Magazine article Sculpture

Artistic and Social Renewal: A Conversation with PIERO GILARDI

Magazine article Sculpture

Artistic and Social Renewal: A Conversation with PIERO GILARDI

Article excerpt

Piero Gilardi began his artistic activity in the 1960s and participated in the birth of Arte Povera. After achieving fame in the 1970s, he turned away from the art world and began investigating the phenomenon of collective and spontaneous creativity in various social contexts. Gilardi has devoted the last 10 years to his most ambitious endeavor to date, the Parco Arte Vivente (Park of Living Art or PAV). A collaborative effort that grew from Gilardi's design, PAV is a monumental undertaking that transformed a disused parcel of land in the heart of Turin's working-class Lingotto district into a six-acre green space devoted to community, environmental, and artistic concerns. Commissioned earthworks by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Lara Almarcegui define the site and provide an ongoing place of exploration for city residents and visitors alike. Gilardi's experimental center for contemporary art and research creates dialogues that bring together contemporary art, nature, biotechnology, and ecology and provides opportunities for the public and artists to meet and collaborate.

Despite its success, this urban oasis is now threatened by Italy's budget cuts to museums and cultural organizations. After two years of austerity, the impact of 2012's large-scale cuts has been dramatic, and PAV is struggling to survive. Gilardi has been financing the park by selling his own work, but this is no longer enough, and PAV may have to close its doors, which would mean no more residencies, exhibitions, or workshops with artists such as Andrea Polli, Eduardo Kac, and Brandon Ballengée. Gilardi is putting together a Friends of PAV membership group in Europe and the United States. More information about PAV is available at .

Andrea Bellini: Of the artists who gravitated around the gallery of Gian Enzo Sperone in the mid-'60s, you are the only one, except for Michelangelo Pistoletto, who has created a place open to the public, a space for meeting and sharing. What is the Parco Arte Vivente, and why was it created?

Piero Gilardi: You're right to mention Pistoletto, because his Cittadellarte shows the strong correspondence between us in terms of artistic projects and ideals.

PAV is simultaneously a work of relational art, not unlike the "ideal town" built by Rirkrit Tiravanija, Philippe Parreno, and Pierre Huyghe in Ceylon, and an innovative museum that can be called an "interactive museum in nature." PAV was created to meet a political need, to provide the city with a center related to the artistic heritage of Arte Povera that would propose and perpetuate interrelations, experimentalism, and social generativity.

AB: Where does the Parco Arte Vivente fit into your creative process? What do you think is the continuity with your previous work?

PG: I consider the creation of PAV, its construction, and its present management as a public institution that summarizes nearly half a century of artistic research, which has led me through artistic movements such as Arte Povera, new media art, and now bioart. The element of continuity can be found in the dialectic between nature and culture that underlies much of my artistic production and has now found a more mature and advanced formulation in PAV.

AB: So you see a substantial continuity between your Nature-carpets of the '60s, which made you famous thanks to exhibitions at the galleries of Gian Enzo Sperone and Ileana Sonnabend, the experience of political activism, and finally PAV. In 1968, you decided to leave the art world to devote yourself to activities in the social realm, first in a psychiatric hospital and then in radical leftist groups. You did not want to fall into the contradiction of the revolutionary artist engaged in producing works for the houses of the bourgeoisie. On a strictly ideological level, have your positions changed since that period?

PG: The refusal to produce art products for the Sonnabend Gallery had a prologue in 1967, when Ileana, after seeing my "poor objects"-of which Sandals and comb is the only remaining example-said that I had made a "blunder" and that I should go back to making Nature-carpets. …

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