We walk towards Viale Monza and the Central Station in Milan, a neighbourhood known as Nolo (North of Loreto), where a silent courtyard leads to a cellar. The space seems timeless, just like Umberto Chiodi’s work. Research, passion for archival photography and delicate precision combine with a hybridisation of photography, creative genius and drawing skills – art that stands in between classicism and avant-garde. We feel like indiscrete guests in a secret house-museum. Our gaze gets lost between colourful opalines, dolls’ heads and ancient books – they remind us of a slightly melancholic music of a dance that conducts us towards Umberto’s work – a reflection of a complex fantasy which we would like to know more about.
Umberto, what does planning mean to you?
The art of planning has to do with one’s wittiness, I believe you can see that as a giving an answer and ‘a relating’ of something to something else, namely the mental activities embedded into the practical ones. Planning is a rational and pulsing aspect of the creative process that can involve the moment of ideation and its realisation. Planning can also come in the form of notes and archival material – for example, since 2009 I have been filling out a projects’ notebook where I gather studies and execution plans for my projects.
All of your works are characterised by a very meticulous attention to details – “Crossage” is an example. What do you ask to your works/job?
I want it to be the result of organised values.
How would you define your Modus Operandi? Is there a specific way you carry out your work?
My practice is solitary, like that of the painter, even though I am not. I’ve almost always worked with series, exploring various styles and now my attention is focused on drawing. Sometimes, the working time is pleasantly long – I prefer not to have any pressure on me. I go to my studio every day, even if only to read or listen to music for a while.
What will never stop inspiring you?
The tensions caused by realities that I don’t appreciate and that I see as pained. However, the will to do things also comes from the encounter with beauty and what is made with love. As St Augustine would say – the things that instil hope!
Your work is somehow timeless and it definitely represents a “unicum” in the contemporary art scenario. For this reason, we would like to hear your take on what we would call “image culture” – do you think such thing exists? And, if so, where do you think it will lead us to?
Man-made images multiplied infinitely violating the boundaries between environment and psyche. It seems like there are more images of the world than the “world” itself, more shots than contemplations, more screens than eyes, more products than people, more signals than experience – isn’t this obsessions with taking photographs and having your photograph taken detestable? Yet, we are hungry slaves, maybe because seeing our reflection in the images frees ourselves from the limits of time and space. At the same time, this makes us feel temporary, in a way that once only belonged to the thought of death. We are not pushed to consider photography as murder (sacrifice, at best) because images make us feel like we are actually “living” as soon as we “post” them. Images always had a lot to do with electricity, from the onset of cinema up to our times, whether them being files uploaded on the internet or particles on a screen. Darkness retreats in the presence of these images, the time of our dreams is devoured by these luminous and synthetic depictions, that follow us at any time of the day and of the night. We are living in a constant technological dream that we partly chose ourselves, so the only thing that is left to do is, like Michael Ventura and James Hillman said, “start taking responsibilities in our dreams”.
You talk about “responsibility’ – what does it mean to be “involved” for you?
It means to make filter actions, sabotaging or engage in acts of resistance.
Before photographing the studio, we want to ask you one last question, our usual one. “Elevator pitch” is a term often used in cinema – you are in an elevator with a famous producer (curator, in this case) and you only have a minute to tell him/her something about your project. What would you say? Or what wouldn’t you?