Colin told me that they had given him a nice book of Bruce Nauman as a gift; in one of the photos you get a glimpse of his studio. I have always seen Nauman’s work as pungent and fundamental and maybe this is why I was expecting a clean and organised work space. In actual fact this was not the case, Colin told me that Nauman was immersed in a sea of objects, cables, projectors and any kind of rubbish you could think of. We thought that only from an entropic space could you re-cut and formalise a piece of work that clean. When Colin left, I finished my stencil of the lion of Zurigo.
The lion of Zurigo, with all its symbolic power and its apparent uselessness, is becoming a sort of obsession. What is the exact weight of a symbol? The crazy thing is that the lion of San Marco is a part of me, not in how much is it a lion but as an unspoken symbol of the Venetian nationalist movement, and I, by accident happen to be Venetian. The question arises unexpectedly. Do I have the right to talk about places that don’t belong to me? What are the limits of exoticism?
The lion for me is the starting point of a deep reflection on the limits of a symbol, on how the community perceives them and how communities invent their own symbols. Going back to Nauman’s studio and my stencil, the need for an outline seems essential; I only need to understand how much the threshold can be faded. It’s simply a question of economic cognition; in order to be more precise we need to recognise and to categorize what is happening in as little time as possible. This way we can explain the physiological abandonment of communal places but also the unlikely categories, such as post internet art. The more the entropic movement increases, the more the categories branch out in a deranged manner back towards the myth of originality.
With regards to my lion cut out of card, I wonder whether I would be allowed to use a symbol associated to a secular tradition that does not belong to me. Undoubtedly confirming that the lion of San Marco is similar to the lion of Zurigo and to thousands of other lions, dragons and serpents that cover flags and banners; the point is that perhaps boundaries are imagined through fear of emptiness and through vacuous horror which we improvise? If this is the case then is it possible for an Egyptian artist to talk about the Arab spring and use it as a starting point for his work whilst he attends Goldsmiths College of London, even though he has never set foot in piazza Tahir? He can do it because exoticism needs an ethnic certification which at least comes from Cairo and he owns an arab sounding name.
As an Italian Venetian I could talk about the head of slowfood or about plasterboard. To tell you the truth I have the wall made up of plaster in front of me here in the studio of Zurigo but it’s different plasterboard from that of the Po valley. I’m not totally convinced but I have the impression that details themselves really make a difference when it comes to the topic of post modernism. Yet the word “detail” reawakens a deep hatred I have for Italy’s obsession with appearance.
Brunello Cucinelli comes to mind, who from his medieval village promotes “the excellence of our country in this world”. I also reflect on how the capital, in its choice to create endless demands for endless market niches which are always more exclusive, generates contemporary movements that are identical and can be seen as an extreme homogenization. What is the difference between an artist who works in the sector of protected denomination of origin (PDO) and Anish Kapoor? He uses his Indian background to create spiritual art, which is a sort of comfort zone for orphans that come from western religions. Therefore his work could have also been done by an Icelander but the label “India” has helped to reproduce critical tests where the ingredient of ethnicity is the main fuel that helps trigger endless storytelling. Jung had described perfectly the power and urgency of myths. If the myths are not in the woods underneath the house, you only need to take a flight and get Anish Kapoor to tell you one directly.
I prefer to talk about the plasterboard, the medieval parties in papier-mâché castles and the POD sausages- whilst we wait for the Arab countries to lose a bit of their appeal so that some Nordic curator can rediscover the exotic fascination with the paradoxical Po valley. With all of this taken into consideration, it is doable: I know all the details.