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In conversation with Alessandro Amaducci

Intervista curated by Piero Deggiovanni

Alessandro Amaducci is among the most internationally well-known and active Italian video artists, with participation in various festivals and award ceremonies. He combines his artistic production – almost as if it were a notebook of side reflections of his experience in the field, or perhaps it would be better to say on the console – with a dense theoretical production which takes the form of historical, critical and technical manuals, which are never just that, but also precise indications of his poetic and aesthetic path.


Piero Deggiovanni: I would like to start with one of your books from a few years ago: Computer grafica. Mondi sintetici e realtà disegnate (Computer graphics. Synthetic worlds and designed realities), where you explicitly clarify what the digital “object” is for you and the type of relationship you have with it, introducing the idea of “threshold”, a threshold between life and death, between flesh and pixels.
Alessandro Amaducci: New technologies (or old, depending on how much time we give them to be current) have always represented something magical, something out of the ordinary. Something extra-ordinary that somehow has to do with the otherworldly. I have always been fascinated, for example, with regards to the analogue technology of old television, by the concept of remote transmission, “over the air” as it was called at the time, which is an ancient and esoteric term, the Aristotelian “quintessential”. The fact of being able to remotely manage an element, already rich in meaning in itself, such as a moving image reminded me of the classic gesture of the magician’s hand, which can transfer energy from one point in space to another. It is no coincidence that, for example, the icon of the hand is present in many of Woody Vasulka’s experiments: the power of distance is a magical gesture. As far as computer graphics are concerned, an almost material process takes place: the phantom image of analogue technology is covered with a surface, with a substance made of numbers, claiming to be more realistic by virtue of the fact that it creates objects that can be positioned on a perspective plane. But it is a game à la Salvador Dalí: the digital world is a mirror which manifests the “world beyond” with the purely virtual concreteness of objects. That objects can have a life is a childish, surrealist vision, it is a specifically digital form of animism that connects what we think is inorganic with the vitality of movement. And so yes: digital is truly a threshold. Finally, I am still somehow “devoted” to the original concept of image: the imago was the funerary mask, or the objectification of something that no longer exists, or that comes from afar. With digital that object, the mask, acquires a strange life, and therefore lives perpetually in the balance between life and death.


Referring to the origins of your imagination and the particular crasis that you create through the digital crucible, it seems that the dark side of universal energies pervades you almost as if you were an inhabitant of it and many of your videos represent a frequenting of it beyond trends followed one another over the decades, generating a path that shapes them into the uniqueness of your work.
I consider myself a traveler between different dimensions, and I very willingly frequent the unconscious, both mine and that of the digital camera. Energy is a very frequent concept in my videos, and it takes on different visual aspects from time to time: I don’t consider it something universal, but metaphysical and at the same time organic, which concerns our body and the body of the machine. Electricity is an energy form that our organism has in common with the digital machine: it is a form of transmission that we have in common, and it inevitably creates bridges and exchanges. For this reason the title of my latest anthology is Electric Self Anthology: beyond the quotation of Walt Whitman’s I sing the Body Electric, digital increasingly transforms our self into an energy form that can take on various forms and which is constantly contaminated with the energy of the machine. In my videos there is always a transition between inside and outside. I don’t consider it a dark side, but simply hidden, internal. Just as the icon of pregnancy and the trauma of birth often appear as something that is violently projected from within. The outside is sometimes much darker than the inside. Darkness is just a point of view: for me it is a dimension in which the elements acquire more clarity and manifest themselves more explicitly. They come to light.


You often investigate the relationship between the virtual body and the real body, finding ideas in the interaction between the two entities and points of convergence such as, for example, dance. A relationship then stigmatized in your recent book dedicated to this theme: Screendance.
The body is a bridge, it is the symbolic place where the dimensions of death and life, of what we consider natural and artificial, find their privileged space. Since they are bodies that feel, they hardly use the spoken word, which is a too structured a language to plastically express the symbol, the emotion, the feeling. Unless it’s the poetic word. And so they dance. Dance is an extraordinarily effective tool for transforming bodies into symbolic vectors, into shells full of meaning. They become poetic and ultimately poietic elements. I have always been fascinated by the dance world and when I began to see the first videodance works, or dance shows with video interventions on stage, I decided that this had to be an avenue of experimentation. Being at the same time very interested in the music video universe, where dance plays an important role, for me, it was quite automatic to combine the two areas. By writing Screendance I realized that contemporary dance in the audiovisual field has transformed from pure experimentation capable of structuring itself as an autonomous audiovisual genre to a flexible language, present in many genres between experimentation and the market, such as videos musicals and fashion films. In short, it is a necessary tool for those who want to experience the absence of words.


Going into a little more detail about the works, I would like you to tell us about two works which, in my opinion, are authentic masterpieces, complex and totally transcendent of reality – in the sense that in transcendence they find the complete description of reality. I am referring to your work on the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters and to that work in progress or open work which is the Electric Self Anthology, coincidentally two cosmogonic anthologies of which the last represents the evolution of your thought and necessarily of your poetic action.
Spoon River represented my personal transition from analog to digital, encountering all the possible hybridizations between those dimensions. After Spoon River I got rid of many video mixers, Betacam players and all those objects that had become totally useless since the advent of digital. There is only one computer left. In Spoon River I am truly on the threshold between one dimension and another, in the sense that, like the wanderer protagonist of Edgar Lee Masters’ poem, I listen to the stories that come “from the dust”, from the digital dimension. But I never get into it seriously, and in fact the entire stylistic line of the video plays on two-dimensional graphics, on the continuous analog “dirtying” of the digital image, which never manages to be truly digital. From this point of view it is the representation, poetically contradictory to the main theme of the work which is death, of a nascent state of the image, mercurial, still formless. Working on that video, however, was a true birth and re-birth, because through the digital tool I rediscovered the desire to draw, which I had abandoned many years ago, and the attention to the photographic image and no longer just the moving one. I discovered compositing, which for me is a truly alchemical operation, that is, the creative mixing of heterogeneous elements capable of creating a world. It was also, for now, my last journey into the world of the poetic word. From then on I preferred to rely on music and dance alone, as in Electric Self Anthology, where the digital dimension presents itself in a more material way through 3D computer graphics, and appears as a real world that I pass through by diving into the computer monitor. Electric Self is a reflection on a concept originally developed by Franco Vaccari, namely the technological unconscious, which I transfer to the digital universe. Do computers dream? Metaphorically speaking: yes. In all these years we have inserted a whole mass of especially visual data into the digital world: computers have assimilated our world in the form of flows of images, sounds, music, texts and words. And they have in turn transformed our archetypal imagination into data, developing their own autonomous gaze on the world and at the same time their own collective consciousness, creating a personal technological unconscious. In the perennial man-machine exchange, the two worlds inevitably meet and collide, generating hybrids in which the organic and inorganic mix incessantly. In a creative process that takes place beyond the screen, full of possibilities but also dangers. Electric Self talks about this, and above all about how we are all changing anthropologically, and how society is transforming into a digital society, a dimension in which the Debordian reversal between society and spectacle is only the starting point, and no more than arrival, of a mutation process that takes place before our eyes. Electric Self is a series of questions without a real answer: each episode deals with a specific theme and develops it visually, without becoming a “thesis” work.


Your poetic and aesthetic journey remains absolutely singular in the panorama of Italian productions. What truths have you found in the chthonic dimension, in the dancing shadows, in the sublimation of synthetic bodies so powerful as to keep you away from any form of more or less political neorealism?
I am by nature resistant to ideologies, to religion, to single thoughts. So I’m not looking for any truth. I encountered many shadows, some of them reflections of me, others of my surroundings. And then, as I said before, for me there is never truth in the image, but only interpretation, so realism or neorealism cannot exist: it is always a question of points of view. But the simple visualization of a point of view doesn’t interest me, the focusing of reality is a stylistic feature of traditional cinema, I expect a different look from an artist: I believe in transfiguration. I believe in the fact that an artist, as Rimbaud said, must be a seer, or as Kandinsky claimed, one who is able to see inside reality. For me it is important to disguise reality with symbolic fabrics, to observe it from the inside, and to foresee what it could be. This is why I like science fiction: it is a language that takes the liberty of creating worlds, not describing the world that exists, often hypothesizing universes that later came true.


For some years you have directed your attention to aspects that are decidedly more mundane and superficial, in the sense that they pertain to concrete uses and customs such as dressing and “decorating” oneself. Why did you turn your attention to the relationship – otherwise very interesting and curious – with the fashion world, then writing yet another book – as an account of an experiential journey – as your habit?
There is trend and glamour, and then there is fashion. Fashion is forever, trend and glamor are transitory. In fashion, the centrality of the body takes on a substantial role, because it creates objects that adhere to its surface: speaking in terms of computer graphics, fashion is the texture that assigns an identity to an object. Through fashion the body manifests itself and becomes a manifesto. From this point of view there is nothing more political than fashion. And there are brands that work through very experimental languages, where the body is literally transfigured. In my videos the body is usually naked because it is stripped of social and historical references: it is a neutral body, covered in digital material. But in some of my works the body becomes, in Camille Paglia’s words, a (sexual) person: a character, which manifests itself through the use of a costume. I’m not interested in clothing that covers nudity: I’m interested in a surface capable of enhancing the symbolic load of the body. Furthermore, disguise is a typical dynamic of the digital world, the result of the creatively pop confusion between entertainment and reality, staging and exhibitionism.


This last aspect of your video production is often created in collaboration with another important artist, also more unique than rare in the Italian panorama: Eleonora Manca. Tell us about this union in the name of fashion that came about with your latest editorial effort shared with Eleonora: Fashion Film. Nuove visioni della moda?
The attention towards fashion films is derived from the same reasons why I am interested in the world of music videos: I consider interesting those experiences that manage to combine experimentation and the market, creating yet another hybrid and working on yet another balance. For me there isn’t a big difference between the visual world of pop and the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Especially in the digital sphere, pop is the world of archetypes. For many years, both Eleonora and I have been attentive spectators of those fashion film experiences that use the languages of video art, new media art, experimental cinema, body art and performance art. Our book focuses on these experiences, not on the fashion film phenomenon in general. Both Eleonora and I are interested in body work, so it was natural for both of us to want to share in a book that universe of fashion film experiences that best reflect our respective artistic aesthetics. Writing about other people’s experiences makes your own clearer, unties knots, and opens up perspectives. Furthermore, Eleonora has a very in-depth knowledge of the history of fashion, so also for this reason the collaboration was born in a very spontaneous way.


A final question with a more theoretical flavor on the evolution of video art as a genre in its own right. Do you think that the digitalization process could imply the end of video art, destined to be reabsorbed by a more general and varied art-of-new-media, or will it manage to maintain a own poetic and stylistic autonomy while remaining in the context of contemporary art?
It is very difficult to answer this question, because there is no univocal vision of what video art, new media art and above all contemporary art are now. Certainly, in the history of audiovisual experimentation, the transition to digital (which occurred many years ago, with the advent of computer graphics, with the birth of digital video processing systems, with digital high definition, and finally with artificial intelligence) has represented a rather strong hiatus, often too fast to sustain, unless we want to transform artists into simple end users of the most up-to-date software, rather than into technological thinkers-experimenters. For me, the language of digital audiovisual experimentation overflows into many fields, it is not limited to what is shown in the context of contemporary art. Maintaining poetic and stylistic autonomy is the task of the artists, not of an audiovisual genre or a sector. I like to remember the work by Marco Brambilla, who manages to work indifferently in the area of contemporary art, but simultaneously creates videos for the music, fashion, advertising and TV series theme sectors, maintaining a very strong stylistic coherence. And working on an aesthetic poised between the use and demonization of the visual universe of pop. It seems to me that the more specifically artistic field still today, despite the extreme offer of technological works that can be seen in the Biennials, galleries and Foundations, has a sort of conceptual difficulty, due to a more than understandable market difficulty, such as accept new technologies. I see many easy enthusiasms, such as the use of VR or interactivity even when from an aesthetic point of view there is no need, or the utopia of the market without NFT intermediaries. We should begin to seriously distinguish what is technological art from a form of digital entertainment that is expressed through many digital “screensavers” and comforting abstract images, or the return to the traditional languages of documentary and fiction. And in all this the digital itself is not to blame: it seems to me that the art world, rather than being the terrain of curiosity and the reception of new stimuli is very disoriented and welcomes more willingly experiences that offer a consolatory and reassuring vision than new technologies and art in general.



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