Eloise Ghioni: At first glance your work could be defined as ‘conceptual’, but I think this is not entirely correct. There is indeed an element of Romanticism that is evident in your works. Romanticism defined as progress in the exploration of things like the irrational, feelings, exoticism or even an escape from reality, which could be connected to either time, space or even a dream state. In other words a kind of vision of the same portion of the universe but through different lenses.
How do you create your narratives?
Maurizio Mercuri: What you are talking about relates to the conflict between heart and mind. I like the idea of a fractal universe where even seeing a little piece of something gives you an idea of the whole.
I don’t want to contradict you, but I don’t create narratives. The works derive from fleeting images that are sudden or improvised and each has its own story. I’m talking about pathways that are subtracted images of the places related to the irrational subconscious, which are then exhibited in the irrational world of art.
EG: Sometimes your actions are extremely minimal and become completely absorbed in the place where you have intervened so as to be an integral part of the environment itself. There is in fact a funny story that Guido Molinari told me about where one of your works, shown in a prestigious Milanese gallery, called Untitled (Stub) 1995, was “extinguished” by the inattentive visitor who decided the two cigarette butts connected to the micro neon red should be put out, as an act which this person considered to be ‘good manners’. Shame that those two butts were in fact your installation.
It’s a widespread phenomenon, the interaction of the public who inadvertently participates in the installation. Martin Creed comes to mind, but I could mention a long list of names. How does it feel when something like this happens? Does it frustrate you or do you feel some kind of secret complacency?
MM: Art outlives itself.
EG: The relationship between the body, the mind and food is quite often reversed in your work. Not only in your most recent works but especially as a life discipline. I remember our conversation about the mountain herbs you expertly gathered on the hills and mountains of the Marche region in Italy. Again I would call this a Romantic and bucolic approach typical of the nineteenth century. Do you ever get the feeling of living in an A-dimensional time or perhaps I could say a somewhat anachronistic time where the contemporary becomes obsolete and that which is old becomes decidedly modern and even extremely relevant?
MM: Walking into a bar where I don’t know anyone makes me uncomfortable.
The door of my studio opens onto the garden which leads right into the countryside which leads straight onto the Apennines. Learning about the plants and herbs, it’s like getting to know them. Do you know who this or that is – there are those who love the sun and those who adore the shade – there are those who grow on limestone and those who grow on clay. Learning to distinguish between them, to call them by name, the countless names of the plants are beautiful, it gives me a feeling of power. But the appearance of bucolic life is misleading – take the smiling buttercups for example, they’re actually poisonous and the miraculous yarrow that does so much good actually tastes horrible. In 2007, for an exhibition with Gianni Pettena and Riccardo Previdi (Neon FDV), I “installed” at the entrance two genteel and resolute ladies who randomly moved visitors’ watches forward or backward completely by chance – such an event has the effect of transporting the event into a completely indeterminate dimension of time.
EG: I love the image that you have been able to build in my mind. The knowledge of what is unknown is in fact the mirror analysis of itself. The link with the territory and with what you are intimately familiar with is a constant that outlines most of your works.
I am fascinated by a recent work you’ve exhibited at Casabianca, Sky land 2014 – could you talk about it?
MM: This work identifies a meeting point, a key allowing one to read between hermeneutical trajectories of habit – like in anthropology where customs and technology are reused in one’s free time. In practice I asked the designers of Studio Arkadia (Studio Arkadia) to reinvent and print 3D handles of some old lost pots. During installation, one of the pots is partially filled with water and a few drops of olive oil, a reminder of the hydromancy methods and other apotropaic rituals practiced in ancient times in the Marche region.
(Those who define properties as “skyland” are those who occupy all the constructible space as a single housing unit.)
EG: Is there a brief anecdote that you would like to share?
MM: I once saw a frog get crushed by mistake, and I realized that life ends when time is separated from space.
Maurizio Mercuri was born on 1965, is an Italian artist living and working in a little village in the Marche region, Italy.
© Maurizio Mercuri, Eloise Ghioni, Fisk Frisk magazine
Courtesy Maurizio Mercuri, Eloise Ghioni, Galleria Massimo De Carlo – Milano Italy, Galleria Zero Milano – Italy, Garage Milano – Italy, Neon FDV Milano – Italy, Fisk Frisk magazine
Editing: Eloise Ghioni
Translated by: Andrew Smaldone