Mauro Folci, Noia, 2009. Premio Terna 02 (categoria Megawatt)
Mauro Folci was born in L’Aquila in 1959. He currently lives in Rome and teaches Performing Arts and Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brera. «His works are created in layers, and acting like spider webs they capture elements from disparate material and conceptual worlds. The correct word to define his work would be “operations” since process and performance are the main components and their presence often exceeds the actual object of the work. Processes generate remains, remainder works of reasoning on concepts including boredom, breakdown, power etc. However, performance is not the only expressive technique implemented by Folci: his expressive method is heterogeneous and any technique or creative opportunity will be considered as long as it is deemed the most appropriate for the purposes of his presentation». (Marta Roberti, from the book Lavorare parlando. Parlare lavorando. The language implemented in works by Mauro Folci). His work has been featured in galleries and institutions including Kunstverein in Frankfurt, Fondazione Baruchello, Neue Kunstforum in Cologne, the PAN in Naples , MAXXI Museum in Rome, SUPEC in Shanghai, the Pompidou Center in Paris, National Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Haus der Kulturen Der Welt in Berlin, Venice Architecture Biennial, Castel dell’Ovo Museum in Naples, Palazzo Belmonte Riso in Palermo, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sofia Imber in Caracas.
Noia (Boredom), a work receiving the Special Award from the Gallery Owner’s Committee during the Terna Prize 02 (Megawatt Category), is a film still from the homonymous video in which a lion and a man face each other at a table – an allegory of the ongoing alternation and mix between potency and impotency. «The two are separated by distance and apprehension – said Mauro Folci – but find themselves in an equal and intimate relationship highlighted by the close proximity of the man’s hands to the lion’s paws on the table. The posture is taken from San Gerolamo nello studio, a beautiful painting of mid XV Century by Antonio Colantonio (on display at the Museum in Capodimonte) in which the saint is removing a thorn from a lion’s paw. Illuminated by a faint overhead light, the two characters move slightly, as if entranced and enchained which is precisely the feeling one has when his soul is permeated with the utmost boredom, i.e. when «we» suddenly find ourselves enchanted and enchained to things in the world that no longer mean anything to us and to time that no longer seems to pass by» (Mauro Folci).
What is the artistic situation in Italy today? What role does an artist have in the current art system and in society?
I would like to make something clear beforehand. I am not part of the art system, the market, galleries or museums on any level. This is an objective fact although it is not an accurate one, since it is also a fact (with the same degree of objectiveness) that even the most subversive artistic thoughts and gestures are functional to the value-producing system. I am outwith the art system while regretting being a part of it. The artist is a perfect incarnation of what Marx used to define a real subsumption. Avoiding to become a part of instrumental and accumulation logic is almost impossible, it occurs as if it were a natural event, an example of this may be found in the major art kermesses that have taken place over the last 20 years (with the excl. of the last four) in Venice, Kassel, Istanbul, major museums and foundations; the current Venice Biennial discusses about capital, while in Istanbul attendees are debating on art activism. An artist’s or curator’s intelligence has no value within these narrative devices, within these perfect consensus-generating machines any rebellious voice will have a major part – a more significant part than any other discussion will ever have – in the homologation process that is functional to standardization that in turn is required for the accumulation of capital. We are convinced that we are working outwith set boundaries but we are well integrated into them, in fact, art is a main player in the process since it provides a renewable source of energy for the excessive creation of metaphors as Baudrillard used to point out in the logical equation: excess of senses equals death of the senses.
To be brief, as Duchamp with his inoperative and unartistic side had already identified a century ago during the initial stages of Fordism, the problem is that, as part of the competitive and accumulation craze, the traditional separation of the concept of action-communication from instrumental actions ceases to exist since – as most of us are aware – the instrumental logic has entirely swallowed up the world of communication in terms of affection, symbolism and abstract thought.
When we mention linguistic economy or if you prefer semio-capitalism or awareness of aesthetic capitalism, we are dealing with a production system that is based on the performing power of bodies and language. Capitalism enables and historicizes the performing nature of the human beast, it entirely enables and historicizes specific faculties, including language, memory, affections, the flatus vocis and thus if this is the battlefield between someone who is still human and someone who is no longer human, if this is the level of contrast entirely pivoted on biopolitics, it is clear to see that a reflection on the sense of our artistic work is necessary.
I have been working on performances for several years now and this is what I teach at the Academy, but what I believe is interesting is not performance in terms or artistic practice but a performance that reflects the performative utterance as invariable human nature. Now within the conceptual context according to which art is the most sophisticated laboratory for the production of value and capitalistic exploitation, performance undoubtedly represents its most advanced stage. An example: The May edition of this year’s Time magazine included among the first hundred most influential people in the world performer Marina Abramovic, who has proven to be equally good at managing her method (Abramovic method) and has now established the method as a registered trade mark. Apparently it would appear a paradox, performance – i.e. art without a piece of work and not subject to any law – becomes a method, a process, a scientific discipline and thus something that can be copied just like any other product.
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 think I have already answered this question. Within economic aesthetics, an artist is an integral part of the system at any level. Acknowledging this naturally creates a series of problems that add up to the ones I mentioned earlier. It should be noted that issues faced by art are different to those relating to social conflicts arising from and fueled by the uneven distribution of wealth: the objective of conflicts is to request more rights and legality, free art may also request reduced rights and legality as a means of escaping from the standardization of an established narrative order. I support those fighting for a place to sleep or improved school and health systems but I am also aware that art doesn’t have any messages to send to this end. Communication will deal with this matter.
Do you remember participating in the Terna Prize? Were you working on a particular project?
Yes, I was working on Noia, a 3-minute video, a camera fixed on a table, a man and a lion are sitting at the table face to face. An attempt to capture the similarity between animal disconcert and human boredom, i.e. what Heidegger implements to support his dasein at animals’ expense.
Heidegger explores boredom to understand what the world represents for a human being and, in order to achieve this, he then separates the animal environment from the human world. Animals live in an environment in which no relation is being established with elements as such, elements only act as facilitators i.e. objects that activate animal instincts; the essence of objects is thus not comprehendible to them. An animal is thus confused by its surrounding environment and it creates a unicum with it and is thus driven by a variety of permanently active instincts. According to the philosopher, the word animal simply means not-a-human, he doesn’t see any difference between e.g. a dolphin and a zebra, it is the exact opposite of Derrida’s Animot, it is the sacrificial offering to use Adorno’s expression of illuminist dialect on which we have created humanity.
Conversely a human being is lacking specialized instincts, i.e. instincts capable of dealing with the surrounding natural environment, he only owns several faculties that work to exclude – the most powerful being language These faculties on one hand allow man to distance himself from the natural unicum while on the other allow him to live in a world, or better still, to use Heidegger’s expression, to build his own world. During boredom man finds himself in a relationship with the surrounding environment that is very similar to the one experienced by animals. What occurs during boredom is that the world – as conceived by humankind – vanishes, it retreats and has nothing more to offer to us and we thus feel empty; at the same time we are suspended in time that has ceased going by, we are suspended by a loss of the duration that dictates the rhythm of our actions. Boredom is entirely encompassed in time and when the elements have nothing to say to us it is because everything has its own time and outwith this time they no longer manifest themselves. Time enchants us and enchains us in its disarticulation but it is precisely when experiencing this condition of inactivity that we are presented with all the possibilities latent within us. This is why we can conceive boredom as the maximum expression of potency to such an extent that Heidegger uses the word ultra-potency. One should also bear in mind that Leopardi had also stated something very similar over a century ago in terms of the power of boredom: at some point in his Operette Morali he states that boredom is the desire of happiness in its pure state.
Despite its form, Noia is open to political debate but it does not do so by dealing with issues belonging to art activism. It does however transit through the routes followed by our passions, in order to achieve this, our nature is involved and on this basis it shows and argues the degree of alienation of those invariables on which human relationships have always been based upon. Dealing with boredom means dealing with that which is potent within a body, it is Spinoza’s ethics, hence the problem is not what a body must but what a body has the potential to do in terms of the intensive component of passions and the extensive component of action. This is politics.
In what direction has your most recent research developed? Can you tell us something about your future projects and plans?
The topic of discussion remains unvaried, I reason on possible forms of life within and outwith the neoliberal paradigm. I think about possible exodus from the slavery of permanent employment. All possibilities, from suicide to filing bankruptcy. I am not complaining about or claiming something with this work, I am assessing conceptual and imagined constructions starting from that which we undergo as a consequence of sad passions and of that which we perceive as the extensive part of our power to act. Following this path of thoughts one encounters interesting people: Beckett, Melville, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Battaille, Artaud, Duchamp, Dick…basically half of the most important exponents of art, philosophy and literature.
How important is pure research for an artist?
I understand the question but I believe it contains an illogical point since, we have to believe, an artist conducts pure research regardless of the public consent and market’s approval for the work, if there is no research of the backing elements, impartial and inactive simply means we are dealing with something else.
How could public and private institutions facilitate inter-disciplinary exchange?
By providing a minimum and universally accessible income to all citizens (€2,500 /monthly).
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?
Providing the aforementioned income and replacing the word competition within the collective imagery with the word cooperation.
What do the Terna Prize represent, today and in the past, for an artist on the Italian and international scene?
It is a commendable initiative, it sets an example and stimulates other public and productive organizations to go down the same path. I haven’t followed the way in which the Prize developed, however I believe the first editions were slightly more intense and articulated.
Terna is a company that engages in 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 for the next edition?
Terna should not be promoting art as a competition, the company should increase support for free forms of artistic research and broaden the reach of its commendable commitment to other disciplines such as literature, music, poetry and all other ephemeral disciplines. A biennial symposium of arts could increase interest and awareness on the event.
Images(1 cover – 2) Mauro Folci, Noia, 2009. Premio Terna 02 (categoria Megawatt) (3) Mauro Folci, Non è vero che non – Space4235, Genova 2014 (targa in ottone inciso) (4) Mauro Folci, Qual è la parola – (23 uomini piangono al Metropoliz) Roma 2014. performance (5) Mauro Folci, Cavallinità – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Villa Croce, Genova 2013. performer Davide Lucchesi. (6) Mauro Folci, Esodo – still da video 2011 (7-8) Mauro Folci, L’Ameno Appena in tempo – Fondazione Baruchello 2003, Roma.