The enhancement of public art through conservation: interview with the artist Nicola Carrino

Nicola Carrino, Costruttivo Progetto Mestre 2000, 2000-2001, Venezia-Mestre. © Nicola Carrino (Foto Fabrizio Fioravanti).

The form of the interview is currently considered by the international scientific community a fundamental tool for the acquisition of information to investigate and deal with technical, moral and ethical issues concerning the conservation, restoration and the exhibition of art works. For several years now, is no longer sufficient the commitment to preserve or restore the physical work, but it has become necessary to make choices that take into account the wishes and intentions of the artist, in order not to destroy either the physical substance of his work, or the aesthetic display, nor the ability to convey the artistic message, due to a bad restoration or an inadequate preventive conservation plan.[1]

The conservation should therefore be seen as an act of interpretation and reading of the work, starting with the systematic collection of information and documentation critically developed. [2] Through the interview, it is possible to understand the genesis of the work, the creative process, the original intention, the purpose and messages that led to its creation. It is possible to learn about the criteria by which the artist chose the materials, record statements of intention as regards the conservation and restoration, investigate attitudes and reactions to the phenomena of deterioration, receive guidance on maintenance. With the collaboration of the artist it is possible to create a proper set-up, through instructions on how to install the work, on its mounting, on the relationship with the viewer etc. It is possible to know if the work was conceived for a specific place and unique location, if its possible move could make it acquire new values ​​and meanings, or if its communicative potential would inevitably be compromised. Interviewing the artist means, therefore, have a better chance to make correct decisions, a possibility that is granted only to the art of today, the only one that can take advantage of direct evidence. [3]
The conversation with Nicola Carrino, focusing on the specific theme of public art and its complex conservation, represents a concrete application, albeit partial and appropriate to the specific context of the publication, of the method just described. [4]

The interview had as its goal to document the artist’s opinion regarding the problems faced by its many public art projects. Starting from the actual case work Piazza Fontana in Taranto (1983-1992), urban development plan of the ancient square in the heart of the ancient city, we addressed social and political issues, developments in art history, conservation and maintenance problems, possibility of relocation, reinstallation cases. The interview was set up so that the artist had a chance to move from the particular to the general and vice versa, through open questions, molded on his work and his experiences, taking into account his writings and those dedicated to him. Carrino proved to be attentive not only to the preservation of his works, but also to the protection of the social role that they should have, in their relationship with space, together with the existing architecture, with the history and culture of the place, with the user/citizen. The artist has once again confirmed its readiness for dialogue and collaboration in the process of documentation.

You create works that might be an area of the city, which will help to generate space, perceived in social sense. [5] The viewer is invited to enter the sculpture and to live it in a participatory manner, to become an active component of the work, perceiving its spatial and tactile physicality and volume. [6] Pier Luigi Sacco says that “art in public space can become an extraordinary experiential platform of mediation, experimentation and dialogue.”[7] Yet they are often the citizens to complain, criticize and collect signatures. What is missing in these projects in order to be shared, understood and appreciated by the public? How far goes the artist’s role in the dissemination of the message of the work and its multiple meanings, where instead it is necessary to reintroduce the institutions?
We must assume that the general can not suppress the needs of the local. I always said that the sculpture is the shape of the place, even the place itself. Talking about the condition of the South and of basic education can be thankless task if not painful. In these terms, the urban regeneration of the Old City of Taranto is an old problem, by the actions of Argan and Brandi, to the current general conditions of the crisis and the Ilva’s situation. A basic message is to awaken a sense of belonging, in the historical dimension of memory. Certainly not renouncing to live in his time, with his product. The habit of citizenship to what exists, the familiarity and understanding of a renewed landscape, leads to the consciousness of identity. And the institution has to contribute to the protection of a constant civic decorum. 

Nicola Carrino, Costruttivo Progetto Mestre 2000, 2000-2001, Venezia-Mestre. © Nicola Carrino (Foto Fabrizio Fioravanti).

Nicola Carrino, Costruttivo Progetto Mestre 2000, 2000-2001, Venezia-Mestre. © Nicola Carrino (Foto Fabrizio Fioravanti).

Nicola Carrino, Ricostruttivo 2010. Progetto Paesaggio Morterone, 2010-2012, 2012, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea all’Aperto di Morterone. Courtesy Associazione Culturale Amici di Morterone (Foto Bruno Bani).

Nicola Carrino, Ricostruttivo 2010. Progetto Paesaggio Morterone, 2010-2012, 2012, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea all’Aperto di Morterone. Courtesy Associazione Culturale Amici di Morterone (Foto Bruno Bani).

Nicola Carrino, Ricostruttivo Accademia 2014, 2014-2015, MACA - Museo d’arte contemporanea - Accademia di Belle Arti di Frosinone. Courtesy MACA © Nicola Carrino.

Nicola Carrino, Ricostruttivo Accademia 2014, 2014-2015, MACA – Museo d’arte contemporanea – Accademia di Belle Arti di Frosinone. Courtesy MACA © Nicola Carrino.

Nicola Carrino, Ricostruttivo Palladio 2014 (progetto e scultura), 2013-2014, Villa Pisani-Bonetti, Bagnolo di Lonigo. Courtesy Associazione Culturale Villa Pisani Contemporary Art © Nicola Carrino (Foto Bruno Bani).

Nicola Carrino, Ricostruttivo Palladio 2014 (progetto e scultura), 2013-2014, Villa Pisani-Bonetti, Bagnolo di Lonigo. Courtesy Associazione Culturale Villa Pisani Contemporary Art © Nicola Carrino (Foto Bruno Bani). 

 Piazza Fontana in Taranto born as redevelopment plan and urban development of the ancient plaza, includes the archaeological remains of the ancient fountain, along with the the neoclassical ones, and reminds the walls of the city through a semi-finished wall, forming a system of historical memory.[8] Yet it has often been assumed the relocation of parts of the work in a new site.[9] How would you deal with its displacement and the breaking of connections with the place for which it was created? The work, relocated to another space, could acquire new values and meanings, or its communicative potential would inevitably be compromised?
It can not be ignored that in the ’70s and again in the’ 80s, we used to talk and work for the urban socio-political interests, in contrast to the vision of the current “public” art, which ends to accept very hedonistic art and artists, in different poetic, not ideologies. We used to talk of moving works in appreciation of their validity and preservation. But most often this occurs in order to change face to the city, along with the succession of the directors in office, to ensure election victories or when funding is available. I do not think that Piazza Fontana can be moved to another place with all the apparatus walls of the tanks, fountain, sculpture and more, even in the very idea of ​​the function, expressed in the original place already for 500 years, less than totally destroy it. Resulting in any way difficult as well as expensive to disassembly it, not to mention the remake.

After your previous experiences, such the destruction of the public sculptures, Cubo Blu (1969) in the town of Ostrava, Memorial ai caduti of Architects Benedetti and Miarelli and its contextual Scultura, 1967 (1967) in Marino Laziale, Costruttivo Fara San Martino 2000 (2000) in Fara San Martino, Costruttivo Verticale (1984) in Taranto, and after the fights that you had to bear to save Piazza Fontana (1983-1992) in Taranto and the Progetto Mestre 2000/Monumento ai Caduti (2000-2001) in Venice Mestre, do you still believe in the ability of these works to resist the policy decisions of local governments? Will you devote more time to such artistic operations, which require a long time of study, research, design and implementation?    
Only updated rules can ensure the existence of the works, both designed for the place and occasionally installed in it. The legislation from 2000 requires that any transaction concerning the urban fabric needs the opinion, and the protective action, of the Superintendent. [10] This is aspirational. The public work, once acquired, must be protected from the first moment, as it happens in the museum. As an artist I certainly continue to propose it. My vision aims to all urban aspects, working professionally from the research to the realization. I think in some cases works can resist and withstand the political decisions of local governments. They can survive thanks to the artist and the local support, even reaching relocation operations, where the nature of the project allows it. In Venice Mestre, the sculptures were eventually reinstated in the project of reorganization of the square, so they will remain on site forever. [11] Meanwhile Ricostruttivo 2010 found in 2012, the final shape of “landscape sculpture”, at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Morterone; as the new Ricostruttivo Palladio 2014, as part of Villa Pisani-Bonetti in Bagnolo di Lonigo, paying tribute to the four books of the architect; the Ricostruttivo Accademia 2014, which completes with two great elements respectively in stainless steel and corten steel the facade of the historic Palazzo Tiravanti in Frosinone, new headquarters of the Academy of Fine Arts and the MACA Contemporary Art Museum, just been inaugurated by the Academy. Hoping that the same sculptures Progetto Aeroporto 2002 in Fiumicino, which I have not seen during my recent passage, will be put back in their place, after completion of the ongoing works.

In your article Condizione a rischio della scultura urbana (Condition at risk of urban sculpture) you denounced the lack of conservation plans for public works, [12] the constant and disheartening loss of documents containing the criteria for maintenance in the archives of the public bureaucracy.[13] If you could again provide instructions regarding the maintenance of Piazza Fontana to the City of Taranto, which practices would you recommend? What do you think of the material transformations that the work could suffer over time?   
The work, in its entirety, has been built to perfection. The materials of the new architecture and of the sculpture have been designed to withstand over time. The steel of the 36 modules of the sculpture is stainless steel AISI 316 L, resistant to the salinity of the sea breeze insistent on the site. Parts of the old fountain need, instead, to continue maintenance and restoration, especially the cannulas of the fountain, which are used for the continuous removal of water by fishmongers insistent on the site. Certainly recent habits of the boys to run and jump with their skateboard is not good for the flooring and stone seats. The work thus need a normal maintenance, as always due, and particular attention to the presence of water, which most often is missing. In the south as Taranto, water is a problem. Keeping the fountain clean, collect the garbage improperly found in the tanks, eliminate the limestone, which is formed naturally in every fountain, meet the needs of a normal prudent maintenance, as technicians know, as I point always, for every work entrusted to a museum.[14] In Taranto, the real museum are the Museum of the Old Town, together with the square and the fountain that I designed, the envied National Archaeological Museum of Taranto, Marta, in its recent restoration. Museum is all the city to be protected from disasters of dusts extremely harmful and overly produced by private interests of Ilva.
It is therefore natural to think: what is and what will last of so much long work done in urban areas, made from me, like from other artists, in the contemporary world. To me as an artist, I believe, an experiential path of knowledge, for others, I hope, an indication of operational methodology: a making art that has a didactic function, which belongs to the more extensive category of projecting, to establish a single aim of urban realization and planning.[15]

[1] H. Althofer, Il restauro delle opere d’arte moderne e contemporanee, a cura di M. C. Mundici, Firenze, Nardini, 1991, pp. 47-51, pp. 148-149.
[2] M. Pugliese, Tecnica mista: materiali e procedimenti nell’arte del XX secolo, Milano, Mondadori, 2006, p. 176.
[3] Nonostante l’utilità dell’intervista, principale strumento della nuova metodologia per la conservazione dell’arte contemporanea, sia ormai riconosciuta, si è ben lontani da una sua applicazione costante e preventiva.
[4] Per motivi di spazio e di adeguamento al contesto di pubblicazione, l’intervista non ha compreso domande di carattere prettamente tecnico (materiali utilizzati, dimensioni, sostituibilità degli elementi danneggiati, ecc.), ma si è limitata a porre soltanto quesiti aperti, che potessero maggiormente incrociare l’interesse del lettore. Essa rappresenta pertanto un esempio parziale di quanto previsto dal modello presentato.
[5] Nicola Carrino. Costruttivi trasformabili. 5 sculture / 10 rilievi 1969-1990, catalogo della mostra (Padova, 2 febbraio-20 marzo 1991), a cura di A. Da Rin Fioretto, Padova, Galleria Fioretto, 1991.
[6] A. Ferraro, Musma. Srumenti, metodi e applicativi per la conservazione preventiva dell’arte contemporanea in ambienti ipogei, tesi di laurea in Teoria e Storia del Restauro, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Napoli, a.a. 2013-2014, pp. 152-169.
[7] E. Cristallini (a cura di), L’arte fuori dal museo. Saggi e interviste, Roma, Gangemi, 2008, pp. 65-66.
[8] F. Moschini, Piazza Fontana a Taranto. Lo spazio urbano come luogo “dell’accidentalità”, A.A.M. Architettura Arte Moderna, Roma, 1992.
[9] N. Carrino, Condizione a rischio della scultura urbana, in «Nuova Meta. Parole & immagini. Rivista di critica delle arti», XVII (2003), 17, pp. 24-26.
[10] D.lgs. 22 gennaio 2004, n. 42 – Codice dei beni culturali e del paesaggio, ai sensi dell’articolo 10 della legge 6 luglio 2002, n. 137.
[11] Progetto Riqualificazione di Piazza Donatori di Sangue, Comune di Venezia – Municipalità di Mestre. ai-progetti architettura.ingegneria s.c., architetti Andrea Borin e Massimo Furlan.
[12] N. Carrino, Condizione a rischio della scultura urbana, in «Nuova Meta. Parole & immagini. Rivista di critica delle arti», XVII (2003), 17, pp. 24-26.
[13] A. Ferraro, Musma. Srumenti, metodi e applicativi per la conservazione preventiva dell’arte contemporanea in ambienti ipogei, tesi di laurea in Teoria e Storia del Restauro, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Napoli, a.a. 2013-2014, p. 167.
[14] N. Carrino, Acciaio e fuoco per una nuova umanità, in S. Trevisani, La cultura a Taranto, Taranto, Coop. 19 luglio, 1991, pp. 17-22.
[15] N. Carrino, Forma urbana della scultura. Costruttivi, Decostruttivi, Ricostruttivi, Udine, Forum Editrice, 2011.
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Annalisa Ferraro

Storica dell'arte, specializzata nella valorizzazione e conservazione dell'arte contemporanea.

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