Extending the Continuum from Traditional to Intermedia Art.
Davide Grassi was born in Italy in 1970. In 1994 he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. The following year he moved to Ljubljana, Slovenia where he is still based. His artwork investigates the possibilities offered by new media, while maintaining a strong connection with society and its dilemmas
On first viewing Davide Grassi’s multi-media presentations one is tempted to ask the question: is this art? His work is certainly entertaining, thought-provoking, political and at times downright disturbing, arguably essential ingredients for art through the ages. But is it possible to find links between Grassi’s work and the “old masters”?
I Need Money to Be an Artist (1996-7)
Art has long been inextricably linked with money – from the hackneyed stereotype of the starving artist to the rich families and organisations which commissioned “great works” in order to reflect their social standing. But what do ordinary people think about art? Most galleries have a visitors book in which one may write comments, but Davide Grassi took this idea one step further by initiating an “urban action.” He designed white mailboxes on which he wrote in four international languages the statement “I need money to be an artist.” The mailboxes were then placed in 26 locations around Ljubljana. Some mailboxes were vandalised and robbed, but those that survived were, six weeks later, collected and ritually opened at the Kapelica Gallery. Their contents were then exhibited at the gallery as a reflection of urban society, and a comment upon the relationship between art, people and money.
In complete contrast to the real urban action of “I Need Money…” "Brainscore" deals entirely with virtual reality. Grassi and his project partner Darij Kreuh are wired up to a range of technology which both renders them physically immobile and enables them to operate in virtual reality using only eye-movements and brain pulses to give commands. The audience views the performance through 3D glasses and is thus able to perceive the events in 3D as it appears between the two performers.
This demonstration of a system of communication without a body reintroduces the age-old philosophical questions relating to body and soul and their interdependence. According to critic Uros Korencan “the glorified couple soul and body has never been nearer to the moment when it would finally be able to separate and live independently of each other.” He also observes this will have important ramifications for the Christian church.
Both Janez Strehovec and Anna Kaisa Korhonen link Brainscore with earlier art forms – citing Warhol, Beuys and the Dadaists and body artists of the 60s as forerunners of Grassi. Korhonen also comments on the continuum of technological media – from the red plastic Viewmaster machines of the 60s back to the invention of the stereoscope in 1859. Having tried the stereoscope, critic Oliver Wendell described the experience as “a dream-like exaltation in which we seem to leave the body behind us and sail away into one strange scene after another, like disembodied spirits.” A perfect description, Korhonen notes, of Brainscore.From a feminist perspective Korhonen also comments upon the nature of voyeurism and the politics of gaze. “The image always has a perceiver – someone with a body and a position from which the gaze is transmitted.” This, of course, has huge implications for images of women in art (the line between art and pornography is notoriously blurred here), but how can this be applied to Brainscore? Korhonen claims every member of the audience becomes an eye behind reflecting shades. Thus the perceiver gazes without being seen – a traditional way of viewing art.
Nuclear Body (1998)
Two years prior to Brainscore Grassi experimented with medical technology. As a result he was able to create a “clone” of himself constructed from animated digital images. He then manipulated these images to develop a life cycle for his clone, displaying all bodily functions.
Nuclear Body was not only regarded by art critics as being of aesthetic value, but also generated interest in the field of medicine. As a result the work was presented at the 5th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Musculoskeletal Radiology in Slovenia in 1998.And here the link is easy to trace. The human body has long been an object of artistic veneration – from classic Greek sculpture to Rhodin and beyond. As for the internal workings – one only has to look to the Renaissance. Anatomical sketches by artists such as De Vinci are remarkable as much for their aesthetic quality as their astonishingly accurate depiction of internal organs and functions.
Davide Grassi moved to Slovenia in 1995, believing there were more possibilities for artistic development than in his native Italy. As with Russia in the late 80s, the uncertainty inherent in political upheaval – in Slovenia’s case its re-establishment as a nation in its own right – created both a freedom in which ideas could develop, and a willingness to take risks, and fund them.
Grassi has in the last 10 years been prolific as an artist, completing two – three projects per year. He has worked on individual pieces and collaborated with other artists. Most of his presentations have premiered in Slovenia’s cultural showpiece the Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana, before being exhibited as far afield as Helsinki and Chicago.
In order to fund his own new projects and facilitate collaboration Grassi has founded Aksioma, a non-profit-making cultural institution which aims to further the development of intermedia art. One of its chief funding contributors is the Slovenian Ministry of Culture.
One outcome of the Aksioma initiative has been the intermedia collective “BAST”. As part of the collective BAST, Grassi has collaborated in the making of “The More You Know, the Less you Kill” and “Our People". In addition Grassi and Igor Stromajer developed “Problemarket” an interactive satire on the stock exchange system and free market, and on white western culture in which one can buy and sell problems."Problemarket" was produced by FORUM in Ljubljana.
Grassi’s current activities include the SEAS project in conjunction with Intercult, and many other exhibitions, presentations and new productions in the fields of intermedia arts and electronic music.
As humans, we are chronically engaged in pondering “the human condition” – whatever we perceive that to be - in the context of both our social and cultural history and our current environment. Artists have always both focused and reflected these concerns. Davide Grassi, in his use of modern technology to re-examine age old questions, gives as a fresh insight into who we are, what we do, and why.
Exhibition / Installation,
A project by Davide Grassi and Mikael Lundberg (Sweden) within the platform SEAS. aV com documents the authors´ visit to six Baltic coast cities in a compressed audio/video + GPS format. The project maps contemporary social landscapes through observing cultural, economic, historical and geographical specifics. AVcom is a frenetic overflow of information, which reflects the central theme of the European project.
aV Com was part of SEAS Events 2004 and SEAS/Second Wave 2005.
Ballettikka RealVideo Internettikka, 2003-04
Co-authors: Igor Stromajer, Brane Zorman.
Project by Davide Grassi and Igor Stromajer. Please see related weblink.
Co-author: Darij Kreuh
* Projekt Brainscore, nomination for the \international mediaartaward 2002, ZKM,
* Nomination for »Premio Querini Stampalia-FURLA per l´arte 2003, Querini Stampalia Foundation, Venece, Italy
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(19 January 05 - 19 January 07)
(26 April 04 - 26 September 04)
(01 December 01 - 30 September 05)
Project by by Davide Grassi and Igor Stromajer.
I Need Money to Be an Artist
Presentation of Grassi´s project.
Presentation of Grassi´s project.
Presentation of Grassi´s project.
Non-profit cultural organisation founded by Davide Grassi.