Salvami | Andata-ritorno is the new installation by Franco Mazzucchelli promoted by Ventura Centrale, CRAMUM and FAS-Ferrante Aporti Sammartini Association with the support of Fondazione Cure Onlus, Municipio 2 Milano and in collaboration with the Museo del Novecento, which will be presented from 16 to 22 April curated by Sabino Maria Frassà during the Milan Fuorisalone, in conjunction with the exhibition at the Museo del Novecento Non ti abbandonerò mai.
Emanuele Magri: You have practically proposed a way of being an artist, that of the amateur, meaning that being a professional artist, a careerist, means somehow being someone who has to earn a living in some way and therefore is more subjected to blackmail, conditioning and in any case pressures, in short, a sold one more easily.
Franco Mazzucchelli: The thing goes without saying because the actions I started doing in the ’60s could not get an economic response and it is clear that I was excluded a priori from galleries, collectors, etc. .. Not producing anything salable it was impossible a relationship of that kind and instead I am grateful to those who invited me and paid me the materials to do these things. The first ones were paid by myself then at this point it is clear that my business has been diluting until the eighties when I did not do anything anymore.
EM: The theory and the practice went together. You’ve also made big investments, like the big machine below.
FM: Yes, I always paid for everything by taking away financial resources from the family. That’s why amateur.
EM: But not in the sense of lack of preparation, you have two diplomas from the Academy, painting and sculpture, you did not want to leave Brera anymore ….
FM: But there’s a reason. Because I attended the scientific high school without finishing it, I was a bad student, so at some point I went to a public high school where I had very good professors, as Dino Formaggio professor of philosophy, then I accidentally enrolled in a private Academy for the preparation for the the admission exam to the Academy and so I entered and found everything easy, I was all right, with the first picture I won a prize at Monza.
EM: They immediately realized that there was talent …
FM: Yes, it was fine and I had to recover the years I had lost, first the study failures then the military eighteen months, then I took the artistic maturity I did not have, and at the beginning I did not like the professor of painting. Even if I was doing painting I had already begun to use plastic material, at first I started with the spatula, I used very little brush, it goes without saying that after I enrolled in the sculpture course.
EM: If I put myself in the guise of a collector I think I would like to have one of your pictures, or bas-relief if we want to call it, one of your “Bieca Decorazione” or a two-dimensional work of those which are currently exhibited at the Museo del Novecento. I think it’s right that there is this desire.
FM: The Bieca Decorazione started very late, while I made all the works that originated from the documentation of my actions in the ’60s and’ 70s, but I did also small and two-dimensional works which were always different because I always was looking for experiment. I took my pictures or I asked Cattaneo (Enrico Cattaneo is the photographer who has documented half of Franco Mazzucchelli’s shares) to develop shots following my indications (with an unprinted part), then I assembled and framed over the photo or the cardboard or I only assembled without framing. Then I got bored because it was dangerous to use aluminum, plastic, glass. I bought a half glass case (very light, now illegal, which I still have) because it is important that the plastic is under glass, so that it does not become a special waste, toxic and harmful, and so instead it it becomes a relic of fifth category … Framed and under glass assumes the value of relic.
EM: And anyway, you did not want to sell anything, even in the Inga Pin show … and you did not even sell anything … even in the ’72-’73 show Caduta di pressione where it was recorded how much oxygen people consumed, it was more a museum performance than an exhibition …
FM: Yes, he was the only one who believed it, he looked for me and made me a show of inflatables in ’69 I think.
EM: Those who saw these works of Mazzucchelli saw them in his house. Even now there are many on the walls, and the exhibition at the Museo del Novecento was made with those. In short, the hypothetically salable works were at home.
FM: Yes, but anyway nobody wanted them.
EM: In the Nineties they started asking you, but you did not want to sell them
FM: and besides there was not a gallery
EM: and you were not looking for it …
FM: Looking for it meant thinking about the career and I wasn’t thinking about it.
EM: Even at the Museo del Novecento you entered because Sabino Frassà has looked for you and has had the patience to open drawers, to find things …
FM: Yes it is, before the Museo del Novecento it appeared sporadically. Sabino understood the nature of the cycle, of the works itself, that goes beyond the documentation. The one at the Museo del Novecento was a long and sometimes hard adventure. But thanks to Sabino and Iolanda Ratti (conservator of the Museum that curates together with Frassà the exhibition ndr) an exhibition has come out that has excited me first of all. Now a large catalogue about these two-dimensional works – not just those on show- will also be published by Silvana.
EM: Actually, before the Museo del Novecento, for the majority of the public, Franco Mazzucchelli’s paintings were those of the Bieca Decoratione. How was it born?
FM: In ’72 I had done for Di Gennaro an environment. I had covered a whole space with inflatable panels attached to the wall with those blocks with the very long screw without a frame, a sort of boiserie, everything, including the ceiling, and many people asked me “you make paintings” but I did not want to do them. In short, they wanted a piece of the site specific intervention. But I refused to make paintings.
I began to make paintings at the end of the Eighties when in Brera we were asked for works for various events for charitable institutions and so on. I have always made very few drawings, almost nothing, and then mindful of the experience by Di Gennaro I made the first checks and I did them only for charity and every year there were those two three paintings for these occasions, Kennedy Foundation, Lilt etc. but I did not want to deny everything I had done until then. But the years pass, pass, pass and at some point around the years 2000 the solution was to find a title. The “Bieca Decoratione”, or abbreviated “BD”, in contrast to everything I had done before and with that I felt acquitted. I declare it: everything that hangs on a wall becomes decoration and now I have some re-thinking, perhaps even those that were earlier, in the Museo del Novecento, become decoration, but they are not so alluring …
EM: You say so … it’s all to see …
FM: Before the Bieca decorazione I have always been away from the pleasantness … At that point, acquitted, I had a lot of fun because I like to work manually and build and I took this chance to give vent to the creativity I had repressed in previous years.
EM: Do you think a collector would prefer to have a Bieca Decorazione work or one of those exhibited at the Museo del Novecento?
FM: Today I think something from the Museo del Novecento exhibition. But it is not said. I once saw a customer arriving at the Marconi gallery who wanted a green 30 x 40 cm painting that could fit in a suitcase, etc. Now I can do it with the Bieca Decorazione and I would not feel guilty.
EM: Let’s go back to the Inflatables, (Gonfiabili). When I interview collectors, I ask them where they would like to see their collection exposed. I ask you the same thing. Where could it be the ideal place for the inflatables today?
FM: Here in Milan, the PAC garden seems to me the ideal place. Or Hangar Bicocca, for its height. Or in the hall of the Caryatids in the Royal Palace, where I would make a big spiral like the one I put in the courtyard of Brera, that was 8 meters high, I would make it up to the height of 15 or more meters that goes up to the archive and occupies all the space. People would pass through the coils and the space would be continuously recreated and reinvented. Each space wants something different. We need to study the best solution to make the consistency between the artwork and the space feel.
EM: I think that today’s artists, compared to those of the ’60s, are closer to Piero Manzoni’s concept: my breath in a balloon, rather than your air in a structure for the others. Even the game was, over the years, more “let me have fun” by Palazzeschi rather than “let others play, I involve them”.
FM: Above all, it seems to me that today the artist delegates the work to others, he designs and others realize, a bit like in past centuries. Does Cattelan build his works? I do not think so, they are beautiful, well-kept and produced with perfect finishes, but there is an industrial or artisan workshop behind. Among those who make the marble I know only Werner Dieter who still works with the bribe but usually one brings the project to an external laboratory. Nowadays there is the numerical control with three axes and you do everything you want, one makes the computer project, send the file and collect the sculpture at home. While if I did marble I would have worked with my hands, but the problem is that it takes too much time, and while I do one thing I already think about another. With the BD I see what I thought in two days. I have to do something else after fifteen days, and in fact I have started and abandoned many things.
EM: There was resin between painting and PVC. Was the construction of the work with the resin longer?
FM: Much longer, first you have to do the drawing, the sketch, then the clay, then make the plaster mold, then you have to prepare the mold with the release agents, the paints, then do the casting, control the temperature, the room at 20-22 degrees, balance between accelerator and other products that help the catalysis, then finally you can open and there is the polishing. In short, to make a traditional piece takes a long time …
In addition I used the gabraster of Montecatini that today will be banned because there were polluting products and resin gives off a bad smell. One time this smell was interpreted as a gas leak, the firemen arrived and destroyed ten sculptures. Because I bought the 200-liter stem of resin, I prepared the molds, in ten months I prepared ten sculptures, then I poured the resin and escaped to Santa Margherita … That time they destroyed everything
EM: PVC is the perfect, fastest material for you. have you thought about other alternatives in these 50 years? From PVC to polyethylene or you see it as the same material?
FM: It’s the same thing, one is much easier and cheaper and more impactful and allows me to do things that I can not do with PVC. It is even faster and very low-tech, easy to make, so low man-power. I feel great.
EM: It is the ephemeral for the ephemeral because it is a work that will last a week …
FM: The deal is that when I do these actions I do not take responsibility for the disposal of the work. Except for a few pieces that I bring home because with them I realize the paintings.
As in Racconigi, a great sculpture on the lake made of ten spindles put together, one of which was red, prey of the storks. These leftovers have been transformed into a work, Rec, Recupero (2006, 2007), remaking with pieces of opera works that become Bieca Decorazione. Also A.TO A. are paintings made by children and adults who are encouraged to draw by marking pens left avaiable which vent their need to intervene. Even at the Messina Museum three years ago we had left a large work to be scratched and obviously the part at the child level was thick with writing, while much less at the level where adults acted. In the past more adults intervened. Today they are more rigid. And even in the case of the installation in Budapest or the one in China the same thing happened: at the end the work is decomposed and becomes a two-dimensional something with the overlapping of writings. This aspect was already present in the work at San Carpoforo (1975), a spontaneous event, and I had taken away a piece of it, 2 square meters of written stuff.
EM: Perhaps your production concerning theatrical sets is less known. We want to talk about it?
FM: The scenographies. I created the sets rather than conceive them, which the set designer did. It is what I did for the second act of the Wagner Opera, Valkyrie, I distorted it. It was ’98 or ’96, I do not remember. I have no documentation, I have invoices, because those are the only things I did for money, I also had fun and they paid me well. I have not done scenographies for twenty years. Nobody comes to propose it to me.
For Il lago dei cigni in Verona there was the problem of doing something on which you can float and then polyethylene, ten inflators, a control unit, all so that you could control with a keyboard. Given the theme I create, I remain more on the side of the implementer. When I did Autotono of Bussotti at the Teatro Stabile di Treviso the theme was, in fact, something that swelled up. I made a box of 2 meters for two, studying the beats of the orchestra because the blowers made a certain noise and therefore I had to coincide with the music and so I filled the whole stage. But I didn’t knew the rules of the scenography and the fact that the stage is inclined. When the structure swelled, it went to the proscenium and it partially came out of it, it was so big that it was held back by the proscenium but the first six rows were a little crushed, this has impressed the set designer and it was nice. It is occasionality, sometimes problems are solved there.
EM: Your works seem to me very suitable for contemporary dance.
FM: They used balls once. At the Teatro Regio in Parma the problem was that there had to be some spheres that had to float, remain as if in midair, and then I found a very thin material and I managed to make these spheres, I still have one. It happened that they put the helium and the ball of 1 meter and 20 went up in the air and they could no longer pull it down. Then they tried with half air but it flew again, they did not put more helium and went on the same because there was the suction of air from the pit to the proscenium. At the end they had to make them heavier. It was a good lesson.
EM: Let’s talk about the work Salvami | Andata e Ritorno, the installation that will be presented, from 16 to 22 April, during the Fuorisalone in Milan.
FM: This work was born from an idea by Sabino who introduced me to the theme of the city divided by the station, a neighborhood to be reunited … He described me the project two years ago, but then he dropped it. Last July (2017) he callsed me while I was on a boat, and he said: “I need a project that brings together the city” … I had a notebook with squares. I threw down a sketch, a scribble with a pipeline that begins and ends with a “tank of air and breaths” in PVC that he presented to a so titled commission: Comune Municipio 2, Ventura, FAS Association and Cure Foundation. They liked the idea and we have worked tirelessly since then, but my doodle is the only existing project.
EM: Where did the pipeline idea come from?
FM: Because it was long, long. I confess, there is a patchwork. No one knows that the needle at Cadorna comes out of the Malpensa ideally linking the two points … but if in that work I appreciate the idea of mending the places, I strongly support that contemporary works should not last long. The works should last maximum twenty years and then be replaced. Once the monuments conveyed great ideals, today what do they represent? The sculptor and egocentricity, and we return to the previous speech. Generations change and the works should also be changed … My work for the Fuorisalone is 200 meters, but it is born to last a week, then I will give back to the city its spaces.
Franco Mazzucchelli, A.TO A., Alfa Romeo, via Traiano, 1971. Opera bidimensionale 70×100. Fotografia di Enrico Cattaneo
Franco Mazzucchelli, A. to A., Torino, 1971
Franco Mazzucchelli, A.TO A., Torino, Liceo Artistico, 1971. Ph. by Enrico Cattaneo
Franco Mazzucchelli, Abbandono, Lago di Como, 1970. Ph. by Franco Mazzucchelli
Franco Mazzucchelli, A.TO A., Alfa Romeo, via Traiano, Milano, 1971. Ph. by Enrico Cattaneo
Franco Mazzucchelli, A.TO A., piazza dei Priori, Volterra, 1973. Ph. by Enrico Cattaneo
Franco Mazzucchelli, Riappropriazione, Villa Reale, Monza, 1978. Ph. by Enrico Cattaneo
Franco Mazzucchelli, Sostituzione, Chiesa di San Carpoforo, Milano, 1975; ph Enrico Cattaneo
Franco Mazzucchelli, Primo rally sui Navigli, Milano, 1971
Franco Mazzucchelli, Riappropriazione, Parco Sempione Milano 1975. ph Enrico Cattaneo
Franco Mazzucchelli, Abbandono, asilo Montessori, 1967
Franco Mazzucchelli, Acrilico su PVC, 1963
Franco Mazzucchelli, Salvami | Andata-ritorno, dettaglio
Franco Mazzucchelli, Non ti abbandonerò mai (Azioni 1964-1979), veduta dell’installazione al Museo del Novecento di Milano
Franco Mazzucchelli, Non ti abbandonerò mai (Azioni 1964-1979), veduta dell’installazione al Museo del Novecento di Milano