Silvia Giambrone works in performance, installation, sculpture, sound, video to explore contemporary body politics. Giambrone casts a critical gaze on the traditional domestic environment and excavates the inherent yet often hidden power dynamics between men and women.
WIA: WHAT ARE YOU DOING TODAY?
Preparing for a conference on feminism.
Pretending I don’t have emails to reply to.
Waiting for another shake of earthquake.
Hoping there won’t be another one.
Reading a book about Schwarze Pädagogik.
WIA: TELL US ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS.
SG: It feels like listening to something struggling to be said, something I feel under my skin. It must have a hold on me I can’t deny. Most of the time it’s about an obsession and the way I can transform it into images. Similar to iconic images, which bind the viewer in a religious way, the image could actually become a prayer you don’t want to listen to but to which you are drawn.
Some other times I see the work already done, an image strikes me and it’s kind of a revelation I have to negotiate with – if we don’t have a deal then it’s probably worthy enough to work on!
WIA: DESCRIBE WHERE YOU DO MOST OF YOUR CREATIVE WORK.
SG: The most exciting part happens in my mind and it often happens when I am traveling or watching something, a movie, a show, or when I talk to someone, when I am doing ‘something else’. The most intense bouts of creativity come when I manage to put myself in an intimate space where I am extremely exposed but protected at the same time.
When I am physically making the work (or performing) I try to listen to all the things that come out unexpectedly, those that are not under my control and that betray my first idea, and I try to see what they have to say.
WIA: WHAT’S THE MOST EXCITING PROJECT YOU’VE WORKED ON?
SG: What I am working on right now!
WIA: WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BECOME AN ARTIST?
SG: I don’t think I really decided it. To me being an artist has always been a kind of a vocation, something calling me, and that I couldn’t ignore. It became a filter through which I experience reality. There was no way I could choose something else and live differently, I simply couldn’t. It’s a way to be always in touch with what’s mysterious and deep.
If I had to find an image for what it means to be an artist, I would say it’s like being a tightrope walker over the empty abyss that we feel as humans and to which we are steadily drawn to.
WIA: WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
SG: I’m working on three projects: the first is a new film on domestic violence; another uses sculpture to rethink the role and purpose of monuments; and the third is on the relation between motherhood and bunker architecture.
WIA: DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK, AND IF SO, WHAT’S YOUR SOUNDTRACK?
SG: Music is very important for me because it inspires me and often guides me toward the direction I need to make a new work. Sometimes I listen obsessively to one song trying to figure how to make a work out of it.
Several works of mine come from songs and when it happens you know by the title of the work. One day I will have my visual album. My box of pearls, like Janis Joplin.
WIA: WHAT ARE THE KEY THEMES IN YOUR WORK?
SG: Violence, domestics, sacred, intimacy, mystery, silence, legacy, archeology.
WIA: WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO NOTICE IN YOUR WORK?
SG: That what they consider familiar in their lives probably needs to be questioned to see the power it has on them. I want people to experience my work psychoanalytically rather than conceptually. I am not interested in the intellectual consistency that conceptual art often traditionally requires. I am actually interested in the opposite approach, when figures don’t add up.
When experiencing my work, I want people to struggle to identify what they are not ready to acknowledge about themselves. I want them to feel my work is betraying them, revealing secrets they were not ready to reveal: I consider this betrayal a kind of a liberation.
WIA: WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO THE MEDIUMS YOU WORK IN?
SG: For me there is always an erotic aspect when approaching a medium, whether a new one or one I have worked with several times. I try to keep that erotic approach alive every time.
WIA: WHAT EQUIPMENT COULD YOU NOT DO WITHOUT?
SG: A pen. I am old school, I need to write to clear my mind. Handwriting.
WIA: WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
SG: Poetry, music, people, but anything really. From talking to a friend or reading philosophy, to listening the voices of those I love, or singing a song to my cats. I guess it’s about listening to those deep things you rarely find the time or the courage to listen to. Nietzsche used to ask: How much truth can a spirit dare? That slippery truth, so hard to catch, inspires me.
WIA: HOW DOES GENDER AFFECT YOUR WORK?
SG: Among the several things I think I am, I am a woman, so what I experience starts from my body, from my own way of feeling and experiencing reality as a woman. That means something and implies something I have to deal with. I believe it’s equally important to experience what you share with other people, what commonalities you have (binding you to them) and what differences. I think you can easily find that in my work. For me, it’s not only about choosing subjects related to gender, it’s about experiencing reality authentically, so in my case, as a woman.
WIA: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE GALLERY, OR PLACE TO SEE OR EXPERIENCE ART?
SG: I prefer those that mean something to me, maybe because something happened to me there, or because they belong to my memories, so those places where I feel I belong the most.
WIA: IF YOU COULD OWN ONE PIECE OF ART, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
SG: One painting from Rothko’s Saffron series. I have always wondered what’s on the other side of the canvas. I have always imagined those paintings to be burning gates you could enter, something like Alice through the looking glass but on fire. They make you feel like domesticated lions jumping through fire rings.
WIA: IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH ONE ARTIST, FROM ANY TIME, WHO WOULD IT BE, AND WHY?
SG: Several: I wish I had the chance to know Carla Lonzi (an Italian feminist activist, art critic and art historian): to work together on possible solutions to a major feminist problem she identified but didn’t have the time to find an answer to.
Then Lars Von Trier, to do to him what he does to others.
I would love to work with some male actors for their dramatic qualities: Michael Fassbender, because of his ferocious beauty. I would enjoy trying to do to him what I already do to domestic objects.
Bob Odenkirk to explore the thousands nuances of guilt that one can embody.
Ben Mendelsohn because of the unpredictability he communicates with his body.
Harrison Ford because looks a lot like my father.
Then Michael Jordan because he could fly.
And then the Pope, because that would be a very interesting negotiation.
PLEASE NOTE, VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGESnre
WIA: IS THERE AN ARTIST, MOVEMENT OR COLLECTIVE YOU’D LIKE TO SEE REEVALUATED, OR A CONTEMPORARY ARTIST WHO IS UNDERRATED?
SG: Artists who have been discriminated for different reasons. Women, since forever; artists who live in countries where there isn’t an art system in place to allow them to work; artists who have stayed on the wrong side of history (one name that comes up to my mind is Adolfo Wildt, a fascist Italian sculptor but still an amazing artist).
I believe you can be a great artist even if you make really bad choices and even if you are a bad, bad person.
WIA: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR?
SG: Any in the scale from red to purple.