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Interview and studio visit #2

Ale Guzzetti

Technological art 

Ph. Jessica Soffiati
Ed. Federica Limone


«“The “objects” around us are watching us, they allow us to touch them, they help us with our work, they cover us, they keep us company, they enable us to create new things, they o en go with us all our lives.”»

F.L: Your studio is full of faces: they’re placed on a bulletin board, upside down, disassembled, in white chalk or wired in transparent skulls. How many eyes are there in your studio? Do you feel like you’re being watched while you work? Do all these beings keep you company? Are they your friends, foes, ghosts, children, none or all of these things?

A.G: My first exhibition of interactive sculptures was called “oggetti che osservano” (“observing objects”). It was inspired by Heinz Von Foerster’s theories and it highlighted that things aren’t objective, but on the contrary they’re mutually dependent on the space and on the observer.  The incessant link between these elements is consciousness. Furthermore, I think everything has a soul. The “objects” around us are watching us, they allow us to touch them, they help us with our work, they cover us, they keep us company, they enable us to create new things, they often go with us all our lives. We interact with them continuously and conversely. As time passes, they “come alive” and become spirits, according to the traditional Japanese culture. The eyes of the sculptures are there to infuse life. Or maybe it’s just because the work looks like us, it recalls us, it relates to us.

F.L: My attention was caught by the picture in which we can see piled faces without mouth, mute, because of the contrast with that robot’s head which seems about to speak.  I would imagine a face of a robot like this. Who is it? Is that a stand-alone work or is it a part of a work?

A.G: Almost every portrait here in the studio is robotic and has interactive motion, but silent. The only ones which speak and still have a voice within like the previous sonorous plastic and glass sculptures, are the ones with no mouth. It’s a stand-alone work made out of straight or reversed sections of face. People often don’t notice the overturning: once again what is relevant is the exchange of looks between us and the object. 

F.L: In Affective Robots the past and the present coexist in one artwork, plastic art and robotics share information and talk to each other. What do they say?

A.G: I used to call some sculptures “hopeful monsters“ in the 80s and 90s; they were biomorphic figures that hoped for an acceptance in the world in which they have been redesigned. Robots currently are kind, sensitive, tender; they look not only for acceptance, but also an empathetic relationship with the other sculptures and, obviously, with us,  in the game of cognitive relationships.

Their “telepathic” dialogue looks like a ‘70s radio broadcast called “Le interviste impossibili” (“Impossible interviews”) in which a contemporary man interviewed a celebrity of another age: Calvino had a conversation with a Neanderthal man, Umberto Eco, Pythagoras, etc. I have learned a lot from my “chat” with Heron (61 AC), Al-Jazari (22nd century), Kirchnere Schott (17th century) and their idea of technique as art of wonders. Talking with other ages is good to figure out different things, I often go to the past in order to think better about the future. The sculptures whisper all they know and they ceaselessly learn from one another.


F.L: There’s a sort of pace in your studio.  Maybe it’s the arrangement of the books, the objects, the musical instruments that we can see (violins, keyboards, speakers). Music has always been a syncretic art that combines art, technique and spirituality with a fluidity barely recognisable in other creative forms: what do you think about that? What’s your relationship with the sound? Do you listen to music while you work? Are you a musical person? Do you like dancing?

A.G: I started playing the piano when I was a kid. I studied composition afterwards, simultaneously with my academic studies in visual arts; then I gave myself to electronic music, or rather, to the study of sound as a physical event with all its structural components, precisely in order to understand the nature of the syncretic power you mentioned. I was a researcher at the Polytechnic University of Milan and at the Center of Sonology of the University of Padua and I channeled it all into the sonorous sculptures. That’s why my works can speak, play, recite poetry, etc.
I always listen to music while I’m working, ranging from Gregorian chant to Baroque music, from contemporary music to Jazz, Pop, etc.
I’m not very good at dancing intended as in dancing at the disco. I never set foot in such place. If you mean dancing as in the body that consciously moves around, I’ve studied and practiced Chinese Taiji for thirty years. It’s a continuous dance involving the whole body, its interior and its possible links to the space. If you consider that as a type of dance, then yes, I dance almost everyday alone and I weekly share what I learned with my friends here and in China.

F.L: And speaking of sharing… that red couch… do you share it with anybody? Are you used to inviting friends or acquaintances in your studio to show them your new works or even for a talk?

A.G: It’s an old couch linked to the final years of my father.  I think it knows him more than I do, even though I’m his son. That’s why I keep it with me, I know it has a soul full of things.
The study is not very popular. The critics who care about the job of artists and visit their studies are a dying breed; people who organize exhibitions take you at your word to save time, and the artists, who are usually selfcentric, start talking about themselves, about their job and sometimes they don’t even notice the surroundings.

«Talking with other ages is good to figure out different things, I often go to the past in order to think better about the future. »

F.L: Which are the tools you could not work without?

A.G: A ballpoint pen. It’s the most direct tool that links my brain cells and the paper and allows me to write down the ideas that “cross” my mind. And my iPad. You can use it for everything: to communicate, research, write, listen to music, draw, 3D design, take pictures, make videos, read documents, etc. Past and present together once again!

F.L: Scientist, intellectual and artist: there are many books in your studio. It’s a must! Is there a book that changed your way of interpreting reality?

A.G: Undoubtedly, "L’albero della conoscenza" - (The Tree of Knowledge) - by Maturana and Varela.
And "Il metodo" - (Method) - by Edgar Morin in equal measure; regarding the latter, I was impressed by the content and by the fact that, in the middle of conversations on order, disorder, the complexity of things, organization, etc. there’s a whole page dedicated to what he can see from his window, all of a sudden and with no reference to the context. It’s an example of how we can theorize, get lost in our thoughts, but a point of reference is also our environment, our complex way of “observing” things. It’s about our “eye”! 

Translated by Silvia Niro
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