gres art 671 is a new contemporary art Centre that has recently opened in Bergamo. Situated in a former stoneware factory, it inaugurates its industrial spaces with an immersive and solar-powered exhibition (on view until 7th January) that addresses the theme of global warming and the climate crisis. Through three monumental installations, Solarpunk by NONE Collective asks the viewer three questions: firstly, what would happen if, unable to be outdoors, we had to sunbathe through solar showers for health reasons? Secondly, what would we do if there were no fossil fuels left and the sun was the only source of energy? And finally, what if climate disasters were more and more frequent? We talked about it with the co-founders Gregorio de Luca Comandini and Saverio Villirillo.
As seen in this exhibition, your attitude towards climate change is positive and proactive thinking. It makes me think of T. J. Demos' attitude in Beyond the World’s End (2020), in which he stands against the "end-of-the-world-narrative”, because defeatism prevents real collective collaboration towards change. Would you like to expand upon your "positivist" approach?
Gregorio: You’ve got a point. This view is not the sole option: for example, accelerationism says that since it is impossible to compete with capitalism, the only possible approach is to accelerate its processes to bring it to a collapse as soon as possible. Actually, possibilities are endless. The key, in our opinion, is to adopt an individual approach. All the alarms that are being issued by climate activists are true, so it is not that we are denying the disaster that is taking place. But we also cannot be overwhelmed by something that we cannot solve in our individual lives in the first place. The only way to deal with it is to try this exercise (which could be very exhausting): to adapt to adverse conditions, developing positive thinking – which can also be limited to the “here and now” or to your own personal sphere. And this brings us closer to a less suffered present.
Saverio: I would add that our exercise is to take this reflection a little further. The starting point is to ask ourselves: what are the dynamics? And once this analysis is done, we need to position ourselves on our actions, making specific choices, creating an ecosystem, ephemeral communities where we aggregate and build scenarios of possible futures.
So, in the end, you “evolve” from the individual to the community.
Gregorio: “Individual” does not mean individualism. If we want, individualism is the “phase one” of the community process, because you have to feel good with yourself in order to feel comfortable with others. These three settings that we have imagined – and more broadly our entire artistic practice – are “gatherings”, they are part of a collective path.
The aim of the exhibition is to "have an emotional, aesthetic impact and stimulate awareness of the present and positive thinking about the future". Many people who use new technologies today try to use the emotional impact found in the immersive experience to raise awareness about environmental issues and many others. And here I get to the point: how can we measure and evaluate the real impact of these experiences?
Gregorio: We don’t do this “measurement”. Rather, I think that the real impact is a “long-term game” that progressively identifies you on a path. It is not about a single work, but a series of works that link you to a “common sense” and a certain message. The general sense of our “language” is to carry on the experience we have acquired in the field of visual arts and new media art, but to cross it with the themes of the present.
Saverio: Regarding the “aesthetic factor”: obviously there has to be some aesthetic mark in the use of specific lights or in the search for certain “synchronisms” that aim to create a certain reaction. The technological innovation within immersive spaces is fair, but without overstepping the limits of intrusiveness.
I find your point about “not being intrusive” very nice, because it overcomes this very common idea of…
Saverio: …of forced interaction.
Exactly! And since we are talking about immersive features: what is the role of immersiveness in your works?
Gregorio: The word “immersiveness” is often criticized and misunderstood. This is because there have been large blockbuster exhibitions that are not…”contemporary”. Instead, in our contemporaneity, immersiveness is a step forward in the enjoyment of a work. A step forward also if compared to the streaming platform that we enjoy in our houses, in our comfort zone. Instead, when you dive into this kind of experience we are proposing, you are forced by the devices to take different positions: in this case, lying horizontally, or being close to other people on a platform that vibrates.
Saverio: We often talk about multisensoriality: the fact that your body comes out of its “sensory habits” is already a perceptive action which you are not used to. I believe that this must be the basis of the experiments, so that they are not limited only to the scale: a bigger image, a stronger light, and so on.
In the field of feminist post-human philosophies that are dealing with the Anthropocene and late-capitalist accelerationism, the concept of “care” plays a fundamental role. Would you like to enlarge on how you interpret care in this exhibition?
Saverio: Caring is very important. And not only about ourselves, but about all the systems that surround us: the natural, biological, technological systems, and all the other forms that condition our daily lives. In this particular case, we imagined this Therapeutic movement of the spirit and body, where you sit on these pillows, and while you’re lying down you engage yourself in this therapy with these special lights. Thus, you reach a level of “free” concentration: we are often distracted, we are very fast in trying to flow things. In this case, the treatment is linked to the time you dedicate to yourself throughout the day.
Gregorio: I conclude by adding that the theme of “caring” in these works is mainly related to the concept of letting yourself step out of your comfort zone, letting yourself leave home and come to share this experience. The point is sharing our addictions and our needs – in this case the one from the sun and vitamin D. Often, when we talk about care, we think about a process of homologation between subjects. Instead, here we are assuming that we are all different, but we share the same biological, physical and relational needs. Therefore, meeting each other and saying “I too need this”, “I too suffer this”, is the first step (and, as far as I am concerned, also the main one) to build a shared community.
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