Alberto Garutti, Temporali, computer generated graphic, digital print, Premio Terna 02 (Terawatt Category)
Alberto Garutti was born in Galbiate (LC) in 1948. He lives and works in Milan. He graduated in Architecture from Milan Polytechnic University and soon won the first teaching post for painting in the Accademia di Brera, later becoming a lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture in Venice (IUAV). His research focuses on opening a dialogue between the work, the space and the public, the art of the meeting place that groups together and weaves reflections on artistic practice , on the roles of the artist and that of the visitor who views his work, seen as an essential element that gives the work a meaning. His works are complex systems, that investigate the relationship between the natural and the artificial, between art and nature, which, in the artist’s opinion, are an inseparable pair, as «art contains the mystical sense of nature».
He has produced works for museums and cities all aver the world: in Bergamo, Bolzan o, Ghent in Belgium for the S.M.A.K. Museum, in Istanbul on the Bosforo bridge during the Biennale, in 2002 in Kanazawa, in Japan, in collaboration with the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. He has held many personal and collective exhibitions, including those in the Paul Maenz Gallery in Cologne, the Locus Gallery Solus in Genoa, the Ugo Ferranti Gallery in Rome, the Minini Gallery in Brescia, the Guenzani Studio and the Marconi Gallery in Milan, the Modern Art Warehouse in Rome, Arte all’Arte 2000 and 2005, the Zerynthia cultural association, Certosa di Padula, Villa Manin in Codroipo. He has also been invited to many important international events such as the Biennale di Venezia and the M.A.R.T.A, Museum in Herford and his work is present in locations of national and international prestige, such as in Palazzo Grassi in Venice, in Chicago, at the Museum of Contemporary Art; at the MAXXI -National Museum of 21st century art and the Zegna Foundation and he has also won the Award for Culture from the city of Ghent. To mark his personal exhibition curated by Paola Nicolin and Hans Ulrich Obrist at the PAC (Contemporary Art Pavilion) in Milan, the year 2012 saw the publication of the book «Alberto Garutti didascalia/caption» edited by Walther König and Mousse saw theing.
Temporali [Storms], the work that won the Terna Prize 02 in the Terawatt category is a digital print of the design for his Temporali installation: a large luminous object made of 900 lightbulbs that light up simultaneously each time a bolt of lightning falls in Italy. The work is the medium used by the artist to create a relationship between the reality that surrounds us, the public and the environment, a tool that is «sensitive to external changes, bearing witness to the mutual relationship between art and nature». Initially presented at the Remotti Foundation in Camogli, the work Temporali was later exhibited at the Maxxi Musuem in Rome, at the Sandretto Re-Rebaudengo Foundation in Turin, at the PAC – Center for Contemporary Art in Milan and at the Vitra Design Museum a Weil am Rhein (Germania).
What is the current situation of art in Italy? What role does an artist have in the current art system and in society?
First of all, let’s talk about art: art always has a positive role to play and is always a great, extraordinary project… it’s clear that we must remember this… however, on the other hand it’s the system of art that has become infinitely complicated, conditioned into its current form by rusty mechanisms and lines of reasoning that are now obsolete. Here I’m obviously referring in particular to Italy. The task of an artist is to measure up with what is currently going on and this obliges him to display a pro-active approach to his work. Our era is characterized by the idea of a network… This was something of a momentous, anthropological revolution that led me to look at life, art and its mechanisms and naturally my own works under a different light.
It was back in 1994 when the curator Antonella Soldaini called me to Peccioli, a small village near Pisa, or more precisely in a district known as Fabbrica, to create a public work. On that specific occasion, I was reflecting on the ethical dimension of the role of the artist: I remember that I somehow began to swerve off the straight and narrow of the art system, also due only to the fact that I was creating a work in a small village. And so I decided to get to know the citizens of the town in the places where they would usually meet, in the bar. I wanted to get to know the place, its stories, the tales its people told. I decided to dedicate the entire budget, my professionalism, my commitment and my role as artist to renovating a decaying building that had previously played a crucial role for the close-knit society of that area. I wanted to give the town back a place that had been very dear to its inhabitants. I wanted to state the idea that the artist must be capable of coming down from the pedestal on which the art system has perched them and operate at the service of the city, taking care not to slip into a form of populism, of demagogue, by using an extremely sophisticated contemporary artistic medium. For me, this work, with the focus on the responsibility of the role of the artist was the backbone of what would then have become my later works. It’s a kind of manifesto work. From then on, I decided to work in a much more autonomous manner, as I believe we should always do, in all kinds of environment…It seems to me that self-management is the prerogative of the contemporary world. The new generations, but not only them, are tied to these dynamics more than to anything else.
The Terna Prize issued, as part of one of its first editions, a foresight research on the condition of art in 2010-2015. The results provided an insight into the current scenario. The results also indicated that the crisis would weaken any remaining dependency on dominant rules and lead to an increased social role of art. Do you believe this is actually happening?
I wouldn’t know how to answer this question. What I do know for sure is that art needs hardship, it feeds on difficulty. It measures itself with the reality that surrounds it, which has its limits. It lives driven by the continual need to exceed a threshold. In Italy we have had art of an extremely high quality for centuries. This has indeed been possible thanks to the limitations imposed on it: princes, lords, popes, the Church in particular have conditioned art by imposing rules, and artists have been forced to think of solutions. On the other hand, in painting, the perspective originates from the walls, and in Italy it indeed originates because the cities were developed in a defensive urbanistic conception. Overcoming these difficulties has generated a splendid union between painting and architecture, so much so that I believe architecture to be the mother of the visual arts. Even primitive man was able to tell and draw his stories thanks to the limits imposed by primitive architecture, in the form of the cave.
Do you remember participating in the Terna Prize?
Yes, of course. I was working on Temporali, the project that then won the Terna Prize. This work is a large lamp with lightbulbs connected to a system that uses sensors to identify when lightning falls in Italy. It is managed by the CESI (Italian Experimental Electrotechnical Centre) in Milan. Each time lightning falls in Italy, a signal transmitted via Internet by the CESI makes the lights in the work vibrate. At the time, the piece was installed in the MAXXI Museum in Rome. The work revolves around this strange enigma, which is related to the universe, a bit like art. I remember that I loved the idea of being able to create this idea of the universe, of Greek myth, of Zeus, of God for believers, with the idea of the lightning bolt, and as I have written, I love saying that «art contains the mystical sense of nature»; in the history of man, nature has always been an extraordinary occasion inspired by the history of man measuring up to the world! And then, this piece, Temporali, contains the concept of the «sublime», the idea of nature as a very beautiful element, but at the same time, an element that is also to be feared…
In what direction has your most recent research evolved? Can you tell us something about your future projects and plans?
My work is always guided by my relationship with reality, as it obliges me to relate to the «present». So each time I create a work, it is based on these ways of reasoning, which attempt to contain the world that I experiment with and look at, the world to which I want to belong.
What does «public art» mean today?
As we know, if a work of art is to be public, it has to be made public, but «public art» is another story. This name, as it is used today, has been twisted by a series of procedures and interventions that fail to interest me. They are a little too elementary, based too much on relations… instead the real issues are much more complex. The artist who comes to grips with the public space must be capable of serving the people, if he wants to create a work that fits into the reality of life in the city.
The work must be created for the people, for others. But we know that we are the people, we are the others, we are, at the same time, both the recipients and also, unconsciously, the clients. When I work on a new project, my relationship with the citizens of the area plays a crucial role, because this meeting, which I define as «Machiavellian», on one hand allows me to get to know the area, its stories, and to touch the senstivity of the people and at the same time, allows the work to put roots down in the city and so be recognised and accepted.
In an interview with Hans-Ulrich Obrist (2012) you stressed the importance of «listening to the world» before creating a work. What are the «channels» you use for listening?
I continuously speak to people and of course keep up to date with media information systems. The «channel» to which I pay the most attention is young people and their cultures. There is then also an enigmatic dimension, which is that of the poetic world, of beautiful works of art, of the great literature, of the cinema… it is a very privileged listening «channel», very private, based on people’s emotions.
What should Italy have (that it does not already have) that would encourage creativity and make our country even more competitive on an international level? Which country do you believe achieves this best on an international level?
We know that countries are evaluted based on the wealth they produce. If we want to be a country that is economically competitve and industrially developed, we must invest in intelligence, in training our young people and promoting their sensitivity. As intelligence develops better in an environment that is full of stimuli, investing in culture in general and in particular in art, allows us in time to put young people in the best conditions that will enable them to produce ideas, imagination, experiences, emotions and then also, naturally, economy.
What did the Terna Prize represent and what does it currently represent for an artist in the Italian and international context?
My experience of Terna was an opportunity for me to dialogue with a context I knew nothing about. I am always happy to meet companies that pay attention to culture in general and which, in this case, implement cultural strategies that present themselves as a dialogue with the business side of what they do and with industrial production. When all is said and done, the problem is that of the huge responsibility for the evolution of the world.
Terna is a company that focuses on transferring energy to the Country. By committing to the Terna Prize the company focuses on transferring energy to art and culture and creating a network to support and develop talent. Do you think that the Terna Prize formula is still relevant for promoting art? Do you have any suggestions to make for the next edition?
No, I don’t have any particular suggestions to make.
images (1 cover – 2) Alberto Garutti, Temporali – DIGITALE – Computer generated graphic, Premio Terna 02 (3) Quest’opera è dedicata alle ragazze e ai ragazzi che in questo piccolo teatro si innamorarono. Teatro di Fabbrica, Peccioli (PI) 1994-1997 © Archivio studio Alberto Garutti (5) Temporali – mostra itinerante Lightopia, Design Museum, Gent, Belgio, 2014-2015 © Phile Deprez (6) Piccolo Museion – quartiere Don Bosco, Bolzano, 2001 – internet, sito del Museion (7) Didascalia/Caption – PAC, Milano, 2012 © Delfino Sisto Legnani (8) Tutti i passi che ho fatto nella mia vita mi hanno portato qui, ora – Stazione di Cadorna, Milano, 2011 © Archivio studio Alberto Garutti.