AFTERALL is the name of a brother-and-sister artistic duo. Silvia and Enzo Esposito live and work together, dividing their time between Naples and Mexico City. Since their debut in 2004 with the site-specific installation Sogno Comune (Common Dream) presented as «fourthpaining» at the Lia Rumma Gallery in Naples, the duo’s work has been exhibited in many public institutes such as: the MADRE and PAN Museums in Naples, the Filiberto Menna Foundation in Salerno, the Francesco Fabbri Foundation in Treviso, the Sandro Penna Foundation in Turin, the Ex Gil Gallery in Rome and Villa Pignatelli in Naples. Their works have been installed at Turin’s Castello di Rivalta, on the Railways Station’s Façade at Mergellina (Province of Naples) and at the Italian Embassy in Brussels for the Blumm Prize. They have participated in the Festival d’Art Numérique in Pays d’Aix and Marseilles and at the 12th Biennale of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean (BJCEM). Silvia and Enzo were also awarded the Premio Celeste in 2012 (Curator’s Award) and were finalists at the Francesco Fabbri For Contemporary Art Prize in 2012. Their project Residente/Clandestino was called to the special attention of the Jury at the MACRO Artists in Residence Competition. The duo was invited recently by the «A Glass Brand» company to take part in a Resident Artists programme in Mexico. AFTERALL collaborates with «Aporema Onlus», a social NPO, reflecting upon the role of education «where teaching becomes intertwined with aesthetics, interpreted as the dawn of mankind».
Chiara Pirozzi What does combining daily practices with artistic research mean to you?
AFTERALL Our artistic quest is concentrated upon the analysis of the loss of certainty of our daily actions, that is to say, the moment the meaning of these actions are lost in the logic of daily life in and of itself. Our routine actions – those «mechanic steps» that we take are responsible for how the meaning and motivation behind our actions become faded or lost. Our reflection explores -in part – the way the sense of our daily actions is emptied while investigating our indifference towards the places that host our «daily crossings».
What function do you attribute to the concept of «Error» in your work?
Error is interpreted as an opportunity to acquire information; we have no intention to applaud it. In our work, error – that which either stands in or is set aside to the margins – needs to regain its sense of «Erring» like a wandering here and there that can lead one to another vision much in the way a shadow is always the consequence of a light that looks elsewhere: an «erroneous beauty».
…and that of «Translation»?
Any technical or artistic idiom used represents a form of overtaking, a translation of one interpretative code into another. In our research, language is considered an expedient which we use not merely as a semiological analysis but as a means of alternative interpretation of the circumstances. We are interested in exploring the moment of processing communication – that «grey area» between the referent and the signifier. A «hum of Barthesian sense» inseparably linked to the present, like remembering and not remembering, but (most of all) a moment in which translating, interpreting and referring are no longer the issue at hand and that the concern becomes to ensure that reality invades the mind controlling it.
In your work, the combined use of different media and techniques becomes a necessity in function of the demand to recover the discards, loss or modifications in the sense of the moment in which the message itself transits from one means to the next. From transcriptions onto carbon paper, Polaroid snapshots, performances and videos to audio installations and use of technology such as tablets….
The leap from one form to another necessarily creates unspecified areas of the narrated experience. If we take, for example, the 2012 solo exhibition Autotelico hosted at the Dino Morra Contemporary Art Gallery in Naples – proceeding from the act to videos and photos, our intention was to experimentally transform the relationship between the various works into a single installation, materializing them through various forms of physical recordings of the experience. For us, Autotelico has the characters of a perpetual exercise in which each element is combined with the preceding idea and (in the meantime) tends to get lost in linguistic and communicative transpositions as well as in other ideas thus re-calibrating the intrinsic meaning of any specific visual form. One of these «pieces» is Senza Titolo (Untitled), a work made up of two Polaroid snapshots folded vertically down the middle and mounted to mirror one another. The two photographs were taken of the same subject. The earlier shot was an analogical photo taken ten years earlier. What is being expressed here is a front and back gesture capable of modifying viewpoints of the work and (as a result) the interpretative perspectives of daily reality, placing particular emphasis upon the re-actualization of memory the moment in which is it «reproduced» in time.
In one of the works created in Mexico, Come quando per errore salto un gradino (Like when I trip over a step by mistake), we walk up and down stairs using a tablet as if it were a mirror in a performance where the levels overturn and occasionally overlap accidentally. The act of walking is important to us because we think that the space built by the act of crossing through, where the course itself is a place, seems to be a building in process as we walk. The very act of putting one foot in front of the other, watching it through a filter – like a mirror or a monitor – influences us to observe through other perspectives which would have otherwise been unknown to us, following the prints marked by a reflection or refraction. The simple act of observing will be perturbed by some circumstances that will lead us to linger on details that are only apparently foreign, such as our fingerprints or the dust on our filter. This unexpected distraction is what leads us to contemplating another reality which could be defined as «lateral». These are actually brief interruptions of a vision, a game between decision and no decision at all: an interval during which we ask ourselves «why do I have to decide?» So here we are, undecided and required to make yet another decision…
What is the meaning of clandestine performances to you?
… a project that we are concluding at the moment is what comes to mind: research on the idea of creating «possible happenings». More specifically, the material we are interested in is «inventing unreality» (fake), especially when this concerns concrete reality. Using this assumption as a departure point, let’s take the legal system for example: in the real world (and with law as its structure and its demands) we have a complex architecture that produces «factual appearances» in that it can be a hypothesized typical situation. Taking off from here, intervening and interacting with the surrounding environment, we stage a series of clandestine performances or actions that mimic daily reality and are created to stem from them. These results are capable of making moments of residual reality come into being as they are freed from the boundaries of routine of daily life. This project also includes the filming of a mockumentary in which fiction and real facts are combined. We use real daily life to arrive at a «possible daily life». In another installation called Didascalie di tre azioni private (Captions for three private actions), three clandestine performances are presented in the form of audio captions – a verbatim translation of the performative experience told to third parties. This is a sterile communication, a sort of information service; transmission is void of any expressive element.
You were the recipients of the Premio Celeste 2012 and the award was given to you by Antonio Marras with the support of a Jury that included (among others) Lorenzo Bruni, Alberto Dambruoso and Katia Baraldi. The winning piece was Fine a se stesso (An end unto itself)….
What we were really interested in when creating the Fine a se stesso installation was to emphasize those modifications – whether they are enhancements or losses – that the original meaning of communication is subject to when passed from one hand to another. Fine a se stesso is the material results of an action performed by two people. The performative operation was conceived following a suggestion that arrived by way of a letter. A letter written in Brooklyn dated 9 January 1975 dictated to Madeline Giordano by her mother Philomenia de Francisco. This letter was addressed to a Giuliana Di Francesco from Qualiano (Province of Naples) with the request that her daughter Maria Esposito read it to her. What we are looking at here is non-linear communication with interruptions since both the sender and the addressee were illiterate and would have never been able to communicate had it not been for the involvement of their daughters. The operation we staged was the repeated reiteration of the gesture of transcribing the letter, copying the pages with carbon paper. The result is a new and ulterior transit in the communication of information, a transmission in which the signs tend to get lost while the meaning remains intact, albeit faded, in the creases of the carbon paper. The illegible text is not needed to convey the idea of a secret or hidden message. Its purpose is to illustrate the potential of a different way of reading, something we are unfamiliar with, as an epiphany and a plurality of senses constantly in circulation.
Your work is expressed – above all – in its procedural stage: during the processes and developments that lead you to the formally finished work.
The way we see it, a work is transparent in the sense that it creates no image but it leads beyond a circumstantial limit. It is the sum of a process and time period that takes shape from the interaction with a specific context made up of observation and respect, a patient and constant crossing. If we are careful about avoiding total knowledge of that which we are trying to investigate, it also serves to hinder us from having a clear goal.
We were invited by «Aporema Onlus» in 2011 to create a permanent work in a school in Naples, “adopting” the students at the S. Minucci State Institute. We discovered some abandoned rooms on the bottom floor of the school and as we rambled through them, we found the dining hall kitchen, the gym, class ledgers, pins and doors that had been blocked since the 1980 earthquake: so here we were in a very unique condition, suspended as it were, which we experienced for about six months. The result was Bordenline, the work we created for the occasion. The work took shape by tracing red lines on the ceiling of the cellar that corresponded to the walls of the floor above. While we were there we kind of fell in love with this evocative place and when we were on break we began playing with the abandoned floor. The game was prolonged and it evolved into a game that was completely dedicated to the pleasure of play, it and of itself.
Rather long pauses were used to organise the objects we found and to move them around as they found their own space in the pre-existing complexity of the place. About a year later, we re-photographed and re-elaborated our work to create new and different levels of darkness to obtain a sort of stripping of the very point of departure.
Currently, a new place has left a deep and special impression on us. It is definitely gloomier and more serious in terms of its history and content. But it was brought to our attention almost as if it were a fabric or organ in constant development – what we like to define as an «involuntary landscape». We will not reveal its name yet and not only out of superstition. It is a place in which the past, present and future co-exist in compresence. Those marginal zones of the landscape, of memory that arouse our interest due to their tendency to «indefinition» and unresolved fate.
One of your latest projects began in Queretaro, Mexico where you were invited by an Italian company in Mexico to live and work as resident artists in one of their buildings. What has your Mexican study yielded?
In this stage of construction and redesigning an area of about 500 square metres, for which various professional sectors have been united for company skill sharing, the Glass Brand Mexico Company has invited us for a residency to work on the mechanisms of its machinery. This method is surely alternative and stimulating: a multi-disciplinary exchange in which the art-enterprise model is made to be a model of excellence, promoting the figure of artist as a professional and accelerator in productive spheres. The research project is the activation of a process that calls for an interaction with the context, to come into contact with the material before forming a concept. In this case, the place to be investigated is the entire first floor of the building, a space/worksite.
The object/intention brought over from Naples was the Super Santos: a conveniently priced ball similar in design to those used in official competitions only its black stripes do not stick so well to the folds carved into the orange plastic. This object is often used in the streets or in improvised places and has always stimulated the imagination of players, inviting them to reformulate the function of a given area for the indefinite period of a match…re-inventing and re-adapting the playing field and its supporting structures: a momentary place, improvised, precarious with rules to be re-invented.
Our steps in the Mexican structure were dictated by an attempt to take visual note and study the case history of the space through the use of performance. Among these, a re-tracing of the building by using a decanter, the first interesting object we found in the building. This particular container looks like a glass or transparent crystal ampoule, dedicated to the settling of wine. It was easy for us to imagine it as an instrument, a filter for our exploration towards a haptic observation of the space. But it is also easy to perceive in a figurative manner, as a place that needs settling.
This residency has become a project in progress. We will be returning in June with our project study, a «room of passage» or walk room. A border place, a compensation room within the entire structure. A dynamic place of exchange that creates a network of connections, a dialogue with the lively Mexican scene.
What projects are you currently working on?
At the moment, we are basically reflecting upon the idea of a “monument that is an end unto itself”, constantly under re-construction and re-adapted until it becomes a totally hybrid form, a document that is being constantly re-written. A game that invents rules, a re-actualized memory, an involuntary landscape. Our modus operandi often includes interweaving various projects. Sometimes they also include works we have created over the years that interact with the specific conditions of the exhibition space (as was the case for the Dimenticare a Memoria exhibit at the Italian Embassy in Brussels for the Blumm Prize), radically changing its layout in a dialogue with existing works that is different every time, new site-specific productions and architecture of each hosting space to constantly re-define the rules in order to play new games.
(1 ) Afterall, Test da video Come quando per errore salto un gradino, 2014; (2) Afterall, Dimenticare a memoria (Forgetting by memory), 2013, courtesy Dino Morra Arte Contemporanea, Naples; (3) Afterall, Fine a se stesso, 2011-2012, courtesy Dino Morra Arte Contemporanea, Naples; (4) Afterall, 1° Piano in costruzione, studio project, sede residenza. Querétaro, Messico; (5) 1° Piano in costruzione, studio project, sede residenza. Querétaro, Messico; (6) Afterall, Test shot – Decanter, 2014.