Interview #62

Marina Cavadini

Marina Cavadini (Milan, 1988) studied at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (Milan), NABA (Milan) and l’Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago). Her work has been exhibited at Sullivan Galleries, Hyde Park Center, InHabit Art Series with DfbrL8r Gallery and Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection (Chicago), La Triennale di Milano, Isola Art Center, 77, Palazzo dei Giureconsulti and Frigoriferi Milanesi (Milan), Parco Arte Vivente (Turin).

As I entered the studio, I heard crickets singing…

I’m breeding some crickets in a small terrarium. I’m interested in nutrition. Last year I chosed not to eat animals and products derived from animals coming from intensive livestock farming, so when you make such a radical choice you can’t avoid thinking about it. So I started to think about the idea of digestion and about the fact that what you eat defines yourself. I’ve been to a fair about entomology where I found a booth dedicated to edible insects as a possibility of getting proteins in a more sustainable way than cows or pigs. I made some researches on the various species: I chose the crickets because they sing, so I can experiment on the sound, too.

What will you do once you’ll have bred them?

I still don’t know, actually. I realized that their sound creates a mood in the studio. All the things around here are part of my experiments, or work in progress. I find something that attracts me – an object, a plant, an animal that I feel related to my work – and I bring it to the studio to get familiar with it. It’s one year I came back to Milan from Chicago, where I was attending a MFA, but I’m not sure whether I’m going to stay: I’m in this studio since September together with Elena Radice and Enrico Boccioletti, and I’ll be here till June, that’s what I know for now.

Above the terrarium there’s a note, “talking dirty”.

It’s something I wrote down thinking about the sound of crickets: male crickets sing to attract female partners, as a way of seduction, and seduction is one of the themes at the core of my work.

Then, I see a chain made of steel and plexiglas hanging from the ceiling.

It’s part of Overlaps, Correspondences, Contradictions, an installation I showed at the Sullivan Galleries in Chicago. Some Nepenthes were hanging from the chain: they’re carnivorous plants with leaves in the shape of polls, named pitchers – kind of external stomachs where the preys are digested and absorbed.

Nutrition, once again.

Exactly. As I told you, what we eat defines ourselves, and that’s particularly evident in plants and animals. The main difference between the two kingdoms is that plants are autotroph, which means they’re able to produce the organic compounds they need through photosynthesis. Animals, on the contrary, are heterotroph, so they need to get organic compounds eating plants or other animals. Carinvorous plants break the limits between the two categories, which is another central aspect of my work. When Linneus in the XVIII century was stating his taxonomy of living things he wouldn’t acknowledge the existence of hybrid specimens (even being aware of this). For plants such as the Nepenthes, ascribed to vegetal kingdom, autotrophic nutrition is not enough, so they need to integrate their photosynthetic diet with heterotroph preys.

And here we have a yellow flourescent rounded piece of plexiglas.

It’s part of the Chicago installation, too. To be honest, I entered a shop, I saw this material and said “wow”. The starting point of the work were the Nepenthes hanging, they occupied the whole space, but the result in the end was far from my usual works. The plexiglas would add a bit of magic or, as I love to say, seductive, which turned it in something mine. In biology, loud colors have particular meanings. There’s a strategy, named warning coloration: the prey takes advantage of flashy colors as a deterrent to predators, to remind them about the possible consequences of its ingestion. I’m attracted by loud colors because they’re interpreted as warning but also as seduction within nature. For instance, sometimes they show an animal has reached sexual maturity. Within the green and brown of a wood or a lawn, such colors can attract or repulse, they work as tension peaks, which is something I’m looking for.

I see some paintings, and they recall these pictures of… honey melons?

They’re melons, indeed. I’m working through photography on the concept of organic case. So I like to shoot honey melons’ pulp or oysters’ flesh. They’re exposed, open, vulnerable bodies. Dissected through objective cruelty.

And here we have some gloves, like these one with white spots.

The gloves I wear during my performances are accessories that allow my body to hybridate with other living things. I used them in several projects. In particular, this ones with the spots recall the shape and color of spores. I used them to sensually caress the hidden spores on the lower part of a fern. I also developed the theme of the spore in a series of works where I used to stick some little chrome sugar balls in hidden places of an environment or a human body, for instance behind the ear – which is also an erogenous zone, so full circle.

What else are you working on right now?

I’m working on a new project about cross-contamination: I’ll show it in spring during a personal exhibition within a new project titled HotHouse at the Orto Botanico in Turin. Among other things, I’m learning to sing: it’s a while I’m feeling the need of being able to include the sound produced by my body in my work.