What means to be an art curator today? An organizer? A talent scout? A point of reference for artists or art dealer? We have talked about this with Camilla Boemio, art writer, theorist and art curator (remember Portable Nation. Maldives Pavilion, 55th International Art Exhibition La Biennale of Venice in 2013; Diminished Capacity the first Nigerian Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2016; Delivering Obsolescence: Art Bank, Data Bank, Food Bank a Special Project at the 5th Odessa Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2017.
Which meaning do you attribute to the word “to curate”?
The highest value of the meaning of the word: the dedication to disseminate, to show, to explain and to offer a cultural proposal of visual art that creates attention, and shakes and engages a debate with the exhibition visitors and publication readers. For me to curate is a kind of plant cultivation, to the various stages we must devote a vigilant assistance based on care, patience and time so that theories, application of concepts and artistic practice can mature. A plant needs sun and air; similarly an exhibition needs the ideal conditions to create a flow, to actively change the language of art proposing new keys to reading, experimenting, establishing a philological order and a curatorial method and raising the critical debate. Sometimes coming to not be satisfied by the knowledge of the world, but intervening in directing the movements, quoting Marx "Philosophers have only differently interpreted the world, but the important thing is to change it.” When can art activate and trigger new social and aesthetic ways? The curator comes into play to ensure a fertile humus by implementing the vigilant conditions and opening new avenues for thought, intercepting the ways to represent the start of a movement or research, an aesthetic process or an innovative function.
In your activity as an international curator you have the opportunity to know other realities besides the Italian one. What, if any, are the main differences between the international context and the Italian one?
There are some typical gaps in Italy, found in the widespread common mentality and in the working system. As a well-known English philosopher told me during a symposium in Rochester, I should belong to a kind of Italians who have a strong sense of criticism towards the traditional hierocratic structure of power. Openings must always be practiced and don’t be static promotions taken at the moment. We really need to create and sustain a modulated system in the exchange, in which there are pressures to see cultural structures grow. In international systems there are strong competitions, but the need to always guarantee quality proposals leads to a continuous way of determining the roles and the income of new actors. The meritocracy given by greater transparency in the choices of museum directions or appointments tout court within more defined parameters creates the conditions to start a real growth of cultural capital. The art places are lived, frequented by the operators of the sector but also by a significant number of people who decide to spend their free time in contexts where art is produced and proposed. Another non-existent point is the all-Italian stalemate dictated by the competition between ancient and contemporary art, which reveals only mediocrity and a forced affabulation in trying to modulate ministerial budgets as desired. To be men aware of their own historical period we must be able to relate to the creativity of our period, or at least with current proposals. Our brain should no longer be like that of a nineteenth-century individual, shouldn’t it?
Many artists today live their careers less dependent on the action of the critic/curator. In your opinion, what is the future of this figure?
We are in a period of strong conflict and extensive uncertainties; also the culture field has phases of crisis in which it assimilates the repercussions given by social imbalances. Individuality takes more and more steps, at the same time forms of atypical museum management are proposed, almost as to reiterate the needs induced by rampant populism and radical intolerance towards those involved in culture. In my opinion it is essential to be a team, it is one of the first lessons that are impressed abroad by young generations. Contemporary art is made up of many professional figures, one indispensable to the other; if we alter the chain's passages, we obtain no advantage but only isolation. The future of this figure will be more and more professional and articulated in the heart of the city communities, we will have more and more specialized figures able to dialogue with the artists exploring new collisions with other disciplines, such as science (for example, advanced technologies), architecture or social and political interventions.
Of the projects that you have cured up to today, which are you particularly attached to and why?
ISWA project was one of the most interesting European announcements in which I was a consultant for the art section. The mission was to eliminate the gap between science and society, bringing young generations closer to science, proposing art as a better understanding and implementing an unprecedented exploration through the arts. In his topic and in the mission of the project there were all the essential elements to create in a curator an enormous enthusiasm in the power to structure exhibitions, publications and workshops articulated throughout Europe being able to space the various issues of analysis: from links between politics and science, to neuroscience, bio tech art, genetics, physics, nano technologies, climate change, cell renewal, science culture, medicine, scientific collections, biodiversity and conservation. One of the curated exhibitions was After the Crash at the Botanical Garden, in one of the most venerable museums in Rome. Among the projects I presented The Other Night Sky by Trevor Paglen, who traced and photographed the American satellites, classified the space debris and other obscure objects present in the Earth's orbit. The project used the data observed and produced by an international network of amateur satellite observatories that calculated the position and timing of the elevated transits photographed with telescopes and large format cameras. In addition to having made site-specific land-art works such as the one commissioned to the artist Steven Siegel who saw the reuse of waste material. Technology and science are central disciplines in the societies that want to base the development in the growth of knowledge, the diffusion of the latter becomes a fundamental pivot for an adequate and democratic development.
What are your future projects?
I will take part in TransCultural Exchange biennial conference. This year for the first time it will take place in Québec City (in 2016 city of culture), in Canada. The main themes related to contemporary art will be discussed with over one hundred speakers coming from almost forty countries: Japan, Australia, Cameroon and Europe, the United States and South America. The conference will be a modus operandi to analyze today's state of the art, its saturation, potential new horizons and artistic practices in different continents. Among my upcoming curate activity I mark my "return" to California. I was invited to curate an exhibition in a notorious non-profit space in Los Angeles, where I decided to structure a project to analyze the Italian art scene. The exhibition aims to provide a context of confrontation, dialogue and reflection on theoretical debates on Italian art of a generation in relation to cultural identity: migration, job, crisis, spirituality, city, geopolitics, the various themes will create a sort of atlas in which artistic practices will trace multifaceted dynamics. In this state of change the "fragments" are part of this reality sedimented by the connections with the past and the signs in progress. If the exhibition wants to know very good artists, but not known abroad as Maurizio Cattelan_ the publication created with my texts by the publisher and artist Giulio Lacchini (among the artists on show) wants to extend the focus to a greater number of projects creating a double dialogue with the art scene in Los Angeles. How many affinities and differences? Everything will perhaps merge creating more ethereal boundaries leading to Mulholland Drive. A sort of temporal suspension. As someone wrote "Mulholland Drive represents a kind of Copernican revolution: it makes intuition, and not only deduction, its greatest means of involvement.” Complexity makes every project full of magic.