After an interesting fall chat with Filippo Minelli, an artist native of Brescia, class of 1983, I have intentionally decided not to propose a study based on the content of his work, a work connected to the society, time and history of the people and places encountered. Minelli’s artistic research mostly requires the beholder’s acceptance of her own role, that is, – even in contemplation – to take a stance towards a specific way to explore the world, its vision and communication.
A first acquaintance of the works of Filippo Minelli leads us – through the images and visions that he is proposing – to the common denominator that brings them either close together or far from each other, though always making them interact with each other: the watershed “word / silence“, is a mode of examination chosen to explore and create, not to attribute a meaning to existence.
Starting from the work Sound (2005), where the word rises from the combustion of some trunks in a wheat field, we can visibly understand that the photography restore the action, which in turn produces the verbalization. Reading the sound within the image allows the conceptual passage from the transliteration of vision to the meaningful whole, clear and sharp, where word, meaning and representation erupt.
This cleverness is the basis of Filippo Minelli‘s study, one that constantly processes the visible and the audible, adding evidence to the context of the real, one that let all its obvious presence and contextual absence emerge.
Contradictions (various locations, since 2007), as part of the “word,” is a series in continuous evolution, where the ample writing comes powerfully into contact with the natural landscape / urban area in which it is located; for instance, the word “second life” may be placed on a rusty plate on the edge of a rural area near Phnom Penh in Cambodia (2007). In the series Lines (various locations in Europe, since 2009) in the bed of “silence”, is drawn a continuous line that runs and stops and bifurcates in infinite other lines, in a race between nature and urbanization, on concrete walls, industries, waves of galvanized iron, snow. And on snow one can’t hear.
Giventhis approach,I spokewith FilippoMinelli about how new media are located at the margins of his work, although they constitute aspects on which he constantly reflects to congeal his research.
Silvia Scaravaggi: Filippo, let’s start from the origin. You have studied new media for the arts: what did you achieve with this education?
Filippo Minelli: I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in 2006, in the most sterile environment I’ve ever seen after the Gobi Desert. We shuffled between disorganization and avant-garde, in those typical Mediterranean rhythms, and I tried to learn as much as I could from the students ahead of me or from the few teachers available. The field of my studies has made me more sensitive to the implications of the dissemination of technology in people’s everyday lives. I chose this type of education to have new experimental tools. I got confirmation that the thing that interests me the most is to create, no matter what I find in any given circumstance.
Silvia Scaravaggi: What does the binary “word/silence” mean in your work? How do you express it? What is the message you want to send?
Filippo Minelli: The combination “word / silence” is a synthesis of the present day, of the era of communication with its consequent accumulation of data and the need to take the distance from that life. I have no intention to transmit any message, the artist’s role has always been to filter reality and present it for what it is, using the means available. Writing, building, photographing and filming words and silence for me have the same value as it was sculpting a scene of war on a column during the Roman age or painting in the Renaissance. A subjective point of view exists, but it is no longer the primary aim.
Silvia Scaravaggi: How is reality exposed in the works of the section Speech? How does it change?
Filippo Minelli: It’s a simple and bare reality. Someone called it “disarming”. I try to play with the balance between the simplicity of reality and the complexity of the nuances as numerous as the experiences of my work’s viewer. The same happens both in real life and in the documentation of actions. Reality does not change its course, it’s always the same, and to say the truth, it doesn’t need us. It’s my eye that has changed, my approach and my personality, as it always happens when you experience new things. Before I concentrated on urban aspects and communication because I felt they were very present, now I’m interested in many more things.
Geographically, my eye has shifted from entire nations to border areas, the specificities of places, ethnic groups, traditions “not-yet-institutionalized”, and I think that my attitude is visible also in the approach that I use towards the media: I’m curious to face the spaces between photography and performance, interventions that cross public life and the virtual world, the search for beauty or controversy, without shutting myself into a specific classification.
The cost reduction of technology on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the acquired ability to reproduce almost every idea, thanks to new technologies, are the perfect combinations for those, who, like me, are constantly distracted by what is around them and look for an approach that could be defined artisanal, based on mastering the use of various media not as the means to an end, but simply as tools.
Silvia Scaravaggi: Have you explored IT and web language deeply in CTRL+ALT+DELETE (2007), in Contradictions, in Google world (2008-2009). How do these works speak to one another?
Filippo Minelli: They are works that take on a tangible level all those things that in a collective thought are specific to the ether, such as the Internet, or things that are seen as intangible realities ruled by unknown and unpredictable dynamics. These are all very different kind of interventions in terms of their meaning and approach, yet are all representative of the same confused historical period of social experimentation, based on contradictions and not on fixed points.
We have not yet come to consider new technologies as a simple tool for speeding up processes in a methodical way, maybe share information in an organized manner and without private interests behind it. There is a religious approach with lots of hope about improving the human condition, veneration of the afterlife (the Internet as an abstract entity) and expectation towards the future, which drive away reasoning and blur objectively positive aspects, that could be achieved in terms of redistributed knowledge, a first step to the redistribution of the rest.
Silvia Scaravaggi: What is it that you don’t like about the present attitude towards new media?
Filippo Minelli: New media are one more set of tools that I wanted to know and that I will continue to learn to have more creating instruments at my disposal. Mastering techniques is very important, and knowing how to create interactive environments offers very wide possibilities of expression.
However, I have no fetishistic interest and I am in no rush to make new media my favorite instrument. There are many examples of technology used for artistic purposes, often interpreted as mere playgrounds for adults, and for this very reason they are adopted just for the little knowledge necessary to evaluate them beyond their novelty. In art as in life I am firmly confident that, when you have nothing to say, it is better to shut up rather than make further noise, even though it might seem a fine thing to do.
Silvia Scaravaggi:Your works passes through the web, in the sense that you enter the web to take note, leaving evidence of what you do, and thanks to the net, you can get ideas for your research. How important is the performative / realization aspect as well as reproduction? Does this occur by means of privileged channels such as, for example, photography?
Filippo Minelli:I like to live and create the conditions for my actions without relying on institutional and exhibition synergies, so if I were to divide it into percentages I would say 70% performative and 30% reproduction. Photography is a medium I am very fond of, because it is a form of direct circulation but not as invasive as the video, and it is the best tool to document most of my production. I’d rather have a reason to choose a medium over the other, and until I don’t have the need to use something complex, I prefer using the simplest means.
Silvia Scaravaggi: In which sense is video invasive? How did you use it?
Filippo Minelli: video is time-based, decided by those who film it, sometimes it doesn’t give you any chance to assimilate its content and sometimes it forces you to give it that irritating attention often given to children who throw a tantrum. It often has also audio. From this point of view, photography is more gentle, it doesn’t expect more than what you give. I’m working on a series of videos on the theme of perception, focusing on the subjectivity of the future and at the moment I used the video almost without editing, trying to maintain the timing of normal life, in order to emphasize the wait for an event that doesn’t exist.
Silvia Scaravaggi: And do you have a privileged relation with the polaroid ?
Filippo Minelli: Part of my job implies traveling. I use a polaroid especially in these situations. I often travel to satisfy my curiosity and to find suitable places for my interventions. During my journeys I commission artifacts ( such as flags of my current project Flags) and I collect, find or buy as many local items or items that reminisce its past. The polaroid photos are snapshots and they are experienced as a single element of the place where they are taken. Therefore, they belong to that place, a link that is not created in the photograph taken, but developed / printed elsewhere.
Silvia Scaravaggi: In 2011 you carried out a project built as a blog Chemoterapy update (http://chemotherapyupdate.tumblr.com). I would like to talk about it, because I think it has extremely effective and interesting contents as a strategy for rejection of a disconsolate / comforting experience.
Filippo Minelli: Chemotherapy Update actually was simply a blog to update my relatives, friends and all the people that I could not see for months, on the status of a tumour that I discovered to have in 2010. It was a therapeutic way to keep the brain busy with funny things, not to fall into the abyss of self pity or in religious comfort so in vogue among the onco-haematological party. As I said I do not want a privileged instrument with which to create and at that moment in my hands there were only a pajamas, an iPhone and hope to come back to life.
I decided to put on my pajamas, and, being in one of those situations, when even the smallest things seem important, I started using an application created to lay out posters for events, and I documented the experience of assembling images and writings. Having a beginning and an end (thankfully positive) and a specific topic, I can understand how now it may be considered a “project”.
Silvia Scaravaggi: If the project is accidental, the process isn’t. In many cases you’re continuing the “series”, I mean for example, Shapes and Lines that are part of the section Silence. In this, processuality plays a leading role.
Filippo Minelli: The process is something that interests me greatly because it offers a chance to grasp the truth and completeness in the various nuances of a creation, instead of presenting an object or idea as the only possibility. In Shapes (a series of Silence, begun in 2010, which is based on the visualization of colored gases in nature) the process becomes also a technical and complex matter because you have to know how to choose the weather, try to predict the changes or take a moment to get the desired result. I’m currently studying flows of hot air to get the result of stillness / movement that I also want in a video, but it is very difficult because you just need a change of pressure or humidity to derail all that you have prepared.
Silvia Scaravaggi: What is the difference between processing silence and processing words?
Filippo Minelli: There is no difference: words communicate a process and you must therefore choose the best time, place and manner. Silence is related to the need to carve out such an intimate space and, even here, not all environments and times are suitable. Also when it is a provocation, because this is enclosed in suitable time, ways and places.