* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).
Elena Radice (Milan, 1987) studied at Accademia di Brera (Milan). Her work has been exhibited at LINK Point (Brescia); Mont Saléve, Informatika and A gee in the fog (Geneve); Les Urbains Festival (Lausanne); Gaff, Sprint at EVASTOMPERstudio, HOST Project, Kasanowa Kunsthalle and Viafarini (Milan).
Before attending the Faculty of New Technologies at the Brera Academy, you graduated in Sculpture at the Urbino Academy: what’s left of that plastic approach to the matter, in your work?
I am against the subdivision by medium in Italian art education; I studied one year in Geneva in the Work.Master of the University of Art and Design (HEAD) and I can tell you with certainty that this is a sensible model: everyone can use the medium they desire, and can experiment much more; this is extremely important in a training phase. While you study you can be radically experimental, while a system tied to one area creates a specificity which I believe futile, it just increases anxieties and perfectionist mania. I have built a hybrid training to free myself as much as possible from the technical rigidity: my main medium, as not having a favourite one, is space. The coexistence in a geographical place with the work is crucial to the aesthetic experience, its formalization makes it real, a current level that blends with the world. It is silly to think that a video or a sound are not sculptural objects. The setting is the “marble block” from which it is removed and to which you add, that you smooth and leave rough. Where there isn’t a vacuum in the scientific sense, an object exists and every object is a sculpture. Everything is sculpture, painting is also sculpture. I never stopped making sculpture.
To what extent do you allow a local dimension to shape your practice?
I would say that it’s the starting point of my practice: the geographies for me are critical, the environment in which I live influences me immensely, I can only consider it in its phenomenological entirety, which includes relationships. Working in a place implies a dynamics of exchange from which I try not to shirk, what I learn, acquire and exchange originates from my specific geographical point, a lens that filters everything, inputs and outputs. That’s why I spend so much time thinking about the place where I want to be, how my home has to be, how I live the movements and contacts and relationships with those who do not live in the same place.
By talking about it together, I have always felt that a certain ‘ecological’ attention, an economy of energies, may dictate many choices of yours…
It is part of the connection with the place where I am and with the idea of fiction. If I have to misrepresent myself for the economic and physical effort to achieve something, I’m not doing the right thing. Least of all if I have to distort a place. In this regard, I launch an appeal to the sculptors: stop using fiberglass. It will stay in its shape forever, the most you can do is to send it somewhere else, perhaps, the only thing that makes sense to do with fiberglass are the means of transportation: only those to travel towards space.
At what point did you pass from a more ‘monadic’ system to one encompassing perception, the physical presence of a spectator, in your position regarding your practice?
I’ve never had a cynical approach to artistic production: for me the viewer has always been very important. (I consider cynical who does not think about the viewer, avoiding the connection). I almost risked to lose sight of it trying to study a little more about the mechanisms of the ‘Artworld’, having stopped being an observer and avoiding the dichotomy between user and creator of aesthetic experiences. At that stage of my education I met the artistic-editorial collective EstarSer, based in New York, and I started working with them in performing practices of attentional fruition, recalibrating completely the centre, the meaning. It is a project that has been continuing for several years, in which I have involved other people. This dialogical research has resulted in the thesis with which I completed my studies, and continues organically in my newfound creation/consumption dichotomy.
In works such as the silk banner Nonewhite or Free Canon/Controversial Freedom the ‘closed system ‘ of the algorithm is not generated by you but is adopted as a rule with the sole purpose of being overruled, to find strategies to overcome it in such a way so as to use it to talk about something else. In this approach, I can’t help but read a playful aspect. The algorithm does not seem to interest you as much as its generative capability.
In all cases I enjoyed to overturn a structure and use it in another way. I’m not sure what idea the inventor of the haiku generator or of the synth based on the combination of letters to musical notes had, but I tried to combine these generative means to contents continually victims of study, like the twitter, the trending topic, the retromaniac tone of colour of Instagram, the relationship dynamics during a vernissage, the texts of a book. Digital objects are complex and stratified, but once understood, they can be freely used as rough ingredients. Now I can only think of parallels between cooking ingredients and the digital objects, I’ve always said to myself that the use of marble is no different from using a computer, but I think there’s a more appropriate parallel with the ingredients that are used to cook a dish: sometimes they are hyper-complex but nobody thinks about how much thought and process were necessary to create it in that form when grating the Grana cheese on top, although it would be interesting, and maybe making people grasp it is the difference between an housewife and a chef.