Interview #60

Riccardo Banfi

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

Riccardo Banfi (Milan, 1986) studied at IUAV (Venice) and Fondazione Spinola Banna per l’Arte (Turin). His work has been exhibited at LOOP Video Art Festival (Barcelona); Agora (Berlin); Crosstalk Video Art Festival (Budapest); Phoenix Gallery (Brighton); The Church of London (London); Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina (Novi Sad); Centre National Édition Art Image (Chatou-Paris); Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Gervasuti Foundation and Palazzo Carminati (Venice).

We launched the studio visit with the series I found myself in Guwahati, a sort of diary of your experience in India. Tell us about your impressions of the place, animals included.

I found myself in Guwahati is a project realized in the city of Guwahati in Assam, the largest metropolitan area in the northeast of India, during a period of research promoted by Paolo Rosso, artistic director of Microclima in Venice. The city overlooks the bank of the Brahmaputra river, has about one million inhabitants; it’s outside of all tourist routes, there are no infrastructures, and you are inevitably thrown in its dynamics, without any filter or comfort. It was my first trip beyond Europe, this aspect led me to develop my work both as an exploration of the context as well as a reaction to a culture and a history in which I had never shown interest. I have a fascination with animals, and they recur in the photographs in flesh and blood, stuffed, behind the fences. In this regard I would like to quote a passage of Why Look at Animals? by John Berger, because it captures exactly the meaning of this relation: “The eyes of an animal when they consider a man are attentive and wary. The same animal well look at other species in the same way. He does not reserve a special look for man. But by no other species except man will the animal’s look be recognised as familiar. Other animals are held by the look. Man becomes aware of himself returning to the look. The animal scrutinises him across a narrow abyss of non-comprehension. This is why the man can surprise the animal. Yet the animal – even if domesticated – can also surprise the man. The man too is looking across a similar, but not identical, abyss of non-comprehension. And this is so wherever he looks. He is always looking across ignorance and fear”.

Tnx is the book made with Yes I Am Writing a Book, an edition of 300 and some prints exhibited at the Fonderia Artistica Battaglia. How the project was born?

Federico Barbon and Andrea Scarabelli – aka Yes I am Writing A Book – proposed a collaboration, and we focused on a collection of photographs I made for CLUBNIGHT#2, an installation that reproduced the experience of clubbing in an exhibition space, and to expand the discourse on the club from a place of fun and freedom to the contemporary rituals of belonging to a subculture, by inquiring about the roles and the ways of interaction of individuals within a community. Giulia Bini joined us for the writing of a text, and thus was created Tnx. The title recalls the three consonants as well as the three lights that dominate the private area of the club protagonist: the Tenax in Florence.

Perhaps your most ambitious project is No Standing Just Dancing: tell us about it.

No Standing Just Dancing is a series on the club scene in Paris, realised between 2013 and 2014 with the help of Giuliana Setari and Dena Foundation Contemporary Art. Before I arrived I didn’t know much about it, and I didn’t expect to find such an energy. I observed the subject from three different perspectives, the dancefloor, the musical production and the urban landscape. Concrete was the first club that I attended. The agenda, at the time, was limited to a daytime event every two Sundays on a barge at the riverside of the Seine. The first pictures I took are those of the crowd, in the open air terrace, and the project title mentions a sign posted near the console: “No standing just dancing. Please don’t kill the vibe“. As a starting point I compiled the to do list with all locations where electronic music events were held. I used it to explore the city, I let myself be driven by my personal taste, directing myself to the major institutions including the aforementioned Concrete, the Rex Club and La Machine du Moulin Rouge.

Can you name some great photographers of the clubbing scene, that you refer to?

I suggest to browse the book Council UKG by Ewen Spencer printed by GOST in 2013.

You told us about the condition of not having a studio, and the fact that your studio is now, online, on a screen…

The desire to have it is strong and I think it to be a more than favourable condition, but it is clear that today the computer is a physically movable space, with which you can plan and work anywhere.

In which area do you live in Milan?

I was born and raised between Città Studi and Porta Venezia and even today these are the areas where I spend most of my time in Milan.

Can you mention some places where you exhibited in town, or those that are key places to you?

The only institution with which I have had the opportunity to collaborate in Milan was the Fonderia Artistica Battaglia for the occasion of the launch of Tnx, then there are spaces that I attend systematically, as Micamera bookshop, Galleria Carla Sozzani, PAC Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea and Hangar Bicocca.