Miriam: I would like to begin by focusing on two of your works in particular: the cross-media project Debris/Detriti (in progress_2018) and the film līlā (2017). The elements that interest me the most are: the role of residencies in the progression of these works and, more broadly, of your research; the relationship and interaction with the communities that populate the residency’s locations; and the interstitial spaces.
In Debris/Detriti (in progress_2018) you aim to “develop a different way of understanding the south.” In the conceptualisation of this work, you refer to the “third spaces,” meeting and exchange areas – which also appear in other works such as [Vlen] (2016). Could you expand on the meaning of these interstitial spaces in your research? Does the third space have a coherent definition, or one that varies based on the context that hosts it? Who and what outlines it?
Sergio: The third spaces are, for me, spaces of possibility; spaces where there is still an opportunity for something new to happen; spaces of transition; spaces that are unclassifiable. They are peripheral, marginal, abandoned spaces, not only from an urbanistic viewpoint but also from an emotional one. They are autonomous and transformative spaces of revolution, where post-anarchist and political statements can take place. Here, we can experience relationships and experiment with more egalitarian ways of cooperation. Another concept that intrigues me is that of third time. This is the time that goes beyond productivity, the time for oneself, for reconciliation, for the freeing of vibrant energies and pleasure. The sum of these complexities can be expressed through the idea of queerness, which I understand as a mobile, porous and de-constructivist macro-system – rather than a mere antagonist system to heteronormativity.
M: Could you elaborate on the interaction between the different elements, such as performance and installation, that are involved in the project?
S: My research unfolds through relations, ideas and experiences aiming to generate connections with the fragile material of humanity, dealing with tangible spaces as well as social and community-led processes. My practice is intimately connected with the concept of public sphere and collectivity. At the base lies an interest in the social sciences, historical events, popular culture and mass culture, looked at from an ethnographic lens. The result, in many projects, is the creation of multidisciplinary spaces, platforms for thought, models of antagonistic practices and systems for those communities that society often overlooks. Through my work, I try to create devices that oscillate in a precarious equilibrium between cinema, installation and performance. The format of the pieces therefore develops in a constant interchanging between instability, indeterminacy and transition. Debris/Detriti saw its first activation in Palermo, during the residency entitled Living Room, promoted by Spazio Y in Palazzo Savona, during the first month of Manifesta 12. It was produced by Puglia_Circuito del Contempornaeo, an artistic project curated by Giusy Caropppo, and the Foundation South Heritage for contemporary art. The second stage of the project took place in Buenos Aires, within the residency Officina Italiana curated by Massimo Scaringella, between October and December 2018. The work focuses on the vision of a performative materiality (one that evolves and has agency) that I see as leading principle of the artistic process of making. This translates – and gets formalised – in the project-like quality of social design, cinema, installation, photography and, not least, performance itself. That of film is for me a perpetual process of becoming conducted between shape and its disappearance, between object and subject. The installation? Objects do not exist in time! I like to define performance in semiotic terms, as a swarm of joined actions in a suspended time and space between the everyday and beyond.
M: In this work the autobiographical and socio-political elements mingle, from a material as well as narrative and metaphorical point of view. Could you analyse these two aspects in relation to the work?
S: I started from an autobiographical fact: that I was born in the South of Italy, in the region of Puglia. My Southerness though, especially comes from a political understanding of the South. Therefore, not only an autobiographical fact, but a re-location in the different southern points of the world. For me, it is crucial to work within the cultural field in a militant way. I am fascinated by the underground cultures and lifestyles outside of the schemes. I believe that in these forms there are opportunities for resistance, authenticity, and I always hope to retrace and be struck by this type of subjectivity. I am interested in the subjectivities that are overshadowed, and in the possibility of redemption and revenge.
M: The film līlā is the result of a residency in the Himalayas, KYTA. How was the project conceived, and in which way did the residency influence its development? More broadly, what is the role of residencies in your artistic research and practice?
S: Residencies play a vital role in my work. They are tools for the analysis and representation of the context in which we act; a moment of concrete experimentation of living, understanding and crossing of a territory through participation and civil interaction. For this reason, the residency is not a self-referential process, but a catalyst, a system and a platform that brings a project and artistic research to interact with activities such as environmentalism, human rights, architecture and landscape. All this accompanied me during the experimental residency KYTA curated by Shazeb Sherif, at Parvati Valley, in the village of Kalga – located at a height of 4500m in the Himalayas. There, I began a research process that resulted in the film līlā. During the development of the project I explored the narratives embedded within the community, building a possible model of fruition of the territory and heritage of the local inhabitants, triggering a short circuit between localism and (post)globalism. The film is a reflection on the narrations at the borders of the global village. It was presented for the first time in the Discovery section of the Asia Film festival in Barcelona, directed by Menene Gras Balague in November 2017.
M: How did you deal with, avoid, or perhaps embrace, the voyeuristic aspect that manifests when an outsider looks at a reality that does not belong to them, that is not familiar? In other words, how did you manage your relationship with the local community during the residency, in the elaboration of the concept behind the film and its production?
S: The film explores the rapport between historical facts and non-linear forms of storytelling through the memory of both individual and crowd, through image and marvel, perception and observation. The narration therefore gives space to a non-documentary meta-history, where the local becomes global. For this work, I collected rare and precious images from some of the margins of the world. My practice is based on integration within the places I visit and on the interpretation of the identity of the sites and the communities I establish connections and trust with; through listening, exchange of stories and expertise, both verbally and meta-linguistically. I activated a form of horizontal sharing, with the aim to establish – through engagement and cohabitation – relations of exchange, participation and co-creation during the filmic process.
M: North and south often carry an oppositional value, from a geographical as well as economic and political perspective. While the north is for you a place of passage, the south is a choice of revolution. Could you expound upon your way of understanding north and south and how they concretely manifest in your work?
S: This is the organic synthesis of the Manifesto I wrote in June, entitled PERCHE’ HO SCELTO DI VIVERE A SUD (Why did I chose to live in the south). In this text, I declare my position towards re-positioning myself in the south. This notion of south goes beyond geography to land in territories that are emotional, poetic and sensorial. The action of going to the south is highlighted in relation to the big north, always represented as a driving form of capitalism and the various drifts of exploitation. My south also looks for emancipation and redemption from the subjectification to economic and political blackmailing. The south is for me a place where it is possible to start over again and change the sorts of the global village that is mortified by crisis, climatic disfunction and human drifting. “Il SUD è per me uno stato d’animo, il luogo delle possibili possibilità” (The SOUTH is for me an emotional state, a place of the possible possibilities). In Debris/Detriti, the site-related project we have discussed, I immerse myself in marginal, liminal and de-centered territories, activating strategies of research between human sciences, art and political activism. My south is intended as a model of self-organisation, self-production and self-determination. I like this image! Perhaps in my experiential baggage this is the image of the south: the archive of humanity.
Sergio Racanati (Bisceglie, 1982) is an artist based between Milan and Bari. He is currently working with the Foundation SoutHeritage for contemporary art, Matera, for a solo exhibition project. In 2017, he was awarded the Artistic Residency prize by “Officina Italiana” in Buenos Aires, curated by Massimo Scaringella. In 2013, he won the prize MUVIN UP, promoted by GAI and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, taking part in a residency at Edges Zones Foundation in Miami. In 2013 he also won the prize for the Performance Art section at the New York Biennale directed by Pietro Franesi and co-curated by Vjitaly Patsyukov and Lu Hao. Other selected residencies are: 2018“Living Room”, curated by SPAZIO Y, Palazzo Savona, Palermo (IT) produced by Puglia Circuito del Contemporaneao (directed by Giusy Caroppo) and Fondazione SoutHeritage; 2016 “Kyta”, curated by Shazeb Arif Shaikh, Kalga, Himalaya (I); 2014 Museo Pino Pascali / Polignano a Mare – BA_I; 2013 Harvard University curated by Marcus Owens; 2012, Z33 Contemporary Museum; Hasselt_B, Performance Space / London_UK. In 2012 Sergio took part in the Biennale del Mediterraneo and the 7th Berlin Biennial, within the project “Preoccupied” at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and in 2013 he participated in the Bienal del Fin del Mundo / Mar del Plata _RA. Selected international and national exhibitions are: 2015 “Imagining New Eurasia Project”, curated by Jihoi Lee, The Asia Culture Center, ACC Creation, Space 3, Gwangju, Republic of Korea; “Sound Scape”, curated by Vladimir Tatomir and Sanja Rotter, PM Gallery, Zagabria (HR); “Multinatural Histories”, curated by Marcus Owens and Olivier Sourel, produced by Gsd_Non Human: group of art and design of Harvard Graduate School and Museum of Natural History, Harvard (MA).
Featured Image: SERGIO RACANATI, DEBRIS/DETRTI_Argentina, 2019. Film still. © & courtesy the artist