Elena Bordignon: Cultural and artistic production: this is the mission of Ramdom association, based in Gagliano del Capo, in the province of Lecce. I would like you to tell me how Ramdom was born and the reasons behind its opening in 2011.
PM: In those years Apulia Region was experiencing a period of political and cultural rebirth following the Obama “We Can” spirit and influence. To make and live of culture and art, suddenly, no longer seemed a heresy, not even in the Southern Italy so with my friend and artist Luca Coclite we decided to ask the Apulia Region to help us on starting a project aimed to support the mobility and training of artists and operators in the sector and to support what is now more technically called “audience engagement”. In Lecce, as in the other parts of Salento, the spaces and platforms dedicated to contemporary art in 2011 were very few and our goal was to start deep discussion on the meaning of artistic work in contexts not used to talk and work on contemporary art. Rather than aligning ourselves with existing models, in a virgin and fertile context like that of Apulia, we were interested in working on points of crisis and rupture, on Defaults, but at the same time in establishing a cultural, social and economic sustainability of a project linked to contemporary art in the south of Italy, in the center of the Mediterranean.
EB: One of Ramdom’s main characteristics is the need to create a ‘system’ within the territory of Salento, through exhibitions, public art installations, residences, etc.. Can you explain how you made possible a collaboration with the territory, aspiring, however, to reach an international visibility? What links the local with a supranational vision?
PM: Our work was born and has been developing, since its origins, as a project deeply rooted in the territory and the investigation on it. Default project, for example, was born primarily as a kind of self-reporting: in 2011 the image of Salento as a postcard began to build its way, the flow of tourists were increasing and, in some ways, even the pride of a part of the territory that, without particular merit, began to flaunt a kind of cultural arrogance. For us, who were coming from national and international professional experiences, the provinciality, specifically its themes of the contemporary, was almost disconcerting and we decided to try to roll up our sleeves and fill an obvious gap by activating collaborations with organizations and professionals from all over the world to try to ignite a little ‘of curiosity and encourage participation, but also and above all to encourage the training of artists, curators and cultural operators of the territory. From there, the step towards production was relatively short and the collaboration with artists of great value such as Carboni, Andreco, Casas, has helped to put the first pieces for the creation of a collection that now has more than 50 works produced.
CZ: I don’t think the mentioned ones can be considered as concepts in antithesis; I imagine them as rather complementary, in constant dialogue with each other and able to feed each other. The international level is an extension of the territory, of the resources and of the possibilities it makes available to us. And I think this approach is quite natural if we think of Ramdom as a platform capable of moving itself in the space and in a rather flexible way. Take, for example, a project like Default: it is a two-year international masterclass born in 2011 and now in 2019 in its fifth edition. The last three editions (2015-2017-2019) have focused on the theme of the Extreme Lands, beating heart of Ramdom’s research, from different points of view. So the question about the Extreme Lands has to do not only with the geographical aspect but also with the point of view – the concept of the “extreme” compared to what? – and this allows us to reverse the perspective. So the most extreme point to the south-east of Italy becomes the gateway, the Cape, or, even more interesting, the center of the Mediterranean with everything that involves today to observe the Mediterranean. This year, for example, we have done an experiment and tried to relate three different extremes: the one of the territory in which we operate with the westernmost extremity of Portugal (CHAIA – Centro de História da Arte e Investigação Artística da Universidade de Évora – was one of our cultural partners) and then a conceptual extremity, which concerns the conceptual sphere.
What I mean is that it depends on where you place the lens. If you move away or if you get closer. The scale of reference changes but not the goal of the project and the reflection that the project carries with it.
The same thing, although through different themes and for different reasons, applies to the two projects by Emilio Vavarella, Mnemoscope (Mnemoscope) and rs548049170_1_69869_TT (The Other Shapes of Me) that we are curating and producing.
EB: Ramdom “office” is located on the first floor of the Gagliano – Leuca railway station. Can you tell me about the limits and potential of your ‘particular’ operational base?
CZ: Lastation is an outpost and an observatory and over the years has become a deeply iconic place not so much from an architectural point of view as from a symbolic one. The last station in south-east Italy is a very precise feature of our work, both from the point of view of research and methodology. Clearly it is not the only place where we operate: many of our projects, in fact, are activated in public space such as the documentary radio Scarcagnuli by Riccardo Giacconi and Carolina Valencia Caicedo that we presented at Bar 2000 in the form of a cinema without images; OLGA by Lia Cecchin that we presented at Central Bar; rather than Intervallo by Jacopo Rinaldi in a train wagon or Luminaria by Carlos Casas that has been installed for a long time in the square in front of the station itself.
Lastation is, however, a place that allows us to develop a program with different formats throughout the year: exhibitions, public programs, performances, screenings, residencies, workshops, workshops with children: all these proposals alternate and feed a wide cultural offer. This allows us to be present with a very strong bond with the territory.
In addition to being the place where we host artists, curators, researchers or just national and international enthusiasts to spend a period in residence, Lastation is also the basis of our Media Library (Observatory on the Extreme Lands) where you can come and do research from the productions that we made from 2011 to today or read specific texts.
I don’t think there is a real limit. Or rather, from my point of view, I believe that its limit or what could be perceived as a limit – its deep iconicity and integration with the territory – is also methodologically its strength because it still allows us large margins of experimentation.
PM: Since 2014 our work has been “extreme”: we decided to leave the reflection on the city and move to the finis terrae. In 2013 Apulia Region launched a call for proposals called Mettici le Mani, created to culturally activate disused spaces and in this list there was the first floor of the last station of Italy in the south-east. We immediately thought that there was no better location to start with an artistic and cultural planning in a place so full of symbolic value, albeit reduced to almost a ruin given the state of abandonment in which it poured for thirty years. The space is small and on the first floor, so it has different limits both for the exhibition and workshop activities, and from the point of view of accessibility. However, it has a unique charm both for us who work there and for all the artists and guests who come to work with us. A “magic” that, however, we fear is about to run out: Apulia Region and Ferrovie dello Stato do not seem intent on renewing the concession, preferring to allocate the property to other unknown functions. We will see what will happen: if you close spaces that have a huge socio-cultural role with this kind of “lightness”, to make room for you do not know what, it is useless to wonder why the south is depopulating and the migration of young people is constantly increasing.
EB: Ramdom’s liveliness is also motivated by its ability to broaden its collaborations, but not only to propose credible and engaging projects. Can you tell me what you have in mind for 2020? Specifically, I would like you to tell me, in general terms, about the project that won the sixth edition of Italian Council (2019).
CZ/PM: This project is an excellent example of what Claudio already wrote about how to position the lens. It is in fact a project that brings the territory, its resources and its potential into dialogue with a wider scale and the international context. When we speak of scale we mean not only the geographical one but also the reflections that can be generated and fed.
rs548049170_1_69869_TT (The Other Shapes of Me) is the complex but extremely evocative title of Emilio Vavarella’s work, which refers to the first line resulting from the process of genotyping his DNA. The project will consist of three elements: a loom with a Jacquard machine, a fabric that will visually return the genetic code of the artist processed through a software and, finally, a video documentation of the process of working with visual grafts and abstract sound. The project will be entirely produced in Gagliano del Capo at Tessitura Giaquinto -for the textile part -, while the software part will be developed in the USA. The work will finally be acquired in the permanent collection of MAMbo – Museum of Modern Art in Bologna.
The interesting thing is that Tessitura Giaquinto will provide us with one of the very few Jacquard loom of the late nineteenth century still available in Italy.
The production part will be followed by a part of research and theoretical study that we will develop between Shanghai in collaboration with Arthub Asia and the Harvard Film Study Center.
We will touch on topics of great topicality: in addition to a deepening of the local textile tradition and more generally of Southern Italy, the starting point of the work will be the most intimate and personal sphere of the artist himself f, or rather his DNA and the direct involvement of the mother in the weaving of the work. Around this will rotate a broader narrative that will allow us to explore topics of general scope such as the digitization of life, the relationship between machine and work or the theme of female work that acts as a glue to all the work if you think that the Jacquard loom, one of the first “computers” of history, was operated by women.
EB: Also this year you won, with Emilio Vavarella’s Mnemoscope, the SIAE prize “Per Chi Crea – Nuove Opere” (2019). Can you introduce me to this project?
CZ/PM: This work has to do with a theme that very often emerges from Ramdom’s productions: the theme of memory and more specifically of collective memory and its stratification through the creation of a cartography of memories linked to the idea of home, starting with those who left from Gagliano del Capo and then returning there. Vavarella himself has already addressed the issue in other works: in MNEMOGRAFO he worked, for example, on the re-emergence of memories on the Web; in MEMORYSCAPES on the cartographic potential of collective memories of Italians who emigrated to New York; in The Sicilian Family on the weight of family memories; and in MNEMODRONE on the role that memory plays in the development of drones and artificial intelligence.
Mnemoscope (Menemoscope) is a project that in some ways closes the circle a bit if you consider that the train station of Gagliano-Leuca, also home to Ramdom, is the place from which people left to try to achieve better living conditions.
It is a public work intimately linked to the territory and its stories. An object – today we are in the middle of a hardware research phase and the aesthetic definition of the project is in progress – that contains a visualization system conceived by the artist: an apparatus that blends virtual reality, site-specificity and relationality. The result will be the production of a new cartographic space in which places, memories and present and past dwellings intertwine.
A work that allows us not only to increase our presence on the territory, but also to create a link between the work and the local community, since MNEMOSCOPE could not be achieved if the local people did not put themselves at the complete disposal of the artist by telling and sharing their personal stories. It is also an emotionally involving work because it puts you in direct contact with people, with their memories, and with their desire to share them.