Hi, I'm Francesco, can you hear me well? I just turned down a Skype call, they shouldn't bother us for a while. " Thus began the interview with Francesco Vezzoli, from Brescia from home in New York, 45 years old. He has the air and courtesy of a kind neighbor, from whom you could ask for some sugar if needed. Instead he is one of the best known Italian artists and considered abroad.
The occasion for this chat, as he calls it, is TV 70. Francesco Vezzoli watches Rai, the exhibition that opens at the Prada Foundation of Milan on 9 May and which will last until 24 September. It is a project conceived by Vezzoli, realized with the collaboration of Rai, which mixes works by artists such as Alighiero Boetti, Lisetta Carmi, Elisabetta Catalano, with clips of news and television shows of the time.
Television has always been present in his works."It is true. Television is a common thread of my childhood. I was a strange child: my grandmothers loved the films of the director Raffaello Matarazzo, very popular in the 50s, and the hairstyles of Grace Kelly, my parents explained to me the difference between PCI and PDUP.
At 5 I was in Rimini, on the beach, between La Repubblica and Novella 2000. At that time, television was a perfect two-faced Janus: it gave you information, which was very hard at the time, it was the years of terrorism, which I continue to call civil war, but at the same time Rai entertained you and kept the nation's morale up. Within the exhibition we have tried to return these aspects. In those years, Rai gave us a lot, even when its offer was frivolous. It was almost like a Marilyn Monroe entertaining the troops at the front. '
And they were shows of the highest level."We dedicated a room to Milleluci, because the idea of two women conductors, Mina and Raffaella Carrà, without a man, was a bit of a pop mirror of the legitimate claims of female identities. The product was of quality from a show point of view, but in my opinion it was also profoundly avant-garde: the equivalent of a French or American show was absolutely not up to it either from a point of view of visual elegance or from that of ideological courage.
In the only interview David Letterman gave after leaving his current affairs talk show, the American host said he was amazed that no one has yet given the lead to a woman. We in Italy in 1978 had Adriana Asti leading Under the sofa, so who wins? I have dedicated two rooms to two Italian photographers, Lisetta Carmi and Elisabetta Catalano. The first is known for a beautiful work on transvestites of the time, the second was the portraitist of the divas and photographed on the sets of Federico Fellini. I call the room dedicated to Lisetta of the coveted femininity, while that of Catalano is of exhibited femininity. Carmi's work on transvestites is unique and I consider it almost a metaphor of what I want to tell in this exhibition, namely that Rai in that period produced radical, daring programs, experimenting much more than in other countries. Lisetta was the first postwar photographer who focused on transgender issues, with a sensitive and respectful eye. Hers is an idea of gentle, friendly access. A fact that may surprise and that instead shows how Italy was ahead of other countries ".
Maybe we Italians are not aware of our value?«I hope that the exhibition will help to understand the greatness of what was done in that period and of this historical heritage. This applies to the deposits of our museums: we have a surplus of works. The exhibition was a unique opportunity for me to contextualize all this material in a place, the Prada Foundation, where excellence is presented. I am very happy with the opportunity I had."
In your opinion, what sense can this exhibition have for a 20-year-old?"There is a part on civil rights, especially on feminist battles, which I think is" readable "even by a millennial, who understands that someone has fought, before him, to obtain the right to sexuality, to freedom. The ideological nuances will perhaps be more difficult to grasp, but art must not give you answers, it must ask questions ".
Vezzoli, in this exhibition you seem to play the role of the curator, rather than the artist.«No, let's not joke. I am not a curator, it is a profession that is not mine. Let's say I was a pastry chef. The exhibition is a gigantic wedding cake, the marriage is between the Prada Foundation and Rai, the cake has many floors and many flavors. There may be the risk of indigestion, but also of great fun. I'm not saying this to pretend to be modest: I simply can't compare myself to those who care for biennials. I like being a connector of situations. The idea of bringing the Prada Foundation and Rai together is the only thing I can really feel proud of. It should have occurred to someone from Tate and the BBC in the UK, but it didn't happen. '
And once again the Italians are better."Not only that: the BBC was very boring"