Italian born, London based artist Franko B in conversation with Maria Abramenko about performance art, blood as a way of representing life and more.
I have recently seen in London your absolutely fascinating performance, “I’m here”, could you describe your statement and the message you want to convey to the viewers?
What I am doing in my work is sharing my experience of what it is like to be alive today, in the 21st Century, which is the century I happen to live in. It’s not about me providing a particular message, my work is about showing. I’m never really interested in advocating or sending a message; at least as far as I’m consciously aware. I see myself as a Monster. The word monster comes from the Latin word, ‘monstrare’, which means somebody that shows. I believe ‘to show’ is the duty of an artist. Not just visual artists, but this includes all artists’ visions, for example philosophy, poetry, etc.
Why is performance art important and how would you describe your contribution to it according to your concept?
All art is important. I don’t think performance art is more important than any other art or any other form of visual language that doesn’t use language as we speak it. Everything I do I feel emotion, even when I curate a show or do an exhibition on my work. In this way my work is very emotive – for me, not just the public. Performing live in front of the public is highly emotional. This is the way I am. It’s not necessarily what happens when I perform. I could just be pissing on the floor and feel emotion.
I understand that your work is strictly related to your personal life and past, is it always a fundamental aspect for you and why?
The personal is of course connected. The personal is political and the political is personal. My work is a personal and political aspect of who I am. Whether I like it or not, it’s a product of where I come from. The work I make wouldn’t have been made if I wasn’t brought up in the Catholic, extremely repressive, post-war 60’s and 70’s Italy.
Could you tell us about your “I Miss You” performance at Tate, what does the use of blood represent in your practice?
Blood is life. It’s a way of representing life. My blood works started in the early to mid 90’s, much before “I Miss You” Tate, in the context of homophobia, xenophobia, AIDS-phobia and the AIDS crisis itself and of course, Thatcher. When I started, there was a phobia and paranoia of blood both in heterosexual society and the gay scene. I started to carry my blood to gay and S&M clubs where they are used to seeing different shows about masculinity, power, eroticism, sex.
Then there was me, fat, pouring blood all over my body and talking about dying or death. Most of the people in these clubs were dying, I tell you 60% had HIV and in that time you died. I wanted to talk about taking this responsibility. It has also always been a way to empower myself with a kind of instinct that says “fuck you!” By performing with my own blood, I show I am not a victim, it’s not passive. It’s always on my terms. I am talking about life, about giving lifeblood. It’s my body, fuck religion, I do whatever I want with my body. At the same time I don’t have the right to say to you “give me your body” unless it is for pleasure, then we give to each other, to fuck, to cut, whatever. For art, I have to be totally responsible for myself.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on life at the moment but there’s a new direction in my work; a new window that’s opening up thanks to technology. Already in this past year with the piece “I’m Here”, I’ve entered a different type of domain to do with digital, including projection and collaborating with people, for example technical assistants to work on things outside of my remit. Before it was definitely more body work, especially the bleeding work, more or less I just had to turn up, put the light on and the performances happened. Now, in the last, let’s say, 8 years, with “Because of Love” and the robotics, animation and projector I started to work a bit more with technology and with other people’s expertise. With the “I’m Here” performance I opened up to the ability and understanding of somebody else. In this case with Anthony Martin, who was looking at a side of the work, which I wouldn’t have been able to do or understand. This has opened the door to digital files, being educated in NFTs and speaking to Hugo Glendinning. Two months ago it was an alien concept to me but now it’s an exciting moment to bring my work and the work of Hugo to facilitate and open a new horizon.
What is interesting about this new space?
It brings my work to a different audience and also – let’s say it – a prospective new way of raising funds. I am not represented by a gallery and prefer to be independent. I see it as an alternative to crowdfunding. You put something online that people can buy and by buying it they support your work and your future projects. I like the idea that anybody can own it and that’s what we want to do; to make affordable and unique pieces for everyone to access and own. These will be launched on my birthday on the 27th January 2022. Thanks to everyone at a/political and Hugo for their support and nourishment.