“An environment that doesn’t change, fixed in all its parts and deprived of any type of motion, is a completely stiff space; as a matter of fact it may not even be a space in the first place.” This is the philosophy that introduces us to Standards – a nest of avant-garde and experimentation located in the severe industrial geometry of the Bovisa neighbourhood.
An impressive black entrance works as a passage to a dimension that appears as a temple of listening. We are fascinated by the permanent installation “Cavo”, that lives in the space mutating its perception.
“Irregularity is the chosen path which allows the enhancement of the space’s acoustic capacities. Rather than adjusting the environment’s reaction to sound, we preferred increasing its actual possibilities..” A shimmering listening space, like the colours of the morph butterfly from which the authors of “Frequente” together with the artists Nicola Martini and Vittorio Cavallini drew inspiration for the design of this irregular wooden structure, that preserves the sound energy, changing its trajectory in unexpected ways. In this vibrant space, we meet Nicola Ratti, who in 2015 with Alberto Boccardi founded Standards. Initially born with the intent of merging experimentations on both sound and music, Standards now is home of two cultural associations’ studio spaces; “Terzo Paesaggio” and “Frequente”.
The shared research that results has many sides to it, as “SS36” shows – a project by “Terzo Paesaggio”, which was explained to us by the curator Roberta Pagani, a full member of this enlarged collective. Whilst talking about Antonio La Grotta’s photography exhibition for “SS36”, courageously launched at the crack of dawn, we start a conversation with Gaia Martino, curator of “Frequente”, about the viability of art, that in this space is explored in all its forms. “We are not trying to translate visuals into sounds, but rather to find common ground”.
Roberta, why having an exhibition opening at the crack of dawn? And why here?
It was the work itself to find its natural habitat in this space. Antonio’s project was born from a sound suggestion – the birdsong that can be heard from the SS36 state highway connecting Milan to Switzerland. Opening the exhibition at the first light of day was a consequential choice. My approach is always that of associating something visual with an experience, as similar as possible to the one experienced by the artist him/herself.
I consider this to be a cross-discipline project that resulted in a fundamental coexistence of images, sound and music.This is how Enrico and Michele’s (Terzo Paesaggio) collaboration was born and even though Michele comes from the music world (the S/V/N project is theirs), he has always been very receptive towards visual arts, in the same way Nicola, Attila and Gaia are (Frequente).
How would you describe your Modus-Operandi as an enlarged collective?
“Terzo Paesaggio” – Enrico explains – was initially born to host “S/V/N” and then developed into a means of diffusion and promotion of initiatives and projects that deal with new forms of expressions of sound, performance and visual arts. Michele and I, for examples, are not musicians, like Nicola, but promoters and sound curators. This interdisciplinarity that characterises Standards is leading us towards a very creative phase. We are now starting to understand what we are as a collective – adds Roberta – having ended up together almost by chance. In this case, individual freedom and the diversity of our experiences have been key; first of all as to transform an idea into something bigger and more complete.
We work with sound arts but with a broader approach, which doesn’t mean understanding culture through sound, but rather finding a common ground. For this reason – Nicola and Gaia explain – when dealing with Roberta’s collaboration proposal for “SS36_City Song” we thought of installing a display that would represent not only a direct connection with space but also with time, a crucial aspect of the performance but that is usually not integrated into the exhibition.
We know that in Italy people who try to carry on these types of projects don’t have an easy life but in your case, you found strength in numbers. However, we reckon that getting all your projects to a wide readership it’s not a simple task.
It needs to be said that in Italy there aren’t many realities that deal with this type of artistic investigations – says Gaia – this is way “Frequente” aims to be a reference point for all of those whose interests are pointed in this direction. Nicola and Attila’s experiences have definitely been one of our strengths, as well as the experience developed thanks to “O’”, historical Milanese space dedicated to live performances and to the dialogue between different artistic means.
Moreover – Nicola adds – in cultural and artistic production it is complicated to convey a sound-related artwork. It’s like finding yourself in front of two distinct channels – contemporary art and the music world – that however often have to deal with the same type of public, meaning the one attracted to the “event”, which in some cases can be a disadvantage no matter the project’s content.
We experience the same problem with photography when talking about “photography” and “fine art photography” or, even worse, when trying to make a distinction between “photography” and “contemporary art”…
Roberta – I don’t consider it to be a problem – my mission is to overcome some differentiations that are taken for granted. There is an urge to get the viewer used to a specific visual imagery – just think of how difficult it was for us to get “Cavo” across.
What kind of connections have you encountered in this collaboration?
Gaia – I reckon that the specialisation that each one of us has is, in fact, beneficial for one another. The auditory content we bring into the project are just one of the many ways one has to interpret the surroundings. What we are interested in is how one experiences reality, not only the sound aspect. It is a different approach, that tries to overcome the definition of certain categories in order to pay more attention to the overall figure rather than the single parts. By nature, a sound art piece is different from a visual one – it is realised based on the listening experience, that happens when trajectories meet in a specific place. Here we deal with auditory culture, which doesn’t mean only listening or being focused on the sound arts.
Not everyone has the patience to “stop and stare”(or “stop and listen” in this case). Visual pieces give the viewer more freedom time-wise, whereas the sound ones require well-defined attention times.
Roberta – Sure, but the viewer is a “force into effect”. We don’t work on consumption-driven events and Antonio’s work is the proof – it is a “use” that needs some sort of education..
Gaia – More than education I would say exercise.
Roberta – But education as well!
Enrico – This relates to music as well – the idea of “entertainment” is often wrong. In this case one should un-educate from this form of irrelevancy; music should not be a “background”.
Nicola says sighing – After all, all types of art have their flaws.