Neither else nor this: The challenge to the Labyrinth.
Flash Art
Giulia Gregnanin
4 May 2019

Neither else nor this: The challenge to the Labyrinth. The need to make a choice. A conversation with Milovan Farronato

Trying to read the world in its complexity using the metaphor of the labyrinth, Milovan Farronato - curator of the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale - once again makes explicit his curatorial aptitude in restoring a non-linear, distorted and fallacious knowledge system. Reflecting on the device, Farronato deconstructs the conception of the path, opening up infinite possibilities for experience and reading.

Giulia Gregnanin: Milovan, at the press conference you stated how much the display will be a fundamental mechanism in configuring the visitor's experience. It seems you want to invite an active observation of the works that unfolds towards innumerable readings.

Milovan Farronato: In the maze of "Né altro Né questa", which we designed with Enrico David and Liliana Moro, in the astral company of Chiara Fumai, there will be many possible paths that will be defined based on the choices made by each visitor. Wandering among the wide corridors and the cul-de-sacs of the exhibition, the public will be able to decide from time to time how to orientate themselves inside the labyrinth. The exhibition is generously offered to multiple interpretations, somehow I like to think that in this project so many parallel exhibitions will coexist, as many as the experiences of the public that will cross our intricate layout. Right from the start we will find ourselves faced with the need to make a choice: to go right or left? And then also inside a continuous succession of bifurcations and invitations to retrace their steps. Also the exhibited works and their succession, in constant dialogue with each other and with the preparation, will reveal the rhizomatic nature of our labyrinth. However, all the paths are valid because, as Umberto Eco wrote in 1984 in the preface of Paolo Santarcangeli's The Book of Labyrinths, "even the wrong choices produce solutions and yet they contribute to complicating the problem".

GG: Enrico David, Chiara Fumai and Liliana Moro have reduced the distance between their research and their experience to a minimum. I wonder if it is precisely this reduced proximity that has led you to select them and where you are more or less voluntarily mirrored and recognized.

MF: Enrico's studio in London coincides with his place of life. An opening without a door is the threshold to access from the first to the second. Even for Chiara when she lived in Milan it was home shop, as well as for me since the times of Viafarini. For Liliana, however, the border thickens and articulates in a street: Viale Monza, house on the right, study on the left. Distance traveled daily, ten minutes on foot. This is certainly an anniversary that I met with so many artists I've worked with over the years, such as Goshka Macuga, Roberto Cuoghi, Prem Sahib, SAGG Naples, Patrizio Di Massimo - so I don't think this is a primary reason for my choice for the Pavilion. For me it was the complementarity between their research and the possibility of telling intricate stories where the variables exceed the constants.

GG: You also talked about how artists' practices contain both an Apollonian and a Dionysian vision. This made me think about the bacchanal as a possible curatorial device. Do you believe that, through its unbridled drive for transcendence, it can be a suitable instrument for countering the deep-rooted nationalisms?

MF: With every intervention there is a lot of possibility of response and reaction. I believe that the actualization of ideas through art is a way to give them concrete form, test them, and so perhaps influence the people who participate in them by offering them the possibility of interacting with one another from the "other" values. In this sense, certainly some projects can become an expression of contrast with certain cultural or political systems. Among my projects for the Fiorucci Art Trust I can recall some presentations of a convivial, ritualistic and "profane" press - characteristics that distinguish the genesis of the bacchanal in Roman times. I think of theater dinners choreographed by Paolina Olowska in Villa Kadenowkains together with other participants of Mycorial Theater, a form of experimental symposium that Paulina and I have conceived together, taking inspiration from the educational methods of Black Mountain College. And yet in Stromboli, where every year the festival I founded with the title Volcano Extravaganza takes place, we have promoted a way of making art that feeds deeply on inspirations born in moments of collective ecstasy. Often this is due to the particular conditions of the island - the proximity to an active volcano, the accentuated summer heat, being away from everything and everyone - and to the circumstances of the festival as a moment of fluid exchange, without creative limits, in which everything is allowed (within the limits of what can be found at Stromboli!).

GG: What are the trajectories that you think is going through Italian art right now? From the inside the fear is that its "labyrinth system" is not connected with the international mazes, much more competitive and respectively connected.

MF: I believe that from this point of view the MiBAC is doing an excellent job of promoting and developing the artistic community that lives in our country. Thanks to the activities of the Italian Council, they promote Italian art internationally by supporting the production of new works that will then be exhibited in important institutions abroad. At the same time, they also undertake to organize occasions in which foreign curators are given the opportunity to come to Italy and do studio visits with artists. For six years I have lived in London and I see Italy from Stromboli in the first place which is a particular place; transit frequently between Milan and Naples which I consider a city of great dynamism due to the respective artistic scenes, which I find most fervent today a few years ago.

GG: Have you ever lost and found yourself?

MF: Yes, more than once. The first one was in Venice, I was five and I went to visit the city with my parents. While they, perhaps attracted by the glint of silver, stopped to look at the crowded stalls of the antique dealers in Campo San Maurizio, I went into the streets in pursuit of a flock of pigeons. I had never seen so many birds all together. Perhaps an omen. In some cultures, such as Shinto, they are very powerful symbols. On that occasion I did not feel a feeling of fear, I was in a time dilated in peaceful waiting to be found again. Venice has a typically medieval, tight and labyrinthine urban texture, practically unchanged since the era of Marco Polo. The writer Tiziano Scarpa advises those who visit Venice to follow the labyrinth, not to fight it and to let themselves be guided by their instinct through the branches, the salizades and the crosere. In 1988 Jean Baudrillard writes about Suite Vénitienne - the work of Sophie Calle in which the French artist chases for just two weeks the newly known Henri B - that Venice is a trap, a labyrinth that always leads back to the same places and where everyone they meet and continually recognize. The only way not to be seen is to be the pursuer and to trust that the pursued will not turn around, otherwise the roles would be reversed.