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Can memes be art? Can art be memed? Davide Trabucco, Confórmi

Curator of an ever-going archive of remixed photos, Trabucco cites elements and concepts from Luigi Ghirri to Alessandro Mendini, building spaces both physical and conceptual

Davide Trabucco: In 2012, I won a scholarship from the Fondazione Collegio Artistico Venturoli, which has been supporting artists since the nineteenth century, and I got in touch with other artists from Bologna, my hometown. We built a common path, paved with self-produced exhibitions and collaborations with local happenings like the Robot Festival. I work with images in a broader sense, focusing on the processes of production and reproduction. Luigi Ghirri – a great image producer – Giorgio Morandi, he’s good at doing the same thing. In the architecture field, Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini. 

Gregorio Zanacchi Nuti: Is architecture a perceptive literature of objects or is a construction of relationships in space?

DT: The concept of eteronimi was born from a plans’ collection of Portuguese buildings since the commission was from an architecture gallery in Porto. I collected a few thousand plans and then I ordered them looking for a concatenation of forms, generating an evolution from simple elements to complex ones, jumping forward in time: from an elementary construction like a room, we see the drawing become something else, and so on. This intention creates a work that is capable of striking the eye and, at the same time, telling the viewer something about forms: the plans become drawings and then simple signs, like elementary particles of a new alphabet. An aspect of architecture appeals to me: the possibility of exploring space in the abstract rather than the construction of something concrete.

GZN: A lot of your projects develop on the surface of Bologna. 

DT: I’m used to the shelter of the local porticos that, even on the rainiest days, I never carry an umbrella with me: the city will keep me dry. Visiting the gallery that hosts Morandi’s paintings or MAMbo, the local museum of contemporary art, impacted my education. 

Schermata 2020 12 11 alle 19.05.59 1
FROM THE CONFORMI SERIES BY DAVIDE TRABUCCO

GZN: How do you envision the changes showcased by the city in the last five years? 

DT: One of the few remaining hardware stores in the center, the one that provided you with a nail without forcing you to wander in the suburb’s malls, has now been turned into a fish restaurant. The city is changing with an array of initiatives dedicated to other people than its inhabitants. This is reflected in the renting business – moving or changing apartment became problematic – as well as in the art world – we see a lot of exhibitions of artists like Vincent Van Gogh dedicated to a ‘how to spend the afternoon’ audience.

GZN: Exposing art outdoor in the city. It’s a re-appropriation of the city space by a form of expression without any supplementary meanings.

DT: If we talk about Street Art, this is often used to justify interventions on city soil branded as requalification. The way the administration often tries to repair others disasters that are not fixed by a painted wall. Every work you create is free to have its meaning without telling something to the public. If you can make a work in the open air, you must speak your language, even if it won’t be understandable for everyone.  

GZN: Among your works, there is an entire project active on Tumblr. 

DT: Confórmi was born in 2014 because the platform is halfway between social media and a blog so that you can look at the images without subscribing or having a personal profile. In 2015 I moved it on Instagram with more significant results, meeting the goal of getting in touch with as many people as possible. The project was born from my archive of saved images: I had a folder on my desktop filled with visual references, and I thought about renaming them. As I couldn’t decide how to call them, I created an archive ordered by association. Many images fit together well, although they were all from different sources as photography, architecture, and paintings. The idea is to work with two images that enter into a relationship thanks to a common trait, producing a third image that creates meaning from the union between the two. Using a square is due to its diffusion as a preferred format on social media.

GZN: A recent publication, Memestetica by Valentina Tanni. The author explores the points of contact between art and internet humor. Do you think this kind of ‘remix’ of works is legitimate? 

DT: Some Facebook satirical page has stolen a post from Confórmi. It was an image that glue together the little sisters of The Shining with a photograph of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. Satire has targeted art since the Renaissance and being made fun of alleviates the weight of the halo that people attribute to you. Between concrete and digital, there is no difference: the satire is acceptable as long as you do not subvert the original object’s meaning.

GZN: There is a whole section of the book in which we talk about the link between the compilations of epic fail on Youtube and any work of performative art that just investigates the theme of failure like Ban Jan Ader’s Fall. Can memes become art? 

DT: Yes. I believe that categorizations are relative: they get lost with time, and only the object remains to be interpreted again. Maybe the memes will survive art as we know it, and future art books will label them as the most remarkable artistic feat of our time. The internet often uses images and sentences without quoting the intentions and emotions behind them, opening a window of misunderstanding exploited by so-called trolls. The only thing we can do is keep on creating and hope to give birth to something so faceted that can survive the test of time: be it art or meme.


IMAGE GALLERY

Davide Trabucco
Lives and works in Bologna, where he was born in 1987.

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