by Rahul KumarMar 25, 2020
How may one react to the written text that runs across the length of a winding street? The text depicting stories relevant to the context of the place, out in the open for the public at-large to read and engage with. Such is the practice of Stefania Galegati, a multi-disciplinary artist based in Italy. And in an even more unique project, Galegati is bringing together three-lakh and fifty-thousand women to co-own an entire island! “We loved the idea to use a capitalistic instrument to do such a revolutionary project. We had a year long period of research and discussion on the project and its narratives. In January 2020, we signed the association called Femminote,” she explains.
STIR speaks to Galegati about this project and her overall practice on the sidelines of her exhibit, along with the works of five other artists in a group show, titled Visions in the making, co-curated by Myna Mukherjee and Davide Quadrio, hosted by Italian Embassy Cultural Centre. The event was held parallel to India Art Fair 2020 (January 30–February 28, 2020).
Rahul Kumar (RK): Your practice is multi-disciplinary. What is at the core of your artistic engagement?
Stefania Galegati (SG): My art teacher used to pose me that question! And even after 25 years of practicing art, I still find it difficult to identify a single core. I have always been looking at the back of things, the hidden parts, the magic that moves the machine, the mistakes, the leftovers, the holes. That allows me to operate with a critical freedom where multi-disciplinary practices do not need to be explained and where moving through different disciplines is a consequence and not a cause. The concepts, feelings and technical choices always go together like the body, the soul and the brain. Probably, for me, the core is not to have a core, not to look for a clear objective or task. Pushing the failures and the mistakes can open to a lot more possibilities and help change perspective on things.
RK: How do you decide on the format you choose for a particular work? For instance, ‘Different stories on the street’, you wrote running text on the streets over several hundred meters. What was the objective of this intervention and how was it received?
SG: I actually do not know…it comes out while I think or start the work, I can hardly separate the idea from the medium. The writings on the streets started while I was thinking about the idea of a story that accompany you while you walk. Initially, it was a sound system that I would take on a walk, but then I do not remember how it transformed to written words. I remember thinking about a specific book that I read in a specific place and how the two things interacted. Every one of the works that I have done (actually I am going to paint one tonight at a hospital in Palermo) are very connected to the place that host them so that the story eradicates in its context. For example, the bicycle path on the Po river, with a story about that river and the flatland feelings; one in Genova about a Jew-fascist couple that lived there; a collective text on ways of saying about falling on a street that lays on top of a 40m. abyss in Rome, or the prayer/mantra about cancer that I am going to write tonight at a hospital. For most of them I commissioned the text to local writers like Rosa Matteucci, Paolo Roversi and Giuseppina Torregrossa.
RK: In your ongoing project, Isola Delle Femmine, what are your objectives and process that you have employed? It seems unique and bizarre at the same time to ‘acquire an island with ownership of 3.5 lakh women’. Please share details of this engagement.
SG: Yes, acquiring an island as an artwork is unique and bizarre. It started two years ago with Valentina Greco, a friend of mine, telling me she had an idea: she wanted to encroach the Female Island. We got so excited that we decided to actually do it. Female Island is an actual island in front of the coast between Palermo and the airport in Italy. It is an out-post. And then one day, we saw that the island was for sale through a website of the broker agent. We loved the idea to purchase it. It was for sale for 3,500,000 euros, so we divided for 10 € quotes per head. It came out that we only needed 3,50,000 women to buy it. We loved the idea to use a capitalistic instrument to do such a revolutionary project. We had a year long period of research and discussion on the project and its narratives. In January 2020, we signed the association called Femminote. We are three founders, Valentina, Claudia and I, with the collaboration of Marcela. The association's only task is to buy the island and each of us work individually to spread the word.
In 2018, I started a series of paintings, like portraits of the Island, on different materials, mostly found, like pieces of furniture, or fabrics. In the background of each painting I am rewriting text from a book titled The Second Sex, by Simone De Beauvoir. It is a sort of encyclopedia of feminism that I am reading while I am writing it. I am now at page 180 out of 800 pages. It is a sort of outing of my personal decolonisation from patriarchy. And above all, it is a practice that allows me to paint and read and write, daily. The writing itself becomes a texture of the painting while reflecting on feminism.
RK: There is a thin line between feminism and equality. What and how in your outlook your practices focus on this ideology?
SG: I personally do not think that feminism should concern equality but should fight for equal rights, within the differences. Society always tend to group identities, black/white, men/women, western/the rest, straight/gay...but the interstices between the groups are that interesting place where we can really do something. The Female Island project uses the name of the island to inspire a big collective women action. Excluding men has been a very big issue for somebody that took it as a provocation, and well, there are countries where women cannot own any land, still.