* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).
Alice Ronchi (Ponte dell’Olio, 1989) studied at NABA (Milan) and Sandberg Instituut (Amsterdam). Her work has been exhibited at Galerie Fons Welters (Amsterdam); Hawaii-Lisbon (Lisbona); MAMbo (Bologna); Art Geneve (Geneva); Narrative Project Gallery (London); Nir Altman Galerie (Munich); Francesca Minini, MEGA, Gasconade, Palazzo Reale and Peep-Hole (Milan); MACRO (Rome); CO2 and Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation (Turin); Civic Gallery of Trento (Trento); Galerie Mark Müller (Zurich).
Your work is very multifaceted regarding materials and themes, but the common denominator is the concept of landscape and childhood; the latter understood as a cognitive process done by observation and perception.
Yes, I would say it’s “a way of looking at things”, something that children do in a completely natural and instinctive manner, playing with it. They don’t know the meanings or the functions, so their way of relating to things is very different from ours, extremely curious and visionary. It is as if the reality and the fantasy met, and it is here where I would like to situate my work, in a place where the ‘everything is possible’ of the imagination applies to reality, revealing it being potentially magical. Therefore, I often transform things, keeping their first appearance recognizable, to unravel this visual mechanism, which does not distort the reality but amplifies it, revealing a possibility.
In this regard I would like to ask you about one of your earliest work, a performance dedicated to the rain, which helped you to better understand what the direction of your work would be.
30 people, 30 cans of hair spray and spray cans repeatedly opened and closed, a collective madness. Within a few moments though, a smile appeared on their sceptic faces; that noise became the sound of the rain. From that moment it was stuck in my mind that things can be transformed. But more important, it embedded why it was worthy to transform them: that smile.
In addition to the theme of wonder, one of your strong points is the relationship with techniques and materials, the “chat with the material“. What attracts you about this aspect of ceramic, glass, plastic production?
As with any other material, their specific characteristics attract and entertain me, it’s great to find out for example in how many things glass can be transformed into, or rather how many stories it could tell, from its more liquid and organic shape to the more geometric and solid one, from a jellyfish to a table. I think the challenge is motivating that story, why you choose to use a material instead of another, making it a unique and honest dialogue between form and content.
You say you have more ideas than finished works, perhaps because you often get inspired by everyday elements and this involves a continuous stimulation which is hard to keep up with: while many of your works require long processing times. How can you achieve a successful balance between the pace of invention and creation?
By accepting this condition and giving up on fighting it; not always do I succeed but I try my best. I work intensely.
In your archive, in addition to a lot of folders sorted by product research and projects, there are also two recently written books: what are they about?
The first is an essay that analyses the landscape in its natural shape and definition and turns it into a practice of arranging objects in space, it’s called Landscape Method. The second one, Explorers, talks about what happens when we enter that landscape we created, focusing on the emotion of the meeting and interaction.
Another recent production was the book related to your participation in Artline in 2015, Summer Reunion. Here you have developed a work on the playground, your topic of reference…
The theme of the playground is so important to me and present in everything, from the sociological aspect to the landscape research – understood as a system of relations (it started thanks to that), even its formalism influences me… That I wouldn’t even know where to begin to tell the tale, so I’m just telling you I admire intensely who designs that complex set of happy structures.
You told me to be very close to the thought of Munari, that it is a source of inspiration for you. What, specifically, are you most interested in about his legacy?
“To keep the spirit of childhood within oneself for life means to keep the curiosity to know, the pleasure of understanding, the desire to communicate“.
Another great mind that you love is Richard Buckminster Fuller, who you mentioned in your exhibition at Gasconade in 2013. How did that experience go?
Great. Gasconade was not only an exhibition platform but a collection of people interacting with a single goal: to communicate and narrate a precise moment in Milan. About Fuller, I was fascinated by his ideas and his visionary character; in his book Operating manual for spaceship earth he exclaims “we’re all astronauts” because we live on a planet moving in the universe, thus turning the Earth into a spaceship, extraordinary! I thought: If curious us go to explore other planets also the other planets with their astronauts may want to visit us, thence derives the series We are all astronauts, a family of “alien” sculptures that occasionally come to visit us.