Interview #61

Michele Gabriele

* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).

Michele Gabriele (Fondi, 1983) studied at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (Milan) and Universitè 8 (Paris). His work has been axhibited at Et.Al.Gallery (San Francisco); OJ Art space (Istanbul); 9th Berlin Biennal, Horse and Pony Fine Arts (Berlin); Galeria da Boavista (Lisboa); Ginny Project (London); Konstanet (Tallinn); Studio E1, Cité internationale des arts (Paris); Fondazione Pini (Milan); Store Contemporary (Dresda); Lust Gallery (Wien); Barriera (Turin); Overgarden (Copenhagen); Project Space Pacific Place, (Amsterdam).

At the opening of your show at TILE Project Space in March 2015, you told me that concerning your intentions with regard to the perception of the work by the viewer, your thoughts may be close to that of a minimalist sculptor. That phrase has remained fixed in my mind: I find it very interesting. Could you develop this idea?

I do not remember the exact words I used at the time, but I was certainly not talking about minimalism as a tendency in the art of the ’60s. It was rather a simple way to facilitate the reading of my work. A way to go beyond its appearance and to talk about what I was interested in. At that time: dichotomy, balances and imbalances. I understand that a work is finished when the forms fall off from my hands and seem to have been there all the time, but also visions of forms that do not exist yet. Through my work I ask the viewer to understand the work as something that at least partially was not made by me, but which, at the most, I have chosen, found as it is, someplace. This attitude can help to achieve the right distance.

Your works always present an ahistorical quality, or however seem to come from a time and a space that is not ours. Yet here and there everyday objects peep out which trigger an emotional relationship with the viewer. The effect is a continuous tension between reassurance and perturbation…

How wonderful when I find one of my works posted on a blog that collects pictures with certain specific characteristics, or examples of a certain imaginary. And my work is there. Maybe because of a detail which is so negligible that I had not even noticed it, until I see it in that context. Does this affect my future production? Will I ignore it? Will I wink at this, or will I try to contradict it? For me, the use of some objects stems from a need for control over the mechanisms that lead to understanding and distraction.

In a work that, like yours, thinks much about these projective mechanisms of the beholder, is there also room for an autobiographical component – and how, in case, does it manifest itself?

It’s in between the lines. People who are involved notice it. Alexander of bronze (2015), ‘Alessandro di bronzo’, is the bronze version of Alessandro di Pietro; a monument to his untimely death, should it take place, and yet it closely resembles the dog of a friend of mine, but it also makes me think of Marco, a friend who is really dead. Some things are true, others are the result of the desire to find oneself in someone else’s work. As far as possible, I try to keep my work open to such interpretations. Also to misunderstanding. There is always an autobiographical component, but sometimes it is inexpressible, other times composed of substitutional elements. If a story, to seem real and to communicate itself better, must be different from mine, different from itself, from the one that generated the work itself, then I replace it with an equivalent, but more effective one.

I take it that you’re in some way interested in the disregard of expectations… How to you implement this and what is your relationship with the documentation of your work?

Disappointment is the new satisfaction. Certainly one of my wishes is that the viewer perceives not to be the recipient of my work. The subjectivity in the interpretation of a work is depressing, demotivating, but very funny; it would be nice to use it as one of the materials in a sculpture. I have often felt the need to take personally care of the documentation which for me is rather a display, but also the work itself, in another form. The documentation should be able to suggest the unrepresentable elements of an opera. For many works, it will be the only thing that remains and the only thing that travels. I always thought: this exhibition will be seen by 500 people. But this image will be seen every day and forever, by millions of viewers, decontextualized and perhaps misunderstood. I feel the need to pose these problems when I relate to the documentation of one of my works. I use this moment to reflect and work again, with an additional point of view. For Shitty-Slippy-Slutty (2015), before creating it physically, I had worked on the image that would have been its documentation. A documentation in advance and a forecast of the future. Matteo Mottin, in 2015 curator of Time Dreaming Itself in the space of Barriera, in Turin, asked me if I could exhibit precisely that work, because he was not aware of the fact that Shitty-Slippy-Slutty existed only virtually. I worked tracing the work back in time to make it physical. Starting from a frontal image, I had to face its third dimension, but also the expectation that I had created; with the possibility to either satisfy or disappoint when building the back of the figure, which I had neither shown nor imagined at the time.