(Catania, 1974) investigates the potential of images through ceramics, engraving, collage, animation and video. Each aspect of his practice revolves around the theme of representation and explores the origins of images –natural and artificial, mineral and vegetable, scientific and mythological – aiming to create a sort of atlas of confusion. His works have been exhibited in international institutions and exhibitions, including: La Biennale di Venezia (2017); MO.CO, Montpellier, (2022); MAXXI, L'Aquila (2021); Museo del Novecento, Florence (2019); Bardo National Museum, Tunis (2019); Foundacion Arte, Buenos Aires (2016); BI- CITY Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, Shenzen (2020); Hayward Gallery, London (2022); Manif D’Art 5, The Quebec City Biennal, Canada (2010); Prague Biennale 4 (2009); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2018); Kunsthalle Winterthur, Switzerland (2016); Museo Tamayo, Mexico (2013).
Bruno’s House is a project by Salvatore Arancio, winner of the PAC2021 – Piano per l'Arte Contemporanea promoted by Direzione Generale Creatività Contemporanea of the Italian Ministry of Culture. It consists of a new body of works elaborating impressions sparked by Arancio's visit to the Bruno Weber Park, not far from Zurich. In the following conversation with MACTE assistant curator Marta Federici, the artist describes his first encounter with the place and the process of making the artworks now part of the museum's collection. Arancio discusses the intentions that inspired the project, providing a broader context on the methods and interests that guide his artistic practice.
Marta Federici: The pieces that make up your work Bruno's House—now part of the MACTE collection—are influenced by impressions collected during your visit at the Bruno Weber Park in Switzerland: a sculpture park and a house built by the Swiss architect and artist between the mid-1960s and early 2000s. How did you discover this place and what caught your attention?
Salvatore Arancio: Very often I accidentally discover places where I end up working. Sometimes when I research on the internet or when I read the news; some others if I am presenting an exhibition in a certain location, I like to ask the people I am collaborating with or those who invited me, if there is something in that area that could connect to my world and imagery. In 2016 I was preparing an exhibition at the Kunsthalle Winterthur and the artistic director advised me to go and see Bruno Weber Park. I took a day off during setup to organize this visit. For me, Bruno Weber Park belongs to a category of places I particularly love, where I find so much richness and stimulation. I'm talking about places where the standards of what usually surrounds us are lost. For me this kind of spaces expresses a strong sense of freedom, first of all the freedom that characterizes the vision of the artist who created them: in Bruno Weber's production there is a profound mix between popular mythologies and fantastic elements coming from a totally personal imagination. But I also refer to the feeling of freedom that visitors experience when crossing such a place. We don't even pay attention to it, but there are signs and symbols everywhere in our cities to direct the behavior of the inhabitants and to guide our interpretation toward understanding the correct function of the places that articulate the public space. When you arrive in a place like Bruno Weber Park those references disappear, it's like arriving in a forest, you can create your own personal geography within that space.
In that world everyone can really be what they want, the human body can enter into metamorphosis with the plant world, or any other element. This is what excites me the most, the fact that anything can happen and what you see is never what it actually is.
How did your desire to enter in dialogue with Bruno Weber Park through your workarise?
I think that some visionary places, such as the Bruno Weber Park or others I have previously encountered on my journey—such as Asger Jorn’s house museum and garden in Albissola, offer themselves to visitors as living spaces. When I find myself looking at a painting, I often think that there was a moment in which the artist decided to finish and close that work. However, to me these environments seem to be in continuous transformation: as if the authors had left elements and traces for other people in the future to re-imagine and re-elaborate them into new visions. Almost as if there was a narrative that continues to evolve. I find this aspect very important, because it says a lot about how we can preserve what has been done in the past without fetishizing it or crystallizing it in an immutable image, on the contrary, these are living places that continue to evolve with time and inspire other artists.
In regards to Bruno's House, this has also something to do with the way memoryfunctions, as several years have passed since my visit in 2016. On that occasion I had a video camera with me, so I was able to record my experience and preserve a personal vision of the place. From that trace, by playing with memory I created the forms of the pieces Bruno's House consists of, inspired by the memory of Weber's sculptures filtered through my subconscious.
In the Weber's house museum there are some murals that have a mysterious, almost magical appearance, which make me think of an imagery commonly linked to the use of hallucinogens, or, in any case, to states of altered perception of reality. I decided to use iridescent and acid colors for the glazing of the ceramic sculptures as well as in the video, referring to a certain type of culture, linked to the use of substances or practices of loss of consciousness and reconnection with other levels of reality. It is also my own interpretation of what Bruno Weber's life might have been, of his way of reaching his visions.
One of the works that make up Bruno's House is a permanent sculpture, located in the MACTE garden. How do you imagine this work to be accessed?
It is the first time I have created a public work as such. For me, the way public artworks are used is sometimes problematic, because I believe there is little respect towards the very people they should be addressed to. First, the sculpture I created for the garden of the MACTE has a function, this is a fundamental aspect for me. The sculpture is activated and completed only when someone sits on it. We must also consider that maybe one day the entrance to the museum library will be just a few meters away from it. People who will be there to study or do research will be able to take a break by stopping on that seat.
The sculpture is made of concrete blocks that mimic pieces of raw clay. Clay is a material that might seem boring but actually opens up so many possibilities. It is as if these blocks contain an impulse of internal life, as shapes emerge on its surface. The shapes are inspired by the sculptures I saw at the Bruno Weber Park, half human half vegetal. I would like these hybrid presences to inspire museum visitors, allowing them to escape for a moment from the rules of urban life. I hope that the possibility of sitting and being physically in contact with the sculpture will encourage a deeper dialogue with the work and facilitate the possibility of losing oneself in other worlds. The public sculpture does not want to impose the artist's ego, but rather the other way around, it wishes to make room for the user's imagination. I imagine this throne as a spaceship, you sit on it and take flight to access another mental space, moving away from the city outside the museum.
The sculptural elements of the seat were made in bronze, with the lost wax technique. It's the first time you're dealing with this material. How did this experience go?
Thanks to your help as well, for this project I was lucky enough to collaborate with many people open to exchange and experimentation. For the bronze sculptures I worked with a craftsman in a foundry located just outside Milan. The creation process was quite fluid, as I had no limits imposed on what I could do, I had the chance to shape to my ideas. I hope this is the beginning of a journey toward knowing a material I will be able to continue. Perhaps the thing I appreciate most about bronze is the fact that the final sculpture is adirect result of my manual skills—that is the ceramic form translated into a much more stable and consistent material. At the moment I can't say to what extent bronze will become an integral part of my language, but what I really like in the seat I created for MACTE is the contrast between the different materials, between bronze and cement/clay. I like the way the parts balance each other, in their weight they complement each other.
Bruno's House is a project realized through many collaborations, not only for the creation of the bronzes. Also for the ceramic sculptures you worked with a Hungarian craftsman specialized in a particular glazing technique, while for the video you entered in dialogue with a British musician. How did these collaborationsfeel, how important was it for you to guide the work or to be guided? Generally speaking, I also would like to know how you contextualize collaboration in your artistic practice.
First of all, you have to consider that I don't have a studio. When I am in a workshop, for example if I'm producing ceramics, I always look for people to think with, even when I'm working alone. I am interested in interacting with craftsman and people specialized in certain techniques, who perhaps have developed particular processes, as in the case of the Hungarian ceramist. To me it is very valuable to take this kind of input and open up conversations. However, I have never found the idea of working isolated in the studio attractive. My artistic practice is not collaborative from the point of view of the works’ conception, but it is a practice that feeds on collaborations, not only in the production process, but also in the relationship with the curators for example. In my experience, when you work alone it is very easy to fall into the mistake of no longer being able to read what you are doing with a detached eye. This is why I believe it is very valuable to seek for a second gaze—be it of the craftsman, the curator, or someone else—I need it to understand what others see in my work and to balance what I see.
The collaboration process with the musician who created the soundtrack for the Bruno's House video Robin Rimbaud-Scanner was a little different than my conversations with the artisans. Initially I sent him the video, he asked me for parameters to process the music,and from there on he worked independently. In this case we can say I have delegated a more distinct part of the work. This was the first of the collaborations that followed one another in the creation of Bruno's House. It went very well, there was an instant connection, so much so that I also involved him in another project immediately afterwards. You should know that I met Robin several years ago in London. At that time he worked in a library where I often went to rent audio cassettes of underground and experimental bands. Then he began his career as a musician, which progressively grew; at the same time I started my career as an artist. For a while we lost touch, then after several years we found each other again. Each of us had continued to follow what the other was doing, even if from afar. When I invited him to collaborate on Bruno's House in 2022, he had just seen my exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London. Perhaps also thanks to this common and shared background of listening to music, Robin understood me immediately, he immediately grasped the sound atmospheres that I wanted to create, so to combine it with the images of the video I edited. Obviously there was a final editing phase guided by my indications, but it all happened very spontaneously.
In 2024, your personal exhibition will be held at MACTE and the various pieces of Bruno's House will be all displayed in the museum spaces. To conclude I wanted to ask you if you already have any ideas or wishes for this next step of the project.
For now I don't want to reveal much, but one thing that I certainly have in mind concerns the use of recyclable low-environmental-impact material for the display. I would like all the materials from the exhibition to be able to be reused by the museum in the future. I find that very often there is a strong contradiction between how issues relating to ecology and environmental crisis are discussed in the context of artistic and cultural programming, and the way we work—and this is problematic. I would also like the installation to generate contrasts among the materials my sculptures are made of. For example, I would like to combine the ceramics glazing, which are extremely precious to the eye, with very raw untreated recyclable materials.
Interview recorded by Marta Federici, Assistant Curator at MACTE
Photos taken by Gianluca Di Ioia, except the last one by Nadia Vitone.
The sculpture is permanent and can be found on the grounds of MACTE
English translation by Giulia Crispiani
The project won the PAC2021 – Piano per l’Arte Contemporanea promoted by the Direzione Generale Creatività Contemporanea of the Italian Ministry of Culture.