JS: Hi Domenico, we meet again in a place that is not linked with academia environment. After a brief chat on the phone, you gave me the okay to visit your studio, which is also your home. What was this place formerly? How long have you been living here?
DL: Hi Jessica, welcome. This place where I live and work begins as a warehouse and it has been a blood testing laboratory for a long time. I lived here but not for long, although it's mine since 2010. At first I just worked there, in the meanwhile I made the place habitable.
I’ve been living abroad for many years, then I got back to Milan early this year in this place. I’ve been living here for two or three years in total.
JS: You officially live with your artworks. Is this cohabitation more a limit or a starting point for you, since you’re an artist who focuses on re-using waste items and on reframing our everyday deeds?
DL: I can’t tell if living with my artworks represents a limit or not, it’s a spontaneous thing for me. I was thinking about when I was living in Frankfurt: my home and my studio were separate spaces but I was surrounded by items that weren’t part of the furniture, despite the fact that my house was very small… I put up around the house things like pieces of mouldy cheese and stacks of eggshells, as well as sketches of artworks, I wanted to observe them. Combining home and studio in the same place, that’s what I like the best. However, there are others who need to distinguish the two.
JS: Your work must sometimes clash with the need of art market to deal with artworks which can last. Do the “constructive” approach and the idea from which they set out compromise? Or do you think they will change through time in order to adapt to the call of collecting?
In some of your works, “dancer” for example, in which the waste becomes a monument that is crucial to show an aspect of the past, a certain “futility” of some means of communication and, at the same time, their significance… If it had the purpose to preserve itself as unchanged through time, how would the significance of the artwork change?
DL: Creating eternal and permanent artworks is indeed a recurring problem for a young artist who starts working, since it’s unlikely that somebody takes the time to think about how to store and restore his works. I like to find ways to avoid damaging those artworks which weren't made to last forever, for example my tennis lemons. The original work is a real carved lemon, it’s a sculpture, but it circulates and is sold in the form of photograph.
However, with regard to the “dancers”, there’s a purely practical problem. The “dancer” is a sculpture which has been designed to change, it changes it shape every time it is shifted from one place to another. The material that it is made of can be easily substituted without changing artwork's authenticity. If I were a famous artist, this problem would be easily handled — as with Urs Fiscer’s wax statues depicting his collectors and used as candles. The buyer can use the artwork and he will get a new one when it burns out. So all this to say, solutions to sell or store certain types of artworks can be found if there's interest. Still, I think that when artists bow to these dynamics, something dies.
JS: You use materials forgotten by all, you turn them into shapes to remember. Perhaps this could seem a provocative question, but do you like up-and-coming artists of the new trap music scene because of this concept of retraining and release?
DL: I would first like to clarify one thing that is often in your questions but also in the questions of other interviewers, that is the idea of re-use, recycling, forgotten items, waste, etc. related to my artworks. Although it may appear that way, as regards my artistic creation I have no interest in these issues (I struggle to separate my rubbish…). And as regards the re-use, you don’t use an artwork, so I find it difficult to identify with such practices.
One can hardly talk about re-use, recycling and retraining referring to Duchamp’s ready-made.
The things I use to create my artworks are called on to testify, to perform, but they’re true to themselves. My works are not narrative works, I want them to be like factual elements which can be explained from different points of view.
Again with regard to “dancers”, which is perhaps the most significant work in this respect, the thing is not: -Oh look how many funny things I could do with this material instead of throw it out -, it's more like somebody that you know very well did something you never saw him do before.
As regards the new trap music scene, I started liking it because some of those guys are younger than me but they're from my own zone, from my own streets. It's a popular neighborhood, there is nothing but a strong presence of immigrants and gypsies. There is a great deal to be said about this new musical movement, since it has many interesting aspects. Basically, I saw in this movement the driving force of a new generation that feels the need to assert itself independently for what it is by introducing values useful for decoding new elements of present times.
«Again with regard to “dancers”, which is perhaps the most significant work in this respect, the thing is not: "Oh look how many funny things I could do with this material instead of throw it out"; it's more like somebody that you know very well did something you never saw him do before.»
JS: You travel a lot, you went to the academy of Offembach (HfG) in Germany for two years and you had the chance to see up close how the artistic system works at the highest level by assisting Loris Cecchini, one of the most important Italian artists abroad of the moment.
How has he affected your artistic growth and how did he change your expectations for the future?
DL: The decision of spending time abroad was essential for my background, not so much for what I learned there as for a matter of awareness. The academy is a completely different institution in Germany, it would be easy to say that is much better than that in Italy since I had a studio and several means and materials at my disposal in Frankfurt, in order to carry out my projects. But the situation is more nuanced than that and, all in all, every artist creates his own path according to his needs. Leaving was the fundamental step, the rest had fallen into place. Working with Loris Cecchini in Berlin was another huge opportunity that came in when I was ready to make the most of it. It was a constant dialogue in a working environment which is continuing through the years, I owe him a lot.
JS: Many people have lived here where you live and work now, they left trails, objects, drawings and pictures. It’s like this place carried their stories with it and you yourself had preserved that situation somehow, like you were collecting other people’s things.
DL: I rented this place to a friend of mine while I was abroad. He lived here with many people and I’m glad about that because they used it fully, in fact it has been a meeting and starting point for several projects, artistic or not. “If these walls could talk...”
This place is always changing, when I came back after three years I felt the need to get rid of a lot of stuff. My dream would be to have a big warehouse to --- all I care about, in the meantime I’m sliming down the list.
I have to admit that I cannot help but surround myself with objects, that’s an almost unconscious behavior, I don’t quite understand it, hardly any of these is here for practical purposes, they’re here to testify.
JS: And what about musical instruments? There’s a lot of them, what’s their story? Can you play all of them? Would you play something for us?
DL: Music is another part of my life, some people know me as a musician, even if I’m not a real musician.
I have been playing music for many years, but I was never able to make it my main job. I’m happy to do it as a hobby, it has often been a source of income and I made new acquaintances too. I love jazz music, I don’t have a thorough knowledge of its language but I hear it loud and clear. Besides my guitars, I got a double bass and an old German piano I inherited from my grandpa here in the studio. I rarely play these last two instruments, but I do care about their presence and other people often play them.
I can't play here but I gladly share the album that is on my stereo with you: