At BienNolo, IRL art shows the desire to start again after the Pandemic

On the occasion of the 2021 edition of BienNolo we talked to curator Matteo Bergamini.

The work by Benedetta Mori Ubaldini and Roberta Savelli at LoroMilano, one of the venues of the exhibition outside the NoLo neighborhood. Fabrizio Stipari

We talked to curator Matteo Bergamini about the new edition of BienNolo, the North of Loreto district biennial that returns to Milan after several long and complicated months.

What was the intention of this edition compared to the previous one, and how did you choose the artists you invited?

Like two years ago, the intention is to have a transversal approach, choosing artists from different generations and putting them into dialogue. We go from Aldo Spoldi and Maurizio Cannavacciuolo (born in 1950 and 1954 respectively, ed.) to the young artists we discovered during the portfolio-review weekend at the Casa degli Artisti, who are still studying, born in 1998, 1996, and are not even 30 years old. There are four generations of artists in the exhibition.

We like to emphasize this aspect. We think that young people are a great asset and that they should be promoted, so we felt that scouting was the right thing to do. Since we can’t go to everyone’s studio, If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain. So, in July 2021, on 2-3-4, we invited all those who wanted to show us their portfolios and their work to come and meet us at the Casa degli Artisti in Milan. More than eighty people presented their works, of which we selected about ten.

What were you looking for in these young artists and what interested you?

We weren’t looking for anything in particular. We thought we would select a couple of them, but, almost against all expectations, we found a lot of good works. We were surprised by the great maturity and it was very nice to see that there are very good – and very young – artists out there. As well as the volunteers who participate in the event. We have three photographers documenting the exhibition, who are still studying at the Brera Academy. We try to support as much as possible the younger generations who have found themselves living in these critical circumstances. Two years ago we also worked in this direction, but in this edition, there are so many. There are about ten artists that we have discovered and invited thanks to one portfolio-review weekend.

Did you invite the artists or did you select the works?

We chose the theme, “Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus.” The theme of festivity, of the need to be together, of conviviality, of rediscovering life, in a participatory dimension. All the works, more or less, also explore this aspect. Some deal with it in a more tragic way, recounting personal stories of happy moments that have passed, while others are more literal. Most of the works have been created specifically for BienNolo, others have been reinstalled, and revised for the occasion.

The permanent work by Maurizio Cannavacciuolo, on via Marocco 10 in Milan. Photo by Fabrizio Stipari.

Many of these interventions are permanent… 

The event lasts ten days, but in the future, 6 public works will remain in the city of Milan. The mural by Maurizio Cannavacciuolo, on Via Marocco 10, will remain until they decide to restore the building, for now, a remote hypothesis. These also include Enzo Umbaca’s intervention at the garage on via Mauro Macchi, Luca Pancrazzi’s billboard on via Ferrante Aporti, and the two murals, by Raymundo Sesma, and Flavio Favelli, which will remain in the space on via Ugo Bassi in the Isola district. In Busto Arstizio will remain the light installation by artist Andrea Nacciarriti. Also, if vandals won’t demolish it, the Trenord carriage with the installation “Paesaggi Imprevisti” by Croatian artist Igor Eškinja will continue to exist even after October 10.

For the first time, BienNolo is expanding beyond the borders of the NoLo (North of Loreto) neighborhood, where it was born. How did this decision come about?

It all came about a bit by chance. Because there was a lot of networking, a lot of participation, and so at the very beginning we got a venue in the Isola district, offered by Luca Acquati, an entrepreneur who wants to create a multifunctional space in a former carpenter’s workshop. Everything else came as a consequence. We found the venues almost by chance. Some people told us: “I have a wall on Via Marocco,” “I have a balcony,” “I have a piece of land we could offer you.” Everything came about very naturally. Despite the red, yellow, and green zones, we continued location scouting around the city throughout last winter.

The installation “Paesaggi Imprevisti” by Croatian artist Igor Eškinja on a Trenord train carriage. Photo by Fabrizio Stipari.

This year, in addition to the many exhibition venues, you put together a rich calendar of events…

It is important for us to animate the biennial. We started in 2019 with the intention of making live art. During the last edition, we hosted PianoCity, with a concert in the spaces of the former Cova confectionery, and the closing Sunday of the event was dedicated to performance art. Every day we hung an artist’s poster outside the entrance gate. Events, performances, and presentations are part of the project.

This year you continued despite the difficulties linked to the unpredictability of the Pandemic…

We navigated by sight. Every day we wondered how it would go. We had planned every event, and week by week we monitored the evolution of the situation. Luckily, we managed to keep everything going.

A performance by artist Marilisa Cosello part of the biennial. Photo by Fabrizio Stipari.

Is there anything that stands out from the exhibition that surprised you about this edition?

In my opinion, there is a great desire for physicality. In many interventions, the body also contributes to the construction of the work. Serena Vestrucci worked using her eyelashes as brushes on the canvas, artist Guildor wrote a sentence on a piece of plexiglas with his tongue, Cannavacciuolo climbed up the crane to make his mural, as a sort of aggression against the wall, against the support. Artists Favelli, and Sesma also worked on walls, in a 1:1 relationship with the surface. Or Marco Chemello with his paintings made with larvae. There is a desire to put the living matter into the works. In my opinion, in this period, we hold tightly to the medium, and the body also becomes a medium in some ways. In a metaphorical sense of course, but it is very present.

Perhaps because we are tired of the digital environment?

Yes, in my opinion. I’m thinking of the exhibition at LoroMilano. There is a desire for physicality, even with a bit of exaggeration, with large, invasive installations. I am thinking of the works by Loris Cecchini, or Federico Cantale, but also Benedetta Mori Ubaldini and Roberta Savelli, who have brought a dance floor. Dance is also very present in the exhibition. Maria Papadimitriou created a disco club for one person in the garden of Nolo91, and Norma Jeane an impossible one at H+. There is a very physical dimension, and in my opinion, it is a bit of a result of the fact that we have been closed for so long.