Claudia Losi was born in Piacenza in 1971. After completing her studies at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, she was shifting between periods of studying and living in Italy and abroad.
Numerous personal exhibitions are listed in her artistic arsenal, including recent ones like: Asking Shelter, Monica De Cardenas Gallery, Milan (2017); How do I imagine being there?, Maramotti Collection of Reggio Emilia; About Proximity, Weaving & We, Second Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art, Hangzhou, China; What My Shape Says, a performance commissioned by Marina Rinaldi, Arsenale Theater, Milan (2016).
Her exhibitions have been hosted at the MAXXI Museum of Rome, at Grenoble’s MAGASIN, at the Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation in Milan and at the Royal Academy of London.
In 2008 she presented personal exhibitions at the Museo Marino Marini in Florence, at the Stenersen Museum in Oslo and the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. In 2007 she participated at the Sharjah Biennial 8 in the United Arab Emirates. Since 2004 she has being developing the Whale Project (still in progress): the legendary tale of a life-sized whale made out of cloth, which has traveled around the world captivating people and imaginations at every step of the way.
She will be one of the judges for the section BORDERS at the sixteenth edition of Concorto Film Festival.
-Hello Claudia, in your artistic research the relationship between humanity and nature plays a central role. What is your interpretation of this relationship and how do you showcase it in your works?
The dichotomy between man and nature is a theme that has interested me since the beginning of my artistic path and which still, with ever changing nuances, continues to be the centrepiece of my work.
When I was studying the Academy of Fine Arts, I started collaborating with two writers and friends, together with whom I founded the Study of Italian Geopoetics, affiliated to the Institut International de Géopoétique founded, in turn, by the Scottish poet, Kenneth White. It was the beginning of “everything”, a period of maximum openness, but the theme that we immediately put more emphasis on, with Matteo Meschairi and Francesco Benozzo, was the relation between man and the earth which he inhabits and dwells upon, what we consider as nature, what is culturally and intellectually built on this notion and how deep does its roots run in the way that we live and observe the world, in our biology.
It is an absolutely powerful theme, a consideration that we deemed necessary and that was missing (or at least so we thought) from the field of reflection of the Italian landscape.
During that period, towards the mid-‘90s, I began to use the medium of textile, namely lichen embroidery, making them grow with needle and thread on the “blank page ” of the canvas. Retracing the passage of time from growth, to transformation and death of these simplistic yet complex symbiotic forms, was a way to think metaphorically and on a small-scale about complex and limitless themes.
-Craftsmanship and manual work appear frequently in your projects, both as a production method and as a cause for reflection. What is the motive behind this type of approach and this interest?
Tell us about the size of your studio/workshop.
There is a beautiful expression that I learned in Ecuador: concha de amor, that should describe the ability to carry out certain manual activities while sitting in a circle, skimming corn or knitting, for example, thus creating a collective moment of exchanging information, sharing the news of the community. I like the image of this shell of love a lot because it represents manual work as something that unites people, that creates relationships and at the same time it contributes to the community and becomes its foundation by facilitating social cohesion. In other words: community gossip.
In these meetings, even the rhythm of manual work becomes closely connected to talking and to the exchange of affection and information. The emphasis is put on creating a community, rather than on the quality of the work and the craftsmanship.
Oftentimes, in my work, I happened to use sewing as a triggering element, in order to create small, temporary communities by bringing together people who, initially, had nothing in common but that in that shared and “guided” act created points of contact.
My studio, as well, was a theatre of long-lasting conchas de amor. Yet, at the same time it is a place where things “collapse”, a sort of a personal wunderkammer where I add, piece by piece, elements (more or less valuable objects, books, drawings, sculptures and pieces of things that are scraped together pretty much everywhere) that are stratified in disorder, to then be rearranged according to the need of the moment.
The habit of developing multiple projects simultaneously, on one side, is certainly a form of dispersion, but it is also a way to sometimes create unthinkable collisions between different jobs. In this sense the study becomes a sort of a chemical laboratory, where unexpected reactions are developed between the various elements that are present.
-How important is the collective dimension to your projects?
I deal with my projects in two different manners: a more self-centered one, in which I have maximum control over what I am doing, and one where the collective dimension prevails, in which I create situations by involving several diverse people in a common think-tank/workplace. In this sense, the Balena Project is perhaps the most significant work, because its purpose was to tell a story about a common imaginary.
-You also use video as a medium. Is it an expressive tool that you choose and adjust according to the project you’re working on or is it linked to a certain type of experience and content? In what way is your creative process measured with the motion picture?
The videography in my work is always related to the narrative and temporality that other mediums are not capable of conveying so clearly.
In this context, I have collaborated on several occasions with video-maker Daniele Signaroldi whom I’ve been friends for a decade: his directing style is guided by a type of natural and instinctive sensitivity which has an interesting affinity with my way of looking at things.
When I used the motion picture to narrate or document projects, I have always involved him because I know he is someone I can trust and give him great creative freedom, knowing that I will find in his work a correspondence with my way of feeling (not reasoned but impulsive).
I like to watch my work through his eyes because it makes me discover new things.
An example of this collaboration is Les Funérailles de la Baleine, a video of about 40 minutes, in which the documentation of a 24-hour performance also becomes an autonomous story, a story that also covers different themes.
-Is cinema a source of inspiration for your work? What kind of movies do you like?
Cinema is an inevitable source of inspiration because I watch everything. From this point of view, I suffer from a certain bulimia.
I realize that I am attracted to films that have a certain type of plot, where the image and the story amplify each other.
The latest movies that I have watched? Not all of them are contemporary: Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, that I believe that is outstanding for a visual artist; Bela Tarr’s Wreckmeister Harmonies and No Country for Old Men, by the Coen Brothers’.
-What urged you to become part of the jury for the BORDERS segment of Concorto Film Festival?
I was particularly interested in the theme that the films in this section deal with: the border. So interested, in fact, that in a few months we will revisit them with EN Collective Laboratory, a cultural association that I helped found. The idea is to reflect on themes that are important to us by uniting our specific passions (from art to architecture, cinema and animation), and, in particular, work around the idea of a book. Between our activities we have planned, in collaboration with Concorto, a series of presentations of texts, inviting the authors who have worked on borders, by visiting them or by encountering people who attempted to surpass them. Borders not only of a physical nature.
-The concept of the border is currently used in an almost univocal sense and is linked to the current political issues. Apart from this meaning so frequently used in everyday life, do you believe there are other important shades to it?
The current context of the notion of the border, semantic-wise, is one of alarm, of protection, of defense. A border of fear. There is a certain uneasiness of waiting for something irreparable to happen, while it is already happening but we find ourselves so immersed in the situation that we do not have an objective perception.
The border is, however, a very useful geographic element. Amongst my various interests, there’s also that for prehistoric art. Emmanuel Anati, a very interesting figure of the Italian archeological community, has written about how, around 30 thousand years ago, Homo Sapiens, was forced to move to zones where it was impossible for him to move onwards, of what is known today as Europe, because of geographical and environmental conditions. In the Pyrenees, in the south of France, in southern Italy, in some alpine zones; places that were geographically becoming borders beyond which he couldn’t tread. It is precisely there that some of the most interesting rock art sights are located. A fascinating hypothesis sustains that these borders were also the places where our ancestors, not being able to physically advance onwards, started building bridges towards uncharted territories thanks to their imaginary and their extraordinary capacity for symbolism. Throughout the years, the multitude of symbolic images (fingerprints, animals, hunting scenes, intersecting lines) rendered those painted and engraved borders places that spike the imagination. The capacity to imagine, in this way, becomes synonymous to crossing the borders.
In those places, a long time ago, the importance of reflecting on imagination, personal and collective, was perceived. An imaginary that unites us all and that saved ou species from the cruelness of the world, which, for better or for worse made us who we are today and perhaps could save us again.
-Do you define travelling and exploring as learning experiences. How do you express this idea in your works?
To travel, in other words changing position, both metaphorically and physically, is an experience that can last a lifetime.
It’s not necessary to travel far: exploring could be perceived as conscientious body that travels in time and in space, and through this experience nourishes its own profound imagination. I have happened to work on projects where our relation with space, imaginary or not, was examined, like How do I imagine being there?, in which I research how we imagine ourselves in space, how do we relate to , before arriving there, once we are there, when we return home, and what remains of that place in the end, what relationship do we maintain with it. It’s an endless theme. In this context, I asked different people to contribute a text based on their own personal discipline of origin and each of them provided a different point of view on the relationship between imagination and space, where ideas and travelling intimately linked. Through this project a book and a series of works were born.
-Which are the projects that you’re currently working on?
I’m currently resuming my work on Balena Project, a story that I’ll also try to recount in a book. It’s been an experience that lasted for various years, in which I included various people, with whom I will have to reunite, much like in the end of a journey. A macro whale-story to be published in occasion of a presentation of works, developed in the belly of the mother whale, like for example a series of jackets, called Letter Jackets, which were sent to various people around the world and they sent them back to me after implementing various modifications on them.
Last but not least, I’ve been working on the reactivation of the project Una Volta… all’improvviso, in collaboration with Rome’s MAXXI. We included around ten women who were incarcerated in Casa Circondariale di Rebibbia, in Rome, for 3-4 months, together with me Stefania Vannini of MAXXI’S Public Engagement and Sara Gardella, who included me in this project. They came up with and created stuffed objects in the prison’s tailor laboratory in order to send them to their children. This project will unfold with an animation in which these objects will come to life, curated by Francesca Dainotto and at the same time there will also be an audio-documentary, in collaboration with Daniele Signalordi, which will be exhibited during the presentation of the project in the museum.
Interview by Chiara Granata; translation by Yorgos Kostianis.