Monthly Archives: July 2010

lost in pettinengo…

…in deepest darkest rural Biella i find myself in sublime and ridiculous situations. Pettinengo is a village about 15 minutes drive from Biella. We are there en mass, all the artists in residence, to spend a few days at the home of an association for peace. The founders are maybe a little unfocused and verbally (extremely) meandering… shall we say (spiritual children of the ’70’s and all…), but they are extremely well meaning and generous, they are looking to us for ideas and proposals, the usual…and in the meantime they show us around the village.

Pettinengo has an amazing relationship with horticulture, every single house has a garden that truly is an extension of the home, there is almost no boundary between the two and they fill their plots and pots with flowers and veg in no particular order…it is beautiful and they are very proud and generous with their bounty…The men round these parts are all jam makers by the way (my favourite…chocolate and fig…), they see it as a natural extension of the gardening, thought they don’t eat it, they give it away as presents…

third paradise butterfly in third paradise garden…

cows inside in the shade hiding from evil horse flies that are huge and suck your blood (i was like a pincushion by the end). The tails are tied up to keep them clean and stop them spreading too much muck around.

…and this woman, is quite literally a cheese genius, in her small dairy farm (caseficio), she produces maccagno (rich, full fat, creamy and strong in flavour) and a kind of lower fat toma (less creamy with a nuttier flavour) cheeses that are so good…well you can imagine pushing past old ladies just to get to them…

the cheese cellar, as stinky (in a good way!) as the cheese is delicious…and the cheese is REALLY delicious…no marketing strategies, the cheeses  sell locally by word of mouth and she sells every single one of them…

…and then it gets a bit weird, a local association whose translated name means “little fairy”?????  show us around their premises where they try to keep local hand crafts alive…again very nice but this time also a little strange, they teach embroidery to the girls and woodwork to the boys…???and i find myself again thinking of the 70’s and horror films  and robotic wife substitute women…but maybe that is an unfair analogy, i think it was just the apron…

an of course there was a madonna nera present…

…and speaking of horror stories, there is another dark side to all this nature…Pettinengo had the most aggressive species of mosquito i have ever encountered in my life morning, day and night they dive bomb into my (apparently very attractive  to mosquitoes flesh…) am somewhat allergic and its not pretty….

lanificio…

…for those who have never been in a lanificio (wool mill) you are missing out. I know this one pretty well. The wool mill for Ermenegildo Zegna has stood in the mountains of Trivero now for 100 years. I came here on and off for nearly three years as i was designing a museum and its contents for Fondazione Zegna in a building in the same compound. Today we brought the UNIDEE residents here to show them the workings of a wool mill, so much part of the past and present but probably not future of this particular corner of Italy.

Only in Italy…a “madonna nera” between 2 notice boards…FYI lots of the madonnas round these parts are black in reference to the v famous Madonna Nera of Oropa – a nearby famous (if you are a devout virgin worshipping catholic that is) holy sanctuary…

Extraordinary fluctuations in temperature and humidity, hypnotic machinery, a cacophony of sounds, the smell of boiled wool (horrible at first but eventually it becomes familiar and eventually kind of pleasant)…

These women are incredibly skilled. It takes them about 3 years of training to be able to spot even the minutest of errors in the woven cloth. They then mend by hand following the warp and weft of the textile so that the mend is completely invisible…

they also decorate their machines with kittens and bunnies…

art castles…

Up early and took the train to Turin and then on to to outskirts, to Rivoli to visit the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art.  As well as temporary exhibitions of international repute, the museum is also home to a formidable permanent collection established in 1984, the year the museum opened, including works by Merz, Pistoletto, Cattelan, Taceta Dean, Sol Le Witt, Bill Viola, Rebecca Horn etc etc…

Actually in my humble opinion it’s really worth going to the collection at Rivoli. Stuck a little on the peripheries of Turin, it’s actually quite hard to physically get there without a car. You need to take the tube and then 2 buses from the centre of Turin. This means during weekdays at least the place is pretty quiet – lousy for business but great for you as a punter- and you can have this huge constructed/deconstruction art palace and all the contents it holds, nearly to yourself. In the era of blockbuster shows and the importance of bums on seats, this is kind of a rare treat to be savoured…in my humble opinion…

…another kind of art? A house near the museum in Rivoli…

art and beer…

ok, this was fun, went with one of our residents to help him photograph an action. The location: the wondrous Menabrea Beer factory brewing right here in Biella for some 150 or so years. Anyway Kosta wanted to be raised aloft on a forklifted pallet (i had to negotiate this!) and photographed like a statue. He is interested in the parallels and dynamics between commerce and the production of artistic work. It was a lot of fun, and the folks in the factory were mildly baffled, amused and very nice about the whole thing…

beautiful medium format camera and menabrea barrels in background

baffled and/or amused

art!

dilemmas and conundrums…

So originally, considering that i am currently keeping an alternative “institutional” blog, i wanted to be able to say what i like in this one, but of course i can’t totally. When i was in India for example, i told no one over there that i was keeping a blog, which enabled me to be more candid and to write “freely”. Not so easy here, blogging about people here who are often quite well known means a post will often pop up in an engine search… So am being a bit of a coward really, alluding to things, not naming names…firstly i don’t want to hurt anyone and secondly, hell, i want to keep being employed…So no Perez Hilton of the art world for me! (and trust me, i do have some good art gossip!!!!) Am toying with the idea of a third completely anonymous blog where i can let rip and watch carnage ensue…or maybe i have already done that????

…and bearing all this in mind…i find myself in Como, taking our residents to meet another group of residents who are participating in a 3 week residency there. This foundation is on shores of the lake with spectacular views. Privates plane take off and land periodically on the water.

I keep making jokes about George Clooney who lives (or lived) in these parts, saving drowning ladies from the lake…Not very arty i know, but that’s me…not very arty considering how i make my living.

Anyway there we sat in this room in a big circle, awkwardly swapping residency info…a LOT of artists in one room…and it struck me how goddamn bourgeois it all was, all of us, in this privileged situation in this super fancy place…with private planes taking off in the background. Not the first time it has struck me, to be an artist is not the most useful of occupations. That’s not to say i don’t love what i do, and i do think that art has a huge part to play in society…but just for today let me say…basta con l”arte!!!!

driving home through the rice fields back towards the mountains and Biella…