#ListeAsks Milovan Farronato, Director and Curator, Fiorucci Art Trust, London

Milovan Farronato, Credit: Daniele de Carolis
Milovan Farronato, Credit: Daniele de Carolis

As you won’t be in Basel this June, what are you doing instead?
I believe I will remain in this state of resilience for a little bit longer. I need an “extended” time to find the curve in the straight line, and the straight line in the curve. The ideology of the arrival seems still quite distant to me.

What is something that you never thought would happen but that has now happened as a result of the lockdown?
I developed a sense of rootedness, which is something I thought I had lost. I felt a proximity with the surrounding landscape, a sense of closeness with people who were geographically near me. “I will go where I don’t belong” was the title of the 2016 iteration of Volcano Extravaganza—the yearly performative festival organised by the Fiorucci Art Trust in Stromboli, Italy, and co-curated, on that occasion, by Camille Henrot—as well as a zeitgeist, a leitmotiv and life spirit for many years. With the announcement of the quarantine, I felt the urge to return to my roots and home in Milan, to share the same atmospheric conditions of my affective relationships and somehow to start again from the beginning.

In what ways has the current state of uncertainty and unpredictability changed your attitude or approach towards curating?
I don’t think my approach has undergone a radical shift. I experimented with different online platforms, especially with Zoom, where, with a group of artists and friends, we started a play—a weekend stage for artistic and domestic investigation: our own version of Jerzy Grotowski’s poor theatre. During our digital performances, some of my closest friends transformed into performers, with the blessing of the artists taking part in the project, as well as from our private public. We ended up recreating a DIY play while maintaining all the essential roles of a theatre company, such as the stage director and the costume and set designers. We also had a theatre historian lecturing for us.

Yet, my curatorial approach has remained similar to how I operated previously. For me, idle time has always been key for creative growth. In the end, some of these experiments become the bases for unpredictable outcomes. In a way, this is how Nicoletta Fiorucci Russo, founder of Fiorucci Art Trust, and I created the Volcano Extravaganza festival. Over the years it went from being an informal festival and residency project into a structured yearly gathering of international crowds that stretches from Stromboli to surrounding sites, creating links and collaborations with other institutions such as MADRE in Naples and the Dhaka Art Summit. The same goes for my online experiments, which were born as a playful divertissement and are now transforming into something else. It is important to adapt and find another language, a new mode of expression.

What kinds of actions do you think are most needed and/or most effective in supporting young artists during the current situation?
The most needed actions are perhaps those that support small organisations and realities which are committed to supporting emerging figures. This is a mission that has been constantly pursued by Nicoletta Fiorucci Russo, who currently, between the others, keeps sustaining non-profit spaces, like Ordet in Milan, as well as museums, such as Castello di Rivoli in Turin.

As an institution, we have worked more closely with SAGG Napoli, transporting her original project for Lezioni d’Italiano—a series of artist-led lecture-performances around the theme of Italian-ness—into the digital. For the occasion, a full deck of Neapolitan cards, with SAGG’s own motives and aesthetics, was redesigned by the artist in collaboration with graphic designer Jane Donna.

Recently, we have also supported two Italian projects which operate internationally: Castro Projects, a studio and research space in Rome for Italian and foreign artists, curators and researchers, and Lo schermo dell’arte, which focuses on promoting moving image works. More internationally, we supported “Poetry saved my life”, an artistic collaboration between Alex Cecchetti and Thanks for Nothing. The project aims to protect women’s right during the pandemic and beyond, with the full proceeds going to two associations: La Maison de Femme in France and Dire Contro la Violenza in Italy. We also supported the Rapid Response Fund by the Contemporary Art Society, with the aim of sustaining UK artists and museums in this difficult time.

How can younger and less established galleries that are representing emerging and yet-to-be-discovered artists approach you as a curator in a time of online-only exhibitions, fairs, etc.?
In the dominium of the eye, perhaps it is important to bear in mind all the senses and explore a more personal way of communicating, like poetry. In the past few weeks, as our rooms became our world, we have been hyper-stimulated, mostly visually, on online platforms. I personally found interesting some projects investigating more in-depth exposure, allowing the viewer to pause, look closer at the brush strokes and linger with the artist’s imagination from a more intimate perspective.

Have you discovered any new artist during the lockdown?
Rather than discovering new artists, I have constantly kept in touch, on a daily basis, with all the artists—such as Alex Cecchetti, Enrico David, Camille Henrot, Patrizio Di Massimo, Goshka Macuga, Daniele Milvio, Liliana Moro, Paulina Olowska, Mathilde Rosier and Prem Sahib—that were already part of my everyday life. In these moments of apparent inactivity, there are also certain frugal ideas and conversations, like one I had with Anna Boghiguian, Celia Hempton, Lucy McKenzie, Nick Mauss and Riccardo Paratore, which investigate without the intention to become a project but are still equally meaningful and fertile.

During our weekend theatre rehearsal, I had also the opportunity to experiment with artists I hadn’t been working with, but with whom I already had a conversation, such as Haris Epaminonda. The same could be said for Sissi: a long-time friend and companion, and a relationship that reemerged fresher than ever. However, most of all during this period I have been intensely in contact with the memory and spirit of my dearest friend Chiara Fumai in virtue of the upcoming exhibition “Poems I will Never Release”, which will open at the Centre d'Art Contemporain in Geneva on 3 November 2020. 

Can you tell us about one of the very first artists you discovered at Liste and how they’ve become important to or played a role in your curatorial practice?
Many artists come to mind. Jessica Warboys, for example, was one of the first artists to be invited, back in 2011, to Stromboli and experiment with the natural surroundings. She immersed her large canvases in the dark Tyrrhenian Sea, where the unpredictable movements of the wind and the waves acted as performers in this combinatory ritual of creation. Nicoletta and I also met Zoë Paul for the first time while visiting Liste, where she was with the gallery The Breeder. She was absorbed working with some object trouvé, threading a yarn through some old refrigerator grills. Since then, she has become a close friend. More recently, she was invited to create a “second skin” for Fiorucci Art Trust: Every year we commission an artist to create an overwhelming and atmospheric intervention for our London headquarters. At Liste, we also met Maria Loboda who, in 2019, became the artistic leader of “Death”, the ninth edition of Volcano Extravaganza, which, that year, started in Stromboli and then moved to the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

A photo that for Milovan Farronato represents the current moment: "A storm approaching on the sky of Milan, seen by the only access to the world I had during the lockdown. As Tarkovsky used to say, 'the reality is atmospheric', and this was the perfect example of the dark times that have been surrounding us for the past few months.", Credit: Milovan Farronato
A photo that for Milovan Farronato represents the current moment: "A storm approaching on the sky of Milan, seen by the only access to the world I had during the lockdown. As Tarkovsky used to say, 'the reality is atmospheric', and this was the perfect example of the dark times that have been surrounding us for the past few months.", Credit: Milovan Farronato