Italian performance artist Tiziana Cera Rosco talking about death, encounters, dreams and inspirations in conversation with Maria Abramenko.
What is the concept behind your practice?
This is really something that I find out as I go along. It’s not the idea of what I want to do that moves things in me, but the suspicion of a vision. I say “suspicion” and it’s the same term I use when I speak of God. I suspect that he exists because my tension is to complete myself unseen. So with works. Indeed, if I may say so, I suspect there is only one work to which I must go, like a body dug up with a countless number of shovels of earth to be removed. All I do is remove ground until that Corps appears. The body is my tool, but as Husserl says, ‘spirits stays where bodies are’. My performances are born in the land where I grew up, they are in close relationship with the location and take place in sacred places, such as woods, forests, consecrated and deconsecrated churches, monasteries. And all my sculptural activity comes to life from the performative one (which itself is inspired by the image photography that recalls the concept of lighting, since I only photograph where I see myself appearing, while paradoxically working to the possibility of disappearance, but this is a long matter, in a graft of human, plant and animal figures. Writing, photography, performance, sculpture: everything is part of a whole language that for me is nothing but an attempt to pair or separate from the world in which the role of the artist is to be receptive, a form of the threshold. I gradually discover my way through the disciplines, because the matter or issues that every time my body poses (since with this practice I work with self portrait and self casting), also solve a formal problem within me. And the search for a form that wavers from mine but that resembles it is, perhaps, the pursuit of a double.
You often talk about your dreams and death, how do these two themes influence your art?
If I look back, I think I’ve been working hard on the idea of wreck, of artefact. Lately in sculpture I have come to a sort of bone age. I build vertebrae, vertebral columns that I move forward and place as if they were a shield in the central cavity of the breastbone. A sort of back to protect the chest. In my native land, digging up was a known practice. It is a Samnites’ land rich in tombs that were found and opened. The finds circulated in town, smuggled. I think this deeply influenced what I do in my job, but I realize that only now. I have been working for a long time on the concept of deposed body, and on resurrection through the appearance of one’s own body in the place where one lives (both with sculpture and self-portrait). We are never present to ourselves until we are reborn. Maria Zambrano used to say, ‘without rebirth, nothing is alive’. So for me and for my works. When I work on the bodies (which are actually my mold), for each body a mold with chalk, I bury them for a while. Now in the studio I have a resonance garden, as I call it, a place that has enough soil to cover a sculpture. I am very afraid of dying without having unearthed myself. Without having made manifest something of which I feel the presence but which is not yet manifest. As if there were an inhuman bottom that once touched everything is clear.I don’t know how to deal with dreams. It’s as if life and dreams were a whole. I’m constantly and continuously wrapped in psychic matter, if this is what you mean. The world has its own laws and I move as I can in the expression, hiding and protection of mine, as if they were animal ones. And so psychically there is like a spiritual hunt between dreams and death, but I could not tell who is hunted and who is the hunter.
What was the most memorable performance you did?
Patientia. That is, patience. Born in 2014 in the forest of Barrea lake in Abruzzo, and then practiced in natural places, in consecrated churches and not, Patientia is a performance of intercession. Before being a performance, Patientia is a wild prayer that approaches very slowly and it is extremely connected to the place where it expresses itself, as a tragic contact with the forces of the living.
It was born where I grew up. The forest in which it was born is a forest submerged by the lake for most of the year, and when the lake recedes the trees show their beards, the roots, that look like animal paws on trees that push upwards as to form a cathedral. The image recalls wild totemic figures and as it enters the prayer, as it comes in deep contact with the creatural need, the figure deforms to the point of being unrecognisable. The disturbing force of the figure actually opens to the tenderness of listening, even when it breaks into a silent scream. The materials I use are plaster, roots, animal remains, hemp, the same materials that I use in my sculptures, which are nothing more than the calcification of that same force that moves the performance.
Who are the artists, philosophers and writers that inspire you and why?
I am in constant conversation with the presences that influence and influenced me. I live of encounters. This has always been a focal point in my entire secret life. However, I have always been late in meeting the references I needed. And maybe it was lucky. Having not had a linear artistic training (no academy, no attendance of educational artistic environments, I come from writing) I met my mentors within my own work and not by direct means. Poetry nourished the image, as well as philosophy, literary essays. Epistolary move me. The beauty of reading Blanchot, Maurece Merleau Ponty’s spiritual direction, Kafka’s ambiguity and all his world riding in the opposite direction, Borges’ stellar synthesis along with his Minotaur Asterion who guided the last years of my photographic work, Celan’s devastating poetry, Amelia Rosselli who, with her short circuits, releases the energy of the word like discharges on a weak heart, Rilke’s eternal that shines even from under the doors when all the entrances are sealed, the otherworldly meditation of fur Alina by Arvo Part, Slotedijk with his intellectual wildness who awakened me asking account of me and my joy, Olivier de Sagazan the performer who as a blood relative surviving in this world expresses in the male form what I am in the female and with whom I hope to meet, shortly, in our space, Nicola Samori who is the artist whose greatness expands each one of my icy mornings and Agostino Arrivabene whose magnitude of flowering and desiccation kneads the body of a grace I still do not access. The diaries of Delacroix reading Rubens, Bachelard’s poetics of space of and Artaud’s voiding fire, the survival of Thoreau’s natural limit, Miodrag Pavlovic’s world at the end of the world, the writings of the mystics between saints and poets…Just think that my sculptural work started with a book of medieval mysticism. In a book in my possession was written that saints, when with fever, were healed with chalk and I, who suffered from very high fevers for an autoimmune disease that was taking over me, went to the chemist to ask for plastered bandages and everything ended up in my work…What do I need the dimension of the dream for when reality is so open?
What are your future plans?
I have two exhibitions for 2021, one in Florence and one in Rome, these will cover my entire self-portrait production and we are planning a catalogue as well. But this is a prelude to an autobiography in form of works. As for the rest, my plans are getting up at 5.30, going to the studio. As I do every morning.