March 2007

CARLO ZANNI by NOAH STOLZ, on Contemporary Magazine #91, pag. 96-99

CARLO Zanni’s work is generally labelled internet art. Connections with computer technologies are actually instrumental in this artist’s world; but it’s also true that his practice, more rooted in a wider image-led culture, tends to break with the unsmiling and prudish traditions of historical internet art. Zanni’s research has brought him to languages that are not usually connected to web-based work, which becomes clear if we think of the relationship between pieces such as Icoportraits (2000-3), Altarboy (2003-4), or eBay Landscape (2003-4). In these works, the artist tries to recover painting, translating the contemporary needs of collectors and redefining the financial ratio between artists and buyers.
In Average Shoveler (2004-5) the relationship with mass-culture is more evident, in the re-enactment of an already existing videogame. The possible ties between illness and success (2006) progresses Zanni’s new attitude to mass-culture’s most popular medium of the last century: cinema.
The possible ties is a two-minute movie transformed by an internet data flux and re-edited server-side by the web statistics tool Google Analytics. The public can then watch a new movie every day, downloading it from the website www.thepossibleties.com. The film relates the story of the last moments of an ill man (Ignazio Oliva) lying in bed in the presence of his partner (Stefania Orsola Garello). The body of the actor progressively fills with stains, quantity and position depending on the number of users visiting the website and the countries from where they access it, so that the public influences both the success of the operation and the diffusion of the actor’s disease. The title of this work comes from a review of a book called Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (1993) by psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison. The possible ties was conceived expressly for the show ‘Wireless’, an exhibition in partnership with the 59th Locarno International Film
Festival and was produced by La Rada Centro Per l’Arte, Locarno. After The possible ties was shown as part of ‘Wireless’, it required further exposure and involvement with a public to evolve.

NOAH STOLZ: Vivienne Gaskin quoted an emblematic statement of yours in the catalogue, Vitalogy, for your exhibition at the ICA, London: ‘... to paint and to make digital works is an unconscious attempt to witness a two-speed world.’ What makes you believe that the two levels could coexist?
CARLO ZANNI: They coexist by giving the interactive digital environment a pictorial feeling, focusing on the contemplative side, while working on a painting as a piece of code, using a specific language directly linked with the digital environment. So it’s about creating a coherent world where all the elements/objects exist as single units, but, at the same time, only together can they shape the idol. We could say that my work complies with the Sol LeWitt statement, ‘the idea becomes a machine that makes the art,’ updated to a more contemporary version: ‘the idea becomes the code that renders the art.’

NS: Your work before The possible ties was always aware of the relationship between the art market and digital art, focusing on finding ways to generate meta-objects that could be injected into the market (the Altarboy server sculptures are an example). Your last work opens into the logic of events more than ever; if you want your work to function you need to create an event, to work on post-production. This time contents are expressed by the main theme based on the relation between illness and success. Tell me about your relation to success.
CZ: For an artist the only way to survive just through his work is to find the way to success. Art forms push you to unveil your inner emotions (if not directly in the result, for sure in the making process, which is a very hardcore practice), and this public-driven mechanism sometimes drives you crazy. It’s a dangerous game to become an icon.

NS: The possible ties mimics the atmospheres of the end of a movie. The classic drama shots make me think of Bertolucci, of this Italian taste for memento mori and fading images. Is the structure of the movie conceived only to support a concept?
CZ: Yes, there is a liturgical aspect. I thought that cinema was perfect to tell such a story. I used it in a classical way, even, because I usually don’t like to deucture languages/media. This is something already explored and so well done in the 20th century. The possible ties works on many levels. I think you can look at it extensively or skip the layers, following the narrative, which is totally accessible for a broader audience.