The theory of chaos, the study of entropy and the calculation of probability are some scientific theories that act as proof of our desire for knowledge and will to control nature and events, since we have always been forced to deal with the inescapable. Behind the apparently infallible scientific exactness of the universe hides a series of variables that lead us to face an analysis with a less deterministic attitude. After all, it’s a bit like seeking an understanding of the «logic of feelings», a paradox that has no completely rational solution. Yet «nothing happens by chance», as American psychoanalyst Robert H. Hopke affirms but events don’t always follow scientific principles and often the synchronicity of some (accidental) happenings are inexplicably capable of provoking a strong emotional impact, creating new energy and input for individual and collective development. Considerations like these sink their roots into a remote past in which ancient knowledge has passed down a way for us to figure how to mould our destiny based upon a deep understanding of astronomy and astrology. An example is Ciro Discepolo’s theory of Aimed Solar Returns, recovered by the Bianco-Valente duo who has made «coincidences» and «relations» a lifestyle and the basis of an intense artistic exploration.
Giovanna Bianco and Pino Valente met «by chance» in 1995 and became partners on both an artistic and personal level. They came from different schooling (one with a degree in foreign languages and the other a geology student) and discovered a new future together. Their plans were unexpectedly revolutionized. They decided to start a networking practice that leads a recursive theory according to which the whole universe is united by constant relations, an invisible and infinite network that links places, people and things – a reflection that disregards the appearance and increasingly invasive use of the internet in order to contemplate the perpetual connection between natural and artificial.
I would like to begin our conversation with what are usually considered «closing remarks» … What are your upcoming projects?
Among the various interventions we have planned, we are working on an environmental installation that will be outfitted in the courtyard of Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi. We are also organizing a trip to the desert areas of Southern Morocco in preparation for our upcoming exhibition at Marrakech’s Voice Gallery.
Your profound tie to the area and sociological-anthropological approach so often seen in your work has brought many to acknowledge you as «relational artists». What is relational art to Bianco-Valente?
Interacting with the people, the history and architecture of the place we might be considering for a new artwork all means creating something for them so their own vision of things can be restored to them. As is often the case in our projects, we become a means for the community involved to experiment with new forms of interaction.
Relational and Costellazione di me are two sides of the same coin. They seem to refer to two distinct levels of relationships: an external level that often connects urban and social contexts and another one that is more intimate which explores encounters and conversations between individuals to begin an exchange and personal development – as if you were working on a macro-connection outdoors and a micro-connection indoors.
That is an excellent observation. In fact, we like to interpret the architecture seen in a given place as the direct expression of the community living there. It is also true that every modification of the architectural structure of that place (such as a new building, a new square or a new definition for areas dedicated to leisure time) will cause a change in the way these people live and get together while a new social context will lead to another alteration of the architectural landscape in an ongoing and unending series. Similarly, when we create projects for indoors, we like connecting people and perspectives in a more intimate way.
Campo visivo (Field of view), the project completed in Florence for the exhibit at the SRISA School of Art, is an «indoor» work whose structure is similar to Costellazione di me.
This was an experiment on perception that involved over eighty people we met individually in the halls of the SRISA. We asked some of these people to write down the description of a photograph they were seeing for the first time or to do a watercolour painting based upon the image that took shape in their mind after having read one of these written descriptions. When you see something for the first time, your brain strives to decipher it by relating it to everything seen previously you can recall. Inevitably, traces of the author’s previous experiences, more or less pronounced, are found in the descriptions and the watercolours – notwithstanding the concept of objectivity. We deliberately requested several people to describe the same photograph or paint the same descriptive text. The process stemmed from three photographs which we had brought to Florence. One had been taken during one of our trips while the other two were purchased at a booth that sells photographs found in old family photo albums.
After this initial stage, we replaced the photos and requested participants to describe the first watercolour paintings we had received instead. We observed the direction towards which the main characters of the three initial images would inevitably drift with every repetition of the image/text/image cycle.
At the end of the ten-day period used to prepare the exhibition, we illustrated this chaotic process. The walls of the SRISA exhibit space were filled with the three original photographs and all the paintings which had derived from them. They were connected to one another by lines of text concerning the various descriptions of the photos and paintings written directly onto the walls in charcoal.
The tools used to create your works have changed over the years. In the beginning, the use of technology was a constant in your installations but lately you have abandoned multi-media, obviously preferring the «analogical». Are we talking about a reverse trend here?
The analogue video cameras from the mid-1990s that we used in an attempt to reproduce a kind of mental image were very well suited to our purpose since the resolution and stability of the images were precarious. Once video cameras went digital, their elevated relevance to reality and the quality of their basic noise level were no longer suited to the representations we had in mind. Little by little, we abandoned our experimentation with videos since it didn’t make much sense to us to continue. We still make videos, but in a different way. We have intensified the use of other expressive means (which can be detected in our early works), more specifically the use of handwriting.
Many artists use technology to preserve their work, for the most part. How do you relate to the idea of preservation?
To be honest, we are not particularly concerned with this aspect. To the contrary, we are generally spellbound by the magic of works destined to gradual decay. Kind of like our bodies or the transitory mass of our thoughts.
How do you shift from the body/mind duality to a network of relationships?
Body/mind is the first relationship we experience when we come into this world, even if we are not aware of it at the time. Then, as time goes by, we ascertain that we are immersed in a network of relationships that keeps everything together: matter, energy, temporal structure etc. Eventually we come to the conclusion that everything is capable of influencing our existence in one way or another, just as we ourselves influence everything in our surroundings.
If we wanted to trace a visual chart of your work we would be looking at an upside-down pyramid or a concentric figure whose fulcrum is at the neurological network to then expand onto an ecosystem and the universe…
What it all boils down to is that the neurological network is a kind of representation of the complex dynamics animating ecosystems and, on a larger scale, keeping the universe in balance. It is no coincidence that the complex infrastructures created by humans tend to have a similar structure, just look at the connective and diffusion systems of electrical networks or the way in which the billion of computers making up the World Wide Web are connected.
How is the theme of travel, a fundamental aspect of your work, inserted into your work?
According to various philosophers and anthropologists, a nomadic lifestyle is a condition natural to human beings and the fact that we have settled in cities has influenced our psychophysical balance in a negative way. Unfortunately, travel can only partially compensate
images (cover) Bianco-Valente, Entità Risonante, 2010, still from video (1) Bianco-Valente, Cosa manca, 2014, Roccagloriosa (2) Bianco-Valente, Relational, 2009, Ex Provincial Library, Potenza, Italy (3) Bianco-Valente, Come il vento (Like the Wind), 2013, Becharre, Libano, permanent installation (4) Bianco-Valente, Relational Domain, 2005 (5) Bianco-Valente, Costellazione di me (Constellation of Me), 2010 (6) Bianco-Valente, Campo Visivo (Field of Vision), 2014, SRISA Art Gallery, Florence, photo by Ela Bialkowska (7) Bianco-Valente, Campo Visivo, 2014, SRISA Art Gallery, Florence, photo by Gloria Marco Munuera (8) Bianco-Valente, Uneuclidean Pattern, 2003, still from video (sound design from Mass) (9) Bianco-Valente Entità Risonante, 2014 (10) Bianco-Valente, Marrakech, 2011 (11) Bianco-Valente, Linea di costa (Lampedusa), 2013.