The following interview was published on Rapporto Confidenziale, nr 30 (Dec/Jan 2011) pg 26-32 – http://www.rapportoconfidenziale.org/?p=11508
Moving images can take place in many different ways, there is no use in limiting such passion to the cinematographic world because a (contemporary) cinemagoer finds fulfilment to his addiction in such a multitude of expressions. “Either I have my dose or I haven’t”, Jean Epstein used to say about cinematographic serials of the ’10s. It is fair to open the mind and break down the walls that limit pleasure in unnecessary preset categories. Such categories are only useful to Arts’ “market” and street markets. Lately cinematographic magazines have been trying to redefine their taste in order to extend their boundaries as well as the number of readers.
Francesca Fini is an image-woman: she creates (moving, static, real and synthetic) images; she is an art performer and filmmaker, interaction designer and (hyper) graphic dealing with every kind of hybridizations and contaminations. During her life she has been trying her hand at several media. Her first work was the autobiographical novel “Thus Spoke Mickey Mouse” (1996), then she began to work in the fields of cinema and TV.
Her multidisciplinary formation was the driving force that led Francesca to find her own original way of artistic expression. She considers her own body like a sensible entity helping her exploring the ancestral (non)modernity of men’s (or better, women’s) needs and their representation. Her body is also, and mainly, a battlefield in (and through) which it is possible to experience actions and gestures becoming “otherness”. The body as a hybrid artefact whose conceptual technological basis is inspired by cyberpunk philosophy (feminist low-tech based on Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto”, a real beacon for Francesca Fini).
Francesca Fini’s moving images are provocative devices calling up passions and emotions. They show a body amplified by technology whose animal and biological nature is left untouched. Her well-made videos are not mere recordings but short movies full of amazing and captivating genius
Alessio Galbiati: Today video art is a definition including a multitude of different artistic forms; video art attracts things “other” than herself, as any language does, embraces, re-elaborates and transforms other languages and art forms. Since it was born, with the early works by Nam June Paik, up to now video art as always been everything and its opposite. With Francesca Fini’s videos people can experience audio/video (cinematic) actualizations of unique artistic performances. Indeed, your videos are recordings of unique artistic performances. They are often conceived for the digital eye of a camera the only partaker admitted. So, what is video art for you, and would you define your artistic quest?
Francesca Fini: What you said about video art is correct, indeed I won’t try to find definitions or make forecasts like many others do. Recently, my attention has been caught by a strange phenomenon – while the Guggenheim has advertised a contest on Youtube aiming at selecting about twenty well-made (technically and aesthetically) videos (snobbishly, some youtubers have even talked of “i-pod commercials”), others think that ideas are the only important thing, celebrating aesthetical and technical roughness as a value (as someone says: if you take nice photos you are a good photographer, if you take bad photos you are an artist).
I have heard great representatives of the world of art celebrating and disregarding Bill Viola in a very convincing way. So, what you said is correct: video art is everything and its opposite. For me video art is art to the nth power thanks to its ability to catalyze languages. I mean it is a mined ground for brains because you don’t have to venture on it with your brain, but with your instinct. A “Karate kid-like” instinct that makes you float while listening to the space with your eyes shut. It is the main enquiry instrument of contemporary art. Sometimes you feel something is deeply contemporary, even if you can’t understand why, while something else isn’t. You feel that something is cutting edge, video art, while something else isn’t. This kind of mystic instinct is the key to understand video art.
In this moment of my career I am just moving instinctively in a borderland between video art and performance art. My need to tell a story – and make it immortal through a video – is the product of a personal, abrupt, incidental and unique experience – the performance art. Performance art, as well as my way to lose myself in a cathartic experience with unpredictable implications, allows me to express my loyalty to the world through genuineness. At the same time, the visual box in which my performance moves and is immortalized, lets me be loyal to myself and my unreserved love for Beauty.
An example of such necessity becoming method is Oasi nel deserto, a video inspired to surrealism, in which at three a.m. I drag a deckchair around Tor Bella Monaca dressed like a diva of the ʽ50s. When I touch a pitch-black wall with my hand, it magically opens revealing the projection of a sunny beach. I sit down on the deckchair and enjoy the artificial sunlight mixed with the graffiti on the broken-down wall. I think that the message is clear, in every desert there is a little oasis, and it is a metaphor of imagination evoked by the transitory virtual scratch represented by the video, and by the immortal scratch of an unknown artist. At the same time, in every oasis there is a little desert because during such an unrepeatable performance I am all alone. And in that moment the performance is addressed only to me and the camera.
Alessio Galbiati: How do you create your works? Would you try to explain your “autarchic” attitude to production, mentioning and describing the home made studio where most of your works come to life?
Francesca Fini: “Autarchy” is a crucial feature in my latest videos War, The Shadow and Western meat market – the birth, and is becoming a peculiarity of my creative activity. Thanks to my background in audiovisual field, my technical know-how has improved as well as my narrative skill (and professional bias) that inevitably influence my works. Conceiving a performance or an installation also implies the way it will be caught and divulgated. My works are video-performances in many ways – on one hand they often include the video and the interaction with the video, and on the other hand they will be divulgated in an audiovisual way. This means that performance art (temporary language par excellence) becomes the unique and unrepeatable experience I share with the final user. That’s why the audiovisual works I create belong to the variegated world of video art.
Obviously, I didn’t made it all up. My works are very close to Vito Acconci’s situationist research on making video art through himself and his own body.
Since I presume to be one of the very few people who can really shot a performance-art work and usually the protagonist of my works, I have to face the physical paradox to stay before and behind the camera at the same time. The photographic studio I have realized along with my boyfriend in my home’s basement is the symbol of my artistic independence. It is a sort of performative box completely covered with black cotton absorbing light and isolating action. Tripods with lights, microphones and HD pocket-size cameras are all around the place. Instead, I shot the global action with my Sony HDV.
I use a cuff where action takes place that helps me directing cameras and lights, then I switch on this infernal machine and the performance begins. The first time the performance takes place I am alone with the camera in the performative box, usually it’s by night and in complete silence. The only rehearsals before that moment just occur in my mind, apart from technical tests involving the devices I have to use. Obviously, I will repeat (maybe many times) the performance in theatres and art galleries, before an audience. But it will never taste the same again, it will never be like the first time when I performed for myself.
War is the example of a performance born and conceptualized during a video experiment. My idea was to fill the room with colourful balloons with paint inside, and then pop them. In that situation, I had no idea of what that was driving at. Action painting was my reference, but nothing more concrete than that. I wanted to find what that experience would end in. I set up the room and filled the balloons with paint. The first explosions made me feel like I was killing someone, the paint was all over my hands and dress. The balloons where hard to break. I had to squeeze them with all my strength, I actually had to “strangle” them. Each explosion was so tiring, I felt drained, shocked as if I was doing something horrible. But I could not stop. That was how War came to life.
Alessio Galbiati: Beside your performances, as a producer you don’t leave anything to chance. You always use (more than one) good cameras, your photography is complex, and you pay great attention to the audio. Do you always do everything by yourself?
Francesca Fini: I have studied as director of photography for digital productions, I am a sound designer and video editor. So, I look after photography, editing, and mix the sound. Specifically, the sound of my latest productions is live thanks to interaction design devices. I usually work alone on my performances, but I often let other performers take part to the projects.
Alessio Galbiati: Western Meat Market – the birth is your last creation. A 7-minute video in which you explore the idea of meat handling pieces of it. The context you perform in is an interaction design installation. Contact and sensitive experience generates images and sounds in this installation. It has a strong emotional and visual impact, and the video summons up your artistic skills performance, interaction design, video art, direction, sound editing, and live cinema. Tell us about the guidelines of such creation, and how you realized it.
Francesca Fini: The birth is the first of a set of performances I use to tell the relation of our culture with the idea of meat, liberated from its sexual references and conceived as the physical and material essence of otherness, the space it occupies, its smell in the air, and its interaction with us. The meat is made up of everything, it is a conductor of worlds we try to interact and negotiate with. Through interaction design, I try to recount such short-circuit represented by the touch and recognition of the otherness, the world, that represents something elusive and undeniable.
In this performance, I am before an altar wrapped up with foil. The altar is supported by stacks of books and candles representing the lights of reason that Western countries use to exorcise the fear of the void.
I have a low-voltage electrode in the arm polarizing all my body, an electric flux goes along it. The other pole is attached to the foil covering the altar. The circuit closes as I touch the meat, sending a signal to a digital synthesizer that translates it into sounds and images. It is kind of giving that meat the chance to speak and sing. At the beginning the melody seems lifeless, a mere sequence of piano notes. Then it turns in a symphony. Every touch produces the call of a different animal trapped in a decaying ecosystem. An interesting part of the performance is what remains unseen, what’s next, when I wash this purified meat I gave its last song of death – I offer it for dinner to some friends of mine.
Alessio Galbiati: I really find interesting the key importance you give to human body in your creations. It is subject and object at the same time, a structure on which you can build a new possible reality. A body, always a feminine body and (almost) ever yours, immersed in a technological reality, enlightened by Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg theory”. Such body artistically materializes Haraway’s theory: “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” Do you try to make a research/inquiry on possible forms of the cybernetic human being?
Francesca Fini: “Being cyborg is a 21st-century condition, not a lifestyle identity option” (Geert Lovink, Dark Fiber). I quote Geert Lovink because we are all cyborg today, whether we like it or not. We have learnt to amplify and sharpen our senses aided by some cybord prosthesis without realizing the meaning of our everyday gestures. In a creation of mine I perform the visual theme of the head replaced by a TV display. Starting from my face, I move the TV display over my body. As in a pop radiography, the monitor reproduces my body part “framed”: the heart unveils and beats, the womb opens revealing a secret laying inside of me.
Many people said that such an image, such a mix between the image on the display and my body, the endless reflection between real and virtual shook them. But they did not realize it was the mix of their everyday life, the same thing that happens when they give birth to their avatars, their chats or social network, before a desk-top (not even fixed on their face or their body, it is their inalienable prosthesis, a fake leg they can remove before going to sleep).
I know people who can’t move around their city without a satellite navigator, or lose their head when they can’t find their mobile phone because they can’t “connect” with the world. Furthermore, world has no more a physical meaning, but is an intertwining of virtual experiences, communication and information we access to thank to the previously mentioned prosthesis amplifying ourselves. They feel like dying when they lose it.
I am a cyborg, my body already belongs to reality as well as fiction. But my mission is to become the perfect cyborg, the self-aware cyborg, who is not dominated by prosthesis but bends them to her will. The fact that I’m woman has a crucial role in the goal of stealing the thunderbolt from Zeus’ hand, because the hunger for something forbidden is stronger and stronger.
Alessio Galbiati: Nothing is predetermined about your works, everything is unrepeatable/unique. You set up situations, sets, and use technologies that dominate action. You turn on the cameras and shot. Improvisation is the key, but inside a predetermined “system”. George Brecht would call it “strict randomness”. I think that the tension between order and chaos is a fascinating point of your creations. Such tension takes place through amazingly powerful moving images; this is possible thanks to the uniqueness (typical of dreams?) they are made up of. How do you manage with such a working method, and why do you recklessly search for it?
Francesca Fini: That’s my obsession. In arts, obsession is a necessity as my great friend and artist Giovanni Albanese says. The balance I found between order and chaos is my magic formula to such obsession, and gives me the force to create something worth divulgating. Something in which genuineness, truth and beauty (which is synonymous with order for me) can coexist.
As I said at the beginning, I don’t conceive the purely conceptual art, the striking performative gesture, but I do not surrender to the hypnosis generated by most contemporary art easy game that has an end in itself. There must be a profound, powerful truth, a deafening voice modulated inside a perfect score. I search for a balance because that’s where the most fervent fire burns, the fire that strikes straight to the heart. All the rest upsets and frightens me. In this sense I am a creature close to the outdated Aristotle’s philosophy.
Alessio Galbiati: Your videos, your video performances are freely available on the Internet. That is not a foregone choice since you are a regular presence at art galleries, festivals and museums why did you make that choice? Does it find its motivations in divulgation/promotion, or there’s something more behind?
Francesca Fini: I firmly believe in sharing images, impulses, solicitations, and ideas. Everyone can take cue from my works, experimentations, maybe in order to develop something different and more complex.
Alessio Galbiati: What “real” realities would you suggest to an internaut willing to have a blowout of the best contemporary video art?
Francesca Fini: It is really hard to choose, there are lots of good things on the web. Actually, Ubuweb is a good site, with its huge file on experimental art and avant-garde. There are lots of must-see videos, from Acconci’s works to the amazing movie on Marina Abramovic Balka Baroque, to the latest mix between visual art and commercials by Murakami. Another interesting file, more specifically video-art-oriented, is Tank TV. Last but not the least, the famous Perpetual Art Machine.
As for performance art, I suggest the Contemporary Performance Network, where you can meet artists, take part to artist calls, and discover artistic venues all over the world.Otherwise, those who are fans of contaminations between live art, experimental dance and technology can find an interesting network, DanceTech.net, with its web TV for insiders which is a great inspiration for quality production.