May 2017_by Federica Tattoli
Pietro Fortuna tells us about is works and is solo exhibition, curated by Pieto Gaglianò, for the MACRO Testaccio spaces in Rome. A new corpus of works realized under the name of S.I.L.O.S in which the sense of doing as practice and as a theoretical core condenses, as a claim of autonomy, as a possibility, and right, of art to be unproductive.
How would you present your work?
I would say that there is nothing finalistic about my work. I am of the ilk of those who have nothing to show. I am annoyed by theories, intentions… or worse still projects; anything that presupposes some kind of development towards an outcome that lies beyond, an outcome external to what you’re actually doing. I don’t see any reason to constrict ourselves. Art is a question that is resolved through the work in progress.
You have said, “Art is a prophecy, not a prediction”. Could you expound on that thought?
Certainly. Art is prophecy because an artwork gains its voice when it is completed; it declares its outcome through its very making, without firing out any promises. If, on the contrary, a work takes on the role of anticipating an outcome that is located outside itself – and that definition encompasses pretty much anything that lies in the humanistic dimension of the universal typically associated with Western thought – in order to foreshadow that completion it must necessarily tie itself down to a prediction, limit itself to offering a sneak preview… and that is making a promise. Sadly, there are but rare exceptions to the rule that this promise is hijacked for the conceptual and ethical branding of our art. To my mind, not only has this approach had its day (and along the way caused all manner of damage), it constitutes a bulwark against other ways of thinking that, on the contrary, attempt to oppose the rampant spread of common sense and its associated forms of consent.
Explain why you chose “S.I.L.O.S.” as the title for the show. Talk us a little through the genesis of this work.
My titles don’t anticipate any development either; the title is there in a literal sense, in tribute, as a value, something I give the work as it goes out into the world. Let me put it another way: a title gives voice to an artwork’s destiny, not to its future. S.I.L.O.S. is an acronym. It stands for “Senza Illusione le Occasioni Svaniscono”, which roughly translates in English into “without illusion, our opportunities vanish into thin air.” What I mean to say is that opportunities belong to a vast repertoire of rhetorical figures in our sophisticated imaginal universe: the scene of opportunity as a wholly illusory place for a fortunate encounter with reality, almost as if it were a reward for our arduous if predatory actions.
Where do you make your works?
In one of two studios. I have one in Rome, where I do the heavy lifting, using machines, tools, craftsmanship… and another one in Brussels where I keep my books, music, photos, video clips… I’m alone when I’m there. I don’t think about anything; that, for me, is the best way to get the ideas flowing.
What item is always on your work table? (please send a photograph)
Look closely and you’ll find that many of my works are in fact images of work tables; the ones I have in my studio and at home. Because I aspire to perfection in my works, I might say the same of my tables: they are both image and template – everything’s there, everything I might need.
What about a collection where you’d like to see at least one of your works?
I have no preferences, they’re all much of a muchness…
If I named some prestigious collection, I’d lay myself open to mockery for believing my works unworthy of such an accolade. On the other hand, if I picked the humblest collection in the world – people love rooting for the underdog – that could be branded as equally misguided... Frankly, I tend to dwell on different sorts of wish lists.
What about a museum where you’d like to exhibit?
Ditto, same answer…
The marketplace or expressive urgency?
The off-pat – and no less wrong for that – answer is the market. It’s up to you to understand why I might lie. There will be time enough for sincerity.
Lightness or depth?
You really are the paladin of dualisms. No offense meant, but personally I try to avoid them for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is no matter how much you may want to trumpet the value of the irreducibility of opposition, the ultimate intention is almost always to seek out compromise and reconciliation; a reason to excite our righteousness in favour of a presumed harmony that – and who knows why – we always believe ourselves worthy of. In actual fact, when we put two opposite terms into agreement, we generate a paradox – hardly harmony. We have to reckon with the indistinct, the uncertain, the formless... Although we may not have noticed it, we’ve headed quite a long way down this road, yet the finished and harmony continue to prevail. It is no coincidence that the word “god” lies beyond any dualism. Good is not the opposite of evil; good is as infinite as it is non-harmonious.
Night or day?
Nope, I’m not going to fall into the trap…! All it takes is patience; the same show is on the playbill, every single day.
Cowboys or Indians?
Ah, this one deserves less superficiality. It’s a matter of history, or at least, of how history has been told: cruelty, oppression, holocaust. I’ll limit myself to saying that strength is not always in favour of the strong, of those who wield strength against the weak. There has to be a kind of strength that is owned only by the weak, or we would have no martyrs or saints.
A question you have never been asked and that you have always wanted to answer? Answer that question…
I might say: Why do I have you rather than someone else opposite me? And the answer might be: because if I had anybody else, I couldn’t ask that very question.
Can you briefly describe one of your recent works?
Yes, from the S.I.L.O.S. cycle. It seemed to me the time had come to make something for myself. Yes, you may suggest I hardly held myself back, making five large objects that could be interpreted as five designs for my own mausoleum – which, on reflection, is rather saddening. Then I struck on the idea of a whole load of picnic tables. Ideal for a frugal lunch among friends, but not sufficiently comfortable for passersby to just plump themselves down. In fact, positively uncomfortable, with wooden beams that leave welts on your legs… Well, that’s the point, when young ladies get up from these tables (it’s more obvious in the summer), they look like they’re leaving a sado-maso club, the signs of the whip are clear to see, but the funniest thing is that they pretend nothing’s wrong.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m juggling different things right now, two very different books: a slim volume by Whitehead on God and immortality, and Alain Badiou’s Métaphysique du bonheur réel.
Whatever Alessandra, my wife who is a director and filmmaker, prescribes for me: Aki Kaurismäki’s latest.
Where would you like to live?
Questions, topical questions. I had to leave my house in the country because it kept being burgled, and then I suffered an act of ferocious deceit that forced me out of my house/archive in Rome. Given this disastrous chain of events, even if I still have my loft in Brussels, right now I can only consider this question as an aspiration.
Do you see any artists as a point of reference? What artists would you like to work with?
There aren’t that many really, and I say this not out of arrogance but because the discriminant here is thought: getting to grips with nihilism, sloughing off worn-out categories… And, as you may imagine, that the works may emerge unscathed.
I could happily work with a great many artists, as indeed I always have done, with friends whom I admire.
What about a project tangential to art that you’d like to do?
A School of Life. I’ve discussed this often with my friends... A wide-ranging project that falls within the framework of a broader programme: to establish independent communities beyond the vexatious control of the State, without nourishing any conflict, using the weapon of moral corruption – obviously in its virtuous sense.
If you hadn’t been an artist, what job would you have done?
If I’d been somebody else, it’s highly likely I’d have worn a lab coat, a uniform or the classic blazer sported by those who want others to think they’re satisfied with what they do.
Who would you like to exhibit with in a group show?
One day I met a guy who painted portraits. Portraits of widows. Just widows. I remember he was always cursing because his paint dried out too quickly, preventing him from achieving certain effects, things like little dots of luminescence against the black, slightly-blurred tears... In desperation, he used to curse those poor widows for how they dressed. To console him, I told him that in some countries widows wore white. A custom like any other, nothing irreverent about it... He gratefully accepted the advice, and then added: “Know what? We should do an exhibition together…”
Curators: yes or no? If yes, who would you like to work with?
I like working with people who don’t define themselves as a curator.
If you’re referring to my oneiric activity, given that like Füssli I suffer from parasomnias, the show starts later, after the monsters have departed. I wrote down my dreams for a while, in an exercise that was a lot like therapy. When I reached a certain level of chronicity, I no longer needed to do it. My most recurrent dream is that I’m a partisan, robbing banks, holding up petrol stations, even if I must admit it’s all pretty tiring stuff.
If you mean dream as desire, the partisan thing doesn’t quite cut the mustard, especially these days; even if the intentions are different, it’s a much-overrated activity. I’d say to have a kid, but seeing as that would have to be with a woman who is younger than my wife, I start wondering whether that’s perhaps somebody else’s dream. Who knows.
Pietro Fortuna was born in Padua in 1950 and lives between Rome and Brussels. He studies architecture and philosophy, and he collaborates with important stage performances for the San Carlo of Naples, La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice.
In the 1980s he was present at the XVI Biennale di San Paolo, at the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Bologna, at Ville Arson in Nice, at the Kunstler House in Graz, at Frankfurter Kunstverein at the XII Biennale in Paris. In the 1990s he realized new cycle of works with large-scale installations at the Palais de Glace in Buenos Aires, at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna di San Marino, at the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotà, at the Municipal Gallery Of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, at Le Carré Musée Bonnat in Bayonne and at the Pecci Museum in Prato. In the same years, he founds Opera Paese a place for culture in which important figures of art, music, and thought could meet each other, from Philip Glass to Jan Fabre, Pistoletto, Kounellis, Carlo Sini at Kankeli. Over the last few years, he had solo show at the Watertoren Center for Contemporary Art in Vlissingen, at the XII Biennale Internazionale della Scultura di Carrara, the Glasgow Tramway, the Morra Foundation in Naples, the Macro of Rome, the Marca of Catanzaro, the Quadriennale of Rome and the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna in Rome.