic blends and diversity in their appearance and in their habits. It is also a culturally vibrant city in a surprising way, and for me very stimulating, here going to concerts as a fan equipped with a camera and then sent by web-zines, I met the musicians, often international, with whom I still collaborate.

Corrado Lorenzo Vasquez © Daniele Vita

You are a photographer and a director. How do you decide which medium is more suitable for a certain topic or subject? Or is it the other way around, the medium affecting the content?

What makes visual art in all its meanings unique, is its immediacy, in the case of photography this is the fastest medium to date, from the moment of conception to its availability.
For me photography has always been a form of improvisation, even when the images provide a preliminary study, my reaction to the subject is instantaneous and borrowed in an exchange like a circuit, between me and the subject. The video, however, is a more complete tool in its expression and in its way of telling, because it contains more elements (audio and photography itself) and requires more time to use. Video making therefore implies, most of the time, also the support of other people, so it is a tool that I have used only on commission, I hope, however, in the near future, to use this tool also for my personal projects.

Looking through your photos, the street ones, I have the sensation that your gaze is not the one of a detached voyeur or of a reporter who is looking for a sensational shot. I felt lot of empathy in the scenes that you portray. Can you describe your attitude towards the street?

During high school I bought an old Russian SLR for five euros with a broken light meter and I started to take pictures that were technically right, at least. Some time after I found the book of Magnum Photos in the library and This is how my journey in photography began. It has become maieutic process, unlocking me from the shy and introspective character that I got. The approach to portrait photography was in fact fundamental in my personal growth, stimulated by the need to create an empathic relationship with the subjects. My interest in this kind of photo is therefore the knowledge of the subject and therefore have a story to tell, however what also attracts me, are real compositions of street scenes that stimulate me visions where all the elements coincide to compose a significant picture.

I think that Light Wounds is my favorite series of your work, I love the dark oneiric vibe in it. Can you tell me more about the concept, the process, and the technique?

In opposition to my reportage work, where my interest is to interpret reality by immersing myself in it, getting in touch with people, and sometimes imagining them, but always based on something real and visible to everyone. In the Light Wounds series, I simply let myself be guided by my emotions and my impulses. Art for me is the visualization of a dream, of something that happens, that tells uncertainties, past, legacy, exorcises thoughts and transforms them into matter. In this series, I have therefore, staged, shaped and used, the bodies of people to recreate fragments of my imagination, there is clearly a strong reference to the pictorial art of the past and specifically to the allegories of the “memento mori”. The figures exist in a dreamlike dimension, often blindfolded or hooded, they are deprived of their identity in favor of the entire scenic communication. These bodies, they cannot see the reality that surrounds them, represent the staging of our missing senses and the relationship that we have with what we cannot see, but that we live equally from a technical point of view instead, With this work I wanted to emphasize how a digital image can be transformed into something more alive, digital photography, in general, perfectly replicable, back to being something unique and unrepeatable, as if it had a new life. Trying to explain better, the work is based on an analog digital print made through an experimental technique that I invented, in which I intervene with the brush on the print, and I create shapes every time new and therefore unrepeatable.

Light Wounds series
Light Wounds series

You have directed several video-clips for artists such as Marta sui Tubi, Hugo Race and Silent Carnival. How it is the relationship with the music and the lyrics? Do they play a prominent role, or you go on your way and the music is just accessory?

Music, together with visual art in general, represents a great passion of mine, the realization of the video-clips becomes therefore for me the possibility to express an artistic construction according to my personal interpretation. When I direct a music video-clip, my primary goal is to reproduce an atmosphere instead of being didactic to the lyrics. What interests me is to create something that can reflect or evoke the atmosphere of the music and of the lyrics, but I tend to make it in a way that it might tell something else and the viewer can see something that goes beyond the path of the music.

There is a series of photos about Thapsos, which struck me immediately. As a Sicilian who studied archaeology, Thapsos is the epicenter of most of the studies of that area so I have always seen it through the eyes of scholars and perhaps neglected to see what happened with the construction of the oil plant. Your photos depict, with a mix of sadness and anger, what is now of those places. Tell me more about this series, what brought you there?

My life has always been divided between two different cities: Catania and Syracuse, along the way my gaze is often turned to the industrial areas of the petrochemical plant that was settled right in the middle of these two places. The plant was built in the late 1940s as a sign of development, technological innovation, and progress, and was welcomed by the entire population with great initial enthusiasm. In fact, the structures were built on this entire archaeological area known as the largest Mycenaean emporium in Sicily, and therefore of enormous importance for the history of the region and the whole Mediterranean. During the works the archaeological remains were not taken care of properly and many traces were simply erased without the possibility for scholars to study before the destruction. Furthermore, in the area the cases of cases of tumors is extremely high due to the inevitable pollution generated by the plant. Yet again, as in other parts of Italy, the choice was between work and public health. The few people who tried to fight this state of things were killed. Today many of these plants are closed and abandoned, what remains is the devastation of the territory. My project reflects these feelings of bitterness and indignation for the damages these places have suffered.

You live in Italy where the restrictions for the coronavirus crisis were harsher than anywhere. How was your lock-down experience, not only as an artist? Are there new projects you are working on for the next future? The experience of the lock-down due to the coronavirus outbreak has given us the weird opportunity to live something unrepeatable, the suspension of time has made me vulnerable facing my inner thoughts, I would lie if I would not tell you that initially the idea of impotence has negatively affected my days, the waiting became a customary reality, and in the loneliness of my days I had to come to terms with myself. Despite a path of suffering, this situation has brought a new awareness, new inspiration, and new ideas to produce. Moreover, an event in my private life, the meeting with my current partner, has opened new creative routes. I guess that art is also made by the accidental events that happen in our lives. I understand that we are living a unique historical moment that will surely be a fertile ground worth telling. Right now, I am working on something that reflect what we all are going through, the changes in our daily life and I would like to show it through the materiality of its different aspects.
I am at an early stage of the work though; I hope to be able to show it in a couple of months.

Bringing the vibe of contemporary art in the Sicilian province: San Sebastiano Contemporary/Casa Bramante

This summer I am not traveling and I also cancelled my usual trip back to Sicily. Each time I go I am always on the look for what’s new in the Sicilian contemporary art scene, this year I wanted to visit San Sebastiano Contemporary/Casa Bramante, an art gallery/cultural space that recently opened in Palazzolo Acreide (Syracuse), unfortunately the pandemic happened, but my visit is just postponed. I see in this interesting project the tangible expression of this movement towards the inland areas that in the last 60 years have been neglected in favor of the big cities. Rem Koolhaas, for example, made an exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York at the beginning of the year, called Countryside, The Future. In Italy, the poet Franco Arminio has dedicated all his work to the small villages, especially in the South, that are depopulated or even abandoned, with poetry of course but also with a festival and recently a TV show. So I decided to contact Davide Bramante, the founder of this ambitious and challenging project and asked him a few questions.

Opening an artistic space in Palazzolo Acreide it seemed to me as a strong statement. Bringing the vital lymph of contemporary arts in a place mostly known and visited for its beauty from the past is quite a paradigm shift. Can you tell us more about the genesis of this project, the challenges, and your expectations?

Palazzolo is mostly known for its food culture, for its Slow Food presidia, for the Sausage of Palazzolo, precisely. These first lines might seem as irreverent as a provocation but that’s what it is. In the last 30 years people who have come here were looking to eat well. Little by little the wisest, in the walk after the rich meal have begun to rediscover this ancient and wonderful village. Palazzolo has a thousand-year history. When I tell about this village to those who do not know it, I always begin by saying that when the Greeks arrived here, they built theaters. One of the most important of antiquity, in Syracuse, and one in Palazzolo as well. They knew how to choose places, and they did not choose a place because it was cool or trendy, as pioneers in these lands they felt the spiritual energy in such places. I have not Greek’s knowledge nor a tiniest bit of their strength or sensibility, but I felt that I could have invested all my energy, hopes, and dreams in Palazzolo. This place is magical to me, rich of encouraging cultural examples that slowly are being rediscovered: a great archaeological site and several museums, there was one piece missing, contemporary art. I hope I will live up to the challenge.

San Sebastiano Contemporary / Casa Bramante (interior)

Who is Davide Bramante? A well-known photographer, of course, with the creation of this cultural space what defines you best? Art dealer? Gallerist? Cultural Agitator? Patron?

Davide Bramante

Davide Bramante is mainly an ultra of the arts. My vocation was always to be a photographer. Out of love, I bought art, supported my fellow artists friends, I have been a match-maker for artists and curators, artists and gallerists and now, with San Sebastiano Contemporary I give a space and welcome art and the artists I love the most.

Before coming back to Sicily, you lived abroad for quite some time (Turin, Rome, Milan, and NYC). I would like to know which place(s) has had the biggest impact on your work and what is your relationship with Syracuse, your hometown.

Yes, I lived, studied, worked and most of all learned so much in all those cities. My hometown is Syracuse but the city that introduced me in the art world was Turin. Turin, which is a beautiful city, in the beginning of the 90’s was pure magic. Then New York for two scholarships and several solo and collective exhibitions. Milan which I love today more than the past, Rome, and Bologna where I was a conscientious objector and where I met my biggest supporter. My work as a photographer is the outcome of the stratifications, architectural but that of the archaeological sedimentation that you can find in a city like Syracuse. But it is a love linked to the stories it tells rather than the contemporary world. I do not feel at home in Syracuse as opposed to Palazzolo or Turin. In Syracuse I feel more in a vacation, a place from which I have to leave and where I do not feel the need to work.

How is the territory responding to this project? I am talking about institutions, associations and enterprises, and the audience in general.

When I arrived in Palazzolo I wanted to introduce myself in the best way, but I guess I was as lucky as daring. I found the best location for this project, one of the most beautiful private palazzetto which I bought, restored, and gave back to the community in less than 18 months in all its art nouveau splendor and elegance. Once the works were completed, I wanted to give a party to inaugurate the space and not an exhibition, I invited all the citizen to show that the space is theirs too. The municipal authorities are supporting the external projects, mainly “Palazzolo Ospitale” (Palazzolo is Welcoming e.n.). The audience has been the best so far, Palazzolo is very close to other cities like Noto, Modica and Syracuse, moreover, many foreigners have houses in the countryside, and they have not missed none of the three summer events.

That San Sebastiano Contemporary – Casa Bramante was not simply an art gallery, for me it was clear from the idea of home that is in the name. Casa (home) is more than an exhibition space but a place of encounter and discussion. In fact, you just ended a series of talks called Palazzolo Ospitale. N° 0 Talks where the artists had the chance to discuss their work with the public. How much is it important the discursive dimension for your project?

San Sebastiano/Casa Bramante is a two stories gallery with a cave that we call “project room” and where we usually project videos or documentaries. We also have a office kitchen carved out of an old dammuso of white stone. In my experience the most important decisions are taken in the kitchen over a meal or a glass of wine, thanks to this I feel it like home, that is why Casa Bramante. Palazzolo Ospitale is both a collective exhibition and a series of talks, we held them in a former convent in the hearth of the village. I think that the talks have been the most interesting part because every evening the public had the chance to listen to an artist and a curator discussing their dreams and goals which makes the art world more accessible to those who wants to get closer insights on the methods and process of contemporary artists or as I called them contemporary dreamers. I cannot avoid to mention those who worked to make this event possible, Aldo Premoli as the curator and the cooperative MIB who effectively organized the event.

A moment of “Palazzolo Ospitale” Talks.

The timing of the opening of San Sebastiano Contemporary, unfortunately, was not the best because of the lockdown that came right after. You reopened with the exhibition Gli altri Siciliani. 8 fotografi+1 ingegnere (The Other Sicilians. 8 photographers + 1 engineer) curated by Aldo Premoli. You put together famous and less known photographers and quite different ways of making photography. Can you give us some insights on the curatorial choices?

The first exhibition of the season was dedicated to Mauro Benetti, an artist from Turin very well appreciated especially during the 90’s and curated by Francesco Lauretta who is a painter himself. We had to postpone it to December 27, we are going to use every surface and angle of the space. It is going to be amazing. So after the lock-down we opened an exhibition about 8 Sicilian photographers not all of them are art photographers (there are also reporters); Aldo Premoli, who curated the exhibition, wanted to give the audience a glimpse of the talented artists are living in the area and put them in the spotlight. When it comes to photography we always think about the usual 2/3 names (which are great) but the curator wanted to highlight the fact that there are other talents that, if given the chance, will be as successful as the others.

Photo by Loredana Iuranello

In your opinion, as a photographer and as a collector, how is the status of health of the Sicilian contemporary photography?

I think that Sicilian photographers are among the best in the international scene, Ferdinando Scianna, Letizia Battaglia, Shobha Battaglia, Turi Rapisarda Aldo Palazzolo, just to name a few. But as we say in Sicily cu nesci arrinesci (literally, if you go away you will make it) perhaps if these great names would have stayed in Sicily they would not have been as successful as they are. So, it is a long way and there is a lot of work to do. For instance, the young and brilliant Salvo Alibrio who realized the Dolce & Gabbana campaign is “obliged” to make wedding shooting for a living.

On August 7 you opened the exhibition Sono apparso alla mela di Cézanne (I appeared to Cézanne’s apple) by artists Lauretta and Presicce. Lauretta said that the exhibition was born from the necessity of marrying the other, it is about friendship, being open to the world to its lives and deaths. I find it a particularly important reason for making art and exhibiting it. Can you tell me your personal take on this exhibition?

Painting by Luigi Presicce

I totally embrace the vision and that Francesco Lauretta explained. I have known Francesco for more than 35 years. We took the first steps together and moved to northern Italy together and for a while we shared a flat. Then I had to move because I was quite restless, so I gave him some space to work on his paintings with all the calm he required. I met Luigi [Presicce] recently but we have a common story behind, he left for the north to realize is artistic project and he got the recognition he deserved.

What’s in the future of San Sebastiano Contemporary? Ideas, projects, dreams.

The future projects are quite ambitious, and these places deserve it. When you work in the cultural field in a land with such history and beauty coming from the past, you are not allowed to have small dreams or futile expectations. We do not know if we are going to make it, but the most important thing is to create a space and hospitality for artists coming from everywhere. We are turning our attention to northern Europe, Baltic countries, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. Next October, the Latvian government should send the three winners of the Riga Quadrennial (we will see how things will go with the pandemic). We want to give way to the young talents; we aim to make Palazzolo a fundamental step of growth for the new artistic generations.

“Intuitive design that evokes emotions”. A conversation with Jordan Artisan

The fourth installment of the conversations series this week features Jordan Artisan, a Dutch designer which I discovered on Instagram during one of my endless browsing sessions looking for interesting art and design, and this was the case. What drew my attention is his use of materials, from rebar to EPS, to reach an organic feeling which is palpable in his pieces. Talking to Jordan I learned how his vision of design resonates with the issues of our world (sustainability, for instance), it might seem something taken for granted but design has been somehow detached from the challenges of its time. Lately, however, we are witnessing a trend reversal and Jordan is definitely part of it.

Jordan Artisan

Let’s start from your artist statement: How these pairs of opposites (light/dark, shape/round metal/fluid) work in your artistic process?
I see the oppositions as a dynamic movement. An ongoing process where I search for an organic flow. I find meaning in handling and changing construction materials into my reality, into functional art and collectible design.

What are, in your opinion, the biggest challenges for design (and designers) in the XXI century?
The challenges I think we designers face is if we can connect ourselves to this next movement where consumerism is changing into something new. ‘Stuff’ is losing value, feeling empty. There is a longing to create something meaningful in life. Taking care of this world by buying less and buying objects that better suit this image. For example, design made from natural, recycled, or sustainable materials. Imperfections are allowed and preferred over mass production. Intuitive design that evokes emotion. 

Stool Sculptures

Which are the materials you prefer to work with?
The last couple of years I have worked mainly with construction materials, wood, EPS, and rebar. After experimenting with the materials, I have found an innovative way of using rebar. It is mostly known as a side product in construction, to strengthen concrete. It is also possible to turn it into something elegant; organic, soft, and round. Rebar is made of recycled steal, so my work can in time become part of the cycle again. 

Romance Confidence

Talking about your work “Romance confidence”. How was to work for a public space?
’’Romance Confidence’’ means the trust in meeting the right one. It has been a life changing work. The Jordan Artisan studio started because of this opportunity. For the readers not able to see it: the object is a grand seating sculpture (9 m long), which is at the same time a panoramic view, a skyline, of a big city. You can sit at almost 20 different kind of chairs. Designing and building a work in the public space brings a lot of responsibilities; there are strict requirements and criteria. Challenges are to create something that fits the surroundings, to provoke being seen, used, and played with. Our public space could use some more of that. I would not mind doing it again; perhaps in the current times by designing a public place safe for contact. 

Production phase

What is the best part of your work process? The idea, the project, the execution?
The best is when the sculpture grows slowly under your hands and you experience that moment when it all comes together. Take a look at the rebar objects, e.g. the cabinet: I’m cutting and grinding all this little pieces of rebar. The next step is welding them together: shaping, creating roundness, something fluid. When it is all connected, that is the best part.

The fairs scene. What is your favorite one and do you think that fairs are still the most important place to showcase your work or virtual places will take their place?
Fairs are particularly important to showcase my work to let people experience my work. It is also a chance to enlarge my network. I have had good experiences the last couple of fairs I went, e.g. Milan and Eindhoven. What is important to me is to have space to show my work in a proper way. 

One of my great pleasures is to create a good exposition; a composition where the audience feels like walking into a gallery. I enjoy creating new work that adds something extra to the objects and composition that is already there. Last year at the Dutch Design Week I started adding pink objects to my rebar and EPS projects: a room divider and three oak benches. Now I am working on monumental sculptures out of EPS that move between art and design.

Exhibition setup

How is your relationship with social media?
I am very thankful for Instagram. It is a great medium to show my portfolio to a wide audience. Not only potential buyers, galleries, and the public. Also, to create contact with other makers in the art and design scene. 
Social media is also a good way for publicity. Clients I have sold work to, or done commissioned work for, post their positive feedback. Or a partner I work with publishes my work in a magazine which is then shared online. It is full of potential.

About the current situation. Tell me how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting your work, what are the challenges and what role can design have in rethink our daily life after this period.
In the beginning I was mainly shocked and scared because I am part of the at-risk group. Now I am focused on staying healthy, enjoying the extra time I have with my toddler, and working from home when I can. Having found peace and quiet at home there is space again to create with a clear mind. My new works are comparable with paper-mache. Though not fragile but becoming strong as concrete. Layer on layer, repetitive motions. Giving me time to reflect, making me aware of the importance of respecting the earth and the air we breathe.

Rebar cabinet

“My work is part of a narrative, in the construction of fictions that take their sources in reality”. A conversation with Jonas Moënne

Third appointment with my conversations with artists, today we go to France, precisely in the Alpine region, with Jonas Moënne. We met at a brunch (never underestimate the importance of a brunch!), I heard he was working on an upcoming exhibition and it immediately drew my attention. He’s a young artist but with a very precise aesthetic and vision of his own practice which is not a common thing to find at such an early stage. I’m fascinated by how he manages to conciliate craftsmanship with lyricism and a sense of wonder in all his works.



I see that you have a very deep relationship with your place of origin, the Alpes. Can you tell me how this strong link is embedded in your work?

Jonas Moënne

There are words that give all their meaning to this deep bond that unites me to the mountain. Estelle Spoto, for the Media Award to perfectly summarize this interaction in my opinion:
“There are works that tell stories. There are artists who assert themselves as storytellers. Jonas Moënne is one of them. Perhaps this characteristic finds its source in the context that saw him born: the Savoyard mountains. A peasant world, still full of folklore and ancient beliefs, where the immense nature enjoins man to remain modest and where the landscapes constitute a procession of disproportionate sculptures. A deeply earthly universe and it is this earth, as matter, that the visual artist decided to explore.”

One of your favorite material is ceramic. Coming from archaeology, where ceramic is one of the main fields of study, it always intrigues me to learn how contemporary artists deal with it.

The mastery of fire is for many, fusion, traditionally it is the disappearance of natural matter in favor of the object. My work is almost the opposite. It is fascinating to be part of a common history that begins with the domestication of this element. It is a knowledge that is part of the birth of our civilization and that is transcribed into my practice using rocks, metals, and glass through the same intermediary, fire. But it is indeed very amusing to see how a visual artist can be assigned a medium.

At the same time, I will develop in my residence at Macors this summer, a whole work that will do without ceramics. We must not lock ourselves in a medium, but fire is indeed my favorite tool.

la mort des huit chevaux du bonheur
La mort de huit chevaux du bonheur

History reverberates in all your works, for example, “La mort des huit chevaux du bonheur” starts from knick-knacks that summarize centuries of cultural and commercial contacts between China and the West. How does history work in your practice? It is a tool, a pretext, an obsession…?

My work is part of a narrative, in the construction of fictions that take their sources in reality. This is as important as the “physical” creation of my sculptures. For this, I almost always proceed in the same way. First, there is something discreet that attracts my gaze then I focus on this point and I dissect it. Secondly, I am attracted to a lot of ancillary things. Then begins to form the frame of work, but it is as if everything is already there.

A work that has really struck me is “Les filles de Tara”, small pieces bearing an important story where entomology meets the human and aura of divine. Tell me more about this work.

Yes, it was a chance meeting that led me to work on this project. I came across a tiny pot in the ground four years ago. By dint of research I understood that it was an insect, commonly called pottery wasp, which manufactured this type of clay pots. Then began a devouring work of research to achieve several convictions. The pottery wasp has been around the world for 250 million years. She makes pots to store the food of her larvae in an almost identical shape, round, and an open neck. To realize the pot the insect manufactures a ball of clay, which it unrolls in dove to form the wall of the pot.

Les filles de Tara

What is fascinating is that the technique and form is identical to the one that humans have developed all over the planet, a few thousand years before our era. For several months now, research has led me to collaborate with artists, researchers, and individuals from around the world. Patiently, with their support, I create a collection of mason wasp jars from all over the planet. It is with their help and their stories, that a map of the world of pottery wasps is gradually drawn.
My job properly speaking, is to cook and glaze the pots of the wasps pottery collected, to inscribe them in the inalterability of the ceramic. Go from nature to culture.

The title of this work is Tara’s daughters from Tara, the word in Alpine dialect for all types of pots. It is also the name of an ancient minor God of the Greek pantheon, moving on the back of a dolphin, from city to city, to pass on to men the knowledge of nature and handicrafts.

In every culture there are also legends that speak of this link with this insect. I very much like a myth from  West Africa which tells that when the earth was created god asked the animals to hide their eyes not to see these powers, the pottery wasp only partially hid these eyes with its thin paws and knew from that moment to make pots.
In a sense, Tara is a bridge, linking the divine, the animal and the world of Men.

You were supposed to be part of a collective exhibition at Eleven Steens called “Mémoires de formes” which has been postponed due the current situation. Can you talk about the process behind the exhibition?

Eleven Steens is a place that touches me a lot because it makes the link between contemporary art and handwork and I think that this is what makes one of the particularities of my practice, this link between matter and narrative. The pieces we have chosen together will be part of this creative process, in the construction of a story.

This exhibition is part of the theme Mémoires de formes, which in fact offers four solo exhibitions. It was supposed to take place during the Art Brussels. I have produced a lot in recent months for this exhibition, in particular David and Goliath, a work that has already been shown at La Médiatine and much appreciated by the director of Eleven Steens.

david et goliath
David and Goliath

Living the events of these years, marked by the social crisis in the developed countries, I felt the need to build a piece nourished by this contemporary history, that of our welfare state, in crisis. After rereading the fables of La Fontaine, I drew from the one of the clay pots against the iron pot, the preface to this new project. The association of the earth and the iron gave birth to a third matter, half-iron, half-earth. A kintsugi to the West. Here the contrary materials mix and at more than 1200°C are sealed.

David and Goliath are two elements that look at each other with optimism and propose a unity born of chaos.

Which are the artists that had a strong influence on your artistic practice?

There is a series of artists of my generation that touches me very much and whose work I particularly like: Antoinette d’Ansebourg, Soufiane Ababri, Marlène Mocquet, D.D Trans, Takuro Kuwata and Hirosuke Yabe.

Penone, for he has always given me the feeling of giving a rightness and importance to the things of the living, the one that should affect us more. World peasants, on the edge of the Italian Alps, with great accuracy in plastic and theoretical work. I owe a lot to Casanovas less known but equally major artist who revolutionized the practice of ceramics, to re-insert it in plastic, mineral, monumental. Someone who blew up the traditional technical codes of the medium. A master.

Due to the current COVID-19 situation, the fair season is mostly postponed to 2021. What is your relationship with the art market? How do you imagine the art world after this crisis?

It is with pleasure that I was shown and awarded at La Médiatine this year. Despite this crisis I already know that I will have the opportunity to present my work in 2021 in Paris in a highly anticipated collective exhibition. As a young artist, I continue my journey: I am competing, I am in residence, I am looking forward to seeing a gallery in Brussels and one in Paris.

After the corona surely nothing new, even if the probable heatwave of this summer will not forget what we have come to. It is already the everyday life of artists to fight to be able to transmit their work and through our practice, we must be militant in societal changes.

mon vers est dans l'âtre 2
Mon vert est dans l’âtre

“Things are more than things, they are symbols, they are signs, parts of sunken worlds”. A conversation with Serena Vittorini

The series of conversations continue with an Italian photographer, Serena Vittorini, whom I met when she had just moved to Brussels, more than one year ago. We were both participating in a Smart info session and we kept in touch, I’ve been following her work since then. Because it comprises some of the issues I’ve been always interested in, memory as a means to investigate the present, identities, and their construction via the imagery (personal and collective), the use of archive for the artistic process. I’m very happy to share with you her works and the process behind it.


Serena Vittorini

In some of your projects, archives play a crucial role. Can you tell me a bit more about how your work is intertwined with them?

My fascination for the archive was born together with the multidisciplinary approach I took when I was attending classical high school, which has trained me over the years to think through methodologies and knowledge derived from philosophy, historiography, literature. I created “Sine Qua Non” getting inspiration from the work of the philosopher Sergio Givone, whose “First lesson in aesthetics” was fundamental in understanding how to translate the symbolism of a common object with a specific visual modality. Although in this work there are no direct reproductions of archival documents, I already had in me this interest for the fetishization of the object. I want the object to be molded, decontextualized, reproduced to rewrite a memory, in this case, the memory of the 2009 earthquake, which violently struck my hometown, L’Aquila, Italy.

Tapes You Watch When You Are Alone - 1
Tapes You Watch When You Are Alone

In “Tapes You Watch When You Are Alone“, I started being interested in using the archive as a reprocessing of collective historical memory and working on the link between this and the identity of the present generation. In the archives of Slupsk and Ustka (two towns in Poland), I looked for traces of what are the main historical stages these cities have gone through, using a methodology that differs from the traditional criteria of classification but instead focuses on a selection of crucial events. I associated what I found in the archives with pictures of local people living there nowadays. The aim was to create a procedural and participatory device, aiming at both revealing some cultural and historical information while also creating a space for interpretation for the observer.

My latest work “Dans Mon Souvenir C’était Blanc” represents a later phase of my questioning about the possibilities of using documents and/or archival objects in the creative process.

Dans Mon Souvenir C'était Blanc - 1
Dans Mon Souvenir C’était Blanc

Developed in collaboration with the industrial heritage site Bois du Cazier, the work is a multimedia narration exploring histories and memories between Belgium and Italy in a post-WWII context. The resulting installation comprises of a series of photographs, archival material, and a sound piece outlining the story of a fictional character, a miner son of Italian immigrants in Belgium after WWII. The work can be read on two intertwining layers: collective memories of Italian migrants and flashbacks of my childhood. I’ve always been somehow fascinated and disturbed by the concept of memory, and the work was born from a personal struggle: I don’t have any memories from before my twenties. And this has and continues to have consequences on my identity.

The flashbacks of my childhood that I mention in the work, translated into images and narrated by the voice of an old man in the audio I produced, are memories recovered after my own personal therapy.

Following my move to Belgium and the request by the Cultuurcentrum Mechelen to create a new work, I decided to focus partly on this intimate personal struggle and partly on a historical period that has marked the history of Italians in Belgium. All the images can be interpreted on these two levels: reality/representation, collective memory/personal memory, belonging/identity, truth/illusion. I wonder whether the image is a visual truth or whether it is rather an interpretative bridge between itself and the gaze of an observer.

The work ends up being a visual translation of two, 10, 100 memories, which coexist in a timeless space and which at the same time potentially include sharable historical cultural and personal realities.

One of your projects has a very evocative name, Dans mon souvenir c’était blanc, even though it is not a work of abstraction, on the contrary, it is related to important issues such as migration, labor and exploitation, nostalgia, and hope. Tell me about the origin of the name, the process, and how it has been received by the public.

The title, “Dans Mon Souvenir C’était Blanc”, references an interesting case that emerged from academic research by Anne Morelli, a Belgian historian of Italian origins who specialises in the history of religions and minorities. In the interviews she conducted with Italian miners, Morelli noticed certain recurring elements, such as the reminiscence of a snowy landscape upon arrival in Belgium. Her interpretation of these unbelievably consistent accounts is that snow, far from being an actual recollection, was part of the shared imagery of Italian migrants’ experience. “Dans Mon Souvenir C’était Blanc” reflects exactly on this combination of fact, fiction, and feelings that makes up collective and individual memories.

Dans Mon Souvenir C'était Blanc - 3
Dans Mon Souvenir C’était Blanc

My work was carried out in two phases, which in the implementation phase were mixed until they became one. I initially collaborated with the archive of the Bois du Cazier in Marcinelle, where I tried to find materials, photographs, testimonies that could help me understand the historical period but also to create a plausible historiographical structure to the story I wanted to tell. I then dedicated myself to “reconstruct” my story, to work on some of my lost memories, and later recovered thanks to my personal therapy. The memories of others and mine merge together creating a whole new identity.

The image can be a visual trigger to remind us of the power of photography. Photography brings about both cultural and social level facts that belong to us and constitute memories that link us all together through ages and history.

Even historical periods merge together. Some cultural and social references from 50 years ago – in the post-1945 context – remain and are re-born, connecting together different generations from back then and nowadays. Although obviously these two time periods are very different and realities of day-to-day life differ, there are some commonalities. The pastoral idyllic Italy of the 1990s with industrialization in which I grew up in has a lot of similarities with the one Italian migrants experienced before moving to Belgium.

Dans Mon Souvenir C'était Blanc - 5

We must also keep in mind that each image can be read and seen on different levels. There are also a lot of personal and symbolic references, for instance through the animals, leaving space for interpretation. The picture of the canary refers to the fact that miners were using this bird to send it into the mine as a way of measuring toxic gas levels. I linked this to my own feeling of suffocation in my childhood. How much do personal and collective memory (both potentially fictitious) affect our identity, our perception of ourselves?

In several works, identity is deeply questioned and investigated. What is your approach dealing with other people’s identity and what are, if any, the effects on yours?

My interest in photography was born and grew from the desire to investigate the human being. I started projects related to the representation of landscape and space, but in developing them I always had at a certain point the need to add somehow the human component. I don’t think that a portrait shows the identity of a person. When I make a portrait I look at the physical elements of the situation – the face, the hands, the expressions – and from this analysis I start to translate and try to interpret what happens inside the person I am photographing. I think this speculative game is the most satisfying moment of making a portrait. I don’t believe that a portrait can reveal the identity of a person but I believe that an authentic moment of encounter with the subject can happen. And it is the experience of that moment that effects me, that enriches me and gives me more information about the person in front of me. I use aesthetics to make the photo immediately readable and attractive, but I am aware that it remains open to further levels of interpretation. It is the fact of containing an interpretation that allows the image not to be a mere reduction of space in a frame, to be powerful in being a visual synthesis, and at the same time to have a strong semiotic. A good portrait is not only aesthetic rigor and human experience but also a sort of personal imagery that I insert to build the story.


In Sinequanon everyday objects receive a new status thanks to your intervention. Can you explain the reason behind it?


SINEQUANON is a work realized on the urban space of the city of L’Aquila (Italy) eight years after the earthquake of 2009, during the reconstruction of the city.

I needed to detach myself from all the aesthetics of the reportage and find a different way to depict the city and face my come back to the place where I was born. The operation carried out meant for me to find everyday objects used to reconstruct the buildings, then paint them and photograph them in the same place where I found them but on a photographic backdrop. The images, therefore, seem to have been taken in the studio, the objects are totally decontextualized, the only real element is the street lamp. The intervention realized on the objects is the tangible, significant, and concrete operation of this project.

I modified reality to question the symbolism of common objects, to put everything in


question in a dramatic context like that of a natural catastrophe. To open our eyes to the things that affect us more closely, the things we use as tools. We can observe everyday objects not only as images of archaeology or residues but to reconstruct through them something that no longer exists, that changes but whose symbolic value continues to influence us. Things are more than things, they are symbols, they are signs, parts of sunken worlds that re-emerge thanks to the interpretation of the observer.


I see that you studied psychology. How much of your previous studies inform your photographic work?

I come from a small reality where studying photography and working as a photographer is unthinkable. Conditioned by this context, I chose to study psychology because it seemed to be the discipline closest to what I was interested in at that moment: the thinking of the human being. Over time, I realized that it was not my vocation and that’s why I took my second degree in photography. Psychology answered some of my curiosities but it didn’t allow me to create a world, to question reality in order to translate it into a tangible visual work.

You work a lot in Belgium. How did you end up here and what is your relationship with this country?

I arrived in Belgium in October 2018, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have any business contacts. The choice of Belgium as a country to live in was a bit random. But surprisingly positive. I immediately started working with several agencies and this gave me the peace of mind and the financial stability I needed to devote myself to my personal projects.

Among the media you have collaborated with I found Médor, one of my favorite

Médor - 3
Médor reportage

Belgian magazines of inquiries. Tell me more about this experience.

I collaborated with Medor on two projects. The first one is the publication of a work I realized in 2018 in Malines, on the surveillance system of the city and the reception initiatives aimed at avoiding departures to the Jihad.

The second is the Médor tour, a work of investigation on four different cities of Wallonia carried out by the journalists of the magazine and a photographer, each time different. I worked in Huy. The idea behind the project was to work on the territory involving the inhabitants and being stimulated by their suggestions on the themes/problems of the city in question. I chose to work on two levels, doing a portrait work of the Albanian community in Huy on the one hand and working on the other on the perception of the urban space of this small reality at night.

How is your vision of photography and art in general (market included), after this COVID-19 crisis?

I believe that the economic impact of this historical moment will be impressive in relation to an already precarious art system. Working as a freelancer and artist, I’ve had to get used to working in precarious situations, like many other cultural workers.

All my assignments got canceled because of the COVID-19 consequences and the agencies I worked with closed until September. Also, some important exhibitions I had, one of them at Fondation Thalie here in Brussels, have been canceled. I have been trying for days to get some form of help from the Belgian state, but working through the freelance “Smart” system, I am not entitled to any form of help.

Certainly, art will not die, it will continue to exist because it is a system intrinsic to reality and related to how we rework it. This is why, given the dramatic situation of global emergency, it will be necessary to work on the recognition of art and on a proper status for artists, which does not correspond to fragile and inconstant financial support systems.