ANTONINO BARBARO 




 THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT ART 

 [words Antonino Barbaro


A place where to think, question and brag about making/consuming art in a post-pandemic world.
For artists, art lover and haters. 





From ‘A Place Like No Other’, 2021


Wed 19th May 2021

FINDING NOTHING AND NONLINEAR PROGRESSION


Prior to making work, a healthy habit is that of researching your topic. Most often, the deeper your research is the better the outcome. You can only go that far with your current understanding of the subject if you don’t dedicate some time to find out more, no matter how smart or knowledgeable on that specific issue you already are.

Researching is an essential step for any attempt at producing something that sits well within its circumstances. That’s because ideas are more like constellations than self-standing stars, they connect to each other in very intricate ways, creating wider structures of thought that can hardly exist independently - like spider webs. Thoughts are never entirely independent from the environment you live in, rather always influenced - hopefully in creative ways - by your personal and cultural surroundings.

But what does that ‘re’ before search means, and what is the difference between search and research? In the visual arts, those two practices are often confused for being the same, which is why many people end up pursuing one over the other. After a quick browse on the internet, I have found two short and clear definitions of the subjects:

Search is an attempt to find, recover (or even - refine) something already known (Smart Internet Guy 1).

Research is a systematic investigative process employed to increase or revise current knowledge by discovering new facts (Smart Internet Guy 2).

In the first case, the problem is that we seek out confirmations of our knowledge and the outcome is always very close, if not identical, to our original idea. We fail to add anything to the subject and merely reiterate what we already knew. In the second case, however, what we do is investigate and learn as much as possible about our starting topic to produce new perspectives. The outcome is therefore more likely to be far from what we were expecting it to be, simply because our understanding of the issue has increased and we can see things we didn’t before.

This is so far pretty obvious and it only explains why one is more preferable than the other when making art. However, it doesn’t explain why we still fall for the wrong one so often. The reason is that searching is much easier, gratifying, it requires less energy and its results are more comfortable to live with. You search for something, find what you were looking for - you’re happy. Repeat.

Research is a different story, here critical thinking is required, a lot of energy is spent and guess what? The results are not often satisfying, or they are the opposite of what you thought. Or worse, you end up finding nothing! Being a solid researcher, one that does not give up until a new perspective is brought up, means getting accustomed to something called ‘nonlinear progression’. In other words, your progress is not a direct increment of the time and energy you spent. Rather, it is subject to long periods of lows and occasional, unpredictable highs. You deal with failure, or the less negative option no-success, for most of the time, whilst still accumulating useful knowledge and making connections along the way. Until, when you least expect it, the eureka moment arrives. You have produced something new and valuable out of the research commitment that got you busy for weeks, months, years - and in rare but mean occasions, a lifetime.

To practice valuable research is hard, frustrating and lonely. Even though your knowledge of the matter increases, until you have discovered a new perspective you - or your work - are destined to anonymity. You cannot share it with others and the lack of short-term gratification makes the whole process unbearable. Seeing other people next to you being celebrated, living a life under constant spotlight for work that, sadly, is as trendy as irrelevant doesn’t help. That’s how society works. Until truly innovative work - the well researched one - manages to get the visibility it deserves, the show will be run by empty trendiness.

Research is an unpredictable practice not only because you don’t know exactly what you are looking for - if you knew it you would be searching for it - but also because you occasionally end up stumbling upon radical discoveries. This usually happens by accident, something goes wrong during the research process, either intentionally or not, and a new world uncovers to your eyes. In this case, the risk is that by not being familiar with what you have discovered you can easily underestimate its value. It becomes really important to be aware of such possibilities and learn how to look out for something else outside your interest that can have unimaginable consequences. To do so, you first have to get accustomed to finding nothing for unpredictable periods of times and truly understand the consequences of nonlinear progressions in your practice. Said differently, if you give up you lose. Learning how to deal with the lows is much more important than any positive result you get along the way. Nonetheless, the choice is yours. Will you stick to the risky research that may get you nothing, or go the easier way of mere search and add nothing new with your work?




From ‘A Place Like No Other’, 2021


Wed 5th May 2021

FAR EASTERN PHILOSOPHY IS GOOD, ALWAYS


‘We seek not to imitate the masters, rather we seek what they sought’ (Far Eastern philosophy).

What is a master? A master is somebody we admire for their outstanding skills and achievement, or simply because we are in love with their work. Someone that strongly inspires us in pursuing our goals, often becoming a point of reference when designing our career. She/he has great control over her/his field of expertise, is incredibly skilled and somehow unique in what she/he does. Traditionally speaking, masters in the arts are those who have made work that is being remembered. From da Vinci, Michelangelo, Vermeer, Rembrandt etc. to the more contemporary Abramovic, O’Keefe, Kusama, Sherman etc. However, in a broader sense it is not only about the few people who end up in the history books, but anyone in our life that has conquered his/her practice, becoming able to provide a unique contribution to their field.

Contrary to what it looks like, life for the masters is not as sunny and warm as we expect. The reason why they got to where they are is largely due to their commitment to taking risks and pushing themselves further out than almost anybody else did. They tirelessly sought to get better, to go deeper and to do more than average. In this regard, a typically big mistake young artists do is to look up to their masters and wish to be just like them. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wishing to be like they are. At the end of the day, they inspire us, we believe in the power of their work and we recognize their impact. Nonetheless, we often end up confusing one very important aspect of this equation. That “to be like them” is the most misunderstood variable in the pursuit of artistic success.

As the Far Eastern philosophy says, what is important is not to be like them, rather seek what they sought. Being like them is a failing proposition from the start. We will never be like them because we are different of course, and even if we were, our work would have no impact. It has already been done, why would the world need something that already exists? It doesn’t! What the world actually needs is our most personal perspective, because that is what is missing. Only this work has the possibility to be a successful contribution and can help others see beyond what is already visible.

The problem here is that most of the time we envy, unconsciously maybe, the masters’ stature, their success and fame but not their commitment. We would love to be as famous as them, as talented as them as praised as them. What we don’t want is to work as hard as them, as relentlessly as them, as much as them. We don’t want to suffer, we don’t want to be singled out (if not in a positive way), we don’t want any struggle at all. We simply ignore the price they had to pay to become what they are and blindly desire just the good stuff. Definitely not the endless hours of practice, research and pain that went into building the solid ground upon which their success stands fierce.

This is why most of us fail, because we don’t take it seriously enough. Instead of building upon strength, consistency and perseverance, we lookout for shortcuts, trendy ideas and public approval. It is clear that the only thing worth imitating here is not the masters and their unique approach, but their professional behaviour. Or as the saying goes, we want to seek what they sought, not being an imitation of what they were.




From ‘Bye Bye Dedushka’, ongoing


Wed 21th April 2021

THE CREATIVE PROCESS IS EXPLORATION, NOT TOURISM


Over the last years since I’ve been working on my projects, I began to learn how to deal with the few basic but fundamental emotional obstacles to my creative process. Call it writer’s block, creative slowdown, lack of inspiration or whatever you like, it doesn’t matter. All creative minds experience it at some point and learning how to deal with it becomes crucial in defining the quality of future work that will be produced. To be honest, it’s not really something I have learned once and applied to everything thereafter. It’s a learning and perfecting process that never stops. At any point of one’s career, it will always be necessary to implement new strategies to deal with those emotional obstacles and find ways to refine the old ones that still apply.

Because I deal with both visual and writing arts I’ve realised that although the circumstances are different, what stands between me and the finished work - those emotional obstacles that compromise my ability to produce - is very similar. It’s a mix of fear, lack of confidence with the topic, self-doubt, mental inertia and friction to name just a few. Of all of them, fear is the heaviest of all simply because it paralyses the mind in many nasty ways. If you work in the creative industry (arts or not) you know what I am talking about. That fear that gets you from deep inside when you’re about to get to work like you’re going to be crushed by a huge meteorite or, more terrifying than that, conquered by emptiness and false ineptitude in doing something you’ve already done many times before. Suddenly, you feel like an impostor and ask yourself if it was really you who did those same things in the past.

It gets even messier when working on a schedule. There is nothing worse than realising the deadline is approaching and you still have nothing in your hands. In these circumstances, it is very easy to forget that creative work is not like any other work. It’s not like there is a set of tasks to complete and you just have to follow the procedures and get it done. Creative work is, obviously, creative! To create means bringing something new to life. A truly creative work happens when the result of the creative process is something that was not there before. Without going deeper into matters of originality, copycat and the usual controversy over imitations in the arts, creating something new is a radical experience and there are no set procedures or paths that people can just follow. It is like going deep into the jungle without following the trail and still getting out of it safe and well. It is making your own trail over and over. Creating is exploration, not tourism.

No surprise there is so much fear and self-doubt involved. As an artist, when I am creating I have to deliberately say not to follow the very well visible trail of footsteps on the grass and take off toward the unknown. It is risky, extremely risky, I might not get out alive or with anything in my hands. And that is the point, either I come out with the exotic fruit or I fail. A banana will never be enough, there are already plenty of them around. People know how it tastes, they don’t need me to tell them again. This is the main problem with the majority of the creative work that is being made nowadays, it’s not really creative. It’s just a variation on something that somebody else has already done, a rotten banana. Or even worse, a banana they pretend to call mango when it is clear it’s a banana. Creative failures are ten times better and more honourable than rotten bananas.

Although fear is an emotional state, in this case, I believe it comes from a very rational ground. I am about to create new work and I begin looking around for things to say, ways to display and communicate. The moment I purposely go look for those things I follow the trail, I’m being rational and I want to get to my destination safely. However, as we have just seen, this rational thinking leads me to nothing that is truly creative. After realising that (if I am lucky, many end up never realising it and are happy with the banana) fear kicks in and from there onward is a disaster. A spiral of self-doubt, lack of confidence and ineptitude in making the work takes control of me resulting in creative paralysis. Little I remember what creating means, by avoiding the pain and risk of truly creative work I go the easy way only to be faced with the frightening emptiness of my rational thinking. I experience a creative block.

If rational thinking doesn’t get me to creativity, what does? I have found that whenever I am stuck with my creative process it is because I am looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place. I am obstinately touristing the safe land of rationality, ping-ponging into my left side of the brain and getting upset at myself for being so frightened and empty. I avoid confrontation with my work and start getting creative, weirdly, with the many ways of procrastination. Procrastinating becomes a stress-releasing activity that is justified by the fake feeling of being productive. Instead, and this is the crucial moment when progress actually happens, what I should be doing is saddle up and have the courage to descend into the beautifully rich land of my subconscious. This is when the exploration begins.

If rationality gets us safe through life by providing us with a predictable set of behaviours and explanations of the world around us, the subconscious is the magma chamber of our creativity. Here our rational thinking loosens up and more creative connections can happen. By learning how to explore our own subconscious we have access to an extremely vast and interesting variety of new ideas that will boost our creative process in uniquely powerful ways. However, this can only happen if a) we have what it takes to be an explorer, b) we get to work no matter how frightened we are, and c) we acknowledge the power of our subconscious by taking care of it accordingly. How? Well, this is another story.




From ‘A Place Like No Other’, 2021


Wed 7th April 2021

ART LIKE SCIENCE


Everyone likes science. Either mentally and socially, it is a comfortable place to be. It provides clear answers (almost) and finite boundaries. Not quite the same could be said about art - many things you like, I don’t and the answers to problems it provides are always rather vague, infinite and open to interpretation at best. Nonetheless, both disciplines play a very important role in our lives to the point that one without the other is a never seen scenario throughout all human history.

Personally, I think art and science are like the two faces of a coin. I believe they share many essential aspects, from processes to results. Even more, I believe there is no great science that isn’t a little art in the same way as there is no great art that isn’t a little science. Let me explain by elaborating on the definition of science. To make it easy, this can be something in between Google and Wikipedia’s own definitions. According to them, science is

‘The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment’ (Google). Or ‘Science (from the Latin word scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organises knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe’ (Wikipedia).

Of course, I could go deeper into details and find more sophisticated definitions of science, but this is already all that is needed to have a clear and wide-enough idea of what is commonly intended as science. In both definitions are found the few basic elements constituting the backbone of any science. They describe the object of its study (the physical and natural world), how it is studied (intellectual/practical observations and experiments that produce predictable results) and its organisation (a systematic study that builds and organises knowledge). Science is, therefore, an organised and predictive study of the world producing universal knowledge we can all agree on.

However, there is one more element to science equally important but given by granted here, this being its functionality. This systematic and predictive study of the world is so precious to us 21st-century humans indeed because of its usefulness, nothing more nothing less. As simple as it is, we could care less to organise a systematic study of the world if it wouldn’t be of any use to our life. From going to Mars to brewing coffee in the morning, science is a very effective way to survive, live and thrive in this world.

Once we understand this, we can now go back to where we started and figuratively flip the coin to the other side, art. Despite its snooty claim of being “useless” (and therefore unconditionally beautiful some would say, although I strongly disagree with that) art too has a function in our lives in the same way as science does. Otherwise, again, we could care less about it and stop bothering with all its annoying controversies around legitimacy, importance, value and everything else once for all. 

If we look a little close, functionality is not the only thing art and science have in common. Like with science, humans meticulously develop and organise Histories of Art that date back to the first scratches on the cave’s walls up until today. A knowledge that is indeed systematically organised and built over time by art historians around the world. The same goes for the 'how', that intellectual/practical observation and experimentation process science’s definitions talk about. Like scientists, artists are first and foremost observers, approaching reality with a slightly detached attitude than one would in his/her everyday life. This detached observation allows a critical analysis and reflection over what would otherwise go unnoticed in our busy days, which is then turned into the art we consume to better understand the world around us. Here like in science, the making process is led by experimentations that bring to meaningful creations.

Let’s go even further and consider the object of research. Science’s object of research is the physical and natural world. In other terms, what is out there, what is beyond our consciousness - psychological sciences included, with the study of our emotions, thoughts and behaviours separated from the ‘I’. The same could be said for art and its object of research, which is pretty much similar. Art too researches what is out there. Of course, the type of research and its results are very different and they develop from principles that can’t be exchanged. Nonetheless, the object is ultimately that same world of which we are all surrounded, thoughts and emotions included.

The last thing to consider is prediction. What makes science so reliable and useful is its ability to guarantee that due to the happening of circumstance A, B, and C the outcome will always be D, no matter what. You can’t beat this sort of prediction and that’s why I say science is a comfortable place to be (not an easy one, bear in mind). What about art, does it predict reality? Yes and No. Munch’s depiction of mental illness (the famous Scream) is such a masterpiece because it is able to generate a very strong emotional response that is fairly predictable for every viewer. Not everybody will experience it in the same way yes, nonetheless everybody will strongly respond to it. Besides that, science too studies mental illness. However, this same object of research offers two distinct and important types of knowledge that are equally necessary for the human being. That is what I mean about the two faces of a coin.

You might disagree with this, but I like to think of art as I think of science. This being a systematic and organised practice for the study of the world and life in the widest sense. They are not the same thing and they require different and often incomparable skills, but on a very basic level, they share much more than what we are used to thinking. Like science, the best art is the one that is organised, attentive and rigorous within its unique principles. Most importantly, the one that is able to say something truly relevant and relatable about the world, that can predict responses or situations. Therefore, when I think about what art is and how it should be practised, science is the best example I can relate to.

To be meaningful, relevant and widely impactful art requires the same commitment that science does. It demands the same effort, dedication and integrity. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, or how crazy the method of research and its results are. For an artist to be doing something that can be taken seriously, there has to be unconditional dedication and devotion to its research. Left aside an infinite reserve of courage and personal strength to break through a life full of doubts, lack of confidence, frivolous accusations, misunderstandings and scarcity of recognition.





Nude Figure, Digital, 2020


Wed 24th March 2021

NFTs,GRANNIES AND QUESTIONABLE INTERESTS


Christie’s recent auction of a Beeple piece for almost 70M was a loud explosion in the ear of all Art investors and Art-related people. For as much as I am trying to understand, research and investigate this phenomenon, questions overcome answers by a whole lot in my mind. Here is a short recollection of my wondering and pondering, considering my still limited understanding.

What? NFTs, as you are probably tired to hear already, are non-fungible tokens (lines of ugly digits) uniquely linked to artworks being sold on the crypto market by digital makers. A crypto market is a place where cryptocurrencies and crypto-related products, such as NFTs and smart contracts, are being bought and sold 24/7. At the bare minimum, NFTs are slightly more attractive children of the Blockchain technology, a digital mining process that allows the trackable creation, exchange and storing of unique digital keys (still ugly strings) for which people can prove ownership.

Are NFTs artworks? No and yes.

No, the actual NFT is literally an ugly line of numbers attached to the digital creation, they are not artworks. On the other end, there are NFTs themed artworks (almost the majority, sadly) that indulge in a specific crypto aesthetic to increase chances of sales, but NFTs per se are not the artworks. What people are buying and selling is therefore just unique digital tokens.

Yes, in the same way as your grandma’s watercolours are. The only difference is that your grandma’s watercolours are not very trendy and don’t look like they are made by some unknown master (digital image-making looks kinda cool, but don’t get fooled by it. Art that matters is not just cool, it has meaning behind). Is your grandma an artist? Yes, if she thinks so and if she’s developing artistic research that is recognisable and valuable for an art-knowledgeable audience. Are NFTs image-makers artists? Yes, if they think so and if they are pursuing any artistic research of certain relevance.

However, most of those NFT artworks currently marketed don’t belong to any relevant artistic research and their makers are not even developing one or thinking about developing one. Overall, it’s like a gold rush with no gold to rush for. It smells strongly of money and it's attracting everyone who’s a little proficient with digital renderings, creativity and obsession for making money - the usual get-rich-quick story. What is less visible is that this NFT minting mania is actually making the majority of artists poorer and the very few tech-entrepreneurs behind its operation richer. Before selling, to mint a NFT artists have to pay expensive fees (gas fees) with a cryptocurrency called Ether they had to buy in prior. On top of that, at every transaction being made, the people behind the marketplace make juicy percentages from both buyers and sellers.

But they look cool! They are so expensive! They are booming! They are trendy! They must be art. I believe it is a little more complicated than that. And even if there is a chance that some of today’s NFTs image-makers will be pursuing an artistic career in the future (I hope), most of them will probably not. Therefore calling them artists is a bit of a fraud. I’d rather call them digital makers, or digital craftsmen. There are a lot of craftsmen building things, but a very insignificant number are sculptors. Same with digital image-making, a lot of craftsmen and not so many artists. Don’t get me wrong, there is no shame in being a great craftsman, it's actually the opposite and probably more rewarding than being an artist under many aspects. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make any good to sell great craftsmanship for questionable art.

Are NFTs the future of the Arts? Yes, and no. Yes, their relevance will probably grow with time. Many established artists will be adopting the NFT technology to hopefully expand the scope of its use, but this does not mean that this is all we will make in the future. I believe in a future that is compensative rather than exclusive. It’s never the new replacing the old completely, rather the new fitting in where the old fails, and the old keeping it up where the new falls short. New technologies are good because they redesign the existing environment, pushing old solutions to self-evaluation and forcing change for survival. NFTs belong to a future that is more immaterial, fast and digital and they bring interesting advantages. However, I doubt they will entirely replace old ways of making and selling art.

Personally, I am excited about it and willing to experiment to some extent. The promises related to issues such as ownership, fair compensation etc. are appealing. I think about performance art, music and other more immaterial artistic production. Nonetheless, there is a big issue being purposely overlooked within the mad euphoria of this last period. The environmental impact those crypto technologies have right now is huge. It requires immediate attention and responsibility from all parts involved, developer, creators and investors. In light of these considerations, my slogan for all NFTs fanatics out there would be MINT LESS, THINK MORE! If ultimately what you want to do is to be a good artist, making more money now by minting and selling irrelevant work won’t make you any better.

Finally, once you look deeper into the matter, you start thinking of the drastic consequences this furious minting mania has on the environment, with the majority of the work that will never be bought or sold trashing both real and digital space. It is also difficult to ignore more hidden motives underneath this sudden crypto speculation. The money is being made not by the artists of course, but by the few tech-entrepreneurs who have an interest in seeing their crypto assets growing massively thanks to all this hopeless minting and loud talks around NFT and similar. After all, we can agree that Beeple’s 70M purchase was a great move for boosting up the value of the cryptomarket. Interestingly, the piece was bought not by a traditional art collector or investor, but by one of the biggest crypto investors of the moment, Metakovan.





From Bye Bye Dedushka


Wed 10th March 2021

ART MUST BE: FOUR PILLARS


‘I had come to believe that art must be disturbing, art must ask questions, art must predict the future. If art is just political, it becomes like newspaper. It can be used once, and the next day it’s yesterday’s news. Only layers of meaning can give long life to art - that way, society takes what it needs from the work over time’ (Abramovic, 2016).

Some time ago I had come across this quote from Marina Abramovic’s memoir that deeply resonated with me. In four lines, Marina mentions four key elements of good art practice that I believe are universal values one should always aim at when making works of Art. These are four qualities that must become the fundamental ground of action when creating work that will have an impact as well as a long meaningful life.

Art must be disturbing, questioning, predictive and layered.

For art to be disturbing it has to engage with life in a way that “disturb” the normality of its flow. Here disturbing has more to do with breaking up, fracturing, rather than horrifying the viewer. Not all horrifying Art is disturbing as well as not all disturbing Art is horrifying. Of course, the straightforward way to disturb is through provocation, obscenity, scandal and similar other outrageous behaviours. Nonetheless, there are many more subtle and effective ways to be disturbing with your work. The aim is to introduce new ways of seeing, push forward discussion over tabu arguments or simply unsettle common beliefs.

Whenever we ask questions or we are asked questions it means that a process of discovery is taking place. Consequently, for Art to be questioning life there has to be some sort of discovery process taking place, not necessarily culminating with a finding. Art should push the viewer to reconsider his/her beliefs on society, on life, on others and him/herself. It should raise doubt, encourage critical analysis, demand attention over underlooked events. It has to excite curiosity in both the viewer and the maker.

Questioning can also be a way of learning, of finding out what is ignored. Art must shed light on some things that need to be made visible and blackout other, more translucent, ones only visible under altered conditions.

For Art to be predictive there is no need for crystal balls. The best Art speaks a language of the future that is often difficult to understand in the present. It anticipates events, beliefs, trends and topics by envisioning landscapes of meaning beyond the boundaries of the world as we are used to. This is one of the most difficult things to achieve, simply because it often backfires the artist in the short term, making her/his work somewhat obscure or irrelevant. It makes its message difficult to be understood for many and can therefore undermine the success of both the work and its maker.

However, as Wilde puts it, art that is too obviously intelligible is destined to fail in the long term. “The one thing not worth looking at is the obvious”. This is the type of art that says everything at once, producing a unilateral meaning that tells the audience the same thing forever.

As we know for a fact, history is being written retroactively. Is the future-us who will be writing about our very present times, not the opposite way around. We don't write history as it develops in front of our eyes unless we are successfully predicting it. When Art is predictive, it writes its own history and that’s why it is important. It sets the ground for its future understanding, opening up dimensions not yet considered to be relevant.

Finally, to reconnect with what said above, reality is not a Star Wars-like Manichaeistic world. In our lives nothing is simply black or white, good or bad, everything rather fades into shades of grey. This is the same for Art, if it is pointing straight to something, its message is finite, disposable and leaves no space for interpretation over time. It becomes stiff, useless and it will have a very short shelf life. Layered Art is made of a variety of strata that can be read differently according to the context and the reader. A layered artwork is a never-stopping fountain of meaning at which different societies will drink over time. Even more, layered art is a hungry and alive creature that feeds itself of its surroundings, producing new meanings and recontextualising itself according to the times.

I believe Marina has focused her attention on a few but very important key elements of successful art practice. Only by demanding the best effort in paying attention to all of them simultaneously, artists can make work that is relevant beyond their contingent contexts. This is not easy, of course, and it doesn’t even have to be unnaturally pushed into the work. What matters is developing an attitude that is aware of all four of these pillars, and stick with it even when times get tough.





From A Place Like No Other


Wed 3rd March 2021

ICE CREAMS OF THE FUTURE AND PHYSICAL ART


Recently I find myself wondering how the future of Art galleries looks like, or more exactly the ones of physical shows. Any kind of exhibition/performance that requires a physical presence of either the audience, the performer or the artefact.

To experience Art, Visual Art in this specific case, we used to go to exhibitions and museums. There we would engage with the artworks in their materiality, establishing a straightforward multisensory connection with a significant impact on our selves (body/mind). The same could be said even with more immaterial works like video-art and films, where the surrounding environment plays a big role in the quality of the experience we get. In-person fruition provides a special kind of connection with the work of art that is barely comparable to what we get through the social media filter, personal websites or streaming platform.

However, with the peace of everyone, the world is pointing in a different direction. In the last few years, speeded up by the pandemic, we have stepped into the hallway of the Digital Wonderland. Today, the majority of Art consumption happens behind our computer’s and smartphone’s screens. The physical world, that place that has sadly started to sound a little old-school already, is becoming more of a memory of glorious past times than a reality of our Era. But what is the difference between the two? Most importantly, is the second one completely taking over the first, or it would be more realistic to expect a future that is hybrid and compensative of each other’s faults?

In the real world, we feel things that are simply unique to the physicality of our encounter with the piece, hardly replicable online. On the web, we don’t really feel like we are “experiencing” the artwork, rather it feels like we are acknowledging it. It is more of a conceptual connection, very different from an embodied one. Still, it has its value, otherwise, we would have not become so dependent on it. It facilitates communication, widespread distribution of ideas and fast/easy access to artists’ work around the world.

The possibilities of the Online are huge, so much so that we can barely imagine what will happen next. Technology advances at incredible speed, and so will the digital Art world, with new and unexpected opportunities making the way to futures unknown. This is exciting, I bet it is! Not only for artists but for everyone involved in the Art world. Gallerists, dealers, curators, art lovers etc. The Online revolution will redesign the Art we will consume as well as how we will connect to it. New media keep coming up with increased frequency, engaging with the older ones in surprising ways. A little bit like the born of photography that, instead of killing painting, freed the discipline from its slavery to representing reality, so will new media enable old ones to re-invent and re-discover themselves. Allowing them to establish a new balance with contemporaneity and increase their relevance. I look forward to this. Simply because, if Art does not dance with the time, it is not Art. It becomes irrelevant and unable to serve its purpose, to make us feel alive and connected to our surrounding.

Having said that, it is worth not to forget that human beings are nothing more than very skilled animals that strive upon establishing a privileged connection to their environment. For basic needs like food, sleep and reproduction this environment still is the physical one of our ancestors. Potentially we could eat digital ice creams and feel satisfied with our taste buds by hacking our neural systems in responding to digital inputs rather than physical ones. It would “feel” good. What about fuelling our bodies up with the everyday food that is meant to keep us up and running? I doubt we will digitalise that too. The same could be said for reproduction. I’m sure you don’t need me to prove you can get an orgasm without even getting close to the genitals. Ultimately, it’s all about neural inputs and we have seen these are easy to hack. But from here to create a new human being without stepping into the physical world seems pretty unreal, or frankly dystopian.

Where am I going here with this? What I am trying to say is that yes, there is a lot to do with the Online and a lot will change, but our basic needs to interact physically will not. For there will always be a need for physical spaces, objects, and people to feel deep down to our core that connection to the world and to life that makes us what we are. At the end of the day, Art shares a lot with religion, or more generically with magic. Its power goes beyond our understanding, it’s difficult to prove but nonetheless essential for our lives. In the same way as religions will always need sculptures of Buddha, Jesus etc. to reiterate the earthly influence of their gods, and magic will need performances, rituals and crystals to influence reality, so will Art need its fetishes to enable its purposes.





Three Saira, 2021


Wed 14th February 2021

FRIENDS, ENEMIES AND SHINY FINGERS


In my experience, sharing new work with the audience has always been a sensible moment; and the fact that this is the final and only necessary step to complete a project doesn't help.

A piece of work is finished only when it is made public. That’s all. This doesn’t mean that every published work is finished (published work can be re-edited, adjusted or expanded), rather than to actually complete a project means making it public. Even though many projects are considered finished but not yet shown by the artist, those are not complete until they are shared. Only their production process is, for making the work is half the job.


A work can only be considered finished when it enters the public domain in which it attempts to serve its purpose. No beautiful poem has never been talked about, for its purpose is to arouse beauty in the readers. If there are no readers, there is no beauty. The artist cannot be the reader, he/she is the maker. Everything else is pure onanism.


But why is it such a sensible moment to share one’s work? There is a big chance people might not like it and say it is crap. That’s no big deal. Usually, the ones who tell you openly your work is crap (the haters, with the only intention to hurt you), are sad miserable squeaking creatures never worth hearing; and the ones who come from a genuine place to tell you the work is no good, they do it to help you grow. They don’t pretend to tell you how to do it, they try to explain why for them it doesn’t work and encourage you to work more on it.


The closest friends who love whatever you do, although not always ideal, are necessary as much as the ones who don’t. To hear that your work is great no matter what is usually not useful for the work’s improvement, although it is great for your emotional state and self-confidence. Those friends do so because it’s not so much the work they believe in, but you as an artist. They know you, your ambitions, difficulties and weaknesses. Their love is like a regenerating balm that provides you with the courage, strength and positivity needed to move forward, make better work and ultimately succeed at what you do.


So who are the real enemies here? Those are the people who don’t listen. They are the ones who, instead of focusing on what your work has to say, lecture you on how it should be. They don’t care about you, your vision or what you are doing, they just want you to listen to them and do as they think your project should be done. They know better, so much better they don’t care to understand your ideas and try to inhabit your sensibility for a second; they just want to manipulate you into doing their version of your work. I reserve my shiniest finger for them. I’d rather my project be horrible and unsuccessful then doing it as they like. Because that is not my project, that is not my way or my message.


Those people are cancerous beings with their eyes completely blind by their egos. It is important to recognise and learn how to ignore them, for they will always try to shovel their views up your artist’s bottom. DO NOT LET THEM DO SO. An artist’s voice is unique when it comes from within, it is better to take the risk of not being understood rather than conforming to how things should be in their view just because they know better. Take a moment of breath, smile and show them your shiniest finger. Their only purpose is to feed their big egos with the gratifying idea that you did great because they told you how.


In my life I had plenty of encounters with such people and still do, the world is so full of them you can’t go far without stumbling against them every now and then. It is always frustrating to deal with those people, especially because most of the time they hide behind their big titles and “expertise”. They talk to you from the top of their careers and accomplishments, so you have clear in your mind you're nothing for them or without them. Ultimately, the more official titles they put before their names, in their CVs etc. the less you should care about their opinions. I encourage you to keep this in mind.





Coffee, Jar and a glass, 2021


Wed 17th February 2021

DEAD ARTISTS AND SUPERNATURAL POWERS


There is an old saying that goes like ‘The best Artists are dead Artists’, or something along this line.

Although I neither like or believe in this statement, I can see why something like this could make sense, and maybe there is a little bit of truth in it, although too little to be relevant.

Artists, in particular the dead ones, have always been considered sort of semi-gods with the most amazing of magical power: to turn anything into precious objects. Shit into gold, take Piero Manzoni. Or ugly looking lines into world class masterpieces, take Picasso. No alchemy actually happens here. The shit stays shit (if ever there is any in there) and the ugly lines stay ugly lines. Nonetheless, anything that has been touched by the two artists is now worth fortunes. Even the ugliest, most horrible work Picasso has ever made.

But I’m not an Art Historian, I’ll cut it short. The truth in this statement lays in their death. Because they are not alive anymore, those artists cannot be questioned. The man behind the artist has died, only his/her god-like aura has survived in the shape of the artworks they have produced. They cannot do anything that will change or alter our view of them and their work. Society has consolidated their opinion and they will always be celebrated as the best artists.

So how about contemporary Artists? Well, they have a whole lifetime to screw themselves up. It is believed that the older you grow as an Artist, the better and easier it will be. I don’t think so, the older you grow the bigger the chances are that your work will be worse, repetitive, commercial, dis-honest, untruthful, stiff.

When you’re starting out it’s just you and your passions, ideas, desires. You are genuine, you actually believe that what you do can have an impact and change the world, not just help you pay the bills. Then things get all messed up with life, and how to pay your mortgage becomes more essential than actually making something impactful (it might not sell well, not be understood). Or your ego will grow bigger than your work. 

Nonetheless, with the peace of Picasso, Manzoni, Giotto etc., the best artists are living artists. They are the ONLY artists. Dead artists are not artists any more, they are institutions. They cannot be questioned and they cannot question life anymore either.

Let me be clear, the real superpower artists have is not really to turn shit into gold, but to practice the investigation of life as a full-time job. An Artist is someone who can turn the ordinary into extraordinary, who can show you something in a significantly different way than you have always seen it. This is where the magic happens, in the meaning/feeling produced rather than the material object, the latter is just a vehicle.

One day I watched a Youtube video where someone opened a Coca Cola can and, instead of drinking it like we usually do, the guy turned the little metal tongue the other way around, put a straw through its circular hole and used the metallic lid as a straw holder to facilitate the drinking experience. BOOOM! Mind-Blowing. I believe this is very similar to how Art works. It flips your perspective of life upside down, shifts your point of view to a different one, not always more meaningful but relevant.

I’m not saying this video is Art or the people who made it are artists. It is a similar and continuous investigative attitude toward life that makes someone an Artist. His/her superpower is to uncover something different behind the usual curtain of everyday life. Be this a painter, a writer, a filmmaker, an acrobat, a performer, a musician or whatever. It doesn’t matter how, as long as the lid is flipped and the world around you acquires a new different, meaningful perspective that will facilitate our understanding/connection to others, to the world, to life.


 



UWS (Ink drawing), 2021


Wed 10th February 2021

AN INTRODUCTION NOBODY ASKED FOR


To find the origins of something is always half a failure.

We don’t even know how all of this, (us, life, the Universe) has started in the first place. How can we pretend to think that looking at any origin will turn out to be a successful operation? Nonetheless, nothing makes us feel better than trying to find out how something has started.

Because that is the point, it’s not so much the actual origin itself that we seek, rather the act of discovering is what makes us good. It doesn’t matter if we find it or not. We are searching, and by searching, we expose ourselves to many other collateral things we were not even looking for, things that eventually turn out to be even more enlightening than the origin we had set out to find.

I often ask myself why I do what I do. Why do I want to dedicate my life making Art and not something else? Something more tangible, easier to understand and somewhat more straightforward. How did this happen?

It all started with music. In the first place, I wanted to make music. Then I quit music and went for painting. Then for writing, and after that, I went for films. Then came photography. I’ve tried them all and loved them equally.

To be more precise, before music I loved drawing and before drawing I loved hanging around at my father’s workshop, building things out of waste material and giving new meaning to the old stuff. A sort of five years old Arte Povera guy. I can say that since a very early age, I got hooked on that heroin-like shot of fulfilment feeling you get by making art. It’s an obsession, a sort of drug in some way.

Fast forward to today, it took me a while before I could realise what to do with myself. I’ve always thought that I had to pick one thing. Pick one and become great at it. This way of thinking led me to nowhere, and I regret the time I’ve lost being frustrated because of it. Instead, since I stopped labelling myself like this or that, I started to enjoy whatever media I feel like working with at the moment and somehow find a way to pull a fil rouge through them.

To find your own identity is no easy thing. To find your identity as an Artist is even worse. I found out that forcing an idea of who I think I am upon myself doesn’t really work, better let the work I do tell me who I want to be. I’m an Artist, I make things because I want to undestand more about life, I like to question the things I see and experience. I use photography, film, painting, writing etc. It’s not so much the media I care about, rather the story and message behind it.

Here I will be sharing thoughts on everything art-related, but mainly I will use this space to reflect over what it means to be an Artist, to make Art, to consume Art, to live with Art. Either you are a fellow Artist or an Art lover, I hope you’ll find this inspiring.

Although Art never had a clear definition and space in history, since the caves’ time we have been performing artistic gestures in an attempt to understand life. Art has always been as essential as eating for any society of men. Without Art, there is no culture, no progress, no life.

So why is it so difficult to be an Artist and be recognised like so?



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