Angoli e intersezioni (Angles and intersections). This is the title of the third edition of the Quadrilateral Biennial (December 8th to January 31st), also known as the Croatian Biennial, this year devoted entirely to new media and their influence on local and global cultures.
With their fluid and intangible nature, the newest -or as Philippe Dubios would say “the latest”- technologies seem to perfectly embody the impulse and calling towards transnational synthesis first of all the one between East and West- which moves this biennial, born as a result of a recent quadrilateral agreement between Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary. In cities marked by complex and numerous scars, like Rijeka, a city full of cultural crossroads, but also the scene of intrusion and emigration, meanwhile digital art, with its’ streams of bodiless data, has dwelled within the walls of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, blending in with the common city areas. Drawing the attention and participation of many citiziens.
Under the artistic direction of Christiane Paul -author of the famous Digital Art (London UK: Thames and Hudson Ltd. -2003) and editor of the New Media section for the Whitney Museum in New York -the four editors of the Biennial (Darko Fritz-Croatia, Nina Czegledy -Hungary and Tomas Dobrila -Slovenia) , selected for each country the most inventive artists in the relationship between art and new technologies. In Italy, the difficult task was given to Elena Giulia Rossi, not only did she have ti explore the new representation and conservative aspect of digital art (ArcheoNet 2003) she collaborated with the MAXXI Museum where she helped out with numerous Net Art exhibitions.
Together we looked in to her editorial experience and cultural heritage during this Biennial, we spoke especially about the choice of the four artists who represent our country: 0100101110101101.org, the Elastic Group Of Artistic Research, Lorenzo Pizzinelli and Carlo Zanni.
Giulia Simi: The four countries involved in the Quadrilateral Biennial in Rijeka this year were called to explore the Angles and intersections of art and of the new media under the direction of Christiane Paul, a key figure in the exhibition and practice related to digital art. How was it working with her and with the editors of the other countries?”
Elena Giulia Rossi: The process of carrying out the project was very interesting and I refer also to the collaboration with the other curators: Darko Fritz, Nina Czegledy and Peter Tomas Dobrila. Christiane Paul has been the artistic director and the glue for all of us. Certainly, working with her has been an honor and a wonderful experience. The definition of the project, which lasted more than a year, took form from regular conferences on Skype. On Skype, we discussed on the issues, planned and designed the works in the physical space of the museum, and in urban space. Thus, a Biennial about technology, in which technology has played a fundamental role even in its construction phase, undoubtedly facilitating the design, from an economic and organizational point of view.
Giulia Simi: You had the difficult task, as the Italian curator, to select four artists who represent our country. You chose Eva and Franco Mattes, Lorenzo Pizzanelli, Carlo Zanni, Elastic Group of Artistic Research. Would you like to tell us something more and motivate the choice?
Elena Giulia Rossi: You’re right! The selection of the artists who represent their country is always a great responsibilty and is not an easy task, especially when the number you can choose is so limited. I am so happy yo have the oppurtunity to be able to explain my choices, I also regret not being able to extend the invitation to other artists just as deserving and representative, who would have made us proud abroad. In general the selection has favored works that, at best, respond to the theme chosen (Angoli e intersezioni -Angles and intersections) and at the same time were made by authors representing the Italian art world. Each of the slected works reflect on the topis of “corners and intersections” on different levels: the intersection between different media, including remote locations (geographical or temporal) between nature and technology and so on. All this is contained in each of the works, but each of them brought out a different aspect of technology and its different uses.
You all know Eva and Franco Mattes -0100101110101101.org -, two pioneers, not just in new media, if you still want to define it “new”, they are famous in the media world in general. The identity of artists born in Italy but with an European nationality, as introduced on the homepafe of their site, is already an element of substantial interest in such a context.
For the Biennial their project was presented in a single projection, three of their Synthetic Performances, the three in which the two artists have emphazied the historical performance in Second Life: Imponderability by Marina Abramovic and Ulay (1971), Shoot by Chris Burden (1971) and the Shining Sculpture by Gilbert and George (1968).
Their work is often identified in acts of “ownership”, from works to entire internet sites, in the name of freedom of movement. In this case, their renactment of the historical performance in Second Life, goes beyond words and beyond the mere act of appropriation.
The performances which the duo refers to, exploring the limits of the body and physicallity, a physical and synthetic world that becomes surreal and utterly mental. Not only…the projection of the renactment, allows us to focus on a particular detail that we may not notice is the resemblance of the performers to Eva and Franco themselves, this similarity is not exposed by the couple, who only reveal their names. One of the many pseudonyms which characterize their professional and private life.
Lorenzo Pizzinelli’s works are also full of cultural references, especially of the Italian culture. Pointing out topics that vary from art history to politics. Technology is able to find an ideal way to communicate and simplify concepts and difficult relationships in a parallel way, exploring, not so much the latest technology, but the social impact of techonolgy. Videogames, networks, artificial intelligence, like the one in the play Marinetti alla Quarta, a work presented at the Crotian Biennial. He presents many different aspects of techonolgy using his vast culture and intelligence, simplifying things and making them accessibile at various levels to many different people.
A part from being his latest production, created during the event “Futuroma”, which in 2009 celebrated its 100th anniversary of the first Futurist Movement, presented in the main buildings of the capital, Marinetti alla Quarta has a very strong relationship with historical residence of Rijeka, the main character of the Futurist era returns to life and from the inside of a suitcase sculpture, talks and interacts with its visitors. Artificial intelligence, created with the generous support of the roman company Infobytes, relates to us and with our modern days. What is amazing is the way Marinetti’s answers are based on the authors own intelligence, encoded by the technicians, and interaction with the visitors also plays a strong role.
Carlo Zanni, a pioneer of new media works and tester of different technologies and techniques, including traditional ones like oil on canvas, is the inventor of a new genre that combines internet art with films. This fusion is known as the “data-movie”, a name he himself gave to this new genre. His short film The Ties between Ilness and Success (2006-2007) was presented in various forms: from projections in movie theatres to an iPod sculpture presented in the Apocalyptic and intergrated at the MAXXI Museum in Rome in 2007. A creation that is still available in the artist’s archive.
The Temporary Visiting Position from the Sunset Terrace Bar (2007-08), presented at the Croatian Biennial centre of Astronomy, is the next evolution of data-cinema. A combination of a large variety of instruments and genres like, internet art, cinema, photography but also literature and music. The images are in fact accompanied by a poem written by the Syrian novelist Ghada Samman and music by the famous American composer Gabriel Yared. The sky seen in the German landscape in the town of Ahlem, came from footage taken from webcams that were pointed towards the sky in Naples, Italy. All of this emphasized with the merger between reality and fiction in addition made even more evident by the flock of birds that concludes the short movie, whose digital nature is made obvious.
The interweaving of the computer world with the real world, especially in the city, is the main focus of the Elastic Group that, among the variety of technology used in their productions, found those “flexible” and “elastic” qualities in videos, which they penetrate to the very origin of computer science. The work Remixing City was created specifically for the Croatian Biennial. The merger between body, landscape, identity, between the real and the virtual and its incarnations increasily terrifying, are all contained within the video-tryptic. The video Amniotic City, created in 2004 and left intact, serves as a demonstratrion of the starting point of life, birth. Evoked by the amniotic fluid, a metophor used to discover the origin of city life and its intermingling with the human body.
The video expands this concept through a series of images composed of repeating icons, relaborated and animated with electronic sounds and mixed in to a sort of post-digital collage. Their research is very important for Italian art as is brings up peculiar use of videos. Videos that are compared to the liquid space of our origin and compared to urban spaces as well in one “remix” that simply brings out at best the “intersection” between videos-computers, urban-electronic and all of these with the body.”
Giulia Simi: ” We speak about space, this time physical and not only virtual. The Biennial is help in Rijeka, in part within the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which is located in town, and partly on the citystreets. How did the idea inside/outside come to mind and how did you manage to maintain the connection between the projects?”
Elena Giulia Rossi: There were a total of sixteen projects, four linked to the city. The part of Rijeka that dominates is the harbour, where on the walls the logo of a telephon company is usually screened. The Biennial has welcomed the work of the Croatian Dalibor Martinis with his Global picture and sense of the human condition. This work reflects its meaning through colour changes, combinated information about the global economy, ecology ect.
A project that could have been in the museum. Marusc Kliffs project Telephoning 2 has involved the whole country. The project consists in telephon booths as the setting of the performance. A special software automatically dialed numbers and the different people who answered the calls were brought to talk and interact with eachother and with whoever was in the museum.
Lorenzo Pizzanelli’s Marinetti alla Quarta has instead been held within the area called Peek and Poke Retro Computer Club, a very strange place run by fans and strange technological artifacts collectors. Its retro look is perfectly adapted to Pizzanelli’s work because it brings out the most fascinating aspects of the character who glorifys the power of technology.
Zanni‘s work on the other hand was hosted by the Astronomical Museum, three miles from the centre of Rijeka. The building opened in April 2009 as a result of the enlargement of the military base built back in 1941 and now home to Rijeka’s Astronomical Society that has been operating since 1974 where they use two handmand telescopes. This fascinating place is what gives Zanni’s work a special touch.
Some of these works, like those os Martinis and Kliff, also had a physical component within the museum. Visitors were infact encouraged to come by the newsletter distributed by the museum’s staff.
Following the opening, giuded tours were organizzed in various sites. Pizzanelli and Zanni have also received attention from various audiences. The country’s cultural enthusiasm was manifested by the interest and willingness to move from several places, even on rainy days like the rainy day that they had during the opening.”
Giulia Simi:Going back to the title of this year Angles and intersections. The reference may not only be to different cultures like new media does. Rijeka is a symbolic place full of cultural and geopolitical implications. How does this affect your editorial work? How much did these intersections emerge from the work of the artists selected seeing as they come from different countries?
Elena Giulia Rossi: As you rightly point out, Rijeka, is a crucial point between east and west, and between Central Europe and the Mediterranean, its a city full of cultural and geopolitical implications. This is a particularly sensitive time because its soon to come entry in to the European Community. The Biennial Quadrilateral itself, which this year is in its third edition, is full of political significance. Quadrilateral is in fact an agreement that in 2000 saw Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary together in their mutual commitment to an ongoing cultural exchange and a facilitator of some commercial aspects, such as those relating to the transport system.
The activity reflects this commitment to cultural synergy between the four countries and the Biennale is one of the most important events. I have already mentioned some of the corners and intersections that have emerged in various jobs, such as those in the media, between the real and fiction, and between different genres. Regarding the political aspect, it appeared that all the works transcend geographical boundaries and merged into a common topic, increasingly driven by technology and communication.
A Biennial about new media has thus given the opportunity to reflect not only the cooperation between countries on a local and global level. The presence of Christiane Paul, German-born, but with an American citizenship, artistic director, has endorsed this aspect making it, in my opinion, even more interesting.