July 2010, Interview with Christian Niccoli
Christian Niccoli, Die Umarmung (The hug), 2003
2-channel video installation Installation view: Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
courtesy the artist
Christian Niccoli,Educazione come socializzazione (Education as socialization),2001
DV-pal video, 1:34 stills and installation view
courtesy the artist
Interview with Christian Niccoli
I met Christian during a research session at Pistoletto's archive in Biella. I was writing my thesis when he was chosen for a residence programme there; he joined least a dozen people from all over the world. It was summertime, the perfect time to have fun even if Biella doesn't have the seaside. We all went around, we ate a pizza and Christian and I had interesting conversations. Recently, he sent me some information about his new video projection, so I decided to make him talk about his work.
Eleonora Charans: I would love to conduct this interview through two different aspects, different sides of the same coin: themes and (their) practical realizations. With this in mind, here is my first question for you: perception and video - why do you chose to use this media in particular?
Christian Niccoli: I started working on this media by chance. At the beginning of my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence I was sure I wanted to be a painter. I spent the entire first year doing painting exercises without expressing myself at all. Some of my colleagues were such naturally talented painters and I noticed I wasn't. My feeling was that they were ages ahead. I was invited to show a piece at one of those shows organized by the academy and I presented a video installation. In this work I expressed all the accumulated thoughts of an entire year. I was surprised how close the medium was to my imagination and my way of thinking in images, so I kept on working in this medium and developing my filmic language. The years I spent in Florence were somehow essential for me, because the academy there was very conservative at that time and I almost didn't have any strong influence from other media or video artists, I just worked as it seemed meaningful to me.
Charans: So one could say that everything began with a limit of expression which is, at the same time, a limit of italian formation so often strongly linked to "tradition". It seems that video procedures helped you to skip this restrictions. Could you describe, for those not familiar with, your first work and the last one? Do you see any link or shift between them?
Niccoli: The first video work I did was the previously mentioned installation composed by a video showing the point of view of myself walking always around the same block in Florence. The video doesn't show my body but, through the motion of the image one understands that it's a person's walk. This video is displayed in a small wooden cabin in which the visitor can hear my voice repeating always the same self-reflecting sentence. In fact this was a piece about my own condition of lostness. I described this condition through a commonly known situation: walking without a goal while having a non-stop and ever-repeating thought flow. In my latest work, the video installation Roller-skating, I talk about the condition of responsibility and illness in a context (Berlin) in which everybody is “friends” but it seems that nobody wants to take responsibility for others. This condition is translated in film through a group of four roller-skaters moving on a dark stage. Each of them is confronted with keeping stable on his own legs and being better and more virtuous than others. At the same time everyone has to carry his own bigger or smaller weight. Thematically, I don't think my work has really changed. In both my artistic and in my private life, my interest is investigating human beings and their needs. My works became more precise and technically sophisticated but at the end they are an ongoing analysis of myself and my surroundings.
Charans: Your videos very often need a complex installation system characterized by multi-projections. What about your difficulties with confronting the space, especially when shifting from a private gallery to a public one, or from a solo show to a group show?
Niccoli: Most of my video installations have two presentation options. My editor and I edit a festival copy and an exhibition version that's often multichannel. The multi-channel per se is not something I am particularly interested in, there are ideas that work better when related with a space and become (multi-channel) installations. Others need "only" a TV and are effective that way too. My main purpose is to present the work in the best way, which means that often, when there are either technical nor spacial capacities, a simple but effective projection makes more sense than installing a multichannel work conceived for a museum space. This is something I decide when I see the exhibition space.
Charans: Right. It seems that the research you have chosen will always remain, in a way, unfinished, that one will never ascribe or say the word 'end'. The Other, the Other and the community, the domain of relationship, emotional needs, the loneliness typical of huge city of Berlin the city you have elected as your own base. What would you add to this?
Niccoli: As I was previously saying I am very interested in human needs and our will and necessity to relate to others. This is on one hand a more-than-finished issue, because it has repeated itself since humans have existed. On the other hand, each era and culture has dealt with it in it's own way and this makes it unfinished. Regarding Berlin, sure, the city suggested to me work on the lack of stability that almost all creatives and academics experience here, but my practice has always reacted to the social conditions of a place. If I moved to a small village, I guess I wouldn't keep on working on unstable academics in Berlin, but maybe on the tightness of familiar bonds as I did when I was at the academy and my work was all about my home area Sudtirol.
Christian Niccoli lives and works in Berlin.
Eleonora Charans is a Ph.D candidate in Theories and History of Arts at the School of Advanced Studies in Venice. Her research is about the E. Marzona Collection. firstname.lastname@example.org
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