A TASTE OF PARADISE
Bounty, 2015, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio San Miniato
“Today, we are stuck in the present as it reproduces itself without leading to any future. We simply lose our time, without being able to invest it securely, to accumulate it, whether utopically or heterotopically. The loss of the infinite historical perspective generates the phenomenon of unproductive, wasted time. However, one can also interpret this wasted time more positively, as excessive time—as time that attests to our life as pure being-in-time, beyond its use within the framework of modern economic and political projects.”
Boris Groys, “Comrades of Time”, in Going Public 2010
When asked “how can we free ourselves of art?” Matteo Rubbi simply replies: “by making it, here and now!” This is the spirit in which he invited anyone interested to take part in his project Bounty, begun in 2010. A large-scale participatory work, Bounty could be described as a life-size reconstruction of the Royal Navy ship where a famous mutiny took place on April 28, 1789. The artistic undertaking went through various stages, each supported by a different institution that offered a safe harbor for the occasion. Every time, some portion of the ship was created over the span of the exhibition, without following any strict plan. The finissage thus became an opportunity to present what had been created—the forms that were dreamed up becoming the symbol of a refounded community, all illusions put aside.
While it may be true that the time of great ideals is past and gone, these moments of shared creativity can bring out the child that dwells in each of us. Bounty is, in the end, a play-based process that takes a scale model of the ship and uses it to invent a collective art of DIY. In this extended work-in-progress, the sails were made first, then the prow, then the pennants, and finally the helm and the cannon. Dozens of people worked on each part to create something real out of what had originally been a mere fiction. They traced a parallel between art and play, but also between art and celebration, because the production of each piece literally culminated in a party.
Built from recycled materials, Bounty is based on a sense of discovery, a sort of shared ingenuity: for instance, the prow incorporates pallets, wooden planks, dismembered furniture, a door. It calls to mind the kind of shantytown architecture that reuses objects by inventing different functions for them. In this context, a bedframe can serve as a gate. This sort of approach naturally establishes an alternative to the market economy: in their new life, things shed aesthetic qualities and social values—their distinguishing hallmarks—and become a pure product of resourcefulness and imagination. The ropes that lift the prow into space also give it an airy feeling that evokes an escape from the constrictions of capitalist culture. The wooden patchwork encourages us to turn back into Peter Pan, moving away from the idea of the artistic creation as a luxury gewgaw.
There is nothing naive here, but rather an enthusiasm that could seem disarming to cynics. Because Bounty is a reflection of Matteo’s spirit—generous and exuberant. One need only look at the colorful drawings that form the vast sails, stretching into space, to see the warm challenge posed by this assemblage. The geometric shapes—with their exuberant colors—are combined with frenzied scribblings, in a friendly gathering of flags that are not the emblems of new isolated nations, but the banners of individual essences in dialogue. It is a disheveled Matisse, the finesse of the modern master giving way to a spontaneity that challenges every artistic standard—because the true power of art lies elsewhere. In fact, the ambition is to meld all these expressions into an unbridled object whose presence bears witness to a powerful harmony, both imagined and quite real. There’s a bit of Asger Jorn in Matteo Rubbi: a capacity to channel energies, together with a rejection of rigidified beauty, leads him toward a playful lyricism, mustered again and again. The artist thus creates a sense of ebullience that can be seen in the pieces which haphazardly make up the ship, like a patched and mended social fabric.
To be sure, the utopian visions of the twentieth century have fizzled out. But here we can observe a surplus time—unexploited—a democratic time that turns viewers into a horde of aspiring engineers. In this sense we could say that Bounty is a taste of paradise, to echo the candy bar slogan of the 1980s. Because the laws of universal marketing can be hijacked, whatever the power dynamics in force. And doesn’t the work of Matteo Rubbi signify an unexpected conquest, an incredible achievement?
Translated from French by Johanna Bishop
REVOLUTION IN A TEACUP
Marco Enrico Giacomelli
Bounty, 2015, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio San Miniato
To me, art is first and foremost a job, a profession. I go to tons of fairs, I’m interested in how the “art world” works, down to its most unpleasant ganglia, so to speak: auctions and attributions, quid-pro-quos and covert dynamics. In short, my approach to art is above all journalistic—and I hope that adjective won’t be read as derogatory: journalism can be done well, and that’s my aim—so, at least in theory, there’s not a shred of romanticism in the way I look at artworks and the mechanisms that surround them. I apply this same method whenever I put on my research hat, whether I’m writing, teaching, or translating. More discipline than sentiment, more method than emotion.
So, this preamble is just to convince you that my relationship with Matteo (Matteo Rubbi, but in his case I have a hard time adding the last name) is utterly different. And not because there’s some bond of friendship that hampers my interpretation of his work: we’re not really that close, we don’t see each other often, we don’t chat on Skype or WhatsApp. Rather, it’s a mix of things, a mysterious cocktail of factors that transforms me, when dealing with him and his works, into a viewer who’s just far too involved. I wouldn’t use the word fan—too strong—but that’s the general sense.
Given what I said before, you can imagine that this doesn’t annoy me so much as make me think. Think about the deep and perhaps unfathomable mystery of how we respond to art. Like when I almost fainted in front of the Rothkos at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, after having mocked the “Stendhal syndrome” for years; or when tears sprang to my eyes in rereading The Clown by Heinrich Böll, when I’d been the first to say that life is too short to reread anything, especially novels, and that getting all emotional is for provincial housewives.
Now, I don’t want to make this more dramatic than I already have, despite myself. But for me and on me, Matteo (Rubbi) has this effect. Especially when he has one foot, or one and a half feet, outside the “designated spheres” of contemporary art. He did this last summer on a wonderful evening in Perdaxius, Sardinia, with friends from the Cherimus association. And of course he did this in a more extended and reiterated way during the workshop (a terribly inappropriate word in this case) that I had the honor of helping to organize in 2012 at the Castello di Rivoli.
On that occasion he was reconstructing part of the Bounty with hordes of little kids. In the end they finished a portion of the sails, a cannon that shot wads of paper, and the helm. The ship’s wheel, can you imagine? Made out of broom handles, but nice, not some pathetic bric-a-brac. A wheel that worked, that works. So it will be hard to forget the stunned, proud, grateful eyes of the kids when they saw that it worked, that Matteo wasn’t just humoring them to lift their fog of boredom for a few afternoons. They had done something with a purpose, both intrinsic and extrinsic, which was wonderful for that very reason, and which was part of a bigger project, based on interaction and sharing and vision.
I’m sure that each of us has found at least one artist for whom we feel something similar. And we should be eternally grateful to them for it. Because, more than so many others who make political engagement an obvious, aggressive statement, these artists change a little piece of society. A tiny piece, but in a revolutionary way.
Translated from Italian by Johanna Bishop
Giacinto di Pietrantonio
Ten Awards Later. Growing Roots. 15 Years of Furla Art Award. 2015. Mousse Publishing
Solar systems, the Galleria Civica in Trento, mountains, MART in Rovereto, the universe, GAMeC in Bergamo, cultural territories, the Museo della Ceramica in Mondovi, and travel, Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice are just some of the themes, places, and institutions traveled through by Matteo Rubbi, who sets up conditions and then sets them in motion.
One could say he is a facilitator of collaboration and cooperation, an artist who uses art to put people to work in the area where he creates his projects and exhibitions. This takes place in part through the projects of the Cherimus association, which he founded in Sardinia along with Emiliana Sabiu and the late Marco Colombaioni. For this reason, Rubbi has no preferred technique or and method, using whatever he ﬁnds there on each occasion, or that the place identiﬁes with and offers him. This can range from artisan practices like ceramics, or carpentry, to the printing of small instruction booklets, or newspapers like an issue of La Stampa from May 16 1961, the opening day of the “Italia ’61” Universal Exhibition in Turin, an event full of hopes for the future that would later be dashed, which he reprinted for the show at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo.
Rubbi’s work is highly experimental, aimed at discovering and learning new paths of expression from various ﬁelds, such as science, literature, philosophy, music, and sports (above all, cycling): an approach that is open to many, if not all possibilities. His work is based on knowledge, exploration, learning, imagination and discovery, sought out and achieved through group installations that involve the collaboration of all kinds of schools, from the nursery to the university level, as well as associations and private citizens, groups and individuals.
This allows him to implement aesthetic operations that create unprecedented relationships with the public, and by involving viewers, manage to generate constantly new aspects of the work. For this reason, workshops and games have a very important, active role in Rubbi’s oeuvre, which also comprises works that must be played, like L’Italia in cerchio. His collaborations also often take on the form of a Festival, a celebratory, liberating community event that transcends everyday life, and which, not coincidentally, the powers that be have always tried to control and circumscribe.
And so, he often creates works that are quantitatively as well as qualitatively large, in which form and content are challenged and rendered unstable by the realization of works that may even be on a scale of 1:100,000, recreating the peaks of Arizona mountains or the Alps, or the skies of Navajo or mythical rivers. Works that through their scale, draw inspiration from reality, while in their imagined form, the artist looks to the mountains and skies portrayed in medieval painting. It is in this voyage between microscopic and macroscopic, between the subatomic world of particles and inﬁnite, cosmic space, that Rubbi operates, trying to bring everyone into agreement by putting himself and us to work.
Translation from italian by Johanna Bishop
L’artiste est une île ?
Côte à Côte, 2014, Le Cube, Rabat
Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer!
La mer est ton miroir; tu contemples ton âme
Dans le déroulement infini de sa lame,
Et ton esprit n’est pas un gouffre moins amer
Côte à côte joue sur les mots. Comme dans ce poème de Baudelaire, le titre de ce projet juxtapose l’homme et la mer. La fraternité d’une camaraderie toute humaine, dans la connaissance comme dans la création, et cette étendue immense qui recèle tant de mystères. Entre le Maroc et l’Italie, la mer devient une frontière, à la fois trait d’union et ligne de partage. Elle est même, à maintes reprises, sur les côtes de la Sicile, devenue un tombeau. Côte à côte ne cherche pas à masquer la cruelle réalité des “gouffres amers”. Bien au contraire: le projet se construit autour de la nécessaire convivialité qui transforme l’expérience de l’étrangeté en une complicité nécessaire et féconde.
Il y a quelques années, j’avais été invité à Perdaxius, en Sardaigne, pour prendre part à une table ronde dont le thème était : la Sardaigne est une île ? Affirmation et questionnement tout à la fois, la proposition de Cherimus, l’association avec Susana Moliner de La Companyia qui étaient à l’initiative de cet événement, entendait jouer avec les évidences, remettre en question ce que nous croyons tous savoir en introduisant un décalage qui nous contraignait à réfléchir. Il s’agissait pour eux de résoudre la distance qui existait entre la vie ordinaire et la création contemporaine. Créer des ponts et des espaces de dialogue au sein desquelles les savoirs pourraient être mis en commun, partagés.
C’est par Cherimus, Susana, Emiliana, Matteo et Marco, que j’ai connu Yassine Balbzioui. La boucle était bouclée. Qui se rassemble s’assemble, dit-on, mais il est des rencontres improbables, impossibles ; et il faut de l’énergie, de la volonté et de l’ouverture pour contredire cette notion d’impossibilité. C’est encore cette même ambition que je vois, à l’oeuvre, dans le projet Côte à côte. Abolir les frontières, rassembler plutôt que séparer. Pour reprendre la proposition de Cherimus il y a quelques années, j’ai envie de faire un parallèle et de remplacer, pour les besoins de l’exercice, « Sardaigne » par « artiste ». L’artiste est une île ? Oui, sans doute. Et comme une montagne, l’énergie insulaire semble un phénomène isolé et inamovible. Pourtant, on peut, en usant de la métaphore de l’art, faire déplacer des montagnes.
Matteo Rubbi et Yassine Balbzioui sont deux îles dont la rencontre improbable va générer de nouveaux territoires, de nouvelles écritures et de nouvelles formes de paroles, résultat de la mise en commun de deux sensibilités complémentaires. A Rabat comme à Perdaxius, le déplacement sera perceptible. Non pas dans ce mouvement physique que l’on attribue généralement au voyage, mais dans un mouvement plus subtil, plus intérieur. Un mouvement que seul un spectateur averti peut reconnaître, si ce n’est déchiffrer. Avec eux, la mer n’est plus le tombeau qui nous a tant fait pleurer. Qui a englouti les espoirs et les rêves de tous ces êtres déplacés que nous avons découverts à Lampedusa. La mer n’est plus cet élément contraire qui nous a ravi l’amour de Marco Colombaioni (1), mais un espace de découvertes et d’expérimentations. Elle devient ce qui rapproche plutôt que ce qui sépare. Elle nous réconcilie avec ce que l’humanité a de plus noble: le gout inaltéré du partage.
(1). Marco Colombaioni co-fondateur de Cherimus, est parti prématurément le 2 juillet de 2011, noyée dans la Mer Adriatique.
By Jupiter! Planets land in Plymouth streets with art show
The Plymouth Herald. 7.04.2014
DOES conceptual art seem like it comes from another world?
Try a new show – which brings the whole Solar System to Plymouth.
Italian artist Matteo Rubbi’s Planetarium has the Sun as the centre of it all in a city gallery.
The nine planets will be plonked in various locations around the city.
It’s as down-to-Earth as they come, though, thanks to the involvement of the Stonehouse community.
Residents can join Stonehouse Action Group in deciding where each planet will go and what it will be.
So Saturn might land in a shop and Pluto could touch down in a pub.
The only restrictions are that the Solar System will appear to scale – each heavenly body will be as far from the ‘Sun’ in Plymouth as it is from the star in space, and the relative size.
The Sun is a basketball in the KARST Gallery, which will also have the first planet, Mercury. Earth will be a small stone somewhere outside the George Place premises, about 30 yards away.
Saturn will be the size of a ping-pong ball and 300 yards farther on.
Pluto will be no bigger than a grain of sand and somewhere as far away as Devil’s Point.
“The group will get a set of maps that give the approximate location of each planet,” says Helen Williams, of KARST. “Then it’s open to them to choose where they put the planets.
“Matteo is very keen for the selection of locations to open up a conversation, so members of the public will be going into shops or pubs to ask to see the ‘planet’.”
Matteo has an international reputation for creating art pieces inspired by the natural world with a surreal touch that play with viewers’ ideas of their place in the world, or in the case of Planetarium (Planetario in Italian), first presented in 2010, the Universe.
Stonehouse residents will meet to choose the planets and put them in their place on Saturday July 12. You can get involved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Planetarium will form part of On Stage, the biggest exhibition KARST has hosted since it opened a few years ago.
Seven artists, including 2001 Turner Prize winner Martin Creed will be showing work.
Karst is a charitable, artist-led project in George Place that opened in 2012.
July 18- August 17, Open Stage, KARST Gallery
Let the stars sit wherever they will
Inspired by his studies in Arizona in 2012, Matteo Rubbi has recently worked on increasingly complex, narrative-based sculptures, through which he has developed his ability to establish intimate relationships with the viewer while maintaining his sense of lightness. For his current exhibition, Rubbi has drawn inspiration from an ancient Navajo legend in which a coyote addresses the First Man, who is busy arranging stones as stars in the sky. The coyote says to him: “Let the stars sit wherever they will.” The phrase gives the show its title; its use here indicates that the artist is speaking to the viewer about cosmology and rebuses, about his interest in myth, ritual, emblems, and clues.
The exhibition begins with Montagne (Sistema Solare) (Mountains [Solar System]) (all works 2013), a reproduction of mountains in the solar system rendered at a 1:100000 scale. The hand-worked concrete shapes are a fantastical array that reappear in a larger piece in a second room. Yet the mountaintops are those of the Alps, and while their arrangement on the floor brings to mind the outline of that European range, its style also evokes the systems of approximation and invention typical of medieval cartography.
Two large hanging embroidered canvases frame the Alpine chain and feature abstract tapestries on which the artist has reproduced the mythological constellation of the Po river (Eridanus), for instance. Here Ursa Major and Cassiopeia are a man and a woman, and they give the work its title, Uomo che gira. Donna che gira (Revolving man. Revolving woman), meanwhile, in a corner of the gallery, two embroidered overcoats give physical shape to the stars.
In addition to the two galleries, there is also a classroom where workshops will take place throughout the exhibition. A copper reproduction of Picket Post Mountain (sacred to the Apaches), a cork display case, and a blackboard filled with texts and images about miners and the mountain add to the thought process of Rubbi, an artist and spectator who applies his fervid imagination to the retelling of stories and generously puts them at the disposal of all participants’ memories, obsessions, and fantasies.
Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.
The 10 Best Art Exhibitions and Installations I Saw in Phoenix in 2012
Phoenix New Times. 12.24.2012
Matteo Rubbi at Combine Studios:
Italian artist Matteo Rubbi was an artist in residence with throughout 2012. You might have bumped into him making masks for young First Friday attendees, at “Magic Friday” dinners at the museum and in downtown Phoenix, or challenging the local view of how art can transform a space and the interaction between audience and gallery setting. His research, interactions, and creations during his time in Phoenix were center stage during November at downtown Phoenix’s Combine Studios, where he discussed cultural aspects of mining in Arizona, urban transportation, and food as a bridge between people of different backgrounds. His show included work on copper, chalkboard drawing, mixed-media pieces, and a large-scale board game that Rubbi interpreted from a Jules Verne novel. His work is smart and refreshing, and his whimsical personality was something to be seen. Rubbi returned to Italy late this year, and now we just have to figure out how to get him to come back.
FRIEZE. Issue 136 January-February 2011
Matteo Rubbi’s second solo show at Studio Guenzani not only confirmed him as one of the most interesting Italian artists of recent years, it also reinforced my conviction that the last two generations of Italian artists have been influenced more by literature and cinema than by art history. In Rubbi’s work there is a certain kind of realism that refers back to writers like Dino Buzzati and filmmakers such as Marco Ferreri, whose practice during the 1950s and ’60s focused on the more prosaic aspects of the everyday while at the same time infusing them with suspense and surreal signs. The atmosphere Rubbi creates thus moves away from the more canonical Surrealism of Giorgio de Chirico and the Pittura Metafisica of the first two decades of the 20th century to adopt instead a placid irony and oblique melancholy.
Planetario (Planetary, 2010), the first work in the show, was the most successful. It was only visible to the most attentive and motivated viewer: beginning with a basketball to represent the sun – positioned on the postbox in the entrance hall of the palazzo where the gallery is located – the artist reproduced the entire solar system on an urban scale, respecting the proportions, distances and dimension of each planet. Mercury became a nail thrown into the courtyard of the palazzo, and Pluto a grain of sand 1,300 metres away from the starting point. If at first this work made one think of the famous Zodiaco (Zodiac, 1970) by Gino de Dominicis – in which the 12 signs of the zodiac were represented by the display of a live lion, a young virgin, a real set of twins, two dead fish on the floor, and so on – Rubbi headed more towards a sense of humble enchantment, in much the same vein as the cinema of Ferreri and the literature of Buzzati.
In the gallery was the environmental installation Gli Elementi (The Elements, 2010). Ninety-two everyday objects – from a computer to a thermometer to a pair of balloons – represented each of the chemical elements from Mendeleev’s Periodic Table, the essential elements of the universe, as if to gather the world – and even more – in a room. Rubbi’s installation created the same relationship between the micro and macro universe, between the abstractions of physics and the minutiae of everyday life, as writer Primo Levi’s Il Sistema Periodico (The Periodic Table, 1975), a collection of 21 autobiographical tales with titles determined by 21 of the elements in the system. The artist amplifies this work in his publication Novantadue (Ninety-two), a slim book to accompany the show that contains a brief history of each element in the table.
Translated from Italian by Anne Ruzzante
Missile Science, according to Rubbi
Introducing his readers to the scientific understanding of size (thousands, millions, billions, etc.) and how misleading size can be, Isaac Asimov once recounted a conversation he had had one day with his (patient) wife. “Do you know, ” he had asked her, “how rare the element Astatine 215 is? Imagine taking the crust of the Earth that makes up North and South America, digging down ten kilometres deep, then sifting everything you found, atom by atom, looking for Astatine 215. Do you know how many atoms you would find?” His wife didn’t know. “Practically none,” answered Asimov, “Only a trillion.” In his latest show at Studio Guenzani, open until the end of November, Matteo Rubbi does something similar to what Asimov suggested to his wife. Instead of the surface of the Earth, he sifts daily life, random objects and school-time memories through a very fine sieve looking for traces of science. And he found them. The public enters the art gallery by a room furnished with the most stereotypical elements of contemporary art: a series of little lights, a monochrome screen, and an electronic sound emitted rhythmically. Immediately one thinks of the number of artists from the past (Felix Gonzalez-Torres is one) who have created similar work. But strictly speaking, Rubbi’s furnishings are not artwork, but more like forensic snapshots, biographies or pictures of chemical elements. Rubbi’s project is evident in the next room, which contains an indescribable quantity of things: balloons wafting up to the ceiling, a bucket smelling of swimming pools, light bulbs, baseball bats, 19thcentury cameos, metal bars, a photocopy machine, coins, bits and pieces.
The objects are arranged in an order that oscillates between the rigour of an ethnographic museum and the messiness of an artist’s studio: lined up in rows on overcrowded tables or in display cases, or tossed on the floor in a haphazardly way that is obviously not so haphazard.
A good look around allows one to perceive the common nature of these objects: the elements, the natural elements of which we find traces all around us, in the surface of things that are part of our life. There is the Phosphorus of glow-in-the-dark, the Magnesium of the photographic flash, the Tungsten of incandescent light bulb filaments, the Chlorine of pools. Then there are super-secret giants such as Thorium, Dysprosium and Lanthanum.
On the rear wall, two blackboards illustrate the birth of the universe with colourful drawings. A basket-ball at the gallery’s entrance is the centre of a scale model of the solar system, dispersed throughout the city. Mercury is in the courtyard – an almost invisible nail. Saturn is a ping-pong ball several kilometres away. Like the selection of objects in the show, this is a scientific model of the world, but the science that inspires it is at once imaginary and ordinary: the science of illustrated books, sketches by parents on the napkin of a pizzeria, the science of missiles heading out into space.
The exhibition includes a booklet containing make-believe biographies or impossible stories about the nature of each of the 92 elements, written by Rubbi as a guide to find direction, or lose himself, in his exploration.
Indeed, without a guide, it’s easy to get lost in the show. It feels like being in a scientific laboratory that has been abandoned in a hurry for fear of a catastrophe, or in a classroom during a teachers strike, or in a clandestinely inhabited museum. Only the fugitive scientist, the absent professor or the hidden inhabitant are missing, but needed to supply the key to the objects and their connection to the periodic table of the elements. As you squintingly study the booklet, a flash of green light suddenly illuminates you, accompanied by the whistle of a firework. The colour, of course, is determined by the fact that it is filled with Boron.