The Italian artist Sabrina Muzi from Marche region, has been living for several years in Bologna, dividing herself between exhibitions and residences from Florida to Corea, between daily life and small joys in which through performatory, photographic, installatory-videos processes and contaminations, she returns us an inner art and aesthetic identities which involve all senses, transuded and amplified through her tiny explosive body.
The body as a place of canceled identity, as appropriation of space, as a place of discovery; the body as research and as a direct and symbolic communication instrument, the body as exchange and denunciation commodities. The body as “other”, as a rite. A reconstructed body. A body without limits. Her video-recorded performances arise from far away, from her origins, from her fears and loneliness, from the strength of a simple woman, full of life, from her will to make herself heard and to love. Sabrina feels her social role, a female able to show something, sometimes without any filter, sometimes transfigured. Like in “Tortures” where a hand prevents the artist to see and speak and it cancels and dominates her; a wicked and repressed deed which arises evil thoughts. It is not the image, but the “body of the image” which gets away from obvious meanings to burst into the context that Sabrina creates and suffers. She is the protagonist, against her will, of a metaphorical liberation.
Obsessed by staying and by doing, as in “Accerchiamento”, vain attempt and pure renunciation. Fears and desires are guided by the awareness of the human limits and the very fact of being bound to the nature of her body, obliges the artist to use creative strategies which almost tend to alienate the reality of life invading in this way the sphere of representation. Sabrina is visceral in her simulacrum and rational in her dramatization. The suggestive video performance “Mending”, which recalls the meticulousness and the gestures of the sculptress Louise Bourgeois, can be considered one of her most moving and refined works. In this video she amasses oranges and she “operates” them using a surgery stitching, artificially intervening so as to mend and almost to “nurse” her sick son.
After these early multi-appreciated works, as “Big” for example, where getting dressed and growing bigger becomes rite and sacrifice, in “Ninetta” and “Uneasy Growth” the artist feels the necessity to go among the people and to take possession of them, of us. She performs this, at first, by putting on make-up and successively by selling kisses to the passers-by in the streets of Bologna -after a very detailed iconographic and historic research and actually plunging into a narrative “epic” unconsciously recalling Sophie Calle at the beginning of her carrier and Cindy Scherman at the end of the 70’s. Then she let flowers fall naturally from her body almost by magic, intervening on the metropolitan scene by upsetting the daily routine and fixed timetables; enlarged synaesthesias among walks and incomprehensible glances. Until the recent “Remote Body” where we find a strong connection with the natural environment. Indeed in this ancestral work the enlarged body interacts, melts and “builds itself up” using branches and tape. During an afternoon at the end of May I met the artist and I had the opportunity to talk and to reason with her on her work, on the journey she had begun now many years ago.
Massimo Schiavoni: Who was Sabrina Muzi? Who is she now?
Sabrina Muzi: Someone who was always in search of something that she didn’t know yet, always carried by a strength she was not really conscious of, but that every time it had pushed her to challenge herself, to bring herself up for discussion again if necessary, trying to look for lands where to stop, where to rediscover and lose herself at the same time. Tension, precariousness, feeling, passion and a certain quantity of obstinacy…I’ve always wanted to find new paths without thinking too much about risks, because I’ve always thought that each emotion has its own language, and each moment has its own way to express itself. Nowadays she is someone who has learned how to look more in herself from the outside, and maybe also to play a bit with this exchange of roles between really being herself and only imagining herself. I can say that now I have become an evolution of what I was , because actually we don’t change that much, we become just more conscious as a result of the many experiences we have had to cope with in the passing of time. It is through this awareness that everything becomes clearer and you know which way to take.
Massimo Schiavoni: How would you define yourself?
Sabrina Muzi: Defining always means to trace out new boundaries, to fix a begin and an end. It is a big responsibility because you have to maintain it without second thoughts. I don’t think it’s worth it, it could also be frustrating to cling to the idea that you have of yourself. I rather prefer, if we really wish to use this term, to “be defined” by what I do. Every time I work on a new project I see a new image of myself taking form, and sometimes it can be surprising. What I actually mean is that I never start from the idea I have of myself or from what I am or what I would like to show of myself. I just follow a stream, an intuition, and then an imaginary of forms, images, actions, sounds starts to develop which little by little “defines” myself, but only at that particular moment.
Massimo Schiavoni: Where and how did you develop your cultural and artist education? What do you always take with you?
Sabrina Muzi: I come from Marche and there I lived the first part of my life. I went to the “Accademia delle Belle Arti” in Macerata, but afterwards I moved to Bologna, so the cultural background where I have grown up mostly, even if I didn’t study there, is the latter. Maybe it can sound trivial, but I would say in response to your question, that dreams are what I always take with me.
Massimo Schiavoni: What does the video represent for you? And the body?
Sabrina Muzi: The video is both a means and a language towards which I have always felt a strong empathy and easiness since the moment I started to use it, by now quite some time ago . I mean, I have always thought that it was just the means through which I could really express what I wanted: In particular, there was a time when I almost only used video in all my works, a kind of necessity to get to the bottom and find out what could be conveyed with an ethereal means, though complete. Every single idea, emotion, intuition has its own way to come out. If I take a picture, or make a video, or a performance, even if all of them are dealing with the same subject, each of them has a different value depending on the means I use. To use one or another is a very accurate choice.
he body, instead, is more a sort of thread than a means/language, a trait d’union, present even when it is absent. It reminds me about the games when we were kids, when we invented how to transform ourselves or how to hide, in other words it is always a discovery. It is interesting to see the unforeseeable emerging from something that we consider familiar and that, for this very reason, we take it for granted. Sadly enough we find this out in illness and it is just through the symbolic representation of ourselves that we can exorcise this physical limit. As it was possible to recover a relation between body and soul through a ritual offer in primitive cultures, in the same way I think that art, coming into relation with the extreme tangible, the body, thaumaturgically reconciles us with our inner self
Massimo Schiavoni: In the series “Tortures” in 2001 we go from the cancellation, coming from the outside, of his/her identity and “private” space to a symbolic impossibility of building up and therefore to be. How much and what of you as a woman can we find in all this?
Sabrina Muzi: In this work the relation between the male and female parts is an obvious element, with a definition of roles and the need to break them up. This will come back in other works (“Accerchiamento”, “Zona Sospesa”, “Ninetta”). But the concept goes beyond a gender issue and what stands out is a relationship game in which the parts act their own diversity causing a reciprocal reaction, a tension from which the identity issue emerges. On a social level it has always been difficult for a woman to build up her own public space, this is a historical truth, but this has not prevented her from building up her own private space which in time has strengthened her own identity. As far as I am concerned I think I have put into action, since long, a “construction” process which is still going on, where the need of “being” can’t be stopped by a contrasting power. Instead it is able to provoke reactions that inevitably contribute to the forming of his/her own self.
mean, under these conditions even the difference between victory or defeat has no meaning at all: when it has to do with the impossibility of giving up his/her own self, even the only act of resistance is worth to protect oneself from the strong antagonism of the other. In a book that I read some time ago, Miguel Benasayag philosopher and activist from Argentine, tells the experience of torture inflicted upon himself and upon his fellow prisoners. He tells about the value given to death when someone has reached the bottom and knows that whatever might happen to him/her, there is nothing heroic, vaunting or ideological in this, it simply serves to give value to your own life, to what you are o have been. I think that the “building up” of a vital space can be always put into action, even in case of borderline experiences that are prone to cancel any possibility of assertion of his/ her own self.
Massimo Schiavoni: In “Mending” what is the significance of the meticulous operation of stitching oranges as it were human flesh or anyway of having something ” to nurse” ?
Sabrina Muzi: “Mending” presents itself as a reparation gesture; it is an action which could go on endlessly, it points out the urgency of the moment, a possibility where the attention is focused on an object, an organic element, that while becoming the main subject of the work opens out to the symbolic representation. The action can convey different meanings, social, cultural and ecological ones. Or it can have no sense at all, it can open out to the imaginary and become a container full with emotions and spirits. I think that this second hypothesis is the first reaction to this work. After that, there are all the other possibilities conveying sense, but usually in the beginning it is acknowledged on an emotional and psychological level. This is the natural drift of all my work : give some hints of strong communicative impact and at the same time expecting to relate with the most intimate part of ourselves. In another work “Rosso di sera” the action is similar and opposite at the same time: there, the “cure” was based on closing a split, in a sort of reconciliation, here the solution is found in cuts, a new painful opening but probably full of hope. To open and to close oneself up, to propose oneself and draw back as the beating throb of our breath.
Massimo Schiavoni: In “Big”, as in “Accerchiamento” o in “Rimozioni”, the constant straining and repetition is evident as in a rite, simple actions conveying great empathy and communicativeness from the social and cultural point of view . Then in 2004, in “Ninetta”, we see you walking on the platform selling kisses to customers or in “Uneasy Growth” losing flowers among the people. Tell us about this passage towards interaction-happening with the public.
Sabrina Muzi: The element of repetition as a sort of ritual comes back in many works I have done. It is just like a dilated time which in its potentially indefinite duration gives value and emphasize that gesture. As you have said, I like working with simple actions but with the purpose to put them on a different symbolic level of intelligibility that, in a way, will make them unique. I am not so much interested in the conceptual idea but rather in the vital process that moment after moment emerges from that action. This means that any “attempt” to transform reality, as wearing lots of clothes at the same time, or shutting oneself up inside a wall made of people, has its value just in the development of an apparently “normal” gesture that in its very growth also shows a physical exertion and consequently a direct link to his/her own body.
t is very important for me to transmit this vitality rather than the idea behind it, which anyway comes already in a direct way. This is the reason why I choose simple elements for my work. This immediacy, which contains in itself the seeds of interpretation, needs a temporal processing to make it alive. Hence the need for the performance and for the video. The shift to interaction, at this point, is natural, it is not only the action that unrolls in front of the videocamera where the final product is the video, but the performance that develops in the streets involving the public. A new element is created, the reaction of the people, sometimes actively involved as is the case of “Ninetta”, other times involved just on a psychological level as in “Uneasy Growth” where even a single glance meeting your gesture contributes to characterize the action.
Massimo Schiavoni: In your last work “Remote Body” you bind yourself with paper tape to some branches so that you become a sole element with nature. What have you rediscovered with this action and where is your artistic poetics going?
Sabrina Muzi: I consider this activity as a sort of valve that connects a precise phase of my research with another one which is just looming. In some previous works the organic-natural element was already present, but recently this relationship between body and nature has become more and more intimate, and consequently also the interest on the body concept opens up and becomes something not exclusively bound to the human being. Initially this has emerged from a series of photographic works, images of vegetable elements that merged into human figures and successively also from pictures where only the vegetable-natural world was present. “Remote Body” is the research of an empathy with the natural element but at the same time it wish to suggest a past or future apocalyptic vision of the world. Even by establishing a link it actually defines a limit as well. The fact of being tied up is an attempt of fusion but at the same time of constraint. The electronic sounds I use in the video feed this dichotomy, they create a distance-attraction between an archaic imagery that refers to the primordial rite of the relation humanity-nature and the vision of a human potential drastically farther and farther away from nature.
In the performance-installation “Corpo variabile” , the situation is similar but it emerges through the construction of a tree-structure with which I interact by becoming part of it. Over the last few years, much more than in the past, I have been working with more media, the same idea can be shown as a video, a performance, a series of drawings or photos or as an installation. Each form is autonomous, but as parallel roads perspectively stretched at infinity which at a certain moment meet, I draw aside and observe the accidental point where everything converge and blend together. I can’t say exactly where I’m heading to, but I think it is more and more important not to start from the abstraction of an idea or from the representation of a concept. I carry on in my research of a space where thought is a considerable part of a wider sphere of cultural and natural relationships whose interactions remarkably determine our relation to reality : a sensitive world based on our personal and public history and that, through our imagery, is able to create each time an emotional state.