Since they started working together in 2009, combining their artistic potential Penzo+Fiore have intrigued and interested us with performances, videos, photos, installations. From 2016 they conceptually reinterpret the glass so linked to the representation of the fragility of human existence. On the eve of their personal exhibition at Galleria massimodeluca managed by Marina Bastianello which will be held in September, I met the artists to deepen their practice and for a little preview of the exhibition.
You work with glass and have a studio in Murano, one of the most famous places in the world for artistic productions with glass. Your practice combines, among other things, craftsmanship with art, tradition with contemporaneity and even performance. How was your artistic practice born and how did you develop it?
Ours is the story of two individual paths that at a certain point, in 2009, are grafted onto one another, bringing with them the fragments of what we were before to give it a new identity. On the one hand the path of Andrea, born in Murano and therefore immediately implicated in the affairs of glass, on the other the theatrical training of Cristina. As the two researches converge, common denominators are immediately sought to develop a coherent poetic. If the first language explored together was that of performance, four-handed writing was a supporting axis capable of supporting the processes of knowledge and exploration put in place from time to time. We like to call the period that goes from 2009 to 2016 our "seven years of experimentation", precisely because at this stage, during which we lived between Venice and Berlin, we literally blew up individual attitudes and aspirations to incorporate them into the world, inside the new joint project of Penzo+Fiore. Hence the birth of photographic works, installations, videos, performances and participatory projects, devices developed with the aim of contaminating our duo search that looked outwards - but also our search for a dual identity, intrinsic to our new collective nature - with that of other artists. This step was crucial because we could learn a common language for both, despite the different starting backgrounds.
Then in 2016, with the exhibition Vetro. Disordine rigido the decision to return to glass as the material of choice for our work. It is not the only one, it does not constitute an aesthetic choice, but rather a form of inescapable continuity with those that were the origins of Andrea. For seven years the need had been to distance ourselves from this material, above all because Murano often forces production logics and logics related to the tradition that were really narrow. With the show in Turin in 2016 curated by Barbara Fragogna, the idea was to embark on a new path in which glass was a material capable of constantly recalling the fragility, an aspect of human existence that has always fascinated us. But glass did not necessarily mean direct processing, but most often a conceptual reinterpretation of the material, including the industrial one.
Do you always work in pairs or have activities that you manage independently?
Everything about contemporary art, whether they are artworks or the creation of artistic/relational projects, are by Penzo+Fiore. Andrea Penzo, on the other hand, brings forward a production line called "Botanica Alchemica" which consists of glass works made exclusively by him, drawings and installations that interact with the world of glass art. This does not exclude that sometimes convergences are created between the work of Andrea Penzo and that of Penzo+Fiore. This was the case of the work Empire, exhibited for Unavetrina – the Independents MAXXI - in Rome in 2018, or of the dress Mother Nature, conceived for the glass conference of the Glass Art Society in 2018. We are now working together on a glass dress project for the Seattle World Conference in 2021. In this case the processing technique will be that used by Andrea for Alchemica Botany, but the project will be common.
One of the characteristics of glass is its fragility, which is also one of the characteristics of contemporary man. Is there also an analysis of this kind in your practice? An analysis that is also influenced by anthropology or sociology?
Certainly yes, indeed the return to glass in 2016 arises precisely from the fact that despite using other languages, we realized how much our artistic discourse refers to the idea of fragility. A fragility that in our vision soon turns into its opposite, the profound force that comes from the awareness of fragility. In 2014 for a performance in Rome we had two wedding rings engraved with the words "Sono fragile", within a reflection on love. Man is, at the same time, a multitude in itself, which forces him to come to terms with his unconscious and with the instinctual and irrational impulses that animate him, on the other it is a social being immersed in a set of relationships that depart from its complexity as an individual to approach and interface with that of others. Anthropology, sociology and even psychology help us to create the right sensitivity to read this complex network of underground dialogues that are the basis of our artistic visions. The dialogue can then be with everything, you can enter into connection with anyone and anything, as artists, but always starting from this awareness of fragility that for us means friability, fruitful imperfection, gap through which to pass through what it really has sense. Something very far from the monolithic man and all of a piece that seems to have a new spring today ...
This is the origin of some of our most controversial works, such as Real, the creation of a divination system that has allowed us to come into intimate contact with people who are apartments, places and social strata very different from those that make up our usual world, opening up glimpses of unsuspected realities before that moment. Or the more distinctly relational works, which pass through the development of conferences, study days, bodily and training experiences, in which we always involve artists and others with a certain transversality. We are interested in the human in its most contradictory and boundary, sometimes even inscrutable, magical, spiritual expression. Just as we are interested in the contexts in which we go to work, so rich in the mystery of their own being always in the balance, because they are made of a humanity impossible to be reduced to a simple map ... the territory is something else, as Bateson would say.
I was very impressed by the work you presented at Dolomiti Contemporanee last year, a work that defied gravity. Can you tell us more about this project?
That was a great challenge ... also because the context of Dolomiti Contemporanee imposes a certain level of questioning. We were invited by Petra Cason to present a project for Brain-tooling, the exhibition curated by her with Gianluca D’Incà Levis, Riccardo Caldura which took place inside the Forte di Monte Ricco in Pieve di Cadore last summer. The concept of the exhibition concerned climbing as a metaphor for the condition of the artist, the research that leads upwards, the challenge that goes against the instinct of conservation to investigate what apparently does not have a real reason. We have decided to face the challenge on two levels. On the one hand the more distinctly visual one that gave birth to an installation that meant climbing in itself: a series of glass nails to be inserted in the already existing joints of a protected wall, and therefore impossible to drill. From the glass nails hung a transparent burr with a lead weight attached to it. The force of gravity is the true limit with which the climber must measure himself, a force that, in our case, was supported by the fragility of the full but ephemeral body of the glass. This type of installation comes from the immediate vision that we had after confronting ourselves with the exhibition space. But Dolomiti Contemporanee is also work with the territory and with mountain contexts. We love to create heuristic devices that allow us to take advantage of the opportunity we are facing, to increase the collective and personal knowledge of a theme. Then we innervated the previous installation of glass plate engraved with a collection of words and phrases born from three meetings organized in the mountains on plant, animal and human climbing. A way to investigate the theme proposed by the exhibition, to give birth to new questions, to give some answers, but above all to create a sensible and profound exchange with those who live in the area.
I read that you are finalist in the Combat Prize with the artwork titled Time already presented last year at Galleria massimodeluca. This work is also very complex and fascinating. I think it's worth telling it with your words.
Time, in its first version, was born in 2018 to participate in the Lux-Lumen exhibition at Fondazione Berengo organized for the International Glass Conference organized by the Glass Art Society of Seattle. This is a revisitation of a rezzonico, the classic chandelier of the Murano tradition, which is conceived with more geometric lines and a graft of different materials, including wax and animal skulls, a concrete sign of deterioration due to time. In some ways, Time is a ritual object that lends itself to different display modes, each of which declines a specific aspect of time. It can be composed, decomposed or dynamic, a score that is aggregated with modalities in relation to the place and the motivations that will contain it. The object leaves its static dimension to make time through three modes. The consumption (the effect of the fire): the candles, burning, mark the time with their creation on the ground of wax stalagmites that refer to the hourglass. The performance (oscillation): the work itself is used as an element of performative action, which accompanies the oscillation of the chandelier to a countdown of dates that constitutes the point of conjunction between time and the material body, starting from the year of execution to arrive at the year of birth of the longest living person when the performance is performed. The decomposition (the rhythm of the fragments): the work conquers space through its rhythmic defragmentation. At the Combat award we proposed this latest version, the constituent elements of the chandelier separated and disseminated on the horizontal plane, sections of an organism whose single particles are to be highlighted, a repetitive scan that leads to the process of execution itself, slow and patient. It symbolically remembers those parts of the body to which it must be blown inside the soul to take life.
What are your future plans?
On the immediate we are working on our solo show at the gallery that represents us in Italy, the massimodeluca by Marina Bastianello. In this case we investigate the concept of people in a historical moment in which it seems urgent to give a new definition to an entity that we perhaps took for granted. Everything revolves around a reinterpretation of Pellizza da Volpedo's work Il Quarto Stato, to which we contrast our ILQUARTOSTATO, an installation that reflects the dimensions of the original, and which consists of a series of fragments of frames not more suitable to contain those faces that were the protagonists in the picture of Volpedo. A lack of references that reverberates in the other works, all aimed at questioning the very essence of the people in their making, among other things, political entity.
As usual we like to add to the installation a moment of reflection and exchange, for this reason we organized the meeting between Fausto Bertinotti and Pietro Gaglianò that will held in the spaces of the new M9 museum in Mestre, to dissect the concept of people in a historical, artistic and social perspective at the turn of the millennium change.
Not even this time the glass will be absent, it is said that it is itself the fourth state of matter, a solid that actually appears chemically as a crystallized liquid. It will be present in various forms within the exhibition, always recalling that concept of fragility so dear to us.