To touch, to tap, to get in contact with, to feel proximity, to hold hands, to heal from the abyss of worries, doubts, fears and frights; at present time the contemporaneity is wrapped in cold shadows and blinded by the light that pierces not only windows, but also the hopes of a humanity that is losing its primary attribute. Hence, the desire to live the other has never been as strong as today. Since the beginning of time, human beings have learned to build to provide safety, they have created to communicate, and they have acted to be found by the others; thus, they have not generated all of the things to remain behind the smoke screen. In these difficult times, technology helps to shorten distances, it fights more than an invisible enemy and it projects into territories with indefinite contours where horizons seem to disappear; possibilities overlap, piling up on each other and the meeting fades into the melancholy of the ephemerality. Do we all dream in drowsiness or do we live in a disturbing and troubled reality? Therefore, the Roman collective NONE sheds light on digital possibilities, in this daydream that seems to have no end. Since 2013 NONE has been exploring the liminal space where technology meets the human, appearance and materiality blend and the copper chimera finally awakens from its artificial sleep.
1 – The name NONE, which you have chosen as a collective, emphasizes characteristics such as privacy and anonymity; it is not by coincidence that it recalls the story of Ulysses. Hence, why did you choose this name? What lies behind it and what does it imply in relation to the public?
Well, nobody is our name; we sign our works and our research in the shoes of everyone and nobody at the same time. The collective includes me, Saverio Villirillo, Gregorio De Luca Comandini, Mauro Pace and many other people, such as collaborators, assistants, professionals, friends, companions: everyone and nobody. We chose it because we believe that it does not matter who you are and where you come from; instead, it is relevant what you do and how you do it. Our purpose is to free man from the chains of his limited experience and to exceed the knowledge of the moment, as it happens in Plato’s myth of the cave. Our works are real environments in which the physical presence of the public and the interaction with technology are required. In this way it is possible to generate a strong link between the installation and the senses of the public user: a pure interaction with one’s memory, consciousness, knowledge, and awareness.
© NONE collective, J3RR1 a planned torture, 2018.
2 – One of your most recent exhibitions, “There is no wind on the moon”, had the Contemporary Cluster of Rome as its stage. How was this experience? Especially, how did you connect to the specificity of the gallery’s hybrid spaces in relation to their strong openness and interrelation?
Among other things, the exhibition was inaugurated at the beginning of the pandemic and, if I do not mistake, it remained open for two or at most three days, then everything was blocked. The gallery space is very suggestive and unusual for hosting a multidimensional installation; in fact, we could set up an entire room having the opportunity to completely isolate sources of light and external sounds. Moreover, due to the surveys and the weeks prior to the inauguration, we could design all the elements to be inserted within the space, establishing a strong relationship with the pre-existing architecture. We will experience the exhibition path on our return from this longshared journey.
3 – How Will We Live Together? will be the theme addressed by the next Biennale of Architecture in Venice. According to it, how do you think it is possible to “live together”? What does collaboration and interaction mean to you? How do you experience these aspects within your artistic work?
Surely this phase of our lives will help us to trace new possible paths. In pre-isolation times, we wondered how much digital could distance people from reality and authentic relationships. Our research was based exactly on this matter: the interaction between man and machine. We have literally become a substitute of ourselves to obtain a daily satisfaction that right now, during isolation, we realize as incomplete and imperfect. Nowadays, contact has become for everybody the only place to desire and to experience. This total blockade status pushes the exploration of new scenarios that will take all sorts of forms. Meanwhile, we enjoy this stress test.
© NONE collective & Contemporary Cluster, Mosaico Contemporary Cluster, Rome, 2020.
4 – In the digital reality, technology is the absolute protagonist, as it is in your art. What are the terms of coexistence between human beings and technological data and what kind of relationship is established between them? What is the product generated by the hybridization between human relationships and digital connections?
Good question! As we previously mentioned, this is precisely the goal of our research. Everything that is touched, that is listened to and that is watched today is mostly technological. I would say that technology is an essential part of human evolution. However, as in all the relationships, awareness, a balance of doses, investigation, information, research, and experimentation are needed. At present, it is evident that digital connection cannot completely replace the humans’ links, but it becomes a tool to be used alongside actual daily relationships.
5 – Identity, consciousness, memory, imagination, illusion, nature, and artifice are just some of the themes on which your artistic research focuses on. What do you think is one of the recurring and priority issues to bring to the center of the debate?
Probably vision is an aspect that unites everything: it is current and necessary today. Always being conscious and vigilant, we organized a Jam Session of our project SIMPOSIO on March 13/14 in our studio. Together with a group of participants, we were ready to meet to envision practical solutions and future scenarios. The session was called shelters after the apocalypse and, although it has been suspended, we are sure that everyone is working in their shelter to then meet and create real scenarios and visions.
© Cristina Vatielli – NONE collective, DEEPDREAM – Digitalife, 2016.
6 – What is your relationship with architecture and how do you relate to it? What is the game of interaction and symbiosis that is grafted between the different fields of artistic practice?
Architecture is a place that welcomes man in a global sensory dimension. It responds to demands and needs. Our installations put the participants in front of an unexpected place, with which they relate, which attracts and alienates them at the same time. They are supposed to be places that generate fascination and knowledge.
7 – Taking a dip in the past, let us talk about origins. What were yours? And what has your evolution been over time?
Origin, training paths and distinct experiences constitute the basis of our identity. I, an explorer of every form and composition of the image, met Mauro, a technological researcher and a detail freak, at the university; a collaboration and the first productions were immediately born. We carried out projects of different nature and shapes but always experimenting with techniques and contents. During one of these works, we met Gregorio, an architect and sound artist. All three of us recognized some similarities and the potential of our union. Tired of only answering questions from agencies, briefs, communication needs for their own sake, in 2014 we began a long journey of artistic and motivational research as well as the development of transmedia projects with the aim of interpreting the contemporary condition of living in a digital society. Thus, the NONE collective was born.
© NONE collective, Fresa 1.
8 – Still recalling past events, how much did the experimentation in the context of Digital Life at Macro Testaccio in Rome in 2016 have influenced you?
Wow, that was the common exclamation of all the participants upon entering DEEP DREAM. I would say that it has left us a lot of enthusiasm and a great satisfaction. That work is still very topical. It reveals the present of our digital life, the cyberspace and then the theme of privacy. We produced this immense system of technique and scenography, a selfie machine so direct and alienating that people could loose their orientation due to all those mirrors; in addition, it was able to explore reactions and to investigate the collective memory we are building as well as the criticality of the man-machine relationship.
© Cristina Vatielli – NONE collective, DEEPDREAM – Digitalife, 2016.
9 – Contemporaneity, history, society,
technology, and humanity: what is the red thread connecting these words?
Might it be love? No, I am kidding. The answer is evolution: rapid, constant, effective, dystopian, utopian, necessary, traceable.
10 – Lately the global situation of quarantine has emphasized the need to search and interact with the other and, therefore, the call of “living together”. Do you think it is possible, in the shrinking state of isolation, to be able to find the other? How do you think the pandemic will change the reality of human relationships regarding the increasing use of semi-telepresence technologies, such as video calls? And what will this entail in living together?
This is a very subjective question, so I will give a personal answer. Together with Covid19, I am also experiencing the growth of my daughter Mira, born a few months ago. I decided on time to isolate in a family home in the detached Umbrian countryside, following the instinct of total protection. Each day is different from the other, no program and no specific order: a whole becoming… a study of the magnificence of human life I would say. Like everyone else, I follow everything from distance, I look for contacts and interactions with friends and family on LEDs animated by mosaics of faces. This virtual relationship is balanced by the real interaction with nature, silence, and the open space with fresh air. I think a change is taking place at a speed never recorded before; it is a severe test that must somehow rearrange the scale of individual and collective values of relationships and society. We regain possession of our body, mind, and spirit; we arrange memory, thoughts and we leave empty spaces that will be filled in the future collective life. A place without borders is so reachable in a virtually short time, at the moment, now, that all the time we have wished it to become live, real, physical, in the future will give us a new awareness.
© NONE collective, 6_sjs_07.
11 – Taking into consideration future visions, what are your solutions and programs for tomorrow?
In practice, our field is frozen; there are some interesting online initiatives acting in the most disparate ways but the gap concerning the physical place collectively lived and the real interaction between individuals cannot be simulated or replaced in any way. We listen, we elaborate, we wait, we explore, we study. We are probably reinventing ourselves as well, we let flow and we complete the great collective show though the elaboration of practices of all kinds for a post-human present.
Translated into English by Elisa Goi.