‘We are all newbies because we are all engaging and dealing with a situation we never had before’

Why did you start curatorial practice? How did you explain to yourself the intention to become a curator?

When I first moved to London in 2012, becoming a curator was definitely not my intention. I had already attended art foundation courses in Italy and had already started developing my own practice before I enrolled at Camberwell College of Arts, where I was exploring new ideas within my works in video, sculpture and photography. 

I consider myself a really curious person and my course wasn’t really stimulating and I quickly became bored and unsatisfied with what the course had to offer.

What really fascinated me about London at the time, was the rich cultural and artistic scene, a lot more vibrant, diverse and interesting compared to how it is today. 

But even though the city had to offer so much and its artistic spectrum seemed so broad,  I felt something was missing. A link between radical theory and certain branches of the art world. 

That’s what I would say is the main reason I decided to undertake a path into curating, and after completing an internship at Cell Project Space between 2013 and 2014, I became more motivated and had a lot more clarity in my decision. 

An MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths was a clear choice at the time. I always liked the openness of the university, and the fact everyone could attend the various Art, Visual Cultures, and the now defunct Cultural Studies lectures. Those early evening appointments were extremely important to my theoretical development, even before enrolling, so it was an easy choice to apply there.

I am still developing and working on my own artistic practice today, but I realise that a curatorial career is what fits me best, and considering the results I have achieved in the last few years, I do not regret the decision to focus on curating more than my own practice.

Exhibition view Future Fictions, curated by Mattia Giussani. Clockwise from center: Pakui Hardware, On Demand, 2017; Pakui Hardware, On Demand III, 2017; Core.Pan, Come to Mauritius, 2017; Pakui Hardware, On Demand, 2017; Viktor Timofeev, Physical Capacity, 2017. Assembly Point, photo: © Ben Westoby
Viktor Timofeev, Physical Capacity, 2017; Pakui Hardware, On Demand, 2017; Pakui Hardware, On Demand III, 2017; Joey Holder, Porphyrin [πορφύρα], ongoing series, 2017; Core.Pan, Come to Mauritius, 2017; Pakui Hardware, On Demand, 2017.

What can you say about the art-community in London, its independent scene?

London is still one of the top centres of contemporary art worldwide, but due to the lack of cheap studio spaces and the rising cost of living in the city, many artists are forced to leave the city and many non-profit spaces don’t have the means to survive anymore, since there’s less and less support from the Arts Council or other funding bodies. It’s a lot different compared to when I moved here in 2012, and if you talk to someone who lived in London or moved away before me would likely say the same. I am under the impression that year after year the city gets kind of emptied out of the personalities that once made it number one in Europe regarding the art world, and for sure both Brexit and the ongoing pandemic are not going to help keeping this once flourishing community in order.

Exhibition view Heedful Sight, 2018. Clockwise:  Maurizio Viceré, kh-(23) Black and blue, Calendered sublimation ink print on windproof nautical fabric, stretcher. 120 X 170 cm. 2018; Joachim Coucke, Dwellers, Mixed Media, Dimensions Variable, 2018; Maurizio Viceré, kh-(31) Black and blue, Calendered sublimation ink print on windproof nautical fabric, stretcher. 170 x 150 cm. 2018; Joachim Coucke, Dwellers, Mixed Media, Dimensions Variable, 2018; Maurizio Viceré, kh-(33) Black and blue, Calendered sublimation ink print on windproof nautical fabric, stretcher. 170 X 120 cm. 2018
Exhibition view Heedful Sight, 2018. Installation view, Foothold / Like A Little Disaster. Polignano a Mare, Italy.

You graduated from Goldsmiths with MFA in Curating. What was the topic of your thesis? 

For the final thesis at Goldsmiths, you’re asked to present a writing piece that recounts a project you have curated/organized, or one which you are planning to present within that year. I wrote about the show I curated in Milan in June 2017, ‘Non Standard’. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the artists I respect the most: Lea Collet & Marios Stamatis, Anne De Boer, Joey Holder, Anna Mikkola and Eva Papamargariti.

The artists investigated new ways of addressing the large and complex technological structure that is disrupting the links between human affections and the surrounding environments.

Reflecting upon those themes, with these interconnections of actions and reactions, I felt compelled and obligated to curate a show where the relationships between nature, human and technology are being explored, having a more comprehensive take of these issues, rather than isolating them and focusing on each one individually. I strongly think that, due to their ever-evolving inherent characteristics and their always changing inter-relations, the best idea to open a discussion was to group together a certain number of artists that work with and critique these concepts, and in doing so, to create new relations within these tensions, without focusing just on the matter of nature or human senses within technology or the relations with the networked capitalistic structure.

I wanted to highlight that these relationships between the human, nature and technology are far from being the norm or some fixed parameters and expectations. As long as there are technological discoveries, socio-political inequalities, changes in the 21st century network infrastructure that rules our everyday life, this will have an effect on  the use and misuse of nature by humans.

A few of the main theorists that helped me convey these ideas of nonlinearity were Jussi Parikka and Luciana Parisi’s theories.

Non Standard curated by Mattia Giussani. Lea Collet & Marios Stamatis, Is it like the Ocean?, 2017, detail shot. Photo: © T-Space Studio photography
Right: Joey Holder, Porphyrin [πορφύρα], 2017; Left: Eva Papamargariti, Facticious Imprints, 2016, ongoing series. Photo: © T-Space Studio photography

Your last curatorial projects are mono-exhibitions. Is there a philosophy of resistance to information noise and the implimentation of concept ‘less is more’?

Yes, definitely. Looking back through the years at different curatorial practices, I’ve never been a big fan of factory-like curatorial productions, when exhibitions or series of events were just produced to build up a CV or Portfolio, without giving the proper understanding, resources and curatorial framework to the artistic practices. I never aspired to be like that.

The relationships you need to build with the artists are connections of trust. When working with their artworks, it is crucial to make sure that everything about planning the show, from budgeting to logistics, is being thought about almost maniacally, so that the message they want to communicate is being relayed correctly. If that meant doing a solo show, I would speak with the artist about that decision and see if we could both agree on the next steps to take. 

I don’t want to pass as the enemy of group shows since I’ve curated them in the past and they have been great experiences, but at the same time I’m trying to move away from those, especially when there’s not enough budget to make sure they would get produced at the maximum of their possibilities. I see my projects all being connected anyway, exploring different pinpoints of my own research. It might possibly be that my next projects are going to be group shows or more broad para-curatorial projects. The first and foremost fact is that it needs to speak to me and all the participants involved. All the rest is secondary. 

Speaking more specifically about the last two shows I was lucky to collaborate with two artists who have my utmost respect, Lito Kattou and Michele Gabriele. It was their first shows in those two cities (respectively Lito’s show in Milan and Michele’s in London), so I wanted to make sure that they would get the space they deserve, as well as for the local public to experience their amazing works in their whole totality. An addition of works from other artists would have definitely compromised the final results of it. Adding to that, both spaces (Tile Project Space R.I.P 🙁 and Gossamer Fog) are both beautiful, but tricky to curate, which, in my opinion, worked perfectly for solo shows by both artists, exalting their work.

Unknown Synergy, curated by Mattia Giussani. Lito Kattou, Body I, II, III, Aluminium, Electroformed copper and permanent ink, variety dimensions. Photo: © Elena Radice
Unknown Synergy, 2019. Installation view, Tile Project Space (Milan, Italy)
Lito Kattou, Body III, 2019, Aluminum, Electroformed copper and permanent ink, 210×140 cm

Back to the radical theories you have mentioned, what kind of theories do you mean?

I enjoy reading and writing on lots of different topics, which is why I’m thinking of starting a PhD next year. I see critical research as one of the main parts of my curatorial process, so I would love to start expanding my interests once more, trying to find new points of view and connections within the theories that have interested me the most lately.

I’ve always been interested in everything surrounding the posthuman debate, and the books I’ve been enjoying reading the most lately are: ‘Intelligence and Spirit’ by Reza Negarestani, ‘Bleak Joys – Aesthetics of Ecology and Impossibility’ by Matthew Fuller and Olga Goriunova, and ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ by Shoshana Zuboff.

New dimensions of (post-internet, post-apocalyptic) art have been already living within their own paradigm. How do you see your mission as a curator in this context?

That’s a good question. I personally think, all the different resolutions/iterations/definitions of art born and grown during the last 10-15 years can all be erased, as there’s no real need of using those terms anymore. Yet, I think we need to understand how to respond in order to  make sure we can have a florid and forward-thinking art world after the Covid-19 pandemic. In that sense, we’re all newbies, because we are all engaging and dealing with a situation we never had to deal with before. The pandemic has hit communities all over the world in different ways, and speaking of work, one of the most hit sectors is the art world.

I would say that in order to go back and not have a pyramidal art world, where just the wealthy are pulling the reins of the game, we, the independent curators, need to make sure that we are still pushing the boundaries of the importance of art and culture within the next years, even though the fragile systems of art funding are bound to diminish.

Tangled Depictions curated by Mattia Giussani, 2019. Installation View, Gossamer Fog, London, UK.
Tangled Depictions curated by Mattia Giussani, 2019. Installation View, Gossamer Fog, London, UK.
Michele Gabriele, Your lies embarrass me so much that when I found out exactly what it was, I’d rather pretend to believe your words, acrylic paint, enamel, epoxy clay, steel, cables, digital print, glass, rubber, 2019; It’s always so hard to admit that things are different than what we had believed at first sight, Paint, epoxy clay, steel, cables, digital print, glass, rubber, 2019

What do you think, what would be the most effective strategy for young artists and curators nowdays? To work with a global agenda, or to focus on  individual, local experience? 

Even with local interventions, everything nowadays must be considered as a critique of the global. I don’t really see how that is possible otherwise considering that whatever is local now, is different compared to what it used to be after centuries of wars, colonialism and injustices. On top of that, it needs to be analysed in its ties with what today’s techno-capitalistic structure has brought to the table. I think it’s still relevant to Rosi Braidotti’s text she wrote for E-flux after the election of Donald Trump, where she was asking to not agonize, but organize. It’s a model that can be seen applied today, considering the protests that demand for a better and more inclusive society. The local critique must bring about a global change. Just focusing on a critique of the local would not be complete in trying to understand and tackle the bigger picture of history. So the main question is: how do we deal with the changes after the global? 

A key aspect, in both artistic and curatorial practices, is not to consider the global to be something driven by the huge economic centres scattered around the world, with their aggressive agenda to conquer the world through marketing, financial and data tactics, but to research and analyse these changes at a technological and ecological level, trying to find the cultural connectedness within different places around the world, and opening new pathways that go beyond the current cultural and artistic debate.

Connecting to the previous question, this is what motivates me as being a curator. Bringing something different to the table, hoping to build new bridges and connecting dots that weren’t connected before.

When you speak about technology, do you mean something particular? Is it the system of online markets and easy access to the information? 

When I mention technology, I mean something broad, a collection of different topics. It might vary depending on what interests me during a certain period, or what I get inspired by, but generally and recently I would say it’s what can be connected to the topic of ecology. For sure technology can be examined in its other aspects, such as the spread of information, real or fake, within online platforms or the dominance of big corporations and government agencies that control the whirlwind of the Internet. In regards to this, we can mention the Huawei ban in the US and the UK over the concerns for the safety of 5g infrastructure, or the rumours and investigations surrounding the alleged Russian involvement in the Brexit referendum, but at the moment I’m not that interested in these aspects, which are closer to a geopolitical level. 

Something that really fascinated me lately is the first 4K resolution video of the surface of Mars.

What do you think about new ecological conditions in connection with the landscape of Mars? 

With our actions, we’re trashing and destroying our planet every minute of the day, an example of which is the often wasteful use of natural resources by corporations. It was really refreshing to see these new images of Mars in a period when the attempts of research and discovery of new potential habitats has lately been driven by people like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos with their private projects.

Heedful Sight, 2018. Installation view, Foothold / Like A Little Disaster. Polignano a Mare, Italy.

Art has the power of prophetic prediction. What do you thonk important to pay attention to in theories of posthumanism and transhumanism, before they will be embeded into collective consciousness? 

I believe that, above all, the theories around the different kinds of posthumanism and transhumanism, the key idea that needs to be understood is how we can analyze, represent, understand and critique the new ecological conditions we find ourselves in, where we see a growing and bounding interconnection between various forces and entities.

Art and artworks don’t have the power to drastically change things by themselves. They might promote awareness of certain topics, and that is what they must do, especially if this means creating dialogue on possible solutions that can be applied to a broader socio-political agenda.

The focus needs to be centred on making decisions on a global level by those in power, taking proper consideration of all human and non-human subjects present in the world today.

You are using the author’s curatorial signature in exhibition’s posters. Is there an attempt to find a new aesthetic which reflects relationships between the man and technologies, you have mentioned previously? 

In all the projects I have worked on, I have always felt that the visual identity of the show had to be considered at the same level of importance, as the text accompanying the exhibition/project. It’s a key part of my thinking of the curatorial framework. I feel its fundamental to anticipate what the content of the show/project might be, as well as to catch people’s  attention during the advertising, prior to the show’s opening. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to find a new aesthetic, but I try to create something unique for each specific project, researching and working with a particular graphic designer or typographer to find the right aesthetic to convey.

How do you find the artists with whom you would like to work?

There are different ways in which I find or discover artists I’d love to work with. It can vary from going to as many different shows and trying to plan as many studio visits as I can in order to build new connections, to keeping myself updated through various art blogs/magazines like Tzvetnik, Aqnb, O’Fluxo, Daily Lazy (where I’m an editor), and Kubaparis to name a few. Of course, Instagram is useful too, though I have a love-hate relationship with it but haven’t been using it that much lately.

You said that you had your own artistic path. How could you describe it? In what topics were you interested?

I would describe my artistic path as tumultuous. Looking back at what I was doing, I made the best decision in pursuing a curatorial career. I really enjoyed it and still to this day enjoy making my own stuff, but I do it for personal pleasure rather than to bring something of worth out into the world. I think my contribution as a curator, oversees what I could have brought as an artist, even though I still explore in my artistic practise everything that touches the relationships between man and technology, broadly speaking. 

What is your dream space for an exhibition?

I don’t think I have a dream space for an exhibition. As long as it is suitable for my ideas, anything can be used for a show. It would be great to have a chance to curate a big event or curate for big institutions, but at the same time it’s not something I’m fussy or particular about.