Giuseppe De Mattia
The work you have done since the beginning of your journey, Giuseppe, has certainly branched out in many directions. I am thinking, for example, of the series of photographs with pastel interventions "Monsieur Bonnin's Son" or with acrylic interventions "War Horse Decorations," the purpose of which is to restore materiality to the photographic print or to highlight its essential elements.
Or to works such as "The Revolt of the First Object" and "Configurations of Rubber Bands on Floor" that resolve themselves into the representation of mundane objects.
It seems to me, however, that the focus in recent years has been sharper and turned to the staging of the art market -- to the relationship between artists, collectors and galleries -- and the dynamics that derive its success.
My work has taken many paths over time, including from the fact that I use different tools, from photography to painting, from video to drawing. However, there is a common thread that has linked almost all the projects and it is the relationship between truth and falsehood that is triggered by the work of art. This discourse has been pursued from different perspectives: for example in "Decorations for War Horses" the pictorial part is what mystifies, makes false, by covering some points of it, the underlying image; in the latest works it is not the object as much as the mechanism that regulates it that plays on this relationship of truthfulness.
Thus in "It's All True," I exhibited a series of objects that are supposed to show, thanks to their high cost, my accomplishment as a successful artist, but which, on closer inspection, turn out to be falsely valuable (such as the photograph depicting me in a Ferrari 208, which was had depowered to avoid paying the luxury goods tax). In recent years my research has focused more on these mechanisms.
In addition to your artistic research, there are other tools through which you critique the art market.
Exactly. In my exhibitions there is always work that anyone can economically afford, because collecting cannot remain the preserve of the few. If you like an artist it is only fair that you should own at least one of his works. Also very often collectors buy the gallery and not the artist-it is not the work itself that is important as much as the fact that it was sold by a particular successful gallery, as basically happens with big brands.
The anti-elitist practice of distributing works at low cost allows this discourse to be unhinged. Another form of criticism is the project carried out with Luca Coclite and Claudio Musso's "House by the Sea," which was not created with any commercial purposes, but is a space of need with a slow pace contrary to that of classical production. It is a way to put back, in artistic practice, the human relationship first. And it is a way to talk about the South.
What has been the foundation work of this journey of yours?
In 2018 I was invited by Lorenzo Balbi to participate in the group exhibition "That's IT" at MAMbo. Since this exhibition fell exactly ten years after the beginning of my activity, I thought I would turn it into an opportunity to reflect in a more articulate way on the themes we have been talking about so far, through seven performances that would showcase the need to sell one's work at any cost, the mutual accusation of plagiarism among artists, and the fear of fraud that underlies every purchase of contemporary art.
Having a great interest-if not an aptitude-for squatting and illegal work, I thought of actions that could take place with a small wooden table to be carried to different points on Via Indipendenza in Bologna and that, through shady haggling, would each symbolize the issues mentioned. I thus, for example, opened a membership point for the MAV (Movimento Artisti Violenti, which I ironically created) or implemented a buying and selling of stolen bicycle frames.
Tell me about a significant residency/exhibition/project within your artistic journey.
An important exhibition for my path was the solo show in 2019, "Fruit and Vegetable Exhibition," at the Matèria Gallery in Rome. I will preface this by saying that my great school has been markets - which I have always loved very much - and fairs - which I have always hated very much - and, given the many points of contact, I thought I would talk about the latter through the former. I recreated within the space, a typical market stall with real fruits and vegetables displayed along with the same replicated in ceramic: thus each box containing oranges featured both oranges produced by nature and produced by me with this material.
The difference between the two was not perceptible at the opening of the exhibition, but as time went on, the authentic product would decay, showing the underlying artifice. In this way, the artist's presence emerged only at the end, as in Franco Vaccari's "Real Time Exhibition No. 4" performance in which his role was revealed only at the end of the exhibition, as process activators. Moreover, I liked the idea that if the exhibition, together with my work as an artist, did not work, I could always open a real fruit and vegetable store as an alternative.
I would like you to tell me about yourself either through a reference, a character, not belonging to the art world or through another artist you feel close to you for research.
As for non-art world figures, my point of reference are Franco Cassano and Tommaso Fiore, because of their Southern approach and their ability to restore the South's dignity as a subject. It becomes increasingly urgent for the South to achieve an autonomy of thought and not be narrated by the Other, by a "center" that sees it as a large and chaotic periphery. Hence also my willingness to move back from Bologna to Puglia and the project we talked about earlier, "Casa a mare."
As for artists, on the other hand, I am a great admirer of Mimmo Conenna about whom, in my opinion, there are not enough studies or exhibitions. I feel close to him for his use of common objects (such as Dentamaro oil cans) and for his drawings with olive oil. But also Cesare Pietroiusti, for his forms of participatory art that have created short circuits in the art market.
In 2015 he founds ‘Libri Tasso’ an independent artist book self-publishing project and in 2020 he founded Marktstudio, a container of artistic projects inside a frame shop in Bologna.He is represented by Matèria Gallery in Rome, Labs Contemporary Art in Bologna and OPR in Milan.