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LUCA BORRIELLO


WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS YOUR WORK MAINLY ON THE WORLD OF STREET ART AND TO BECOME THE DIRECTOR OF INWARD OSSERVATORIO NAZIONALE SULLA CREATIVITÀ URBANA?


I became interested in urban creative practices as a teenager. In short, after some suggestions and solicitations found in holiday spots or on television, I started skateboarding in the summer of 1990 and discovered in a magazine that there was a sort of relation between skateboarding, rap, graffiti writing, a particular clothes style and tons of other creative activities. A little while later, after a few songs or tags around, and after composing the first 'paninaro songs' with my neighbour in the late eighties, I started to rap with a friend from high school ('Family Freak'), then with a skate friend ('Spiriti Distratti') and finally with the group who performed around Italy with me throughout the second half of the nineties ('Kontrada'). At the time, as you know, in the hip hop culture, rap concerts were primarily made in jam sessions, where the graffiti writing component was pre-eminent; therefore, I’ve never distanced myself from it, quite the contrary. At the end of the nineties, I had to graduate from university and the choice of the thesis fell on the 'writing culture', even though it was immersed in a much broader research: it was during those years of in-depth study on the subject that I deposited the seeds for the development of my path.




WHERE DID THE IDEA OF CREATING AN OBSERVATORY TO RESEARCH AND DEVELOP URBAN CREATIVITY COME FROM? HOW DOES IT WORK?


In 2004, after what had happened during the 1990s and after many informal experiences following my graduation thesis, the idea was to set up a cultural association called 'Arteteca'. Having brought together a number of friends and colleagues with different aptitudes, the association was already divided into several thematic groups. There were groups dedicated to music, audiovisual, contemporary art, communication, etc. and, indeed, to the 'writing culture': this group was called 'Evoluzioni', which was the name of the last jam sessions organised in the late 1990s. However, as an informal group, it could grow very little, as it could not maintain relationships with, for example, public bodies or even suppliers of goods and services, hence the association that then included the group and its theme.




After only two years, thanks to the university studies and the research for the thesis, a strong need developed within the group to generate a scientific activity, which immediately appeared necessarily interdisciplinary, in order to study, analyse and promote the culture of writing. In 2006, the role of 'research' and 'development' became the R and D of Research and Development of the word INWARD. The other letters meant: International Network on Writing Art, etc. In addition, the English word stands for "facing the inside", thus a symbolically "slang" word, but it could also be taken as "in ward", which means "in the neighbourhood": thus, it is an organisation that would take care of everything that graffiti writing art produced on the streets, internationally, between research and development. The project was far too ambitious, but in any case we got started and, in 2006, INWARD was born.




A couple of years later, we started to elaborate the concept of urban creativity, which has gradually determined the conventional expression that can bring together the visual cultures of graffiti writing, street art and the new muralism for a number of reasons. 2011 was the year of the Stati Generali della Creatività Urbana. But it was also the year of the adoption of the model for the valorisation of the phenomenon that had been designed at the Technical Table on Urban Creativity at the CNEL, set up by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, but which we had solicited in the press at the end of 2008. I was its secretary, just as I have always been INWARD's secretary. Today, our organisation still follows that model in its work and has recently decided to return to the complexity of urban creativity, balancing those three main activities.




WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF STREET ART? WOULD YOU SAY THAT THESE YEARS ARE THE GOLDEN AGE OF STREET ART?


With respect to the conventional expression of 'urban creativity', which names, demarcates and characterises our organisation, between research and development, we can understand street art as Fekner describes it: the creative urban art seen on the streets that is not graffiti writing. However, we should distinguish the so-called new muralism (the practice of mural painting on large surfaces), which, compared to historical muralism, is specific to a time and to authors/artists who cannot be separated from the advent of graffiti writing and the street art. Regarding the latter, we identify it broadly with the widespread use of stencils, stickers, wallpaper, mural painting but not on large surfaces, installations and other similar urban creative techniques and practices; we talk about rapid and latent actions, which are mostly unauthorised and animated by the need for a precise message: a type of socio-cultural, political, etc. activism, which uses artistic and creative expedients to proclaim itself and to communicate. If we shift the reflection to urban creativity and in particular to the new muralism, but also to the current culture of graffiti writing and the unquestionable popular success of street art, we can see that more than a few points of maturity have been reached.




WOULD YOU SAY THAT STREET ART/PUBLIC ART ARE MADE FOR THE ART SYSTEM OR FOR THE COMMUNICATION/DISSEMINATION SYSTEM?


As anticipated in the previous answer, we have to make two considerations on the matter of “urban creativity”. On the one hand, due to its typical original themes and methods, it is possible to relate street art to actions of social communication, dissemination and awareness-raising, with the assumption that the expression refers to this and not to other kinds of urban creativity. On the other hand, in our opinion, the main reason for the persistent use of the expression street art needs to be clarified. In short, we produce and study graffiti writing, street art and new muralism. The first writers, who had nothing to do with either graffiti or the art system, called themselves writers, not artists, and this conception is still entirely valid among the majority of the world's writing community; whether there are other aptitudes, skills, talents but above all dedications, wills and successes of numerous exponents in the art and market systems, that is another matter. A tag is not directly considered as an artistic expression and yet there is no denying that it is a creative form and the hallmark of a specific cultural phenomenon. The first street artists, in the full sense of the word, may have been cartoonists, graphic designers, and even artists, but the direction that the phenomenon immediately took, in the peculiar decades in which it defined itself, was that of cultural activism, of social awareness.



For example, a stencil, which can be found everywhere in cities, that shares a critical thought on drugs, apartheid or something similar, is considered to be social communication, done in creative urban ways. It is also true that even in this matter there are elevations to art of elaborations, careers and protagonists, but they’re always part of a broader scope. And finally, the so-called new muralism, which is considered new because, in the last thirty or even forty years, signs and forms of graffiti writing and street art have been introduced in the public imagination and, concretely, in urban scenes; the majority of the neo-muralists have experience of these expressions or produce them, while the minority, that’s still seen as progressive, is made up of authors or artists who bring their mastery, even if only technical, to large surfaces for artistic, creative, expressive, but also promotional, social and educational purposes. This leads almost everywhere to a mixture of interventions and works, which can’t be considered an art collection. But still these are urban creative forms. Public art is quite different from what is described in its complexity and rather refers to productions and signatures, not to urban movements and graphic or pictorial works, which are voluntarily credited to the systems of art and its markets, with the necessary relational, institutional and paradigmatic approval. It is realistic to expect that there will be reversals in this approach, though temporary and perhaps ephemeral, and that the two artistic movements will therefore merge in the search for a something that is right for the purposes of one source or another.


PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHO IS LUCA BORRIELLO? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE/ARE YOUR FUTURE GOALS?


I think almost everyone has had the fear of not knowing how to describe themselves. You go from an unclear early youth, from the CV where you include your first timid collaboration with international organisations and those graphics that you designed for the kitchen cloths that they sell in the markets. You add up the experiences you accumulated and collect the related titles you received, between education and profession. Then you just decide to start removing, assigning resources, merits and roles, being unable to return the titles. In short, today I have the satisfying memory of my great passion for urban creative forms, which I enjoyed to the point that I decided to include them in my studies, deepening them. I founded an organisation, which I still direct, that reached national level and I participated in the active promotion of the phenomena in all sorts of public, private and third sector institutions, contributing to political orientations, public acts, strategic directions and economic events. I remember going back to the university where I graduated and discussed a ‘writing culture’ that was still on trial at the time, and establishing the first Interdepartmental Study Centre on Urban Creativity in Italy. These were small satisfactions for me. Since I also have many other interests, in the near future I think I will want to take the cultural focus on the phenomena to a higher and institutional level, before pursuing something else.


IN THE PAST FEW YEARS THERE HAS BEEN MANY ATTEMPTS TO EXHIBIT STREET ART IN MUSEUMS, GENERATING MANY CONTROVERSIES FROM THE ARTISTS THEMSELVES, WHO HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AGAINST THE REMOVAL OF MURALS FROM THE SOCIAL CONTEXT THEY WERE PLACED. INSTEAD, THEY HAVE ALWAYS FAVOURED OPEN-AIR FESTIVALS AS A FAIR SOLUTION. IN REFERENCE TO THESE WORDS FROM THE BOOK “THE SROTY OF CONTEMPORARY ART” BY T. GODFREY, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MATTER?


In the aforementioned graduation thesis, which kind of resembled a recipient where I put things to be discussed later, while searching for the essence of writing, the question came up several times as to whether we could still talk about writing in reference to a commissioned work or in front of an exhibition space. Both options would betray the supposed essences of writing itself, which are: spontaneity and urban spaces.Understanding that the best observation of a phenomenon is to see how its component parts change in relation to the unfolding of time and their maturations, when the latest writers started to produce works that were intended to be exhibited (sold and collected) or to create their pieces on authorised walls (hall of fame or not) alongside their usual unauthorised urban interventions, it meant that we had to take such outcomes into consideration.




In my thesis I identified tow ‘new’ paradigms: the so-called “streetness” and the so-called “inopinatum”. To put it briefly, the term streetness referred to the essence which, due to aesthetic and technical characteristics, etc., permeated those movable works (canvases, plastics, objects) that did not trivially miniaturise or domesticate urban forms, but rather skilfully quoted them, taking the phenomenon itself "from poietic subject to poetic object", and there are many very good results in this sense. On the other hand, the second paradigm was, roughly speaking, 'unforeseen impertinence', that is, the quality of an unexpected intervention of urban creativity, that aims to surprise the citizens, that does not pertain because it is apparently alien. In short, while appreciating that the forms of graffiti writing, street art and new muralism are studied through native paradigms and not instead stereotypes of even the most coeval contemporary art, an exhibition cannot exhibit street art, but it can exhibit works by street artists, which is another thing altogether. That is, unless they are detached from public surfaces according to a principle of preservation that, many times, makes war with the actual owners and makes peace with the balance of systems and markets. Neo-muralists paint at festivals, as writers have always painted at jams, or at conventions. In the thesis, I purposely threw shades at decontextualisation by opposing telesthetics, inviting the users of the interventions in the city to enjoy them at a proper distance, savouring and crossing that same context, first of all vital, that was the author's own.


WHAT SHOULD A CURATOR/ARTIST DARE TO DO?


He should dare to be free in body, clear in mind, and bright in spirit.





by RA/RC

for Dare Clan



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