It is a sunny winter day when Marilisa Cosello welcomes us in her house-studio. We are immediately enraptured by its fascinating bohemian atmosphere – light blue walls, like the ones of a seaside house, abundance of sunlight and well-kept vintage details. Marilisa’s nest is one of those places that invites you to look around – on top of a pile of classics and art books, we notice some copies of “Lotta Comunista” [“Communist Struggle”, left-wing Italian newspaper]. The artist confesses to be one of its few supporters left “I admit it – it may seem strange and a bit nostalgic, but I think it is a very interesting newspaper and I like it”.
This is just the start of a very long chat, which ends up including a lunch too. Marilisa, like her studio, fascinates us. It doesn’t take us long to gather more information about her work. Her art highlights the way she looks at things, typical of a curious observer and of someone that could be defined as an explorer of the human soul, – “behind the scenes” included.
Marilisa tells us about her years spent in France, about her intimate relationship with photography and about her everlasting love for Patty Smith, punk icon, with whom Marilisa holds a secret complicity with..
“It’s old what is forgotten. And what you cannot forget, happened just yesterday. The unit of measure is not time, but value. And the thing that is even more valuable, funny or sad as it is, is childhood”.
It is with this Erick Kastner’s quote that you introduce one of your projects. Memory, childhood and family are recurrent themes in your work and they suggest a very strong sense of intimacy – they open a wound in something personal, but at the same time universally-relatable..
I totally relate to what you just said. Childhood is something I often reflect upon, especially because the way children look at things fascinates me – their curiosity is what I like to call “wicked innocence”. Family, instead, interests me because it provides clues for the understanding of the self and the other. At the end of the day, our relatives are a projection of parts of ourselves. In my research it happens that I clash with archetypes – family itself is an example. These archetypes always lead me to some reflections on identity.
Talking about identity – your work emanates some a sensitivity which could be defined as “feminine” – not only because it relates to the role of women in society, but also because of the profoundness of the bond you create with your subject – we could use the word intimacy again..
When I start developing a project, to me it’s like the beginning of a relationship – like falling in love. I feel the urge to get to get to know, explore, deepen and follow that mystery that fascinated me initially.
How do you “control” the evolution of your projects after the “falling-in-love” stage?
It is like a projection – there are always various possibilities. I start off with an idea, which is followed by a processual phase that I subsequently split into numerous trials – like polaroids. These “shots”, in a way, break down the idea and chase one another, until they end up chasing the same idea.
It’s like cutting a thought to pieces – I break it down, remove and add pieces.. then eventually it all starts to take some sort of shape. Once I reach that point, I stop and distance myself in order to dive back in it. This process is what makes the relationship somehow intense. Often when I start working on a project I tell everyone I am leaving – then I lock myself in my studio and start working.
You’ve worked many years in France – how was that like and could you make a comparison between France and Italy?
Instinctively, I’d say that I love the Italian beauty – it is everywhere and in everything, even in the most composed human beings – there is a small dose of folly in all of us Italians. However, on the other side, Italy’s desire to “preserve” itself limits the natural evolution of things – wanting to uphold something from changing is not a bad thing per se, as long as it doesn’t turn into a complete inability to adapt. In order to move on one needs to get exposed and embrace even what could be a risk. The opposite could result into a total stillness.
Work-wise, it has been much more difficult for me to adapt and confront myself with the French market – the Italian one is much slower and “faithful” in a way. In Italy, I appreciate the “slowness” in the reading of an image; in France, the presence of fewer taboos – yet this is at the expenses of everything related to beauty.
Is there something you feel it’s missing professional-wise?
Definitely state fundings. Actually, there should be some sort of “intrusion” by the institutions – I would like to feel their strong presence. Art should be considered as a real profession in all its forms, meant in a practical, intellectual and political way. We spend half of our time justifying the reason why we do things and sometimes it seems like we have no right to make mistakes, but that is a natural result of exposing yourself.
The subject of returning has something to do with fashion and with the feelings of uncertainty you talk about, which often lead to that stillness previously mentioned..
Yes. On one side there is fashion – “eternal recurrence” can be fascinating. Let’s think for a moment about vernacular photography, just to name one of the many examples. On the other side, though, there is too much dread and this often brings to going down the same roads, as if some sort of validation was to be attributable only to what has been done already.
Our usual question – elevator pitch. You are in an elevator with a famous art critic and you have one minute to tell him/her something about your work. What would you say? In your own words..
Follow me! Like Alice’s White Rabbit.