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Venice Biennale 2011: Italian Pavilion

We spoke to Franca Pisani who exhibits work in the Padiglione Italia, one of the most criticised and controversial pavilions at this year’s Biennale

Passionate art fans and critics raised their voices when Vittorio Sgarbi, controversial art critic and curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Art Biennale, announced that a committee of intellectuals, among them writers, poets, directors, scientists and designers were going to pick the artists to include in this year’s pavilion. The main idea - the curator claimed - was looking at the state of the arts in Italy and avoiding mafia-like recommendations and suggestions from specific art critics and gallery owners. The message was strengthened by a neon light spelling out “L’Arte non è cosa nostra”, literally “Art is not our thing” and a pun on the Mafia, also known as “Cosa Nostra”, a sentence that turned into the subtitle of the pavilion.

Among the 200 artists (including Mimmo Paladino, Jannis Kounellis and Michelangelo Pistoletto), some of them sponsored by famous members of the special committee, from the Nobel Award Dario Fo to the maestro Ennio Morricone and fashion designer Elio Fiorucci, there are quite a few interesting ones. Franca Pisani is one of the artists showcasing her works in the pavilion. Her pieces combine painting, sculpture, drawing and architecture together, tackling the condition of modern human beings and acting as a commentary upon their relationship with nature.

Dazed Digital: How would you describe the Italian Pavilion?
Franca Pisani:
It’s a sort of “souq”, since visitors come in, walk around and get engaged and inspired by very different works, colours, images and sounds. I guess such a huge pavilion crammed with works of art may go against current trends that seem to favour empty and minimalist spaces, but I found it interesting seeing my work almost “squashed” between other pieces since this gave me the opportunity to exchange opinions with other artists - something I haven’t done in 10 years - but also to have a great interaction with the visitors.

DD: Do you feel women are represented in the Pavilion?
Franca Pisani: There are women artists showcasing their work here, but I guess there are never enough women in the art world. In fact I think women are still struggling to get their voices heard, this is why female figures often appear in my works. When I first started my career as an artist in Italy, there weren’t many women artists and, in many ways, I think I helped opening the path to younger generations.

DD: The installation you did for the Biennale features two of your signature figures surrounded by rolls of paper, what inspired it?
Franca Pisani:
The main inspiration came from nomadic quilts I made with paper that represented a house that you could roll and carry around. I painted the 10-metre-long rolls of paper that form the background for the installation at the Uccellina Park in the Orbetello natural reserve, a secluded and pristine area in Tuscany I followed a sort of nomadic and anarchic path with a brush and never lifted it from the paper creating a continuous flow of signs.

DD: In your installation you used paper, but also reeds and metal wire, is the contact with the materials you use important for you?
Franca Pisani:
Yes it is, since it gives my works a human dimension. In some cases I also did the oxides and powders I used to paint since I feel that a project heavily relying on manual skills can help us rediscovering creativity and a sense of meditation that many of us have lost. The installation at the Biennale also tries to show that you don’t need expensive materials or huge and heavy statues to make a statement, but you can use very light and basic elements.

DD: Are you planning any further exhibitions in the next few months?
Franca Pisani:
Yes, in Osaka, Japan. Though it may have to be postponed until next year after the earthquake and tsunami that sadly struck the country.