CAN YOU TELLS US WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO ENTER THE WORLD OF STREET ART/GRAFFITI AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO WORK IN MODENA? DID ITS COMMUNITY SHOW INTEREST IN YOUR ARTWORKS?
I didn't really decide anything, I just became ‘totally’ passionate about graffiti writing around 1992-93 and from that moment on I immersed myself in that world. I started doing graffiti myself, taking photos that I then started to put online on one of the first portals on writing that ever existed (Stradanove.net, 1997), organising events (Icone), opening exhibition spaces that I would define as "underground" (Avia Pervia) and then collaborating with other galleries, artists, publishing houses, brands and institutions. Modena is my hometown. When I started to get involved in writing there was basically nothing but very little in the main places of the city like La Scintilla and an essential shop, Aaargh, which sold the very first rap records and had graffiti inside. It was as natural as it was 'comfortable' to do things 'at home', for better or worse: there was no one to tell me if I was doing it right or wrong, but there was also no bad blood with anyone. I learnt everything in the field, making mistakes and also changing direction over time, both in actual writing and in organising events and exhibitions.
WHAT IS YOU DEFINITION OF STREET ART? WOULD YOU SAY THAT THESE YEARS ARE THE GOLDEN AGE OF STREET ART?
I don't have a definition of street art. It’s too much of a heterogeneous movement to just have one definition, especially now that graffiti writing has largely freed itself from what seemed to be a series of dogmas that circumscribed it in a well-defined field.
WHO IS PIETRO RIVASI? WHAT GOALS DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE?
I’m an art lover, someone who’s always been unable to focus all his energies and his mind in one specific direction. At the moment, my activity as an 'independent curator' is mainly aimed at a let's say 'theoretical' research and at writing texts for writers who contact me and want me to tell their story. Apart from very few cases, I have not been interested in painting murals for almost 10 years now, because I believe that over time the limits of this practice have become evident. Today it’s often used as a propaganda tool that has little or nothing to do with art, much less with the culture that generated contemporary muralism.
HOW DOES A CURATOR ENTER THIS WORLD? SINCE SUCH ARTWORKS DOESN’T OFTEN FIT INTO TRADITIONAL EXHIBITION SPACES, HOW DOES HE CREATE AN ART EXHIBITION?
As a total self-taught curator with no specific training, my personal approach has been to try to show the public, first on the street as an artist myself and then in exhibition spaces as a curator, those who in my knowledge were the most respected, powerful and/or influential writers. This has always been the selection criterion for Icone, which was a hybrid between a classic graffiti jam and a street art/muralism festival.
I then used the same approach with the galleries, because I had no culture in the contemporary art world, and I always thought that only those artists who were innovative and interesting for the graffiti writing world could equally be appreciated by the rest of the contemporary art. After confronting myself with other artists and curators such as Collective FX, Jens Besser, Andrea Ceresa, Robert Kaltenhauser, I developed the idea of using documentation as an artwork. Since 2004 I had been organising photographic exhibitions, so I thought of photographs as the best tool to bring writing and street art into exhibition spaces.
This approach makes it possible to exploit institutional space by showing artworks created without permission on classic writing media, such as trains or walls, thus ensuring that the most controversial, and in my opinion interesting, characteristics of this art form are preserved.
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?
As I said before, I have become very critical of 'festivals' both because in my opinion they almost never have the right curatorship, and because they almost never have the right funding. And finally because they are often a trick to promote 'something else': from my point of view, the artworks (assuming that they are) are only used to pad out some sharable content, to give prestige to some administration or give a cool patina to some initiative or brand. Basically, for years the walls of metropolises and small towns have been filled with decorations, devaluing both the movement and the individual artists, lowering the quality and giving administrations and brands a cheap way to promote themselves, without anyone really caring to support the artists and maintain these paintings as one would do with any other public artwork.
On the other hand, I find it culturally unfair to take off a sign that was left on the street and bring it into a museum, as there are other ways of documenting and studying the phenomenon today. There are, of course, countless examples of enthusiasts taking away signs, stickers and posters even with the sincere desire to 'save' them from deletion and destruction, but I do not think it is a system that can in any way be adopted by a museum institution that wants to give recognition to a culture that has very specific roots and codes. That is why, as I said before, I believe that the use of photographs, videos, preparatory sketches, and 'remains' can be a suitable methodology, already seen in the art system, even if for some reason it has hardly ever been used to bring wiriting and street art into galleries, museums and collections until a few years ago.
WHAT SHOULD A CURATOR/ARTIST DARE TO DO?
I believe he must only be at peace with himself and only propose to collectors and institutions those artists who, accordingly to his culture, are important for the movement from where they belong and for the rest of the art world, without seeking for trendy names or formal compromises.
for DARE CLAN