Dress code | Giuseppe De Mattia
curated by Celeste
8.04 - 14.06
LAVA PIU - TERAMO
[...] In the course of his more than ten years of activity, Giuseppe De Mattia returns to the dynamics and
implications of the artist's profession - all effectively condensed in the character of The Gecko Patent - such as "the need to sell one's works at any cost, the mutual accusation of plagiarism among artists, the fear of fraud that underlies every purchase of contemporary art. In 2019, in the exhibition 'Esposizione di frutta e verdura' at the Matèria gallery in Rome, he staged a parody of a fruit and vegetable market as a metaphor for the art fair, in which real fruit and ceramic fruit reveal their different natures only in the days following the opening, as the vegetables decay.
In De Mattia's work, the market seems to coexist in the dual form of a place of affection for the childhood spent in the South in the 1980s, but also in its less noble variant of a black market. For example in Ladri di piastrelle (Tile Thieves) (2022), the installation conceived in the spaces of OPR Gallery in Milan, in which he replicates a ceramic decoration of Portuguese azulejos, the object of an illegal market to be fed to tourists in the Iberian cities, designed to be sold to the public at an affordable price, also decreeing the dismemberment of the work.
In Dress code, the local market also functions as an essential point of contact for the artist with the territory he is working with for the first time, Teramo. De Mattia is accompanied by the curatorə, the day before the opening, to the market in the neighbouring town, to buy second-hand clothes to be used in the performance.
The clothes must necessarily be salvaged from street vendors as they are not already clean, like new ones from the shop: the garments are in fact washed-digested by the coin-operated laundry operated by the artist during the performance, who immediately afterwards irons them, assembles them into different outfits and places them in a bag, complete with a tag. Each packaged outfit is put up for sale, as with Thieves of Tiles, at a cheap price, to reiterate the anti-elitist nature of De Mattia's art:
"If you like an artist, it is only fair that you should own at least one of his works".
Each packaged dress is a character, a costume, a portrait, a painting. Every multiple produced does not properly fall into the aesthetic category of the ready-made, since it involves an intervention of careful regeneration of the object. Moreover, the artist's operation does not imply a defunctionalisation of the consumer product, it does not decree its irreversible entry into the sphere of art as an object relieved of its function, because no one prohibits collectors from wearing the clothes once they have been purchased. With Dress code, De Mattia seems to respond affirmatively to Morpio's question about thinking by expansion, following the movement of the centrifuge, to create an artistic experience powerfully adherent to the circumstances in which it finds itself.
The works that arise from the performance first at the market and then in the laundry are processed found objects, in which the distinction between work of art and commodity manifests all its fragility and insubstantiality. The distinction between work of art and commodity is even more evident here. It is motivated not by the use value of the garments (i.e. by the fact that they remain usable), but rather by their symbolic value. As Emanuele Coccia points out in Il bene delle cose, the quality of a commodity is determined by the symbolic meaning that people attribute to it, and it is this signifying charge that makes things exchangeable.
Central then becomes the activation by the artist, through buying and selling at popular prices, of the possibility of a relationship with a public - such as that of LAVA PIU - not strictly composed of collectors. A public that, through the purchase, is put in a position to recognise the value of the operation by investing money.
The work, just like any commodity, has value because it is part of a system of relations and exchange. "A pure and absolute community of men without things has never existed and will never exist: it is in things and through things that men can meet" .
Humanity has always existed around goods, in place of a market for the circulation of goods. The work of art is no stranger to this discourse. From another point of view, what is missing is the traditional mediation of the art gallery which, as the artist points out, often drives collectors to buy not because they are motivated by an interest in the works, but rather by the prestige of the galleries themselves, true brands of luxury goods. Finally, in other respects, De Mattia does nothing more than highlight the dynamics of the commodity trade and, in particular, the art market: the artist, the creator, the influencer, is he or she who is always trying to sell you something, even when he or she is not explicitly declaring it.
De Mattia, on the other hand, shows it, does not hide it, indeed he makes it the centre of his work.
IS IT NOT THAT, WITHOUT MEANING TO, I WANTED THIS? IT IS NOT THAT MY ART,
AS IT IS, COUNTS NOT FOR THE FEW WORKS I PRODUCE, BUT FOR WHAT IT
FORCES ME TO LIVE?
These are the words Federico Morpio imagines carving on a tombstone. We wonder if Giuseppe De Mattia could ever create a variant of this question that sounds something like this:
"IS IT NOT THAT, WITHOUT MEANING TO, I WANTED JUST THAT? IS IT NOT THAT LIFE, AS IT
AS IT IS, COUNTS FOR THE WORKS IT FORCES ME TO PRODUCE?"