By far one of the most interesting and thought-provoking works at RavennaMosaico 2013 was Andrej Koruza’s “Signals From the Limit”. Just watch.
The work was mesmerizing and we spent a good half an hour experiencing and exploring it. We had many questions for the artist and luckily, most of them were answered in an interview by Friend of MAN and Ravenna Art blogger Luca Maggio. Andrej Koruza is as fascinating as his “Signals” – exploring the “limits” of mosaic to characterize what he sees as social phenomena. “I am convinced that some mosaics and some mosaic artists – those who dare to (re)search, not find, and to be radical – can change the world.” Enjoy the interview and thank you, Luca Maggio – Nancie
Luca Maggio: Andrej Koruza (Koper , Slovenia, 1982), I know that you attended the Mosaic School of Friuli (Spilimbergo), but where did your desire to use mosaic in the 21st century come from?
There have been various stages and many people who have contributed in the development of my real need to make mosaic. If we talk about the School of Mosaic, then I must mention Giuseppe Semeraro , my master mosaic for the third year , who gave me an immense passion and made me realize that the mosaic can be whatever I want it to be: technical, crafts, art. From there I began to doubt everything I was taught about mosaic. I think that questioning is even now one of the things that defines me and makes me analyze things thoroughly .
My interest in mosaic as an art form has always gone hand in hand with the interests of society and the phenomena that occur in it. I spent every Friday in the course of my last year at the Mosaic School of Friuli attending the classes on philosophy and psychoanalysis at the Faculty of Humanities in Koper, Slovenia. After these classes, I spent hours and hours talking about mosaic, philosophy, art, and cinema with a couple of friends philosophers and anthropologists – Matej Vatovec and Tomaž Gregorc – who have contributed greatly to the refinement of critical thinking in me, which subsequently took shape in my mosaics.
The consequence of all this rethinking on mosaic was my first series of mosaics called Tessera and escape, which were made in Colombia in 2009. I feel like they are like a manifesto, rules that force me when I make mosaic. I think it was during that period that I realized the potential of mosaic; at that particular moment in history all of the great systems (political, economic, social) were crushed. The individual started facing Capitalism, which has slowly subdued both the political and the social system, exploiting the individual in order to derive more profit – the only remaining hope for the individual is a new form of collective consciousness, that will bring with it the formation of new, more just, harmonious and livable communities. From this perspective, I believe that the roles of both mosaic and a mosaic artist are very important since they have the ability to represent new forms of relationships between individuals, between an individual and a group, and also among groups.
I am convinced that some mosaics and some mosaic artists – those who dare to (re)search, not find, and to be radical – can change the world. So, it bothers me when I see mosaic competitions with juries full of people who have to defend their visions of mosaic or people unfit to understand the world in which the young mosaic artists live. (I have also met a few wonderful exceptions but they are in the minority.)
On the other hand, those who will change the world will not be stopped by mosaic juries. For me, the mosaic is a living language as the language we speak is alive and there are no rules dictated by tradition that can define it. For my part, I can appreciate only mosaics and mosaic artists in their work that help to define and show what is or may be mosaic, showing what until now was not. Among the people who contribute the most to this, and that have had the greatest impact on me and my mosaics are CaCO3, Samantha Holmes, Jo Braun, Marco de Luca and Felice Nittolo. And also Daniel Torcellini and Luca Maggio who contribute to the culture of contemporary mosaic as authors of critical texts.
LM: The white and gray metal, the purity of the wood – even when you build your very intricate machines and mosaics, always there is a sense of motion or “escape ” in many of your works. The photo below portrays many of the components from your last formidable and hypnotic installation “Signals From the Limit”, including you, with your body, as one of the gears that drives the work. I ask you to continue to talk about your idea of mosaic and in particular of “Signals From the Limit”.
I look at the mosaic as a science; a science of relationships between tiles, particles, elements, entities, etc. and, as such, I find it very interesting, because I understand it as a tool of analysis of most of the phenomena that happen on this planet. Almost every phenomenon can be divided into smaller parts that can be analyzed.
Signals From the Limit started as I watched the growth of the uprisings in North Africa, the so-called “Arab Spring”. I was fascinated by this revolutionary spirit that now, with the help of technology, has led to radical changes in their region, whether for better or worse cannot be said yet.
I thought in Europe and especially in Slovenia, people will never be able to find some common ground, and regroup to demand and cause change, but it happened, almost inexplicably. A sequence of events led to major protests and subsequent changes, but they were not radical because the protests haven’t continued. In short, on the one hand the idea for the mosaic aprang from this alternation of social order and disorder, and on the other from an interest in the role of technology in contemporary art and mosaic.
To tell the truth I was disappointed by most of the things I saw related to technology and art, especially interactive . From there, the decision to try to do something with the help of Borut Jerman and KID PINA we received funding from the Slovenian Ministry of Culture and after 6 months, with the collaboration of Borut Perko (who was in charge of circuits and sensors), I finished the mosaic. Signals From the Limit is my first attempt at doing this and if I look at it now I ‘m satisfied. I especially like its form; the mechanism behind the mosaic becomes an integral part of the mosaic, the mosaic is not only the tessera placed on the canvas, but also what stands behind it – the mechanism, technology. I believe that the mosaic should critically reconnect to the period in which we live and Signals From the Limit is definitely an attempt at this link.
I hope I succeeded , and all the attention it received positive feedback to RavennaMosaico surprised me and motivated, so I will continue even stronger .
LM: What is GRUPA and what is your participation in it? Finally, will there be new shows, new machines? Are there future projects you would like to talk about?
GRUPA is a group of architects, designers and craftsmen working in the field of social innovation, social projects and volunteering. Our goal at the beginning (three years ago) was to help establish a new type of entrepreneurship in Slovenia – a social one. One of the first opportunities we identified was working with the CPU (the ReUse Center) with whom we began a collaboration. The CPU is a landfill, where objects that can be reused, such as furniture, cutlery, appliances, etc. are separated from other waste, adjusted, arranged and then sold at low prices. GRUPA tried to create an integrated cyclic system for CPU, so there would be no trash anymore.
Another very interesting and important project which we worked is Dela Gostilna where young people from difficult environments are taught the craft of waiter and assistant cook and, in the end, they are offered to work in the restaurant opened within the project. GRUPAs role was to do the architecture, interior design, the production of the interiors and all the graphic design for the restaurant. Our aim was therefore to create a bond between the community and the restaurant before its official opening, a goal that we achieved by organizing events called Delavnica za malico. During these events, people helped us to collect information about the type of restaurant they wanted in the neighborhood and what dishes they wanted to eat. By doing so we have achieved a great impact in the media before the restaurant was open and after the opening was full from the first day onwards.
Within GRUPA, I took care of the development of the projects in collaboration with Nina Mršnik and Gaja Mežnarič Osole, and also the production of objects that were used in those projects (like the furniture used in Gostilna Dela). GRUPAs activities are currently on hold, but our workshop/studio is working independently now, under the name DELAVNICA. It is a laboratory for the design and production of wooden furniture and objects where I work with Matej Rodela. We are developing our first series of objects and there is a nice atmosphere in the studio. I love working there because I’m challenged with practical problems all of the time: it keeps the mind in constant exercise and, since we are continually producing objects, it also helps me to rid myself of the fear of not being able to produce art, as it has already happened in the past, when I was questioning my abilities.
Now I am mature enough to confront every project I take on and am not afraid of either losing or winning. I want to take risks and to be radical. I want to tread on the edges of mosaic and try to define it, understand it and improve it, always. I’m not afraid to make mistakes, to go beyond its limits, because I am convinced that even passing its limits, we can still define and understand mosaic much better than when we are not even trying to reach them. This is why I find the work 80mesh – The shape of sound by CaCO3, and also some mosaics by Samantha Holmes and Jo Braun to be the most important works of contemporary mosaic in recent years, works that I consider to be genuine works of contemporary art.
As for me, I am pleased because Signals From the Limit will be exhibited along with the work of Karina Smigla – Bobinski: ADA from 27 November to 12 December at the Festival of Transitory Art – Sonica 2013.
I also have several mosaic projects in the testing phase, which I hope to produce in 2014. The project I currently regard to be of the utmost importance is a performance, where mosaic and dance will come together in an interaction between dancers and an installation – mosaic. The project is in the process of planning and research funds are necessary for its production – therefore producers, benefactors, patrons, millionaires… come forward!
- Original article by Luca Maggio
With this article we introduce Ravenna-based art curator, critic, teacher, guide and blogger Luca Maggio who will be a regular contributor here on MAN. In his blog, lucamaggio.wordpress.com, Maggio covers the very center of the emerging Ravenna mosaic scene. His writing is always thought-provoking and we are thrilled to have him aboard. Many thanks to MAN’s Miss Marble, Lillian Sizemore, for the translation. Enjoy – Nancie.
One feature that has always fascinated me about Felice Nittolo’s artistic path is that he is both abstract and essential. Take his youthful and programmatic manifesto of 1984, A-Ritmismo (A-Rhythmism) or the explosive pyrotechnics in his dripping mosaic patterns, or the andamento (flow) of his oblique, mini-cuneiform tesserae (pieces) of Sumerian ancestry which are so neatly ordered and spaced one to the other.
Or even in his choice of three dimensional solids like the sphere and the cone completely covered with mosaic . . .
Or in recent years, the diverse series Vestigia (Remains) in which the work becomes a ghost of itself, memories of the mosaic itself, obscured and almost withheld. These are explorations into lyrical subtleties that – over time – have led to numerous and consistent collaborations with the Japanese world and Zen in particular.
Compare and contrast this work to his forays into the Pop genre. Here, Nittolo’s inherent playfulness is aroused by the symbols of the mainstream Western culture as he experiments with unions of unusual materials. The West’s obsession with designer sneakers and brand name fashion inspired the mosaic coat he created at the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle in the 1990s.
Later, Nittolo would summon Warhol’s Coca-Cola bottles, Nittolo heating and remolding bottles and arranging them on a wall where they would become a series of tesserae themselves, each in turn containing real glass mosaic smalti pieces, much of them red like the logo of the famous soft drink – a singular transaction of assimilation and conceptual exchange between form-color-identity – at the origins of glass – both container and contained.
So, Nittolo must have said, “Why not?” when he was put to the test to make a mosaic art-car for the “Ravenna 1007” project. Here was another Pop symbol of the 1900s and our time. And not just any old car, but the legendary Fiat 500.
The result has been exhibited both in Tokyo and Turin during the Fiat 500 50th anniversary celebrations and launch of the new model.
But the story does not end here.
Yes, because Nittolo is an artist who not only likes to plunge down the river of creativity, he also likes to head upstream – maybe aboard his Kayak “Pilchuck 2007”, a work almost completely covered with mosaic.
All this demonstrates once again Nittolo’s inspiration, his passion for mixed media and his experimental approach which is free from preconceived notions. He is fully coherent that his idea is “expanded” by mosaic tesserae: “What is mosaic?” he told me in an old conversation, “a series of pieces, words or parts, a wide variety, ordered not according to a predetermined pattern, but arhythmic.”
The arhythmia – described in his poetic manifesto of 1984 – focuses Nittolo’s work within the interstices, the intervals altogether varied and constant, the spaces filled with air and light, the pieces individually cut in a manner that is never the same but similar – occupying three-dimensional surfaces or wall pieces, often accompanied by a metallic half-moon, a kind of Zen artist’s signature, echoed in the doors of the Fiat 500 and in his small reinterpretations of the mosaics, applying a lightness to the Pop object that is both Eastern and personal.
Speaking of the East, in more than a few works on paper this Eastern influence is present.
Nitollo uses red ink and a special Japanese calligraphy brush to mark out a symbol that is no longer a paint-letter, but the transformation of an ideogram of the symbol-automobile, further influencing the calligraphic gestures, a product of time and concentration and rapid execution – the metaphoric result of Pop.
Kant said, “Art is a serious game,” and Nittolo enjoys multiplying the subject in question onto painted pottery – some small, some large – a kaleidoscope of Fiat 500 multiples, but they are different every time. The mosaic itself, moreover, the tesserae themselves are in this sense, and by their nature, multiples and the work of the artist is to reveal their hidden spirit and latent possibility.
In any case, a small golden Fiat 500 shows up on one of the black Vestigia on an ectoplasmic fixture of washed out memory and faint imprints, here appears a pop of gold – the mini 500 which, in the end, is a ghost of itself, of a model and an era. Today we can say, at least in the collective memory, it’s happy (felice).
Luca Maggio January 14, 2012
NOTE: The text presented here is included in the book Tessere – Words of Glass and Stone (2011, Angelo Longo, Publisher, Grafical Ltd., Printer) and is a partial rewrite of an article regarding Nitollo’s Fiat which also appeared in Luca’s blog on August 26, 2010.
- Website for Felice Nittolo here.
- Tessere: Words of Glass and Stone available through Tabularasa here
- PDF of Nittolo’s paper A-Ritmismo (A-Rhythmism) from 1984 including English translation here
- Luca Maggio’s blog here