Interview #64

Margherita Raso

* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).
* Margherita Raso is currently based in New York.

Margherita Raso (Lecco,1991) studied at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera. In 2014 she co-founded the artist-run space Armada (Milan). Her work was featured at Fanta Spazio; Armada (Milan); St. James, Menaggio (Como); A+A Gallery (Venice); Komplot (Brussels); Dowd Gallery; Bible (New York).

Let me begin with a phrase that you had me read, according to which the supposed ‘minority’ of the so-called ‘minor arts’ should be read in the attention that they pose on the senses now considered secondary in our mainly visual culture. This idea embodies the sense of some choices and needs of your work; do you want to decide which to disclose first?

Christian Metz speaking of fragrance in The Imaginary Signifier writes: “… any socially acceptable art that depends on the senses of contact is a minor art”. The debate about the so-called ‘minor arts’ and ‘major arts’ is so dense and complex that it cannot be deeply examined in this space. To try to summarize it would sound uninteresting. I understand the categories of ‘minor’ and ‘major’ and I respect them as a form of speculation and survey, but these ‘ divisions ‘ (about the theme in question) are distractions for the mind, that I instead try to keep free from deductions. What I am really interested in of what is conventionally ’minor’, are the ephemeral and elusive aspects that characterize it. Generally, I think that the work always exists in the visual dimension as much as in there where the eyes do not arrive, a “place” that affects the mind and the heart, as much as the fingertips and the tongue. It’s in this context that I investigate haptic qualities (optically tactile) of an image, and how these manifest themselves in the dialectics between touch and sight – as a tension within the experience of space.

And is a haptic experience desired even in the fruition of the spectator?

I’m not trying to point the viewer to a haptic experience of my work. It would be an extremely reductive operation. The fruition is for me a ‘free’ and open moment that contains at least a thousand possible stories. Saying this I do not speak of ambiguity, but of intents.

Is the synesthetic dimension sought after also during production?

I intend the synesthetic dimension as an involuntary perceptual phenomenon, so I don’t look for it. For me it is linked to the ability to perceive or to pay attention, so it’s never stable or ascribable. For example, in the series of etchings that I made between 2013 and 2014, when I shared the studio with some musicians, I took advantage of the environmental incitements to create signs related to musical rhythm and timbre. In that context, I explored the distraction as an opening device and a form of knowledge. Generally, I am interested in maintaining a ‘distracted’ approach, I would say syncretic towards the reality that is realized in the interest of codes from near and distant cultures, belonging to the contemporary and to the past, as well as to the noble and to the street culture. Searching for correspondence between disparate elements or, among the differences, looking for similarities.

In a work like yours that needs a lot of planning, is it easy to keep an intimate, emotional relationship with the matter, or you don’t need it, and on the contrary, need to distance yourself from it?

The realization of the work is for me a form of settlement – disarmed and quiet that at times takes the form of a dance, sometimes the form of a struggle. In the study and the relationship with the materials you create tactile intimacy that I leave as soon as I think it is necessary. In the relationship with the work I consider the physical dimension – corporeal as consisting of an inside and outside that takes shape thanks to the limit of the skin.
Working with specialized technicians allows me to have a continuous exchange of information and knowledge aimed at getting what I want, then the realization ’exactly as I want it ‘ already occurs. I can’t imagine what would change, it would just be a different thing.

Gertrud Arndt, of whom we know the carpets, was unable to study architecture at the Bauhaus School: she was directed to the weaving because considered a discipline more feminine. Are you interested in a queer approach to the use of techniques and materials? I speak of their intentionally hybrid use, when still today many disciplines are extremely gendered from the normative ‘common sense’.

I think the work reveals itself also through the physical and emotional nature of the material of which it is made, but that doesn’t lead me to decide beforehand what kind of approach to have regarding a particular technique or material.
In my work the use of ceramics, but especially of fabric, materials that are easily decodable as feminine, led me to confront myself with the mutual exclusivity of the artistic techniques when they are gendered. But then I realized that the issue doesn’t concern me. I do not wish to talk about gender nor even celebrate a certain ‘handcrafted tradition’, female or not. Having said that I am aware of the range of emotional responses that create certain formal choices.

What do you need to have around when you’re working? What stimulus, what kind of environment?

Silence or lots of music. I love having the dog and cat next to me. Sometimes they fight very much.