September 2017_by Federica Tattoli
An art residency with international artists - Marianna Christofides, Gabriella Ciancimino, Malak Helmy, Andrew Mania, Pietro Ruffo, Luca Trevisani - that went around the Island last September, an exhibition at the Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonino Salinas of Palermo, a catalogue with text from several art critics and a writer - Francesca Spatafora, Valentina Bruschi, Gianluigi Ricuperati - and the beautiful photographic reportage by Leonardo Scotti. We talked about all this topics with Valentina Bruschi the curator of this 7th edition of Viaggio in Sicilia.
How would you present your work and why did you choose to become a curator?
I have always been interested in art and studied Art History at University in Rome, where I grew up, surrounded by impressive monuments and traces of man’s creativity and skill. The opportunity of having an Erasmus period at the Courtauld University in London in 1995, during the seminal exhibition Frieze, when Young British Artists burst onto the scene was the seal on my choice of career. Such a thrilling introduction to contemporary art which made me focus the direction of my studies. I decided to become a curator following the London Artangel model: trying to make artists’ ideas/dreams come true. I enjoy working directly with artists and developing new projects for particular spaces. The challenges involved in finding the right artist or the perfect site specific work for a particular space never fails to fascinate me, although sometimes it can be quite complicated to make ends meet! Overall, it’s a job which is ever changing and very rewarding.
A particular space you would like tu use for an exhibition?
I’ve recently been involved in the curatorial board of a new contemporary art centre in the Castle of Carini: Moon Contemporary Art Space. It is less than half an hour from Palermo, in a beautiful position, overlooking the Mediterranean. This huge manor is spread over two floors with varied sized rooms, some plain white with stone, whereas others have Renaissance frescoes. Having collaborated as a curator for some time in the medieval Castle of Castelbuono, the site of the local Museo Civico, which has been wonderfully adapted and catalyzed contemporary artist’s creativity, I can’t wait to see what this new – totally different – historical site will inspire. This weakness of mine for ancient castles makes me wonder if I must have been a princess in a previous life!
Could you present me in few words “Viaggio in Sicilia”, this is a nomadic residency, could you tell us more regarding this aspect and in which way the artists invited reacted?
The project was conceived by the Planeta family who produce wine in their six wineries spread over Sicily, forming an itinerary that links some of the most beautiful areas of the island. In 2004, for the first edition, they decided to invite a group of artists to travel “on the road”, as they do themselves, every week for work and this is how the format of the “nomadic residency” was created. The artists visit the vineyards during grape harvest and, along the way, sites of naturalistic and historic interest. The experience is very intense because the artists chosen are usually from different countries; generally don’t know Sicily; are constantly on the move seeing stimulating sights of breathtaking beauty; curiosities; listening to stories: a tsunami of impressions. All this accompanied by incredible food & wine, of course! The artists, who work in different mediums, have always had a positive reaction to all this and they have a long period to gestate this experience and produce new works the following Spring.
Maps and Myths of the Mediterranean is the title of the 7th edition of the residency and of the exhibition at the Museo Salinas in Palermo, could you tell me in detail about it?
For this edition we invited six artists and decided on the theme which we kept in mind whilst choosing the places to visit during the residency: Volcanoes, Salt Mines, Megalithic rocks, archeological sites, etc. We then discussed the possibility of collaborating with the Salinas Museum in Palermo and the Director, Francesca Spatafora was enthusiastic to open the Archeological Museum to contemporary art for the first time. The artists designed site specific works conceived for the museum spaces, from sculpture to drawing, from photography to video, always in dialogue with the permanent collection, around the two sixteenth-century cloisters of the former Olivella Monumental Complex.
Marianna Christofides presented three works, two films and a text based installation, related to archaeology and mythology, questioning different historical points of view. Gabriella Ciancimino created two sculptures and a map, where the latter presents elements that refer to some of the ancient atlases contained within the museum’s library. Malak Helmy displayed a series of sculptures and a sound installation created for the garden and fountain of the greater cloister. Andrew Mania has assembled pastels on paper and wood and a series of photo collages taken from images of the archive of the museum; whilst Pietro Ruffo has produced a map with paper cut-outs and a globe that references the cultural richness of the Mediterranean. Luca Trevisani made a new series of his, Notes for dried and living bodies, and a work based on the “home made” print from the cast copy (kept in the museum), of the famous rock carvings of the Addaura caves.
The Salinas is a special place and an institution that has become a “case-study” for the exceptional results achieved through their social media communication so we are all very happy about this collaboration, which was able to erase the erroneous perception of a gap between the art of the past and that of the present.
What can’t be missing from your worktable? (I have sent a photo of my desk and the books piled behind my chair!)
Computer and reference books. Note pads to jot down ideas and lots of pens, pencils, markers of different colors. A large cup of green tea (which usually gets cold before I remember to drink it!).
A museum with which you would like to collaborate?
There are so many that it is difficult to pin down only one. Living in Palermo, where there are no “white cube” style museums, I have grown to like to work with existing collections and historical buildings, mixing old and new art.
Lightness or depth?
An even balance of both is my ideal
Day or night?
It can only be a mixture, sometimes a little more of one or the other, depends on the moment.
A question you have never been asked but one you have always wanted to answer? Answer that question…
“Do you want to work as an art advisor for my private collection with an unlimited budget for travelling and meeting new artists around the world?” I think I could definitely answer: “Yes”, to that!
What are you reading?
A little light green book edited by Sellerio: “Bianco tenebra, Giacomo Serpotta, il giorno e la notte” by Luca Scarlini, a narrative essay that mixes history, art and literature, reconstructing the profile of the famous Palermo sculptor of the 18th century.
I would like to see the first feature film by artist Rä Di Martino, Controfigura (The Stand in) presented at the 74th Venice Film Festival – La Biennale, a few weeks ago.
Where would you like to live?
On a smaller island, with no cars, overlooking the horizon on the sea. With a helicopter to get to work!
Do you have artists you would like to work with in the future?
Yes, too many to name. I also like to follow the artists I have known and worked with and see how their research evolves in time.
If you weren’t a curator, what job would you like?
Restorer of ancient works of art. I have a fascination with chemistry, materials and the possibility of preserving the magnificent creations of the past.
A dream of yours?
To have more time to read and the possibility to travel all over the world.