Marta Roberti questions the ‘productive rational’ through her seminal works

Visions in the Making artist works with carbon paper and hand-drawn video animation to explore the opposite to popular western culture, at the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, Delhi.

by Rahul Kumar Published on : Mar 25, 2020

The works of Marta Roberti are often drawings, hand-drawn video animation projections on paper, and hand drawn fibre that is occasionally mixed with other media for a broader installation. Roberti has developed a drawing technique for her hand-drawn video animation. “I needed to find ways to simplify the process of repetition of the drawing for the slow motion, and this led to my discovery to work with carbon paper,” she adds. Her visual and theoretical research explores figures, places, and practices that question the ‘rationalist productive’ model. “My effort is to find in what western culture refuses, by considering it as its opposite,” says Roberti. Her quest is an ongoing exploration through alternative figurations that express the contradictions between what we personally experience and what our culture claims to be and in how it represents us to ourselves.

STIR speaks to the artist at her group show titled Visions in the Making, at the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, New Delhi, co-curated by Myna Mukherjee and Davide Quadro.

The big PÌ, drawing engraved on carbon-paper | Visions in the making | Marta Roberti | STIRworld
The big PÌ, drawing engraved on carbon-paper Image Credit: Giorgio Benni

Rahul Kumar (RK): How are you challenging the ‘rationalist productive’ model through your work? Please share details of your research on this subject.

Marta Roberti (MR): In the western culture there is an ideal pattern that we set as a ‘purpose’ and we act to translate it into facts trying to avoid accidentality. Instead, I let casualty penetrate my work in a stochastic way. This is just one of the many ways I am challenging a rationalist model. I never feel too much attached to a project or an idea; I would rather just start doing something without really knowing where I am going, but I can feel something is pushing to become a form. This can be frustrating when it comes to explaining to someone what you are working on. For example, I have recently been watching YouTube videos about bulls, because I was fascinated by the story of the kidnapping of Europa by Jupiter, who took the shape of a white bull. Then, I found myself editing videos of white bulls I found ‘by chance’ on the web; at the moment, I am creating a narration that I don’t know where it is going, and whether it is still referring to the Europa myth.

The rationalist model is based on the principle of non-contradiction. It operates as a linear and logical cause-effect sequence to get to something stable. When I was studying Chinese Taoism at the University, for the first time I met a paradoxical philosophy, in which A can be A and B at the same time, and where the idea is not coming before its realisation, but rather there is a process considered. I think my mental processes and way of working are more connected to the Taoist paradoxical way. I do not usually give a finished shape to an installation or a drawing; they are composed in an assemblage which can be rebuilt in a different way for another installation.

07 min watch SARA' STATO (It Will Have Been) | Visions in the Making | Marta Roberti | STIRworld
SARA' STATO (It Will Have Been) Video Credit: Directed, animated and edited by Marta Roberti

RK: Why is your quest to investigate the ‘other’ in context of western culture? And, in the process, how has your work illustrated the contradictions between what we experience and what is meant to represent us?

MR: My interest in the ‘other’ of western cultures probably comes from a personal attitude I have had since I was a little girl. I have always been attracted to people that my family considered as untrustworthy and scary. This attitude was probably a quest around ‘what does it mean to be human as someone is considered more human than others’. Later, I studied philosophy in Verona, where many feminist philosophers were teaching and they taught me to be wary about the purported neutrality of the language. What we call ‘human’ is very much a male of the species, white, urbanised, and speaking a standard language; also, they taught me to be connected to my personal experiences. Mass media tell us who we are, what we need and feel. As a side effect, this creates an outer wild body, which cannot be integrated with the social norms. To be honest, what makes me an artist is the strong and painful feeling I have always had just for being alive. Quoting (Ludwig) Wittgenstein, “The fact that the world exists is far more amazing than any how the world exists”.

  • Marta Roberti | Visions in the making | STIRworld
    Marta Roberti Image Credit: Marta Roberti
  • The ground rises to the surface, without ceasing to be the ground (mangrove with flying Marabu) | Visions in the making | Marta Roberti | STIRworld
    The ground rises to the surface, without ceasing to be the ground (mangrove with flying Marabu) Image Credit: Marta Roberti

RK: Carbon paper is traditionally used to create a copy. But you have used it to make your ‘original’ works with it. Are there metaphors at play here?

MR: I began using copy paper because I was working with hand-drawn video animation. In that kind of works, I have always reproduced both the figures and the landscape and the copy paper allowed me to make landscapes vibrating and alive. Only later I realised the strong conceptual power of the medium itself, and then I began working on this idea.

Natural Assemblage 1 | Visions in the making | Marta Roberti | STIRworld
Natural Assemblage 1 Image Credit: Giorgio Benni

RK: Please illustrate taking an example from your recent series, how depicting images from nature showcase the quest for identity for you?

MR: The forest is the archetype for chaos and insecurity, the place of dance and unbridled orgy. The city was built to oust the forest ‘mess’. Forest is composed of roots, twisted branches creating inextricable labyrinths. I don't know why this impersonal and shapeless place fascinates me, perhaps because it is telling me that a human life has a non-human meaning!

The ground raises to the surface, without ceasing to be the ground (mangrove 1) | Visions in the making | Marta Roberti | STIRworld
The ground raises to the surface, without ceasing to be the ground (mangrove 1) Image Credit: Giorgio Benni

RK: Please share your experience of culture and contradictions form your travels across Rome, China, Taiwan, and India.

MR: Probably, when I was travelling and living in Asia I was under the fascination of cultures that developed techniques to use and improve the energies that experimental science cannot know with its instruments, but that we can only know through the experience. 

Paradise Lust (Eden Map 1) | Visions in the making | Marta Roberti | STIRworld
Paradise Lust (Eden Map 1) Image Credit: Giorgio Benni

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About Author

Rahul Kumar

Rahul Kumar

Having switched from corporate consulting after almost twenty years, Rahul now practices as a ceramic artist. Besides exhibiting in shows, he also teaches and curates programmes. His passion for arts has led him to write regularly for various leading journals, and with STIR, his roles extends to that of putting together the arts section.

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