Pawe? Althamer Almech, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, October 2011–January 2012 © Pawel Althamer. Commissioned by the Deutsche Bank in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim Photo: Mathias Schormann

Maria Barnas in gesprek met Massimiliano Gioni

Issue no6
Doorbraak + Aanwinsten 21 musea
Pawe? Althamer Almech, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, October 2011–January 2012 © Pawel Althamer. Commissioned by the Deutsche Bank in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim Photo: Mathias Schormann

Hij is een Italiaans curator die woont en werkt in New York; zij een Nederlands kunstenaar en schrijver die momenteel vanuit Berlijn opereert. Ze ontmoeten elkaar in een paleis van roze marmer in Berlijn om in gebrekkig Engels te spreken over de door hem gemaakte centrale tentoonstelling van de Biënnale van Venetië. (Dit artikel is gepubliceerd in Metropolis M Nr 3-2013)

Ik spreek Massimiliano Gioni na een persconferentie in de Italiaanse ambassade aan de Tiergarten in Berlijn, een uit roze marmer opgetrokken paleis, dat - naar de verbeelding van Albert Speer onder het fascisme. 'These sandwiches look horrible but if you want one...' Gioni gebaart naar een schaal artificieel aandoende witte broodblokjes, met een patroon van smalle felroze en gifgroene strepen. 'No thank you', zeg ik. 'They look nice, but not to eat.' Gioni kijkt me aan en zwijgt. Ik ben bang dat ik hem heb beledigd. Hij is 39, net als ik, maar dat geeft me misschien nog niet het recht direct familiair te doen.

Mooi hoofd, denk ik, wanneer het in lachen uitbarst. Hij lacht echt. Een volle, genereuze, bulderende lach rolt door de zaal en echoot tegen de marmeren wanden. We formuleren lange, kromme zinnen met onvolledige gedachtensprongen in het Engels, die ik alleen onder tijdsdruk (ik heb een kwartier) en in een tweede taal durf te maken.

—Maria BarnasIn the press conference you mentioned that Auriti’s construction was the first artwork you came across whose maker had applied for a patent. But he, as a car mechanic, would not have considered his structure an artwork, would he?

—Massimiliano Gioni: ‘No, the question what we consider art is actually one of the premises of the show. Auriti was a painter, he did not think of himself as an artist, he just made paintings. He raises the question, which will hopefully go throughout the show, that you don't know necessarily whether you are looking at an artwork or not - to a point where, when you look at a professional artist's artwork, then maybe you think, I see through it, instead of looking at it. For me as a curator this became an interesting question when I understood that the artwork has to be an artwork, which is complete in itself, but also has to be a fragment of a story, a relic of a life. If you only look at it as an artwork, things get quite dry after a while. It's an artwork after all. And so I have been thinking, how can you make a show in which the presence of things that might not be art, lead you to look at the art differently. It's nothing original; it's the way in which all museums except contemporary art museums operate.’

—Maria BarnasIt is also the way artists work. They do not think ‘am I making an artwork’ while working. This question is not useful. Besides that, especially in your choice of older art, even of dead artists, I recognise images that could easily have been used as references by contemporary artists, who are often looking for off-the-beaten-track material.

—Massimiliano Gioni:‘First of all I think the broader audience of a show like this deserves more than just a list of names. And secondly I am thinking, what is there for artists to enjoy in a show like this. It is also a show where I am trying to do what I do not usually do or get to do.’

—Maria BarnasThe metaphor of The Encyclopedic Palace works on many levels. It made me think of Borges. Auriti's palace could have a place in a Borges story. But also the way in which Borges is looking at the universe, and making art not just as a single thing but understanding it as part of a bigger picture.

—Massimiliano Gioni:‘Borges is a great inspiration. We show the work of Xul Solar, who is an Argentinian artist and friend of Borges, and of who Borges said he was the only person ever to be comfortable in the universe, because Solar was inventing a language that he called neo-Creole and it was like a universal language, which of course only he could speak! So much for universality...’

—Maria BarnasI had to think of the list of animals of Borges. In The Analytical Language of John Wilkins he describes a certain Chinese Encyclopedia, The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, in which it is written that animals are divided into: ‘1. those that belong to the Emperor, 2. embalmed ones, 3. those that are trained, 4. suckling pigs, 5. mermaids, 6. fabulous ones, 7. stray dogs, 8. those included in the present classification, 9. those that tremble as if they were mad, 10. innumerable ones, 11. those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, 12. others, 13 those that have just broken a flower vase, 14. those that from a long way off look like flies.’ This redefining of categories and shattering of landmarks of the thought (Foucault's reaction to the list) is something you also seem to attempt for the understanding of art.

—Massimiliano Gioni:‘I hope so.’

—Maria BarnasThe gesture you seem to make by naming the exhibition after this object, this strange, all encompassing object, is that what you aim at is in a way quite small, and meaningful if you consider Auriti's structure as a one man's feat and its universal meaning - but you can also see it as a megalomaniac vision.

—Massimiliano Gioni:‘ ...’

—Maria BarnasDid you actively look for someone like Auriti, typically someone raised and educated before World War II? Someone raised to believe in grand gestures even after the war as he built his palace in the fifties, as opposed to the more recent generations of artists who seem to shy away from all encompassing visions?

—Massimiliano Gioni:‘...’


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