Excerpt from the interview made in July 2009 by Roger Balboni, President of the Centre d'Art Passages, Troyes - France
Roger Balboni - In the continuous process of creation of your works of art, what are your references, if any, amongst historical and contemporary influences, aesthetic trends and technological breakthroughs?
Antonella Bussanich - My life experience, like that of all artists, is made of encounters, discoveries, revelations. As to historical influences, I come from Florence, so the Italian Renaissance undoubtedly played a role. I was particularly interested in the Renaissance spirit's transdisciplinarity and cross-fertilization from which there eventually emerged a global vision of the world and of the human being.
In terms of artistic influence, the choice is difficult: there are many people, places, works and experiences that come to my mind. Caravaggio, of course: some years ago I was lucky enough to visit an exhibition displaying almost all his paintings. I'm responsive to his interest in people's ordinary lives and their humanity. Then Frida Kahlo: I was not familiar with her work when I discovered her paintings in Mexico. I was impressed by her choices: Frida remained faithful to popular art and its forms of expression, but was capable of using an intimate, passionate and universal language in an extraordinarily powerful way. Other artists inspired me to explore the depths of the human being's flesh and mind: Francis Bacon, who sees, and make us see, through and beyond the human being. And Duchamp, because he got to the essentials, to the origin of artistic creation. He had the great merit of getting rid of the imperatives of aesthetics and craftsmanship through his research, and in particular his ready-mades. And then, of course, many contemporary artists, like Marina Abramovic, Bill Viola, Bruce Nauman... But also writers like Bruce Chatwin, Henry-David Thoreau, Kenneth White... And places... The island of Gravinis, a masterpiece of megalithic art in Brittany, and the island of Gorée off Dakar, a port of call for slave ships, the island of Lussino (Losinj), in today's Croatia, from where my father and his family were expelled at the end of world war II.
Sometimes I think that I wouldn't be an artist if photography and video didn't exist! I am not particularly attracted to matter, nor to the creation of shapes, objects - I am much more interested in the vision, in the perception of what it is. Obviously, photography and video are the perfect means to capture what is already there. I seize moments, actions, gestures, and then try to enhance their intensity, uniqueness, and metaphoric nature.
R.B. - In the subjects you choose and in the titles of your works, there is an initial intention, and then there are elements that emerge from your exploratory approach to and insight into the Other and his/her flowing. You have given preference to portraits,
landscapes and, as it were, "still lives". Where do the journeys of initiation that start from these two poles lead us?
A.B. - I am deeply interested in the gaze, in the eyes. They are our most powerful emitter, and are located between the brain and the heart. The gaze is the link with the others. Looking into each other's eyes is an important action. A newborn stares at people because he's completely open to the other. Lovers look into each other's eyes because they trust each other. Offering one's own gaze somehow means accepting to be naked. The classical self-portraits is made in front of a mirror: by looking at his reflection, the painter essentially looks into himself - a major introspective action.
My landscapes are elementary, minimalist, on the verge of abstraction, sometimes inconsistent. There is the sky, water, the land, an urban landscape. I am interested in life as a continuous and eternally changing flow.
In general, this is about the link, the connection that humans establish with themselves, their peers and what surrounds them - the ability that human beings have to explore themselves and beyond appearances. Introspection, projection: these two subjects of reflection have been inspiring my work since the beginning - they join and mutually enrich themselves.
R.B. - Being an artist today: what does this mean for you in terms of recognition and acceptance - by the public, institutions and the market?
A.B. - To be recognized and accepted as an artist - well, of course, I need it, but it's not a matter of numbers or renown. I do believe that art will always remain a gift, a message, a secret to be passed from one person to another. When I display my work, I get the most satisfaction from knowing that there is somebody in my public, and not necessarily a specialist, who receives my signal and makes it his own. As to the market and institutions, I have no specific approach: I have worked in institutional settings, I've met collectors, I've participated in the creation of music or contemporary dance, and what actually matters is the quality of the encounter, of interpersonal relationships. In this respect, I have a regret, which is undoubtedly shared by others: very often the art world and the market are too closely intertwined, and this can be detrimental to the artist's work or, even worse, turns the artist into a creator of luxury items. I also have a wish, that the artist's position in society were different, that artists were invited to participate in and contribute to social and political life more often. This is a very sensitive, but also exciting time, in which our society has to reinvent itself, and I think that it would be intelligent and necessary to invite artists to participate in this reflection.
Crossroads: Antonella Bussanich
Véronique Sapin. The artist is the figure par excellence of openness to the outside world.
Antonella Bussanich. Exactly, every revolution in art happened because we were interested in other cultures, in other horizons. Before becoming a full-time artist I offered myself great trips to Asia and Africa which, together with Mexico, broadened my perspectives. I feel as if I have gained some time in my artistic career.
V.P. Saving time in artistic matters is also to be able to take time to do things.
AB. Exactly. For example, I like the train and not the plane, I like walking. I prefer to move at a pace that allows me to capture the life around me. I live in the countryside and if I may I do not take the highway to get around. I reject the craze for speed. In my work what interests me is the continuum of the gesture. What I like about the video is the ability to store this continuum. The video camera is a magnifying glass that shows better what you had already perceived. Innovation, the evolution of technology should be one of the means to broaden our perspective. But the problem is the mechanical time that actually leads to a narrowing of our prospects. Everything is so fast that one cannot juxtapose other types of perception. We have at our disposal a fantastic range of perceptions such as meditation to go to the extreme, and we are choosing only those that favour speed by cutting everything else off. It is a road with no exit. Let us sacrifice our freedom. As soon as we have one minute, we try to occupy it. I like to quote Mircea Eliade who says that everything that is mystical in man now only takes the form of entertainment and distraction. This aspect of man has been channelled only into things determined by the rhythm imposed by a mechanized society. I use technology because I don't see conflicts: sometimes it's an orthosis and a prosthesis, but if we choose it we can keep it under control.
Laetitia Sellam - Magnifying glass or radar that approach the secret of a person or a landscape, your relationship with the video makes us think of what we could say about photography at its dawn, which captured souls and was able to bring out the ghosts ... What path has guided you towards this medium?
Antonella Bussanich - I believe that most men live exclusively within the thin layer that represents the "spectacle" of life without worrying about what may be below and above. They remain comfortably in a reassuring present that Henry David Thoreau masterfully summarized in his Diary: "They only ask for news, the foam and the waste of eternal life, and they will always ask for it".
Venturing below encourages us to venture into the meanders of our being, to free ourselves from the "I" to open up to others. What motivates this exploration is the need for introspective research.
Going above means going in search of a relationship with what "is", with the absolute, the infinite, the inexplicable.... What motivates this exploration is the desire for a metaphysical or spiritual search.
It is these two themes of reflection that have guided my work from the very beginning. These are two issues which, in my opinion, affect and feed into each other.
With my camera I capture moments, actions, gestures and then I try to highlight their intensity, uniqueness and metaphorical character.
In fact I started with the photographic image. The photo had and still has a lot of space in my research work. Paradoxically, I created only a few purely photographic works because, after all, I did not feel the desire to produce "objects" of art in the generic sense of the term. So I naturally turned to in situ installations and performance to create the ephemeral work, the one that lives in a limited space and time. Then I went to the video and more precisely the video installation. This means offers me the possibility to "memorize the flow of the present time" and to isolate it from its immediate spatio-temporal content. The video makes possible the realization of a work in evolution, fleeting, immaterial but visible. Finally, the video installation allows me to appropriate the exhibition space, which becomes an essential element of its form.
L.S. Also, the way you shoot is very physical, because it's based on the power of a gesture, the capture of an instant.
A.B. I am the daughter of conceptual art but the work of art that is just concept does not satisfy me. I agree with Gilles Delauze when he says that the philosopher's task is to make concepts, the artist's task is to make perceptions. Where percetto means a set of perceptions or sensations that survive the one who experiences them.
The interiority and uniqueness of the gesture or the moment remain fundamental for me. I attach far more importance to the moment of capture with the camera than to the work of manipulation with the computer. I keep the sequences in their entirety. I prepare myself, I expect a lot, but I film a little: I don't like repeating gestures because in repetition they lose their authenticity, their "intention"; if I film a man, a woman or a group I impose myself a single shooting session.
L.S. The titles of your pieces work as keywords for the viewer but we have the feeling that they are the same for you during the processing of each work.
A.B. What has always fascinated me with words is their power of re-creation: when you name something for the first time (be it an object, a feeling, an attitude ...) you give it life because you make it exist in the magic of his individuality.
Likewise, in the elaboration of the work, as soon as the word of the title appears in my mind, I am sure to reach the end of its formation: and this, thanks to the original strength of the word that designates it.
As far as my work is concerned, the title is only a starting point, in a sense it simply announces the content of the images. It opens the first door and then lets the images change, enlarge, contradict and go beyond its generic name.