Giorgio Andreotta Calò: looking through the window

The winner of this year's Italian Contemporary Art Prize — assigned by MAXXI to promote new talents in the contemporary scene — forges intense relationships between the things linked to a specific space.

You must look more at a place to get a better grasp of it is a useful approach for architects and urban designers alike but also applies across the board to mere observers. "Looking," in this sense, means accepting a thing's existence, be it a detail, a piece of reality, a district, a panorama or a whole city.

Giorgio Andreotta Calò's work takes this consideration as the basis from which to explore the interpretation of landscape in a broad sense, adding or subtracting factors each time, often rare experiences, in order to develop a thought rather than interpreting it.

Martina Angelotti: Prima che sia notte [Before nightfall], your installation and winner of the Italian Contemporary Art Prize, seems to forge an intense relationship between the things linked to a specific space, the words used to name it and the images projected onto it. What did you see when you "looked" through the large MAXXI picture-window for the first time?
Giorgio Andreotta Calò: That first time, I looked through the eyes of others, those of visitors to room 5, pressed against the large window. Seemingly indifferent to the works on display, they were glued to the window, staring at the cityscape before them, silent and deadened by that thick glass. They were astonished, carried away by the exterior and the void beneath their feet. I was fascinated by the idea of being inside that thought in that precise moment. My immediate idea was to bring that cityscape inside the museum and create a space in which the thought, triggered by the contemplation, could assume concrete form and somehow create a space of the consciousness.
Photo by Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Photo by Giorgio Andreotta Calò
This installation is based on the longstanding principle of the pinhole camera. As in many of your works, we perceive a certain fondness for an agé or decadent sentiment inspired by the "outdated". The way the work is formally conveyed is, of course, linked to the medium as also with Sunset Boulevard, made in Los Angeles in 2010. What type of attraction and what meaning do you relate to this specific choice of language?
It is not exactly an attraction for an obsolete medium but the specific choice of a medium that would serve the purpose and drag the picture of the present inside the museum, offering onlookers a present time that has an inevitably slow passage. I am more interested in the paradox of adopting a system so old that it stems from the origins of figurative art to create a contemporary vision of the present, and to do it in a place given over to the art of our times.

The big black box that you invite the public to enter to enjoy the view of an occurrence is conceived as "a place within a place", in which every single detail participates in the construction of the space recreated; the handrail marking the perimeter to be followed drags the unwitting visitors and leads them into the depths of an imagination…
Actually, that handrail was forced on me by the museum.
Photo by Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Photo by Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Well, I agree with them because it is an inadvertent success!
It was dangerous for visitors to move about in a completely dark space but, in my view, it is this darkness that favours a temporary loss of the perception of space, its limits and its masses. Because, to some degree, that black box is the negation of the architecture, that architecture by Zaha Hadid that is so present and lies so heavy in our memory.

It is as if, for the first time, you wanted to help the public experience movement instead of the norm, which is you doing it yourself on your long wanderings…
This work certainly provides visitors with the direct physical experience; indeed, it forces this experience on them, which ends with the act of seeing.

One of the reasonings behind this work, like others of yours (e.g. the "inflamed" buildings), is a focus on the idea of "sculpture" seen as the crystallisation of time and space (I am thinking of Joseph Beuys), an expedient by which to trigger the dark side of the sculpture, as when you humanise a building and make it "talk", or you transform an action into the evocation of something else…
I believe that the strength in this work lies in its ability to put onlookers before the passing of time. In this case, it is not its crystallisation nor is it frozen in a form. The image changes every fraction of a second and cannot be fixed in a precise and limited segment of space and time. There are no pictures of what you see inside. I wanted to allow each visitor's memory to freeze their own moment of that vision. I would not speak of this work in sculptural terms although the form of the installation has strong connotations in this sense. I see the sculpture as the result of an action on material and every action gives the material a new identity and form, transfiguring it.
My immediate idea was to bring that cityscape inside the museum and create a space in which the thought, triggered by the contemplation, could assume concrete form and somehow create a space of the consciousness
Photo by Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Photo by Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Indeed, here we have its "dark" side…
This principle should be applied on a broad scale, starting from a fragment of nature and on up to a whole landscape. From an object or an artefact to a mansion or a city. This process, the action, whether sharp or extended in time and space, enters into the folds, the history and the original form of what I use as sculptural material, penetrating it and reactivating intrinsic aspects, highlighting them and sublimating them, providing those who experience it with a previously unseen form and vision. The action that is consumed in a determined space and time, that segment of space and time, is crystallised and manifested in the material and form of the sculpture, which holds on to it forever.
Photo by Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Photo by Giorgio Andreotta Calò
One thing I really appreciated in this work was the decision to avoid any kind of hearing experience. Often, when badly used, sound risks adding false interpretations, soiling the principle of the transfiguration and remaining a mere frill. What do you think?
The use of sound was extensively discussed and debated but, in the end, the experience remains silent because there was no need to add another level of interpretation. The building itself becomes a body that sees and "hears".

Instead, you only added a material element, water, (the mirror, reflection, amniotic fluid….) which, as in many other works, becomes a distinguishing statement.
The water was necessary to reverse the image on the wall, a visual and mental reflection. That mirror of water condenses the whole work. It cannot be grasped straight away but it slowly appears before our eyes as they grow accustomed to the darkness. This prompts us to reflect but the water also becomes a sort of boundary between us and the image. If we move physically towards the image and step into the water, we break the mirror and the fixedness of the image itself.
Portrait of Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Portrait of Giorgio Andreotta Calò

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