What I like in art is complexity and I know that survival is based on complexity. Once complexity is gone – and economical laws are simplifying the world – the world is in danger. Artists have this power of provoking complexity.
An artist is an agent of imagination and we need imagination to overcome the gaps. We all know that we are living in a critical moment and that we have to do something not to disappear from the planet.
In my opinion, before even making works of art, artists are producers of immaterial goods, they are “producers of visions”. They give reality a new aspect because they look at it with new eyes. Boetti said that Caravaggio had invented the photocopy. The “caravaggists” do not copy the paintings of the Master, they photocopy his vision of space. In history there have been other great artists or artistic currents that have modified the vision of the cultural, social and political world such as Cubism and Futurism.
I want to start with an example about what we mean when we talk in a DAC language i (Shared Artistic Designation). John Koermeling who was present in our first DAC meeting in Middelburg, and who is at the same time an artist and an architect, was asked by the Townhouse of a Dutch City to make a new bridge because the town had very hard traffic problems. He accepted to elaborate a project but after having studied the situation instead of planning a new bridge he arrived to a different conclusion. He went back to the Townhouse and said: you don’t need a new bridge. I organized your traffic in a different way and there is no need for a new bridge. People were quite astonished, but they were even more astonished when Koermling sent a his bill for the no-bridge. In fact, his project was not material, but it was a benefit for the town, both in terms of economics and in terms of a new organization of the urban space.
Yona Friedman already years ago stated that architecture is not just about buildings, architecture is about the organization of space. This is very interesting because it keeps things open, it gives opportunities of collaboration, it’s a real common ground, by the way the topic of this year Biennale of Architecture in Venice.
I really think that the organization of space is challenging. The project of Yona Friedman and J.B. Decavèle for the Vleeshal – is essentially a new conception of space, a space thought for art new form of museum. It’s a project that challenges very much artists. To show something there artists need a completely new perception of the space and this means that they needs to rethink their own work. This is moving the art world in a very positive direction.
You have already made the introduction so I can speak of other things. Why did we propose a DAC in Palermo? I would rather like to spread out. In the run up to the creation of the European Union and to the Treaty of Rome in the 50s, a then young Hungarian architect, Yona Friedman, went to UNESCO in order to propose a great cultural project. Starting by saying that in his opinion making a Europe of Nations was a huge mistake, he proposed to create a sole great metropolis – Métropole Europe – the stations of which to be called Paris, London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Rome, with a technical centre in Brussels. Clearly he was more or less thrown out because he was considered mad. It’s obvious that at the time this was nothing more than a utopia, but in time that project has become somewhat more concrete. His vision was certainly far-sighted.
Back to Palermo, we like to imagine it as a station of Métropole Europe. Why? I am certainly very impressed, apart from by the many beauties I see in this city, by the presence I can feel of a profound knowledge of tastes and smells, a widespread knowledge that can be found everywhere. I believe it must be something very precious once shared with the Middle East; I think, above all, of an almost entirely destroyed Syria. Palermo today can assume a very important role in defending and applying this knowledge above all in a global world that, as we know, is levelling out tastes. We thought this was an interesting topic to propose to our friends in Palermo. Ours is obviously a parallel discussion that can only give us some starting points. We know that those who work in economics run risks, they need immediate economic confirmation, while those on the side of art can propose alternative routes, they can overturn perspectives. We are convinced that by putting both categories at the same table can enrich and better the current situation which as we know is subject to phenomena of huge crisis.
DAC is not a structured organization; we call it a mobile club. It is a discussion that began in Rome around two years ago and that has already built a consistent trajectory through Italy, France and Holland, putting together protagonists of the two worlds who have largely maintained their relationship. I have beside me Lorenzo Benedetti, the new director of the De Appel Foundation as well as for many years the director of the Vleeshall in Middelburg where he has organised as many as three DAC meetings as well as a DAC at the last Venice Biennale in conjunction with the opening of the Dutch Pavilion which he directed. We thought that his presence here would be precious for the Riso Museum because in Middelburg the DAC meetings were fruitful precisely for the Vleeshall – the Kunsthalle of the city – as Lorenzo managed to involve new people around the museum who even became part of his board, giving concrete support.
I think it is time to give the floor to someone from Palermo and I would like Massimiliano Fragalà to talk to us about his activity, which interests me greatly. Mediating between the need for restoration in historical centres and the wish to give visibility to productive activities is already in its own right a DAC operation.
Antonio Presti has said something very beautiful which was stated in the first DAC meeting in Rome. On that occasion a great industrialist, Ovidio Jacorossi, said: “I am almost moved by being here with artists and curators in dialogue around the same table. Because art is my daily bread and it influences my activity greatly. I can’t not be inspired by art; I actually need it. Without art I’m stranded even if art has nothing to do directly with my activity”. In fact Jacorossi is in the oil business. He then spoke of how, in his time, he even created a collection of contemporary art at his company, stating however that this already reflects an outdated relationship between business and art. “I have understood that when a businessman considers art in his company, man is at the centre.” I think this is a discussion that can interest businessmen of any category.
I would like to bring Ferdinando Vicentini Orgnani, who comes from the world of cinema, in on this debate. He too at a certain point was infected by the art bug and I think that in a certain sense his activity has been involved in it.
I would like to say that these discussions, these round tables of ours never have a concrete or aimed objective because we never ask for money, not to mention charity. We want to create dialogues. Nevertheless certain things have been born from them. I would like to talk to you about a wonderful enterprise which incidentally involves Yona Friedman and Jean Baptiste Decavèle. Through our round tables they met with the company Felluga, producers of excellent wines. In the month of July this year construction will begin of a vineyard museum in the Felluga lands in Friuli. This project will be based on certain iconostases – cardinal elements in Friedman’s artistic research – that will form a museum/labyrinth in which to grow new vines. The fruit will in a few years become a new wine named Balkis, the name of Yona’s famous and beloved dog. All this is the result of the DAC meetings. Another case is what came after a meeting in Paris organised by Fabrice Hyber, an artist who has always been very much present within the DAC project. Fabrice met a representative of a bankrupt Italian textile company which however still had a large stock of furnishing fabric. Fabrice was very curious because Roberto Crivellini, the ex-administrator, had spoken to him about a tradition among the peasants of Venezia Giulia who stitched their shoes with bicycle tyres for the soles and scrap fabric. This was the typical poor production that Fabrice turned into the project chaussure unique, shoes for one foot only, using the remains of the company’s fabric. Production began obviously reflecting Hyber’s unconscious, but also a DAC product with a good chance of success. An initial result: the ex-owner’s depression has disappeared.
When a business man meets an artist the first problem is that of language because these are two worlds with different languages. Even when on the part of the business there is a sensibility for art, the language is still however distant. A business runs risks, it needs results, concreteness and at the end of the day it needs to do the books. An artist has the freedom to travel inside the imagination and see how to make possible what has been elaborated in his mind. For this reason we have created these round tables.
When one sits down to immediately set up a project it hardly ever works, things aren’t followed through. Yona, Jean Baptiste and I all love and observe dogs who are extraordinary because they sniff each other and slowly come together, forming groups. We should copy them. I think that Livio Felluga had an intuition close to that of an artist when he first saw the landscape today hosting the vast expanse of the company’s vineyards and that have allowed today’s artistic proposal to the Felluga company. I would like to add something else: I have seen here not only a passionate family, I have seen all the collaborators, the workers involved, who send their regards, who are happy with their work, and I thought that the first miracle – miracles don’t just happen; they are created – or the first result of the project was precisely this: an entire business participating with enthusiasm, and this seems to me to be truly important.
As if the internal cohesion had been reinforced. I believe a great deal in this immaterial effect that can be produced by the collaboration between artists and businesses, a bit of good will that the world is rather in need of.
I think however that there is a difference between design and what an artist does even if there are obviously some borderline cases. Over our many years in this business we have worked with a great number of artists but we have never seen something come from research of functionality. It comes from a wish to communicate, to change something. We introduce the word ‘conduct’. Over these days we have talked together. In fact our meetings serve also to grow together and to talk. It must also be said that we have not had an easy time of it. Personally, at a certain point I even panicked.
This is a very particular context that we have to take into account. We have had heated conversations with Federico and his mother on the various possible approaches for this experiment. There are several economic mechanisms that don’t necessarily fit together. When you go to a place like this what you want of course is to cross boundaries, but you are obviously on slippery terrain. For me it is very important to go back over everything that has been done here. We become aware of precise messages.
There has really been an invitation to change mentality. Once you, Massimo Sterpi, spoke of your experiences and you said that the most important thing is that they change your head. This can happen in many ways. What radically differentiates us from what goes on in the street, outside this garden, where there are clearly souvenirs, is that in here there is a factor of change. This experience for me has been really precious, but I repeat, it has not been an easy, linear process.
Art transforms the territory, mediated through a creative eye, into landscape. Reading a book by Giacomo Casanova on a trip of his to Switzerland, it’s incredible that this man never said a word about our beautiful Alps, about the lakes, about the rivers. 25 years after him Johann Wolfgang Goethe was born. It was he who created the landscape which afterwards all romanticism would invest in. Know’st thou the land where lemon-trees do bloom? That is how a poem of his begins, the most famous in German poetry, that made generations and generations of Germans dream about Italy. They love Italy even through these lemons that bloom.