Naples Academy of Fine Arts is one of the oldest and most prestigious Italian academies. It was founded in 1752 by Charles III of Borbone with the aim to “educate” young artists. Until a few decades ago, it was the only academy in the South of Italy.
The Academy of Fine Arts is an important place to study arts in Naples and in Southern Italy. New generations of artists educated there and its foreign professors created a great melting pot of culture. Nowadays, Naples Academy educates around 1,500 students and aims to train future artistic creators, not only in the field of representational arts, but also in the field of creativity applied to the use of new media, graphic design, renovation, and art education in a place where technology and creativity coexist together.
Part of this scenario is the NTA (New Technologies of Art) a three-years course that trains students in the field of artistic research with the aim to bring new and fresh solutions in the fields of new technologies and communication. As Giovanna Cassese, the Academy’s Director, points out, “The course is really important, new technologies have always found its own place in the Academy. That’s the reason why such courses deserve our support. We want to train artists that will be able to excel in every artistic field, in terms of research and innovation, which also include the field of new media art.”
Last year I was lucky enough to attend this course, which represents a great exception in the public education panorama. It is like an excellent laboratory in the Mediterranean area where teaching means also participation, daily knowledge sharing, circulation of and simultaneous access to information.
It is probably the only public reality in Southern Italy to offer a range of knowledge that can combine different fields like programming, designing, planning and realization of new technologies specific interventions, designing and realization of audiovisual and multi-media interactive works. Such reality can use artistic experimentation with specific technologic and multi-media languages, and can be applied to the fields of digital, multi-media, interactive and performative visual arts, but also to the fields of cinema and web.
“The project started well since the beginning, based on great amount of research and supported by an intense work of coordination. Through the years we have created a team of extremely competent professors able to convince students to participate with passion” said the director of the school. And he added: “For all these reasons the NTA Course is a project with great perspectives of growth. The fact that such course already produced and keeps producing a lot of good work that was awarded with several prizes it is certainly extremely valuable”.
At the end of the academic year and after the project Uomo 2.0 presented in May at the Naples French Institute, we can talk about this experience with Franz Iandolo, Professor of Techniques of New Integrated Media and NTA coordinator. The Uomo 2.0 project is an experiment that revealed NTA’s real nature. No works were shown, only NTA ideas, concepts, and dialectical processes.
Pasquale Napolitano: Franz, how did the NTA project begin? Why did you decide to start this project?
Franz Iandolo: It came along naturally! Despite the opportunities coming from the process of evolution of the Academy of Fine Arts, we felt it was natural to find a new path for an experimentation that was already taking place in some labs, particularly the one I came from (Quarta Pittura with Nini Sgambati). The borders between arts have been increasingly overcome by experiences able to integrate different categories e. g. the Fluxus experience during the ’60s in the name of what they called “total art”, a combination of music, theatre, cinema, with happenings and technologic experimentations.
Such artists started a new way to make art, a way we are still covering. If art is communication, it is extremely important for us to study the new possibilities offered by the web and new communication technologies. We depart from the subject of integrated digital media, which is also the subject of the course I teach
Pasquale Napolitano: How would you explain a special project like NTA, especially to those who do not know it?
Franz Iandolo: It is a three-year course (followed by a two-year specialization) with laboratory experience at its core. Students’ academic life focuses on the skills they can learn during the courses. These courses, like for example, Multi-media Design, Digital video, Computer graphic, Video-installation, Sound design, Net art, Web design, and more, are then brought into the laboratory experience with the aim to experiment and create new works that we can experiment on the real world. The goal of this institution is to educate artists to develop a special care for the use of new technologies.
Pasquale Napolitano: During its first three years how did NTA develop?
Franz Iandolo: The process has been difficult, but also extremely exciting. Despite the uneasy conditions of Italian public education and the lack of funding, the director Giovanna Cassese has strongly supported the development of the laboratory experience and our work. The success achieved by our job allowed us to acquire technologies and materials for our experimentations and, most of all, students “devoted” to these kind of activities. We started with 25 students and now we have than 200 to follow this three-year course!
In 2008 some works created by our students won national and international awards. Sin-tesi won the first prize for “Technological Arts” at the “Premio Nazionale delle Arti” in Catania, while Uomo Globale, was displayed at the Ercolano Virtual Museum of Archaeology (MAV).
With the collaboration of the Department of Sociology of Naples University and the Digital Cultures’ Sociology course held by Prof. De Kerckhove, we organized an international convention attended by the universities of Nice, Barcelona, and Bilbao.
In 2010 we worked on an experimentation that involved all the students and created the work Insert Scorie a combination of several skills (and teaching activities) that was presented and showed during the final exhibition of the “Premio Nazionale delle Arti”. It was also named to the special mention for the quality of the experimentation.
Pasquale Napolitano: What kind of artist do you train during the three-year course at NTA?
Franz Iandolo: The course is focused on experimentations in the field of technologies and trains students to practice a form of art that uses technology as a medium of communication. Like in the case of Io mi rifiuto, experimentation born during the Net Art course, the course focuses on the system of viral communications, social networks and web 2.0.
Pasquale Napolitano: What is the aesthetic output that a student (but also a professor) has to face as his own aesthetic and technical goal?
Franz Iandolo: We think we already achieved that goal. In the field of research, there is no limit and goals are countless. I think that different professionals should start to dialogue, and I am sure that a course like ours can offer a laboratory where engineering, medicine, physics, chemistry and humanistic subjects, but also sociology (we are in contact with professors like De Kerckhove) can gather together and begin a process able to put theory into practice. We should look at the United States, where this process is already happening, and work on this opportunity that creates amazing possibilities of collective and shared growth.
Pasquale Napolitano: In your opinion, what is the most important project of the Academy?
Franz Iandolo: With no doubts, our last project Uomo 2.0. However, it could also be the first one, Sin-tesi, the thesis of some graduates, a project that started our first virtual journey. Students theorized a small craft and then left, like real internet users, to discover the web. After that, every year we improved our production which has become always more complex. Uomo Globale however was definitely the turning point: a device that we called ‘flux conveyor’, able to convey data fluxes from the web, and display them as images on a system of 33 monitors, each one dedicated to a single part of the human body, in order to create a body made of thousands of different images uploaded in internet and captured by the device.
We were wondering: ‘How is our body today? Considering the complexity of our lives, and the massive use of technological prosthesis that empower ourselves, like mobile phones, screens, debit cards, but also airplanes, robots (also in the sense of remote microsurgery), computers, lasers etc. how could we describe such complexity that goes beyond the limits of our bodies? The answer is the Net. For example, the arm is made by five monitors – one for the shoulder, one for the arm, one for the elbow, one for the forearm, one for the hand.
The monitors are connected to computers connected to the net. The computers are equipped with a simple firefox Plug-in (cooliris) which is, like every searching tool, instructed to search photos and videos of that part of the body, e.g. the hand. In real time it conveys the images to the related monitor. The result is an image of a body made of thousands of different bodies coming from all over the net.
The hands of the world slide on the monitor, creating a more complex idea of that anatomical part. A kaleidoscopic human figure takes place right in front of our eyes.
Pasquale Napolitano: What is the educational method of NTA?
Franz Iandolo: That is the most complex thing we are working on! We are slowly trying this practical system, and that’s why all the professors, including you, have accepted the responsibility of constant exchange of ideas between each other and the students, in order to develop the pattern. Our LAB provides a big open space, used in a non-traditional way, it is open 24/7, and professors and students share it and work there together, according to their schedule.
There, students can benefit from meeting with their professors, find a place where to read, have a snack, or simply exchange a few words with their colleagues. Everyone has the chance to work on anything, if they want to. Students can attend any lab course, independently from their year of enrolment. Our principle is to offer horizontal access to information (and training) and work on a common ground.
Our last work, Uomo 2.0, confirms our method and efforts. At Le Grenoble, the Naples French Institute, we presented six laboratories whose borders have been overcome by the transversality of their single components. Six “flash-labs” was held by Iandolo with Massimo Vicinanza, Professor of Digital Photography – Maurizio Chiantone, Professor of Sound Design – Salvatore Manzi, Professor of Video-Installation – Adriana De Manes, Professor of Multi-media Design, and me as Professor of Digital Video. Micro laboratories were set in different places of the French institute and had a double function, one specular to the other. On one side they supervised the correct functioning of the “devices” of Uomo 2.0; and on the other side they tried to improve the project with new perspectives through the participation of the audience.
It was a study focused on designing and analysing the aspects that make new media to be the access to spaces of knowledge elaboration, and not only a simple access to technologic transmission of information. It was like a mission, a study on man and his ability to grow and evolve. Moreover, we were able to give the public a more complex image of our research, based on fields of experimentation that constantly communicate with each other. An image of joy and vitality in the artistic process.