Can Art Truly Be a ‘Wake-Up Call’?

Artist Luca Staccioli spoke with gallerist Matthew Noble, and art critic Irene Sofia Comi about his latest solo show, “Wake-up call,” at ArtNoble gallery, an immersive experience that contrasts the vernacular and dreamlike with the harsh reality of daily life.

Luca Staccioli, “Wake-up call” at ArtNoble gallery. Michela Pedranti

Starting from an idea of the curator whose critical text accompanies the exhibition, shared with the gallerist and the artist, rather than “an interview signed by three authors” what follows is more a “free-form dialogue,” guided but spontaneous at the same time, composed of three voices in rhythm with each other. For this reason, the interlocutors give answers which are at the same time questions, and questions which are at the same time answers.

Irene Sofia Comi

Artist Luca Staccioli, curator Irene Sofia Comi, and gallerist Matthew Noble at the ArtNoble Gallery, in Milan. Photo by Linda Valtolina.

MN: Luca, what is the underlying message that you would like to convey to the spectators with this exhibition?

LS: With the exhibition “Wake-up call” I am trying to convey the message that art is a game, and that it is important to convey concepts, criticisms and questions about today’s society, through aesthetics and formal processes that are also instinctive and not taken for granted. Further to this, I would like the exhibition to express to spectators that the dreams and nightmares of our days often overlap and that we must be wary of imposed myths.

MN: How much did the layout of the gallery influence the construction of the exhibition?

Luca Staccioli, “Wake-up call” at ArtNoble gallery. Photo by Michela Pedranti.

LS: The exhibition perfectly reflects an idea that had been running through my head for quite some time. I was thinking of a pilgrimage to a gate that is magical and disenchanted at the same time. A vernacular and dreamlike journey, juxtaposed with a sort of crash into the brutality of everyday life. When conceiving the exhibition, I was thinking of an angular space with solids and voids, which could refer to the transparent windows of offices and glimpses of sky between houses. And nothing, when you asked me to do an exhibition at the gallery, I immediately knew what I wanted to do to create this image. And I started working on it.

ISC: Luca, referring to one of the main themes on which Wake-up call – and your poetics by extension – leads to reflection, I’d like to add a catchphrase to your first two answers, a payoff with an art critic flavor: a portkey project, a chronotopic exhibition. Talking about magical, synthetic and marketing-oriented formulas, I’d also like to mention your objectified writing “Sales!”, a display device that appears on the gallery wall. Together with the first artwork the visitor encounters in Wake-up call, it is one of the very few elements composed of words within the exhibition. This ‘written quality’ reminds me also of the titles of your works, clues that trace directions for a personal adventure which is the interpretation. On this issue we talked a bit during our last meeting: what role do words play in your practice?

LS: Firstly, I could say that words are found objects. Secondly, words appear in their inner meanings, thus the semantic role and their performative action appear. In the titles of my artworks, words act as clues, something that reminds me of captions of a theatrical text.

Luca Staccioli, “Wake-up call” at ArtNoble gallery. Photo by Michela Pedranti.

ISC: Referring to the definition of exhibition as a chronotope I mentioned above, in which space and time collapse together to give life to a narrative, I ask Matthew: how have you experienced the transformation of space, characterized in an almost totalizing way by Luca? It is a way of experimenting with the space that I have found authorial, and which has characterized the ArtNoble exhibitions on several occasions, in the panorama of Italian galleries dealing with emerging artists. To use the words of Pino Pascali when interviewed by Carla Lonzi: “When a gallery director accepts the works, when the artist himself installs them, they take on another dimension.” How do you feel about this? How do you live the relation with the gallery space, the artist’s will and artworks?

MN: I completely agree with Pascalis’s words, when an exhibition is conceived from the start in an open dialogue between artist, gallerist and space, with everyone involved in the installation, I really do find that there is a magical dimension to the final project. When we arrive at the installation phase, the space often acts differently from what we expected initially and therefore being there with the artist installing, speaking and seeing what works and what doesn’t is of vital importance. And this also happened with Luca’s show. We had an initial idea for the show and whilst we were installing we noticed how some interventions worked better than we envisaged, so we adapted the installation accordingly in order to create a strong and coherent exhibition. 

This is especially true in the case of solo shows where we always aim to transport the spectator into the world of the artist. Considering that with each exhibition I am getting to know the gallery space even better, discovering its strengths and criticalities, I find that having an open dialogue with the artist right from the conception of the project is fundamental because the artist’s initial ideas can be directed and reconsidered in order to have the strongest exhibition possible. 

LS: I’d like to ask Irene Sofia, when we first presented the project to you, what were your initial reactions and impressions? 

Luca Staccioli, “Wake-up call” at ArtNoble gallery. Photo by Michela Pedranti.

ISC: In answering this question, other words confessed by Pascali to Carla Lonzi come to mind. “I don’t choose to be interested in the interior or the superficial part, the important thing is the light layer that forms all around,” he said. These are the things that initially struck and interested me profoundly about your work when I grasped more deeply in conversation with you, the cohesion of meanings and the overlapping of references connected to it.

LS: And considering that you know my research for quite some time, do you think Wake-up call has been able to synthesize the different formal and conceptual themes of my practice?

ISC: I would say yes. Creating a narrative, discursive and unitary path in the exhibition space, the different series proposed let the visitors comprehend the complexity of the stratifications underlying your work, at the same time approaching your multiform practice of making that ranges across many languages – photography, collage and embroidery, drawings, sculptures, installations and ceramics. What underlies the construction of my critical text was precisely this: creating a stratified structure that properly embraced the formal and conceptual themes present in the works on display and in your poetics.

Analyzing your practice in comparison to the exhibition, the only element that is unaccounted for, in my opinion, is the video, a medium that perhaps most emerged in the past and whose specific qualities, moreover, are recalled in the role attributed in the solo show to the collage elements which animate the drawings.

LS: I would also like to underline the role of a kind of time-based orientation in Wake-up call, which reminds me of my video practice. The exhibition does not present a linear narration, rather circular, nonlinear. It was conceived somehow as a story, with the works Way out at the beginning, and Reality check at the end, whilst in the middle many possible and different paths and directions which could be taken. A bit like a collage, which as you said, can be seen both in my video practice and the drawing included in Wake-up call.

News staff