Deconstructing the Italian Artist: Christian Sciascia Eileen Budd February 18, 2014
As much as reviewing fellow artists is an absolute joy, it can be challenging reviewing work purely online as opposed to seeing it in the flesh.
It’s even more of a challenge when the work doesn’t quite fit into one specific type of art.
Christian Sciascia’s work can be described as both Performance Art and Drawing and some pieces could also be compared to Graphic Design.
I will openly admit that there were a couple of performance art pieces of Christian’s that I did not “get”, but then art is subjective.
As artists we don’t expect everyone to “get” every piece of art we produce, because not everyone will. Do they need to? I noticed from his website that Christian moves around a lot. I wondered if this was part of what fuelled his creative process.
Why move around so much? Is it for inspiration or is this where the work is? He told me:
First off, I don’t work.Maybe I move around so often for this reason. No money, but a lot of time. I prefer cities where I don’t know anyone, where I don’t know the language, where I have some difficulties. I draw better at night, so I need to sleep in a perfect place: a city or a quiet place where I can go out all night to walk or to drink and draw without dangerous possibilities.
I can’t feel the difference between a room in Berlin, London or Napoli; the windows are closed. I feel only the differences between staying at home or going out. I refuse the routine! When I feel too comfortable in one place I change place!
I think I started to draw what I felt (automatic drawing), without technique, in Berlin in 2007. Sure, I draw everyday in my life, but in Berlin (for three years) without knowing English or German language I was pure, not a surrogate.
My life was “sans soucis” [without problems]. I studied Middle Ages history, history of technique, Gestalt and vision, semiotic and music. I learnt basic English and German slang. I walked for hours around the city every day and I found people, places, friends, rituals, Gods and social systems. I drew 20 artworks every day.
Now I have my room in Salerno and I’m studying Biology, Global History of Architecture, Middle ages, Mathematics and so on. Here it’s so different, I know too many people, so I stayed for months alone. It’s so difficult draw when you know what happens when you go out. By the way I am concentrate on my drawings only for half year. I can reactivate my thoughts, my Fantastico world. I need to amplify my sensors to understand the differences between two stones on the ground. Obviously I’ll need to change my routine after March.
Travel for me is also take a train, a car or walk without prejudices. It’s about serendipity. After years I can relate some events together with “human” logic. I loved Lyon, Kathmandu, Berlin, Catania, Milano, Florence, Palermo, Lhasa. So I need to go anywhere and find my chimeric drawings’ room.”
It’s a very different way of living and I was curious as to how he survived without working, so I asked him how he manages to afford to travel and live, does he work on commissions or apply for funding, for example?
“I was enough rich to travel and live (room, food, beer, cigarettes) without work but I can stay also 6 months in a room in Italy without going out. So I spent lots money in 10 days and for 20 nothing. I’m Italian and I can cook pasta cheaply and in an infinite number of ways! Fortunately, I hate to eat in restaurants. Now I don’t have money but I’ll go to Copenhagen (after stop in Rome, Bologna, Milano, Berlin, Amsterdam, Hamburg). I’ll draw in the bars and hopefully some people will ask me to sell them some artwork. One time, during a flight to London, a business woman asked me for a drawing (I draw everywhere); I sold three artworks for £30, enough to take a bus to the centre and buy cigarettes. Another time I sold a drawing to a teenager for a coffee. I work on commissions sometimes but my collectors know I can send artwork after three years… They are patient.
I don’t love to apply for funding, I don’t love the words: Jobs, Project, Application, CV. Sometimes I read strange applications, where people want all (ALL) copyright for the artworks drawing during the residence. It’s absurd!”
Looking through his website and the amount of work he has produced over the last few years, I can see the huge benefit in locking everything else out except for artwork. It is a massive commitment to a different kind of lifestyle than the one most people follow and requires a certain level of deconstruction of social expectations. It was fitting therefore that Christian stated Jacques Derrida as one of his influences, Derrida being the philosopher who is probably best known for his theories on Deconstructivism, which, if I were to try to sum it up, basically rejects or deconstructs the normal and accepted way in which we tend to live our lives in Western culture. Derrida believed that it was impossible to apply meaning to an experience or a word, because everything is always in the process of change and you can only ever experience something in juxtaposition to a previous experience. The themes of experiencing immediacy in connection with history, language constructs, juxtapositions and challenging the so-called normal way of living are notable throughout Christian’s work.
I asked him to tell me about the exhibitions and performances he has been working on lately.
“I am working on four new exhibitions: TIME IS ALL! … Proto-histories! … BLIND DRAWING! … ROBORAT 3°! ‘Time is all!’ is a theatrical drawing show about the lost time. Several years before I discovered that the phrase “time is all!” below some [of] my drawings impress most [...] people. What is more important the words or the drawings? So I am preparing a show that “speaks” about (lost – cooking – work – murder – love – hated – dead) time. ‘Proto-histories!’ is a collection of artworks about our genealogy. It is a back in the past when we (humans) lived with the Netherlands. When we used to put ochre’s oil on our bodies, when we looked at the moon to understand how long we need to make a child. When we started to hopple (impastoiare) the cow: we found the enzyme of cheese in the belly of calf during a ritual. When we started to use salt to preserve the food. When we started to use paper instead of parchment. ‘Proto-histories!’ will be not a didactic exhibition. I refuse to educate people. I prefer to translate the emotions that occurs when a new thought and tools are found. ‘BLIND DRAWING!’ is a workshop for all ages and kind of people. I’m planning to perform it in several bars in the world (and online). You will draw without eyes, but with times, sounds, odours and haptic surfaces. I use techniques that I studied 10 years before: Mental imagery and the mirror’s neurones. Finally, ‘ROBORAT 3°’ time: It is an investigation about our routines. I believe we need a 3° time! We’ll use robot, AI, new laws, nano-technologies to reduce the time that we spend on work. I love to imagine human thinkers with time for affective behaviours.”
As the world of performance art somewhat alludes me, as a fine artist I tried to understand if he sees himself as more an artist than a performer, or a designer? I asked him what aspect of his art does he feel is the one he needs to do?
“Artist and art, so artist. I draw everyday to find the three beautiful images of the world. Performance happens because I draw often in the pubs. I have ever[yday] with me a bag full of papers, pens and books. When I did, ‘What happened to gods?’, in front of the Paestum’s temples I decided to perform a ritual. So I wrote a text and I ask my actress (Elena Amore) to perform this text during the sunset behind a big white blanket placed outdoor. ‘First you’ll listen [to] the voice, so you’ll see the dark shape of the oracle’. All the while I was in a tower. All my friends and visitors [were] waiting for my drawings, but I didn’t bring them with me. I just drew what I felt during the ritual. There was an artist video (Bluelab Ale Barchiesi) projected on the wall and the sound of spoken words recreate a cave (as Plato’s cave). For me, and for the people, the ritual was true! ‘The tanks [of the Gods] are not returned empty!’ Design is my lack. I studied industrial design and communication for years. I worked and I tried to work but I hate the farms’ design because it’s not rigorous, not logical and too much clients oriented. [...] I use design’s tricks to make my exhibition or to understand the people’s feedback. Design is project: jet-forward. So the ideas of time returns! We are three kinds of people. It depends on use of the words: past, present, future. I definitely left the words “design” or “project” behind. I use the word(s) “Micro-acts” to figure out my interactions with society. A collection of micro-acts helps me to land in another dimension of thought but it needs several years without looking backwards [to see] changes. Design for me is a self-DNA-analysis… Design is a mood of thinking for everyone. Art is a non-artifact: the more it is [an] unnecessary thing, [the] more it is essential.” But in feeling that he is an artist rather than a performer, I can see one of those juxtapositions, or maybe it’s only my interpretation of it. To my mind creating art requires absolute concentration and a certain degree of being shut off from other people. So why draw in pubs, which are a public space and opens you up to a high level of interaction while creating.
I asked Christian why the pubs were a preferred venue. Does he use alcohol as a way of accessing his creativity? How does he handle people interacting with him while he works and does this assist in his creative process?
“Pubs are alive and the lights change every second when people walk. I love the night, so [I like] pubs or my room. I go out during the morning. I visit friends’ design studios, old library, market, science centre, post office, petrol station, medical centre… I draw everywhere for hours. [I drink] alcohol [...] because in some places it’s less expensive than water. It helps me to start speaking with people or, opposite, to [...] concentrate on drawing in a chaotic place, like a disco. I love drinking beer and tequila shots, but I prefer study, travel, read, listen or watch (ubu.com) to assist me; and alcohol doesn’t help my hand to be steady. I find people come up to me while I drawing and ask me for a portrait, I can’t! I start to interact with drawing games or origami or invite [people] to draw with me or talk with me during the process. Some other people hurt me! They don’t understand what I drawing! So we’ll be best friends after a while or (as once happened) I call the police. I never change my place while I drawing. I must be free to draw and drink beer.” I find that most artists I know, myself included, use art as a way of expressing our world view.
So I asked him what he saw as being the purpose of his art and what does he perceive his place in the world to be?
“‘Representing the invisible is the rule, not the exception.’ My drawings interact with all age people and I suggest to put away the prejudices and participate with Fantasia and mental imagery as a creative process. Some people send me sometimes alternative title for my artworks! I love it! I found most creative and open mind the scientists, but also the teenagers. My problems start with people live for ‘normal’ life. They read the same books (if they read), they watch the same movies, they eat the same foods. They love my artworks, but then they ask me for a big reproduction (possible with a colour modification in a glossy red) to put on the wall rear the sofa and TV. I love my smallest artworks (7x7cm); they help me and people to imagine the biggest Fantastico world!”
When I last spoke to Christian he was entering a monastery for a few weeks to concentrate on his artwork. Before he disconnected, I had to find out his top 5 creative influences. Rather consistent with getting more than you expected with Christian, he gave me 10: “Jonas Burgert, Valerie Favre, Albrecht Dürer, Alfred Kubin, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Bruno Munari, Gillo Dorfles, Dino Buzzati and Dante Alighieri.”