Disobedience: Annalisa Cattani speaks with the Curator Marco Scotini

Disobedience has been an on-going, multi-phase project curated by Marco Scotini. “Since 2004, “Disobedience” has criss-crossed the world and in every location has preceded, run into or shared protest movements that have left their stamp on the global map of recent years: at Boston’s MIT shortly before the Occupy movement invaded the Financial District in Manhattan; at Atlanta’s Georgia State University on Martin Luther King Day; and in Mexico, England, Sweden and the Netherlands. For every place, city and historical circumstance, “Disobedience” has used the display as a mobile means of absorbing the very nature of disobedience: visceral, chaotic and plural.”(Domus, magazine)

Disobedience is an Archive (The Republic) that reflects the history as it unfolds, in which content and form change at each location. The exhibition is an atlas of contemporary antagonistic tactics: from the direct action to the forms of bio-resistance.

The exhibition-archive explores the links between contemporary art practices, cinema, tactical media and political activism. Planned as a heterogeneous, evolving archive of video images, the project aims to be a ‘user’s guide’ to four decades of social disobedience seen through history and geography: from the revolt in Italy in 1977 to the global protests before and after Seattle and on to the current insurrections in the Middle East and Arab world, on the occasion of the exhibition at the Castle of Rivoli Museum, Gender Politics was added to the project.

With the new title of Disobedience Archive (The Republic), the exhibition includes the production of a large Parliament-shaped structure and the publication of “La Costituzione” (“The Constitution”) as a concluding phase to the entire project. Celine Condorelli’s display is a parliament that loses any legal effect as The Parliament is a fragmented circle divided into four semi-circular sections and unlike a real parliament, these are physically separated by the museum walls into four equal communicating rooms.

The wall-paintings accompanying it are by Mexican artist Erick Beltrán (1972). Aside from “The Parliament”, two rooms serve as thematic antechambers: the first, dedicated to the 1970s in Italy, amongst others presents works by Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz, Jean-Luc Godard, Gianfranco Baruchello, Piero Gilardi, Gordon Matta-Clark, Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante, Enzo Mari, Nanni Balestrini and Living Theatre beside documents by Carla Accardi, Carla Lonzi and Felix Guattari; the second, which considers the first decade of the 21st century, houses works by Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, Superflex, Chto Delat, Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, Oliver Ressler, Arseniy Zhilyaev, Critical Art Ensemble, Rene Gabri and Ayreen Anastas, among others.

Here is an interview with Marco Scotini not only about the exhibition itself, but also on the implications and the reactions it had on the public opinion, as well as on the Art system.

A.    Cattani: “Disobedience” used as display a wooden parliament that loses any legal effect and is overlapped by Martino Gamper’s “Circus”. Here are evoked means of combating that hurt those who command and creates places of self-empowerment normally expressed in urban environment, within an institutional Art space, did the audience grasp the implications of this operation, especially the world of culture?

M. Scotini: In Italy the response was classic, compared to the rest of the world. Many debates were on the incongruity, on the gap between the “content” and the “container”, but it was not problematised. This “stay at home” is typical of Italian. Berlusconi’s connotations suggest a gender patriarchal economy.

If the Fordist artist brought the urinal in the museum, the Post fordist artist brings the object out, now there is the problem of “collocating” Art in history. My point of view wanted to create a more complex threshold of cultural perception. According to someone’s idea our idea of art has become mere decoration or social practice. But I wanted to overturn the forms of subordination between high and low. First of all I tried art in different contexts: Slavs, South America, etc,  where culture and especially its  reception still has a social value.

 It is not enough to propose relational forms, it is necessary to propose mechanisms with relational forms of meta-culture and not as pure naturalism, otherwise we  returns to a pre-Foucault Era..

A. Cattani: Gerald Raunig states that after “Collective creativity”, “Es Argentina”,” The Interventionist”, and” Disobedience”, has developed a module of transnational practices, which are often not recognisable as traditional activist campaigns or ‘art practices’, but in this case in a museum like Castello di Rivoli in Italy are made obvious and very recognisable, appealing to a greater civic engagement, is there an Italian paradigm of them?

M. Scotini: Disobedience on the one hand comes from Maurizio Lazzarato, and there were many artists in the 70s who practiced acts of resistance such as in the Garibaldi district of Milan. More recently the demarcation between the roles is more separated in Italy than in other parts of the world. There have been fundamental movements like “no tav” but they didn’t have connection with the aesthetic point of view. There was “Ecosophie” by Gilardi, but it was a single example.

In the past two  years movement and collectives like “Macao” and “Teatro Valle Occupato” (Occupy Theatre Valle) started a real change. However, still there is no Italian paradigm, just sporadic outbreaks (on the border between aesthetic practice and political practice)

The construction of the practice of art and media activism was much stronger abroad.

Italy who had such important examples in the Seventies has found a false warmth in the domestic fire-place in the so called “good tradition” from which it seems it is coming out now. Italy has created a taboo of the Seventies and the role of the “worker” and this has created an oxymoronic unconscious mass proletarianisation.

A. Cattani :What is the difference between a strong large scale socio-political exhibition like “Documenta” or the “Berlin Biennial”  and “Disobedience?”

M. Scotini: Large scale exhibition tend to tame the socio political content.

Benjamin explains this form of domestication as a process where a form of activism is taken just as a means of expression, in one word aesthetically, leaving out the political action. So you import the expressive aspect, but not the action.

A. Cattani: A part from suggesting escape trajectories, can we say that the archive of Disobedience enacts the urgency of a continuity of knowledge of the socio-cultural linked to politics in order to create a resistance that can lay the foundations for a change?

M. Scotini: The archive comes to terms with the notion of  “Encyclopedia” that wants to explain the world with reason. The archive has an entirely empirical dimension, where I collect the things, but I systematise them temporarily and rearrange them. The processes of subordination are dismantled, the archive is understood in this sense as a mobile archive that reconstructs changing shape every time because they do not have it. This expresses also the need to give voice to a political motivation, without coinciding with a party or a trade union.

A. Cattani: Do Italian critics tend sometimes to the description rather than to the resistance?

M. Scotini: It often happens and there are two reasons, the first is related to the question of Croce’s Idealism that sees Art as a separate place, as a practice that is not learned, but that you receive as a gift. From the Eighties onwards, this position has been gradually resumed, as if we suffered a “A syndrome of shrimp.”

On the other hand this happens when art becomes a semiotic industry enslaved by the power. Fortunately, there is all a front, especially among the younger generation that feels these these approaches false and outdated.

Will these “disobedient” practices put into question the false “fire place” syndrome? It’s time to tell each other that “the King is naked”?

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