INTERVIEW WITH ANTONELLO MATARAZZO
by Tommaso Casini
VIDEO AND PAINTING
How and why did you start using video for the first time?
When I made my first work, The Fable, six years ago, I adapted, so to speak, to the request of a curator of an exhibit that included videos, video installations, etc. I thought it would be just an isolated moment, but I had too much fun.
How much did you know about video technology when you began, and how would you describe your creative path up until now?
As much as I knew about telescopes: absolutely nothing. Even now I'm not one of those people who takes their video camera everywhere. Filming bores me terribly, I think the eyes are the best technology for recording reality. In any case, if on the one hand the video camera allows you to put the world in a videotape, on the other, digital technology has peculiarities that allow you to modify things as you like, this is without a doubt the most stimulating moment. Entering the village of the video-armed opened up a swarm of technical and linguistic problems for me, with which I have "entertained" myself in recent years. At the time, I didn't even know how to turn on a computer, yet now even my painting reflects this experience.
In what way has the move from design and painting to video (and back again), something you do regularly, influenced your work? Do you prefer one medium to the other?
One of the video camera's merits is that it is, in a certain sense, a "panoramic" experience: it forces you to look at the work, to take into account light, space and color. The latter, for example, has come back almost overbearingly in painting. The experience with technology paradoxically restored vigor and naturalism to my painting, which risked running aground in the dryness of conceptualism.
Video and painting (in your case) follow different and in some ways distinct channels of communication and "promotion." How do you relate to the world of art and cinema (or, rather, video) and critics?
Well, it's difficult to imagine a field – politics and football notwithstanding – capable of attracting such a large quantity of dubious professionals such as art. The video world is not idyllic either, but with respect to the other, it has the advantage of having a greater awareness of its roles, hierarchies and limits. In certain aspects, video even wins over art in terms of auteur-like proliferation. The difference lies in the fact that, in art, many people appear on magazine covers, whereas this is less in cinema. We should distinguish between video artists, videomakers and filmmakers...but who does that? Even though I'm not a filmmaker, I have often had to work with collaborators, which is also very fun for me. I discovered, for example, that I have inclinations tied more to entrepreneurship than to art, so I had the opportunity to significantly expand my circle of human and personal relation-ships, many of which cross over into cinema. In any case, my foray into the world of video took place on my terms, which have more to do with expressing myself than the market. Critics, who have so far been favorable, seem to have noticed me. Unfortunately, this is a limbo in which you cannot last to the bitter end, there isn't a true industry that deals with that, which, if on the one hand favors spontaneity, on the other obliges you to make choices.
THEMES AND FORM
The body and the face are at the center of your work. Your focus is never external and simultaneously delves into the subject's psychological characterization. What is your interpretation of this corporeity?
The body is an inexhaustible source of research, in which, for antinomy, is it possible to trace an interpretation of incorporeity. The gaze, for example, can be terrifyingly powerful: we can look at things in nature calmly, and sometimes be moved, but we cannot conceal from ourselves the discomfort that a simple look creates in us, the abyss of sensations that the depth of a gaze opens in us. Not for nothing did Roland Barthes want "a history of the gaze"....
Your visual language has a strong impact on the spectator (I am thinking of the body that is offended, monstrous, deformed, orthopedisized) and is never, however, presented in a rhetorical or politically correct manner. Why do you seek this power of conflict and suggestion?
Political correctness is one of the ways to declare your own brutality – if you're afraid of your own ideas, it means they're not all that great. I believe in an artistic language without mediations, as a path of experience and knowledge. In a certain sense, art, through a process of identification, gives me the tools for "experimenting" a particular condition without hurting myself too much. More than the experience of pain, I'm interested in the signs the body leaves, the pneumatic and impenetrable void it determines in its gazes, all of which are things to return to a rebours.
Your approach to "moving images" is more narrative than purely visual and photographic, although you do pay a lot of attention to those aspects. Have you ever thought of using the medium in an exclusively abstract way?
Picasso, in referring to abstractism, said that it was a bit like "an empty house." However, each artistic expression hides a narrative impulse, a compulsion to narrate itself.
In La camera chiara you used morphing and in the graphic series Innocenti you used a deforming Plexiglass lens with a very particular notion/function of fluidity. What meaning do you give to the use of these particular devices?
In painting it was the lens, in video, morphing. There undoubtedly exists a continuity between the two kinds of research, not just aesthetics. It's as if there were a kind of diaphragm between reality and myself, I perceive it as a refraction. I think there is a duplicity and mystery in all things, something of the sublime and inaccessible: everything is close and extraordinarily far away at the same time.
Your video works seem very much about the details and post-production elaborations. How do you go about your creative process: idea, writing, shooting, post-production. Can you give us a specific example from the work that will be shown in Pesaro?
Ultimately, no one is pressuring me, so, with a lot of time to waste, I dedicate myself to the image, trying, if possible, to avoid sentimentality and virtuosity. But that's not all of it, post-production is the most significant phase for me. This is the phase in which the idea takes shape and sense. With regard to everything that comes before, I generally trust my intuition. Certain works – Mi Chiamo Sabino, for example – came about by chance, as simple amateur material reworked in the post-production phase. Others, like Miserere, had an idea behind them, but only after shooting did it take shape, until it became a music video.
How important is the title in your work and how do you find it?
It depends on the work. Some, like La Camera Chiara, Warh and En plain air, are the result of artistic-literary citations, others are concepts suggested by the video in its entirety, like Lovers. In some cases, I trust the detachment of the people to whom I show the work. I don't like titles that are very long or explanatory, for me the title has to have something enigmatic that arouses your curiosity. Sometimes it's the last thing, though by no means the least important.
What importance and attention do you place on sound/music in your videos?
Music is fundamental to the point where it often determines the rhythm and sense of a work. Although the most appropriate music is not always the most efficient; for example, Fabrizio Castanìa's compositions give my work an anomalous Hollywood feel that intensifies the sense of alienation.
COLLABORATIONS AND THE FUTURE
The video Astrolìte – made with Carlo Michele Schirinzi – is a dense and complex work. How did it come about and how did you work together?
Astrolìte came about from our mutual friendship with Enrico Ghezzi, whom we involved in this project that began somewhat as a game. The idea was to reconstruct the atmosphere of a comic strip from the 1970s, "Alan Ford," in which Ghezzi would be the media mind of an unruly group of characters, in a transfigured version of himself.
The video was made on two semantic levels: one comical and cartoonish, the other conceptual and visionary, in which medialism theoretician Gabriele Perretta also appeared, to emphasize the conceptual nature of the operation. It is a good work even though it shows traces of being somewhat forced.
You collaborate frequently with other artists in your work. How did the collaboration with musician Carnio Loguercio come about and how is it proceeding?
I met Canio at a concert. I was struck both my him as a person and by his music, but when I decided to involve him in a short, I asked him to act in it. As I was telling him my idea, he lit up, and immediately told me that he was working on a music project almost identical to the one I had conceived, though not on purpose. Now Miserere is a music video from his eponymous album and is projected during his concerts. Furthermore, next October, a special edition will come in out bookstores that will contain the CD, DVD and a booklet with writings by Gabriele Frasca, Tommaso Ottonieri and other noted contemporary writers who worked on the project.
What is boiling in Antonello Matarazzo's creative pot?
At the moment, I am working on a new cycle of "fixed" works, which are now and then integrated with videos that come together in so-called video installations, but I'm also thinking of some autonomous videos as well... I'm thinking, I'm thinking.
(interview by Tommaso Casini for 42a Mostra Internazionale del Nuovo Cinema, Pesaro, june 2006 - www.pesarofilmfest.it/catalogo2006)