Story of the Archive

This chapter gives an account of the history of the Archive and the services it provides for artists, organized by Viafarini since 1991 and re organized in 2008 at DOCVA Documentation Center for Visual Arts at the Fabbrica del Vapore. It is a repertoire of material dating back to the early publicity of the Archive, of the collaboration with Milan City Council’s Youth Department and Careof, as well as a report of various accounts given by those who have run the projects over the years. It presents those curators who on a weekly basis have held meetings with artists, given them free advice, examined and filed their work. These were also the critics who organized annual group shows, drawing on the archive with the intent of promoting the artists demonstrating mature work. They selected the most consistent portfolios to be presented online at www.italianarea.it database and catalogued on the countless shelves of the Archive.

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

In 1991 the Viafarini Archive was founded in order to document artistic research, in particular to gather information about the artists active in Italy. The service also provides advice and diffuses the artists’ research. The materials are used to curate exhibitions, and is also open for consultation to artists, curators, galleries and those who are interested. In 1995 Viafarini together with Careof started a collaboration with Comune di Milano Progetto Giovani (Youth Department of the City) to offer the documentation services, Archive, Library, ArtBox Opportunities Database, as well as to organise workshops and lectures.
Questo capitolo vuole raccontare la storia dell’Archivio e dei suoi servizi per gli artisti che hanno portato Careof e Viafarini ad aprire nel 2008 il DOCVA Documentation Center for Visual Arts alla Fabbrica del Vapore.

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

Thanks to the collaboration with the artist Umberto Cavenago, the materials have been recorded in an off-line database. In 1997 a CD-ROM was produced with images of 4,000 works by 248 Italian artists, and was distributed to critics, galleries and museums.

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

Words of appreciation for the digitalized Archive.

Archivio Viafarini (0/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

top left: Draft for the homepage of Careof and Viafarini’s website, designed in the year 2000 together with the artists involved in the workshop Officina.bit
top right: Umberto Eco handing over the prize Premio Cenacolo Editoria e Innovazione by Assololombarda, Il Sole-24 Ore, Mediaset and Mondadori. The award was given to Italian Area, intended as a project for a venue-less museum (2000).
bottom: The online database Italian Area is created by Simply.it in 2000, and further developed by Undo.net at a later stage. It documents the Italian artistic scene, with
particular attention to the work of artists who emerged from the late eighties to the present.
The artists are chosen amongst those who are promoted by the most important organisations and those who have contributed towards the current art scene in Italy. The selection is a work in progress and is meant to be constantly updated.

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

In 2008, after 17 (!) years of activity in the historic venue at the address via Farini 35, Viafarini moved to the Fabbrica del Vapore, the centre belonging to the Municipality of Milan that is devoted to young talent and its cultural production.
In April 2008 Viafarini with Careof inaugurated the DOCVA Documentation Center for Visual Arts at the Fabbrica del Vapore.

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

Giulia Brivio, art critic and publisher, she has been in charge of the Viafarini Archive from 2005 until 2011.

During the early ‘90s artists in Milan felt the need to exhibit and discuss their own work in places other than galleries, where they could be heard and promote themselves through a dialogue with critics and other professionals in the field.
The non profit organisations Careof and Viafarini were thus created in response to these issues within the emerging Italian arts scene by filing the artists’ portfolios, videos and catalogues, and then inviting curators to base their research on this material for exhibitions.
The foundation of the archive in 1991 was Viafarini’s opening project, inspired by organisations such as the Artists Space in New York. Careof had already been operative near Milan since 1987, and housed documentation such as portfolios, catalogues, videos and other material of the artists they worked with. In 1994 Careof and Viafarini, in the light of their common goals, joined forces to create a single common archive that was to become the DOCVA Documentation Centre for Visual Arts.
Over the years, the gathering of documentation increased and was split up into the Artist Portfolio Archive, the Video Archive, the Specialist Library, and the ArtBox opportunities database. All materials were then also documented in an offline database which soon developed into the current online versions: www.italianarea.it, www.portfolioonline.it, www.bibliobit.it, www.bancadatiartbox.it, thanks to which the archive has become an efficient tool for artists’ promotion both in Italy and abroad.
In particular, Italian Area publishes monographic profiles of a selection of artists who emerged from the ‘80s onwards, chosen by a panel made up of Chiara Bertola, Milovan Farronato, Gabi Scardi and Angela Vettese. The biographies and bibliographies are periodically updated along with images of the artists’ works.
Portfolioonline is the online catalogue of the portfolios filed in the Archive, which is open to all artists working in Italy and increases at an exponential rate. It is an invaluable starting point for curatorial projects or for selecting candidates for awards, contests and workshops.
Its use is facilitated by the internet, which allows immediate access and the opportunity to make enquiries on the basis of various different criteria, such as media used, personal data and the main themes of the artwork. The most vital part of the archive is meeting the artists, which begins with the reception of the materials, followed by the “advice guide” to preparing portfolios and applications.
The key moment is represented by the Portfolio Viewing Program, a formative encounter during which artists are invited to present their work to the Archive curators. In the past, archive curators included Alessandra Galletta, Alessandra Galasso, Mario Gorni and Gabi Scardi; currently they are Milovan Farronato and Chiara Agnello. The curators make suggestions on how the artists can develop their research, emphasising the strong points and discussing the weaker points… Together with the curator, the artists thus have the chance to put their awareness of their own work to the test.

Archivio Viafarini (1995-01-01/1995-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

Mario Gorni, founder of Careof non profit organization in 1987, was the curator of the Archive from 1997 to 2000.

One for all
It was like going to the doctor. Entering the gallery there was a row of chairs arranged along the wall like in a waiting room. Monica had lined them up with care, and from the length of the row I knew how many people I had to meet. The appointments made during the week were arranged throughout the afternoon, therefore I had about an hour to understand who was the person who asked to meet me, and what he did. The artists were almost always punctual, but at times it wasn’t that way, so we couldn’t chat for long because the others sitting on the chairs whilst waiting for their turn made me anxious. It must have been 1996 or 1997 at via Farini 35, in Milan.
Two years before, I had signed an agreement with Brusarosco to take part in a contest announced by the Comune di Milano, where we had to implement a series of professionalizing services for young artists, provide them with space, insight and opportunities within the arts. It was practically what we had been doing for a long time, it was our mission, and we won. We therefore could access new resources to systemize our work, render it more structured and scientific, perfect our database, and hire someone to work with more continuity, leaving behind the DIY approach which we had to operate with until then. Monica had many assets. She was tall, thin, fluent in English and in German, she could twirl the computer with her fingertips and waited for the right moment to have her say.
She was an enviable resource, along with Alessandra, who occasionally appeared in the gallery. They were the years in which everything had taken place, all the isms in art and culture manifested themselves everywhere. Deconstruction, hybridization, complexity and indetermination were recurrent axioms and practices used to contextualise the creative approaches, and then finding completely unexpected and surprising practical implications.
The 70’s and 80’s had passed by before our eyes.
The charge of antagonism towards a hypocritical and prim and proper culture that emerged during the post-war boom and the militant rebellion, which from London to Paris unhinged the dominating culture and renovated custom whilst inventing new rules of co-habitation, ended in the Italian era of terrorist outrages, defeated by an ongoing repression.
It was necessary to rebuild a new identity, find new opportunities to produce sense. During the 90s – which were about to end – everyone was looking for something new to do, for an addition to what had already been said with an emerging or a retrieved value. It was a matter of founding new cultural models. The great schools of thought marked their followers\adherers, got confused with the insurgence of temporary phenomena of flashing success that raced to decorate the covers of the specialised press.
Rivers of words were looking for the founding elements that could justify its reason of being.
They seemed like many trains about to depart, on which to jump without being sure of where they were going. Small thoughts which like fashion lasted a season or two.
The railways are like contemporary art: there are tracks like Palermo-Milan-Paris-London and others like Luino-Gallarate.
They are both important, but offer a different service. Youth had prepared for this trial. Many had overcome the obstacle with a personal and professional hop that never ceased to surprise me.
Everyone energetically sought their place in the sun, but were dropped into the end of the millennium’s landscape, facing a panorama of significant existential impoverishment and general flattening in culture. Everyone was working for their personal reconstruction of the universe, for their own reason, for the tuning of their own original vision. Everyone was alone facing the difficulties in being and being there, and everyone was in search for a path against non-sense.
Who, like me, was not as young, had already made a choice; but those who were hanging in unstable balance and still growing needed a comparison, and an opinion, so they came to us. That’s what I felt I had to do, offer an opinion to those who needed to make a choice, collect and evaluate their material as well as the depth of their reflections. I was used to this kind of work, I was a teacher and it was normal to bring myself face to face with differences as well as evaluate answers and ongoing changes. But the subject matter and its content were only superficial data that permitted to go further, to cut out who was in front, to measure his/her substance, as well as to enrich yourself with this encounter. This was very often the reward for your afternoons spent to build up the portfolios that Monica then ordered and lined up in the Archive. Monica listened quietly, she was a silent witness and I never understood what she really drew out of those conversations. Even the other curators, I wasn’t sure how they handled their meetings with the artists, since there was no particular method that had been discussed or shared, each of us adopted our own mysterious criteria to go into depth and to evaluate, and there had never been a moment of dialogue. Before me, the curators in Viafarini were Alessandra Galletta, followed by Alessandra Galasso, and then a couple of years after working there I handed over to Gabi Scardi, but there never was an exchange and maybe it was just as well since the plurality of views offered a richness that could not be renounced. Since we moved to the Fabbrica del Vapore, the Archive is now supervised by young curators.
Each puts into practice their own reason and criteria, while the Archive grows, the generations rotate, often many make it and others fall whilst taking different paths for finding their answers. It was like going to the doctor’s, but I wasn’t the doctor. Perhaps there was the common illness in seeking the truth, testing one’s own identity, wanting to understand – regardless of everything – with the excuse and the justification in having to enrich the Archive with an invaluable wealth in research. A wealth that belongs to each and everyone’s history.

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

Gabi Scardi, curator of the Archive between 2000 and 2006.

The interest and activity of a contemporary archive lie in its capacity to cross-refer what happens outside, to synthetically and systematically express the dynamism and volatile stratification of the archive’s particular field
of reference. Running an archive like the one in Careof-Viafarini, which operates thanks to the individual contributions of mostly young artists (who often contact the archive a number of times during a certain period
of their career), means monitoring art first hand while it is actually being created.
It means dealing with a considerable amount of information deposited over a certain length of time, as well as then keeping track of artists throughout their careers, even when they turn out to be not so conventional, and thus not being fased in the face of art in the making.
It is a great privilege.
Among the extraordinary developments which the archive has enabled me to follow, there have been those of artists working outside their allotted spaces; in these cases, the archive can turn out to be particularly invaluable. This is because while what takes place within institutions and galleries is the object of effective and systematic communication, the same may not be said of external projects, often initiated by individual artists who deliberately blend into the context, and who are concerned with flowing and dynamic situations which are rarely reproducible. Nevertheless, they cannot be considered marginal; on the contrary, the artists working externally always seek a challenge, an interlocutor and a focussing point within the art world.
Many projects created for public spaces have gone on to become part of the Careof- Viafarini Archive; likewise, a number of exhibitions that took place in Viafarini emerged from projects that were developed in non-designated spaces. Among others, Balena Project by Claudia Losi, who debuted in Viafarini. In this case, a lifesize whale (23 metres long) made of fabric was supposed to travel to different places around the world, at each stop serving as a pretext to bring people together in order to interweave the threads of relationships and stories.
On the occasion of the whale’s first appearance – or rather of its skin – the Animazione: performance was held by a series of dancers that brought it to life from within, miming the skeleton and movements of the large animal.
Another project which transited through Viafarini in a particular moment was Maybe Sarajevo, by Gea Casolare: a sequence of sixty photographs of metropolitan glimpses that could have represented sixty different cities in the world. Instead they were all taken in Sarajevo, where Gea Casolare spent time in 1998, after the end of the conflict which had devastated the city, and since 1992 hadtainted Bosnia-Herzegovina with bloodshed.
The art work\project was a means to move away from the standardised and univocal image (manipulaed by the media) of a city which the artist had got to know personally.
A project which entered the Archive during its initial phase, before being developed in various directions, was that created by Stefano Boccalini and linked to cartography, here meant as a projection able to give tangible form to recent reflections. Boccalini created five coloured basins whose shape represented the five continents,all in different versions at different times. In one of the first versions, he placed a layer of fertile soil within the basins and – not without a hint of irony – he planted five different types of mushrooms that then grew bunched together in families. Here, the theme of his work was the desire for a different, more human and sustainable map of the world. In the long run, the art work underweent a series of developments and metamorphoses until, with Random Map, the permanent version was produced in Yerevan, Armenia, where the basins were transformed into real playgrounds for children.
There have been a great number of artists who over time, working both within and outside arts spaces, have looked on the archive as a point of reference: from Cesare Pietroiusti to Luca Vitone, and from Gruppo A12, to Francesca Grilli, to name but a few. In Italy, where the artistic scene seems spineless due to there being very few institutions that provide energy and serve as communication catalysts for artists, the Archive goes some way to making up for this role by acting as a driving force, especially with regard to less conventional artistic practices, at greater risk of being dispersed.

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

Alessandra Galasso, curator of the Archive 1996 / 1997.

Brave Heart World*
In the early 90’s one went to Viafarini - within the original site at via Farini 35 in Milan – to breathe an air of the German Kunstverein, of nonprofit institutions and American artist-run spaces. In Italy, Viafarini was the latest novelty, and was as far as one could imagine from a commercial gallery or museum. It was a venue for exhibitions where artists felt at ease, perhaps because it was similar to an atelier bare, with the walls and floors showing marks from every sort of event.
From October 1997 to the spring of 1998, I was responsible for the Viafarini Archive, and from 1997 to 1999, I curated five exhibitions overall: Brave New World, Con la pazienza si acquista scienza, Bello impossibile, Bad Babes (at Careof) and Cose inverosimili. The curatorial project of which I am proudest is undoubtedly Brave New World (October 1997), one of the first artistic projects ever to go online. An exhibition that was conceived as being viewed exclusively through the internet, it was carried out thanks to the technical assistance and suggestions of Anna Stuart Tovini, Vincenzo Chiarandà and Emanuele Vecchia of undo.net, precursors and main promoters of online contemporary art in Italy.
I remember inviting the artists to develop ad hoc projects for the web. However, due to the lack of familiarity with the medium, some of the artists opted for a simple gallery of images, while others presented projects that were more relevant to the use of the internet. For instance, Premiata Ditta presented a map of the website for undo.net as a nervous system with its various hyperlink ramifications. Umberto Cavenago altered a previous project called La smaterializzazione dell’arte, where with a simple mouse click, some of the most unsightly monuments from various cities in Italy and abroad disappeared. Stefania Galegati attached a counter on a fixed image calculating the amount of time that has passed since the image was put online to this day, along with the ironic and explanatory comment “…she is the type who goes back to the cinema every night to see if it will end differently.” Instead, Luca Pancrazzi created Space Available, where some words he wrote down at different times and places- here completely taken out of context- appear for fraction of a second on a black screen.
Looking at Brave New World today makes one smile – I personally find it somewhat endearing – since from a technical point of view it had been composed of rather simple elements such as texts accompanied by images, an audio file, small animations, a section for comments… However, one should remember that in 1997, and particularly in Italy, there were only a few people who owned a computer, let alone had access to the internet.
While over the years both the term and concept of nonplace has been greatly abused, looking at Brave New World again today ― which has never been removed and can still be viewed online thanks to undo.net ― it seems to me that the pivotal ideas of the project are still up-to-date. In other words, the multidisciplinary approach in appointing external curators for specific sections, the collaboration between competent artists and technicians to potentiate a particular technological device, and the involvement of (online) users who express themselves freely through their comments.
I therefore consider Brave New World a prototype of my modus operandi: a group project resulted from an insight that tacklesthe available means. In other words, the expression of a tenable curatorship.
*The title Brave Heart World is a pun on brave heart and Brave New World, the noted novel by Aldous Huxley published in 1932 and translated into Italian as Il mondo nuovo (New World).

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

Alessandra Galletta, curator of the Archive 1995 / 1996.

Viafarini\The making of
“Things are borne by necessity and chance.”
(Alighiero Boetti)
On paper, the idea looked like a stroke of genius: to set up an open space for young artists in which to experiment with, archive and communicate their work, far from the laws of a market so often bound up in factors that have nothing to do with quality, talent or experimentation.
But while we were thinking of a space, at last open indistinctly to critics, collectors, intellectuals, both young and established artists, providing them with the chance to meet and exchange ideas, the far-better organised for-profit side of Milan was already outlining its counterattack. Art magazines were forcing their editors and freelance contributors not to review our initiatives; gallerists were asking their artists not to collaborate with an organisation which they looked on as more akin to a social centre than an exhibition space; collectors, while sympathising with us, wouldn’t even dream of investing their money to promote young artists.
And so out first opening events were a bit like clandestine meetings among mutineers: editors and critics turned up at the last minute so as not to be shouted at by their bosses; collectors approached the artists, attempting to deduce from their meagre biographies whether anyone would ever really have given them backing, and the only publications that mentioned our initiatives were the leaflets distributed by Milan City Council in their many offices, mistaking our still hazy idea of a documentation centre of young Italian art for a sort of “art therapy” club. As a consequence, as well as receiving visits from promising young artists with portfolio tucked under arm, we also found ourselves dealing with the many “nutcases” of the city, attracted by our idea of a space open to everyone and to all forms of creativity, including compositions of confetti and Bostik on canvas, jewels made of breadcrumbs, or little heads made of rusty iron wire stuck into bits of cork.
Although our intentions were clear, transparent, open and democratic, and we were at the same time searching for collaborations and links with the unavoidable reality of the Milanese commercial art circuit, we were seen as a suspicious entity, an ambiguous double agent, a threat to the economic interests bound up in contemporary art that reigned in ‘90s Milan. In fact, despite the logic of nonprofit spaces having already been well consolidated in other European cities – and where for decades it had been considered a resource, also for the traditional market of art galleries – in Italy we were treated quite literally as a laughing stock.
We were frowned on as “those who mess around with serious things”, even though I remember that one of the best-known and prestigious galleries even ended up imitating our archive profile form and our portfolio presentation meetings: tools and practices that no private gallery, up until then, had ever taken into consideration.
And yet despite all our uncertainties and naivety, our mistakes and adjustments made once up and running, in Viafarini there was something strong, authentic, necessary, something capable of going beyond the passing fashions, the contingencies and the market forces. However,the sense and reasons behind what we were putting together took time to become clear even to us. But we made a virtue of necessity, and our limitations became our points of strength.
Our first exhibition with well-known artists was curated by Elio Grazioli, who invited a number of artists, then at the height of their success, to display (or rather, to not display) their works in anonymous packaging. While the names of the artists appeared on the invite, all the works were displayed all wrapped up, as if ready to go, or having just arrived, it didn’t matter. They could be bought, but it had to be a blind purchase: only once the work had changed hands could the collector find out who the author of the work just purchased was. Take it or leave it: this paradox – the display of invisible works – served to demonstrate how Viafarini was able to exist even without putting itself on show.
We have often been accused of not acting professionally. However, I believe that in the end this has been all the better for us, for thanks to the fact that we have never taken ourselves too seriously, we have been able to question and reformulate tools and methods taken for granted, adding new services and initiatives to these over time.
Today, 20 years after that unlikely startup, Viafarini has grown into a solid reality, a point of reference, the missing link between contemporary art and the general public, without other forms of mediation but necessity and chance.

Archivio Viafarini (1991-01-01/1991-01-01) by ViafariniViafarini

Milovan Farronato, curator of the Archive from 2005 until 2012.

Handle with Care!
One day a week, around six candidates a day, no way of choosing the background of those who show up, beyond the prior review of their material and a brief reply sent beforehand to make them aware of my first, immediate feedback. These are the basic rules of the game, an outline of the method used in the portfolio review that I did at the Archive of Careof and Viafarini for more than five years.
The democracy of the Archive, which may include materials by any artist who demonstrates and documents their desire to approach art professionally, never allowed me to choose the artists with whom I would have to interact. Of course, this didn’t stop me from sending special invitations to some, who after reviewing their material, I decided it was worth having a face-to-face meeting to explore, clarify and understand in detail the motivations and process of the work shown. We could go on another digression about the material presented. We consciously decided to avoid formulating requests based on the amount and quality of paper and/or digital documentation offered.
We did not want to orchestrate a standard protocol according to which the artist to be archived (or in the process of being archived) had to present first a CV, a statement, a chronological sequence of works and projects underway, and then a selection of press mentions, if available.
We opted instead for the freedom of expression and self-presentation ac-cording to the ways that best suited the individual’s qualities, while still aware that, from that point on, the archived material would be open to a wider public with varying levels and types of interest, professional aims, and capacities for critical interpretation. Gallerists, critics, students and companies looking for collaborations were to be some of the most frequent users of their portfolios, handed in and organised however the artists saw fit. The obvious upshot is the great sea of papers bound together or placed in storage. Loose papers in a generic plastic folder. Various boxes full of all kinds of souvenirs including original works by artists who are long-established or far from common renown; projects that never took off, dreams, hypotheses… And much more, including surprising bits of organic matter, real or pseudo! Yet, it was all homogenised by Viafarini’s staff by immersing the material in that very standard categorisation, like in a registry office, with folders in lightweight paperboard in pale shades of green, blue or yellow, such delicate tones to make them already look old, faded by the sun and time. From the artists who, with varying tones of calm or anxiety, showed me the documentation of their work, eager to make me participant in their perspective, their ways of seeing things, their visions… I most appreciated silences and awareness, whereas those overused pat words and phrases always inculcated a general sense of annoyance in me and potential
aggression, which always stayed repressed.
Young artists are creatures to “handle with care”! This was clear to me from the start. I never thought that my role as a consultant and possible motivator entailed any kind of divining ability. There are two comments that I would often end up making and they were completely antithetical. Perhaps it is because of my own bi-polar nature or because in both cases I wanted to suggest experimentation coupled with their acquiring a greater poetical awareness. At any rate, for those who showed me a trajectory that was too complete, given their young age and little experience, I suggested trying out other paths, other possibilities of expression, other forms… Sure that only after going through this kind of hard work they could return to their previous path with more rational firmness, or else arrive elsewhere with a similar degree of earned maturity. On the other hand, for those who showed a dynamism that we could call parsimonious, varied and anomalous, I suggested focusing, choosing the best projects, the most acute insights, and making them flower, giving them power, experiencing them through and through. In essence, I tried to pit concentration against dispersion. The Portfolio Review was the origin of exhibitions and collaborations both inside and outside Viafarini. It would be hard to give a comprehensive history here, to tell how and how much the review of these materials, their updating and the often ongoing relationship with the artists led to opportunities for public dialogue. This platform was certainly the incubator of a number of exhibitions, including the group shows, Thin Line, Re-Enacted Painting and Il Raccolto d’autunno è stato abbondante (the latter with Chiara Angello, who shared with me the burdens and delights of the Portfolio Review).
In the first show, I chose to separate out and regroup a varied generation of artists. It was an exhibition in four phases with three artists each. In the other two shows, I chose to form a work group of about fifteen artists, chosen, of course, from the archive, for a kind of “reality show”, and set up with them a weekly rendezvous to define synergies and suggestions, the concept and aims of the show. They were made participants and protagonists in the selection of works their organisation in the space. This dialogue had moments of fierce debate and conflict for Re-Enacted, but was done peacefully for Il Raccolto d’autunno è stato abbondante. One theory to explain these different attitudes may lie in the greater generosity of the newest generation of Italian artists, whohavemoved beyond the rancour and generic disputes that are often pointless, or at any rate work at odds with healthy dialogue.
The group shows were often followed by solo shows, like those for Nico Vascellari, Sergio Breviario and Giulio Frigo. But if I had to conserve one single image as the memory of this hectic activity, I would choose Enza Galantini, one of the many artists that I met and with which a kind of unofficial weekly protocol of updates began. Enza would ask for an appointment, but she often had to wait a while because precedence was always given to those asking for their first appointment. Then, she would show me her new projects, wait for my feedback and then sometimes question it, while at other times she would be more accepting. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard from her in a while…

Negus (set photo) (2011-01-01/2016-01-01) by Invernomuto (Simone Bertuzzi, Simone Trabucchi, since 2003)Viafarini

Simone Frangi, curator of the Archive from 2012 until 2017.

Based on an alternative pedagogy of a critical and transdisciplinary nature, Viafarini educational program aims to focus on cultural practices as platforms capable of investigating and generating contemporary problatics. The program favors a horizontal and collective educational space and conceives knowledge as a concrete form linked to "doing" and "exchange", maintaining artistic research and learning through practice as a privileged point of view.

The topics investigated:
_ image theory, moving images, film culture;
_ archival approaches and memory construction;
_ participatory practices, public space;
_ politics and society, contemporary history, economic flows and capitalist dynamics;
_ migration, nomadism, geopolitical issues, post-colonialism;
_ post-digital culture;
_ scientific imaginaries, processes of transformation of matter;
_ performativity, performative practices, sonic research;
_ activism, social practices, resistance practices;
_ popular culture, rural culture, countercultures;
_ rituality, anthropology of religion;
_ queer politics, gender studies, feminism, identity policies.

Cuckoo (2006-01-01/2006-01-01) by Nico VascellariViafarini

Angela Vettese, Honorary President of Viafarini.

Viafarini has been the experimental Kunsthalle that Milan never had and still doesn’t have.

A place where artists can go and talk to a critic without this being a humiliating experience.

A place where an artist in search of information can find out about how to apply for study grants abroad.

A place where a student can go and study books and catalogues that cannot be found in any other public library in Italy, purchased year after year and dutifully archived.

A place where it is understood what it means for a young artist to learn how to display his/her work; in certain cases – such as that of Margherita Manzelli – leading to memorable solo shows, while in others – such as the Transatlatico series, the general rehearsal for the Via Fiuggi group – in group shows that have marked the beginning of an era, not to mention the presence of such figures as Alberto Garutti and Giacinto Di Pietrantonio.

A place that has never shied away from dealing with training projects and which, therefore, has given space over the years to exhibitions by students from the Academy, end of course exhibitions by students of the Fondazione Antonio Ratti, and end of year exhibitions by the occupants of the Bevilacqua La Masa ateliers in Venice.

A place where young Italian artists, almost always too little known for a curator (especially if from abroad) to visit their studios, have been catalogued on paper and – in many cases – also online through the Italianarea website. Whoever says that it’s hard to get information about Italian artists is not being honest, or is unaware of this resource.

A place that has learnt to cope with forms of financing not based on the sale of works but on contributions, striving to make the best possible use of the money provided by public bodies and banking foundations. Working in this fashion is tiring, yet it is the only way that makes it possible not to sink to compromises when dealing with young artists without a guaranteed market.

A place that has been frequented by the best Italian curators, be it only to write a text, and which continues to be a training ground for many. Not everyone knows that a lot of support has come from Maurizio Cattelan, that Vanessa Beecroft worked here as an assistant, that many curators and artists of the most recent generations also made their first debut right here. Economists of art such as Pierluigi Sacco, stylists such as Martin Margiela, architects such as Stefano Boeri passed through here before going on to become points of reference and have set the tone for a deliberately interdisciplinary approach to looking at contemporary art.

A place where the protagonists are often changed, always putting people behind the desk who are young enough to not yet be living legends, and thus guaranteeing a frequent renewal of ideas (regardless of the permanence of the director at any given time).

A place that has had the courage to understand that in a globalised world, people’s way of travelling has changed. People don’t necessarily move abroad for long periods of time.
Yet people need to work, for brief periods – from a month to a year – in a different place, and this led to the decision to create a residence project for artists, for whom the historical exhibition venue has been made available.

A place that has understood that there is no point merely giving a home to young Italians, because this kind of closure – like that of the feminist circles that excluded men – would have generated diffidence and a lack of interest in the long run. This is why we find exhibitions like that on young English artists, curated by Emi Fontana, long before the YBI rose to fame; the two solo shows by Mona Hatoum and Tobias Rehberger that I curated myself; the solo show by Rosemarie Troeckel; the solo shows by Katharina Grosse and Valentin Carron curated by Milovan Farronato; the workshops with Vito Acconci and Jimmie Durham... In other words, all these different activities aimed at the international world of art, often also very quick off the mark in the choice of names, have given the place its own special brand, ensuring that having the name Viafarini on one’s curriculum really does mean something.

A place that has been ostracised and envied by magazines and galleries, simply because none of them could muster the flexibility to move on so many different levels.

A place where none of those who have contributed to the artistic programming have ever really been paid. The enthusiasm with which people have worked here shows just how much the space has been able to communicate its own ideal values. The secret? Learning costs. At Viafarini we have been able to make mistakes free of charge. We’ve had a place – both in physical and moral terms – made up of relationships, information, artworks and people.

Happily stable and dynamic, Viafarini has been and is, above all, a place.

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