how not be surprised
artists series by MAURIO CATTELAN in collaboration with MARTA PAPINI
portrait by GIASCO BERTOLI
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Why do you do what you do?
GIANNI MOTTI — I don’t really know why. It’s a mystery even to me.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
GIANNI MOTTI — A chair umpire in tennis? As a child, I was a ball boy, and I was jealous of the man up in the high chair enjoying his great view.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Isn’t your work more a caption for the world than an image?
GIANNI MOTTI — Maybe so, but the world is so complex that it’s hard to give it a caption.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Are your pieces intended to be chronicles of reality?
GIANNI MOTTI — We’re all influenced by our surroundings, of course, but I work more by intuition. There is no objective reality, but there are many subjective truths. The quality of our beliefs determines the quality of our realities.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you like to stick a finger in the wound?
GIANNI MOTTI — It’s a devilish delight I indulge in from time to time.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is there still something that cannot be said?
GIANNI MOTTI — There’s more that can’t be said all the time. Political correctness is invading every sphere of society. A trifle can offend a minority — and a majority, as well.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Has your work ever been censored? Do you ever feel like you censor yourself?
GIANNI MOTTI — I’ve been censored on occasion. C’est la vie! I myself don’t feel that I’m censoring my work. I try to say what I think without overstating it, and that seems to work pretty well.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — How do your works come to an aesthetic solution?
GIANNI MOTTI — When I exhibit them in places for art.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Why is being “against” important?
GIANNI MOTTI — It depends because with today’s newspeak, “against” might mean “for,” and “for,” “against.”
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — If you were a human activity, what would you be?
GIANNI MOTTI — I’m already a human activity.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is evolution the result of human action or human design?
GIANNI MOTTI — How could I know? You’ve given me only two options. We’d need others. There might be surprises in store.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you feel comfortable inside the white cube?
GIANNI MOTTI — The first time I went inside a white cube, it was like entering another dimension. Dazzled by intense light, I felt no pain, no sensation of cold or heat. I felt only peace, an ineffable serenity.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — How does money influence your work?
GIANNI MOTTI — I’ve never had money in mind when conceiving a work. If I need money to make it, I proceed to a second stage: finding the money. There’ve been cases where I’ve been invited to places with very big budgets, and the production has cost so little that it’s caused trouble.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — To what extent are your works autobiographical?
GIANNI MOTTI — I sometimes feature myself for the sake of convenience because it’s simpler and faster, but the point isn’t to talk about me.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is there anything that still surprises you?
GIANNI MOTTI — How not to be surprised? The world is so fantastic, but also crazy, bonkers.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Would you make people forget any of your work, if you could?
GIANNI MOTTI — Yes, there are works I’d like to see forgotten, but I won’t say which. Otherwise people won’t forget them.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is there anything you feel certain about?
GIANNI MOTTI — No.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you ever not work?
GIANNI MOTTI — I work a lot. I enjoy it. But I also practice the art of not-doing.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — What’s the most difficult thing you’ve done until now? Is there something you’d like to do and that you haven’t yet?
GIANNI MOTTI — I think the most difficult thing has been the performance of Entierro n°1, in Spain, when I did my first funeral. I was distraught for a while. Something I’d still like to do? Travel at the speed of light.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is losing control something that bothers you?
GIANNI MOTTI — I rarely lose control because, really, we have control over very little.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Tell us about a work of yours as if it were a story.
GIANNI MOTTI — At CERN [the European Organization for Nuclear Research], in the world’s largest particle accelerator, in a circular tunnel 27 kilometers long, a hundred meters underground, physicists were going to accelerate and collide particles at speeds approaching the speed of light, so as to reproduce the conditions of the Big Bang and learn a little more about the mysterious disappearance of antimatter. I found it all fascinating. So I decided to act like a proton and go around the 27 kilometers on foot. At my non-accelerated speed, it took about six hours. The particles, by contrast, make the trip 11,000 times in a second. After a few kilometers, I lost all sense of space and time. I remember nothing. I’d been hypnotized by the monotonous perspective of the tunnel. I was gone, elsewhere. When I got out, I felt that everyone else had grown older by six hours. Maybe one day, the scientists at CERN will discover mysterious traces of antiMotti.
[Table of contents]
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