Gianni Motti was born 1958 in Sondrio, Italy.
The artist lives and works in Geneva, Switzerland.
Heike Borowski, Coordinator ZKM-online.
E-mail interview, July 16th 2007, Napoli / Karlsruhe
HB: One of your most spectacular works is a walk through the Large Hadron Collider, a 27 km long particle accelerator 100 m below ground [HIGGS LHC CERN, 2005]. How did this feel? What insights and experiences did you collect on this ‘journey’?
GM: In 2005, I was invited for a collaboration between art and sciences in the frame of the celebration of the Einstein Centennial. I chose to collaborate with a physicist of the CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory (there was also invented the World Wide Web). When I visited the CERN, I was impressed by the complex and futurist high technology, and particularly by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a gigantic scientific machine located inside a circular underground tunnel of 27 km circumference. Scientists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding two beams of particles travelling in opposite directions at close to the speed of light.
It seems that at the origin, there was as much matter than antimatter, and that this latter had disappeared…
As an artist, in front of that all, I felt depressed! So I decided to compare myself to a proton and to walk around the entire ring. At an unaccelerated pace it took me about 6 hours… (whereas the particles will turn 11′000 times around the ring in one second).
After 2 kilometres, I lost all notion of time and space. I don’t remember anything, I was elsewhere… I was hypnotised by the monotonous tunnel, as in a video game. When I arrived at the end of the tunnel, I wanted to continue! I wasn’t tired. When I came out, I had the feeling that the others were 6 hours older. Perhaps one day this huge Collider will investigate some mysterious traces of anti-Motti…
A video travelling relates this experience [→ watch movie (2min; QuickTime required)]
HB: Raising political or post-democratic issues is a central theme in your work. The Victims Of Guantanamo Bay (Memorial) (2006) for example tells us the names of the political prisoners who were being held in an internment camp in Guantanamo, Cuba. This lends a certain public recognition to the anonymous captives by releasing their names.
In 2004 outside the Tennis French Open in Paris as George Bush was expected to arrive, a TV camera crew recorded you covering your head with a yellowish bag similar to those the captives from Abou Ghraib had to wear.
How do you see current political or activist art? As an artist, has it become more explosive to act on the state of political world affairs?
GM: When I’m invited in a gallery or an institution, I’m a little frustrated, I need to get out and realize also something outside, in order to continue to take part in the big laboratory that is life. For instance, it is the day after an exhibition in Paris, that I went to Roland-Garros.
This intervention has had a lot of repercussions because it happened in the frame of a famous sport event with all the media apparel that surrounds it. If I was expelled after twenty minutes, it’s because I provoked an inedited telescoping between two images of man: the superhuman athlete and the deshumanized prisoner. The contemporary representations of sport men obey an ideological construction, which tolerates no pessimist counterpoints, not even in the background.
I think also, that what was shocking to the public, was the fact that a spectator, sitting on one of the most expensive and coveted seats, where one can see and been seen (I was on the VIP platform), refuses to look at the spectacle.
In this piece, sport and politics get mixed, there are by the way more politicians in the stadiums’ plate-forms than at the assembly…
Concerning the memorial The Victims of Guantanamo Bay, it is the contrary, I show what one doesn’t want to see.
HB: Do cultural producers get through to audiences more effectively than political statespeople? Are audiences opening up more and more to politically motivated artistic practice? Are artists expanding their audience this way?
GM: If you take the best contemporary living artists and if you ask about them in the street… nobody knows them. Whereas politicians yes.
Politics is today envisioned as a total spectacle. The electors need to get theirs money’s worth. Look at the shows of the G8 or at Brussels meetings, with Angela Merkel, Sarkozy, Poutine and Blair hugging each other and partying in front of the cameras. When the party ends, one invents the spectre of terrorism.
Nobody can compete with political statespeople…
HB: Which role do electronic media play in your work in concert with it concrete materials? How do they open uniquely distinct qualities in your work, and/or provide an important ‘aperture’ or opening to your audience?
GM: As far as I am concerned, it is a tool as any other, no more no less.
I don’t have a website or a blog because I don’t have extraordinary things to tell.
HB: During your show “Plausible Deniability” which took place in the Migros Museum Zurich in 2004 you didn’t show anything to the visitors - at least no ‘art’. They had to go out again as soon as they had caught a glimpse of wainscotted corridors. Being part of the art market and criticising the art market seems to be a tightrope walk, or?
GM: It wasn’t a criticism of the art market. Heike Munder, the director of the Migros Museum, invited me to do a retrospective… Beside presenting a choice of my past artworks, I decided to ’show’ only their narrative: a 600 meter long corridor, naked, empty of pictures or objects went through the museum’s wide spaces, but guides, briefed beforehand, were accompanying and explaining to the visitors what I had done before, letting people invent their own pictures and have their own mental projections.
I guess that the absence of artworks was an added value.
HB: Your work appears to be ephemeral in character at times. At others you highlight symbolic notions and ideas. Do you find that a conventional gallery situation or museum hall can be an obstacle to your process?
GM: Not at all. In life one is always confronted by obstacles, by negotiations and discussions, and galleries and museums are no exceptions to that. In general, they want always something that you have already done before, but there are also people open and curious to new experiences and adventures…
A lot of my works in galleries and museums escape the notion of ‘exposition’. They become amplifiers invested in the public space and have consequences in the social texture. Rumours go around, politic, scientific or cultural newspapers echo the events.
HB: What are your relationships with other artists, and more generally with others actors of the art world ?
GM: These are quite conflicting relationships. When they are around they get on my nerves, and when they are not around I miss them.
· Gianni Motti on SpacePlace