Essere Spazio, un incontro con Massimo Uberti
Milan, Italy, September 20th 2019.
Diego Ruiz de Chávez (DRCH): Buona sera Massimo, it is a great pleasure to be back to Milan and especially here in your studio with you. Thank you for receiving us.
Massimo Uberti (MU): Ciao caro Diego, è un mio grande piacere poter parlare con i giovani. I really like to exchange ideas with young artists and gallerists. It is a great pleasure to have you here.
DRCH: When you were young you were part of a group of artists in Via Lazzaro Palazzi. What can you tell us about this experience?
MU: The space in Via Lazzaro Palazzi that me and my colleagues shared during the late eighties and early nineties was an extraordinary experience for two reasons. Firstly, because it was very formative. We were a group of artists that built and opened a space that was dedicated exclusively to art. We then invited other artists to freely show their work in this space, which completely independent from the market. This is crucial because we could express ourselves without following trends that governed in the art world. Secondly, it was important for the Italian system itself as I think that we were the last relevant group in the history of Italian art.
DRCH: What factors in these years have influenced your work?
MU: The artists in the group were very different, so each person followed a different path. What I learned and what was decisive for today was the extreme seriousness, commitment and passion that we had and that I put in my work since then.
DRCH: How do you come up with your concepts?
MU: The process is quite simple. I start a project simply with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, just like they did 500 years ago. I start with a pencil and then I add some shadows. When the shapes become interesting and I understand that the work in the sketch could become a real sculpture I move to the computer and start to create in scale. I imagine how my sculptures could fit certain spaces like urban landscapes, art galleries or museums. The second phase is more technical, as it involves rendering. Then comes the third phase, which is also artisanal. In this phase I start to physically build the iron structures, to which I finally add the lighting elements.
DRCH: How do you adapt your artworks to space?
MU: Usually my works are site-specific, which means they’re born right in the environment where they’re meant to be built. Hence, I always do a lot of scouting before starting any of my projects. My work interacts with the things that already exist: piazzas, streets, houses, etc.
DRCH: Spazio Necessario, Essere Spazio, Spazio Amato, Altro Spazio…
MU: Over the years I have developed these four types of space: Spazio Necessario, Essere Spazio, Spazio Amato and Altro Spazio. These four places are the four cornerstones on which I have built all my work over the years. Spazio Necessario is the white canvas. It is the place where the projects are born. The idea of space is related to the artist’s need of creating. The artist can only draw, paint or sculpt with a necessary space. Spazio Amato is the space for the heart, the one where projects and processes are born. Altro Spazio is instead the place where projects are generated. It is the outcome, the new space right after the work has been creates, something that was not there before. Finally, Essere Spazio is just a way of life: be space. Being space is essentially being a mirror, reflecting everything that the world offers. I am space in the sense that being space is what represents me. I somehow absorb the magic, the poems, the soul of the places and then I transfer it into luminous sculptures.
DRCH: What can you tell us about your “Omaggio a Giulio Romano”, your installation work at Mantova?
MU: The idea was to make an exhibition but not really for the traditional viewer. That work, La Città Ideale (The Ideal City) stood inside the courtyard, which is considered Giulio Romano's masterpiece, La Cavallerizza. You could only see this courtyard from above, hence, you were forced to enter the museum. However, that work was specifically designed for the planes that would taking off and arrive from Verona. This way, if you looked down from the window after taking off, you would see Giulio Romano's wonderful rectangle, La Città Ideale del Filarete, and next to it you would see lake where all this light was reflected.
DRCH: “Today I Love You” has become one of Amsterdam’s most iconic symbols, what can you tell us about this?
MU: Today I Love You is a work that was acquired by the Amsterdam Light Art Foundation after winning an international competition. We put it in the dock of Amsterdam Central Station and we were all very surprised by the success of this work because it was very photographed and you could find it anywhere on the web. It became like a social phenomenon because if you came to Amsterdam by train it was the first thing you saw after leaving the station. People really liked it; from tourists to elderly residents, it was really an extraordinary success.
The work is now travelling, and it will continue to do so. It has been to Washington DC, Manchester and the Niagara Falls. The Amsterdam Light Art Foundation has asked me to authorize a copy so that the work can stay in the city, otherwise the citizens of Amsterdam would never see it.
DRCH: What is “La Città Ideale” about?
MU: The concept is actually very simple. The idea of building La Città Ideale (The Ideal City) is to give a sign of hope and stimulus towards the construction of places and spaces that are good for us. Living in places that are pleasant and beautiful helps us to cultivate the soul. La Città Ideale is the highest utopian ideal in the world. So much so that the initial concept comes from the Renaissance. La Città Ideale has, of course, never been realized but is an aspiration, therefore a projection for the future. There are several reasons why it has never been realized. Artists in the past, however, have given the indication of a perfect shape, so that should be the design on which to build the ideal city. Today I propose it again in a contemporary version through light.
DRCH: What is your unrealized project?
MU: To build La Città Ideale with candles and on a very large scale. I have already done this experiment in small. Now I'm working on a big performance in which the public might participate in the lighting of more than 3,000 candles.
DRCH: How would you like to be remembered?
MU: I would like the public to see me in the future as an artist who has been very committed to certain themes and an artist who has always tried to work within contemporary art trying to identify signs that look to the future keeping in mind all the great and extraordinary history of Italian and non-Italian art. Therefore, a contemporary artist who projects himself into the future with solid foundations within the history of art, especially Italian but also international.