|Flash Art editor and curator Nicola Trezzi
Nicola working in his Pajamas, Bushwick
Photo: Elisa Beretta, 2011
Flash Art is one of the most important and relevant contemporary art magazines in the world. It was founded in 1967 by Giancarlo Politi and magazine headquarters are currently based in Milan, Italy. Currently there are three separate editions, Flash ArtItalia, Flash Art International and Flash Art CZ&SK. I have had an interest in Flash Art for many years and recently started writing reviews for the magazine. This brought me to a fairly regular communication with U.S. Editor and curator Nicola Trezzi. I decided to sit down with Nicola, have a dialogue and learn more about the man and his busy and productive lifestyle.
Katy Diamond Hamer: As I know you are extremely busy, I appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions. You graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milano with a degree from the department of Stage Design and upon graduation started working with Giancarlo Politi and Helena Kontova. How did you make the transition from Stage Design to editorial?
Nicola Trezzi: It was a very natural process. The first year at Brera I decided to attend a class, which was not mandatory for my curriculum. It was called “English for Contemporary Art.” The teacher Tiziana Casapietra worked for many years as managing editor of Flash Art Internationaland her classes were really important for my education. Thanks to her I discovered Flash Art, Artforum, Frieze, Parkett and I understood better what a curator does and how a biennial functions, although I was already going to the Venice Biennale with my older sister. Tiziana also gave me my first professional job, which was editing the book for a very cool biennial she was organizing nearby Genoa. Thanks to her I got in touch with artist and writer David Robbins who was invited to the biennial by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Since then—it was 2005—he became a very good friend of mine. All this said I have to add that the persons who brought me to Flash Art were my thesis mentor Laura Lombardi—an art historian specialized in 1800 but a very contemporary and sophisticated woman—and Fernando De Filippi who was the dean of the academy at that time and a good friend of Giancarlo Politi. He saw my thesis and made a phone call. Giancarlo and Helena saw the book I made and made a phone call. Then I started. It was 2006.
Artist and writer: David Robbins
Detail from his work Talent, 1986
KDH: Six years and counting, very exciting. Although busy, do you still find time to do stage design or have you chosen to focus solely on your responsibilities as a curator and editor?
NT: My only experience as stage designer was during school and I thought it wasn’t very interesting. Then I thought about my education in a deeper way and I realized I had to translate what I learned, understanding that after all, editing and designing sets are more similar than someone might think. Like set designers, editors always stay “behind the scene” and let other people—whether is the actor or the writer—be on stage. Editors do a bit of everything—edit, write, translate, graphic design, fact checking, etc.—exactly like set designers. Obviously if we consider the curatorial practice this is even more visible. Although quite reductive, a show can be seen as an arrangement of objects in space, a description that can totally fit that of a stage, a set. I put this hierarchy and reserved the order in your question because I will always see myself only as an editor. Whatever I do, whether writing, organizing exhibitions or running the Lucie Fontaine space in Milan, will always be collateral, so to speak.
Artist: Fia Backström
Detail with her work Recycle
(Hanging proposal for sculpture by Kelley Walker)
KDH: This past autumn, you co-curated an exhibition with artist John Newsome and Astrid Honold at the HVCCA, located in the Hudson Valley, New York. The exhibit, titled Circa 1986, focuses on a specific time period and several well-known artists such as Robert Gober, Richard Prince, and Jessica Stockholder, amongst others have been included. As a young, although highly active individual within the contemporary art community, what is your take on art from this featured decade and the influence it has on emergent artists?
NT: That exhibition came as an invitation from the founders of the space, collectors Marc and Livia Straus. This means that it was a commission, we didn’t have carte blanche. I was working on an essay about how collecting can be seen as a creative activity and how the collection of an artist—from Jeff Koons collecting Renaissance to Damien Hirst collecting Jeff Koons, from Seth Price’s collection of videogame soundtracks to Hans-Peter Feldmann and Fia Backström’s collections of images—can inform the practice tout court. This invitation became, for me, a perfect channel for these ideas since one of the “rules of the game” was to select works only from private collections. Plus I could exhibit works by artists I admire such as David Robbins and Sarah Charlesworth, the latter who was the artist with the biggest amount of works in the show. Both Robbins and Charlesworth are deeply influential. If you see all these so-called “artists intellectuals” you will discover how Robbins was among the first doing that. Same thing if you consider the relationship between art and entertainment. As for Charlesworth in my opinion she is the god mother of an entire generation of artists: Sara VanDerBeek, Elad Lassry, Liz Deschenes, Roe Ethridge, Eileen Quinlan, Anne Collier, Talia Chetrit just to name those living in the US.
Artist: Sarah Charlesworth,
photo by Gilles Donze, c.1989
KDH: I’m actually not familiar with Sarah Charlesworth, so will have to look her up. Regarding your experience as a curator, the Biennial Foundation features exhibitions including Performa, in many cities throughout the world. I know you have a significant position as curator of the Prague Biennale, which was founded in 2003 by Giancarlo Politi and Helena Kontova. How do you see this role evolving and how would you say it has assisted in the evolution of your curatorial practice?
NT: My role really evolved over the years. For the first edition I did in 2007 I was just executing and to be sincere I was learning. Then in 2009 I noticed Giancarlo and Helena became aware of my role within the foundation and wanted to acknowledge that. At the beginning I was hesitant especially because I didn’t want to put my “hobby” of organizing exhibitions before my work as an editor. Then I gave up and became the official curator of the 2011 edition. For those who are not familiar with the structure of the Prague Biennale I must explain that being the curator doesn’t mean being the sole author running the show. Quite the contrary, because it is after all a biennial run by editors, my role there is pretty similar to the one I have at Flash Art.
KDH: Interesting that you should say that. I tend to think of my own blog as a curated space. I am quite particular not only about written content, but the photographic images and the way that the text is placed on the page. I really enjoy and relate to your comparison of curating and organizing exhibitions parallel to your editorial duties.
NT: I am glad I am not the only one thinking that way! Just to say a bit more about Prague the biennial consists of a series of small shows within the show, a sort of Chinese box. My role is to coordinate everything and make sure the co-curators are continuing the mission of the biennial without being intrusive. Just like what I do when I commission an article for the magazine, which by the way is always the result of several mediations with Giancarlo and Helena. So for this last edition I was coordinating the whole thing and I co-curated a section with Giancarlo and Helena entitled “Painting Overall.” After the biennial ended, I brought that section to the Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw, I invited Polish artist Małgorzata Szymankiewicz to exhibit and asked Pietro Roccasalva do design the poster of the show, here was now entitled “Four Rooms”. I will soon do the same process in Romania and hopefully in Israel. I see this show as a text, which I am reediting and re-adjusting for different formats and context. So again my curatorial choices are always informed by my everyday activity as editor.
KDH: This makes total sense, but not many people are able to expess the process in this way. Lastly, you recently tweeted that Flash Art is expanding to include a Hungarian edition. As the art world becomes more globalized through technological expansion, where do you see the future of print magazines and art criticism?
NT: Magazines will never die, especially art magazines which audience—artists, collectors and dealers—is imbued within the commodity system, which is still pretty much object-oriented. However with the increase of the social media and the dematerialization of the notion of commodity—which doesn’t mean to disappear, let’s just think of the diabolical system of Tino Sehgal—I am curious to see how this will evolve. I wish the reason for me to think magazines have no future was related to the end of the capitalist system, which clearly failed. Unfortunately the reality is different. Capitalism is just changing skin like a snake. The only solution is to learn how it functions in order to find solutions and fight a reality where rich people are becoming more rich and poor people are becoming more poor. If art will reflect upon it and will try to give solutions, art magazines should be there to support if not to be the weapon. For sure Gilles Deleuze was right: “There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.”
KDH: I completely agree. As a society we are left with remnants of the snake skin which for most is probably easily overlooked. I also see printed text, further art criticism and textual reportage in the future as both a reflection and catalyst to artwork being made. Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and for your insightful responses! I look forward to what you have up your sleeve next and also to our continued editorial interactions, whether written or curatorial, in the near future. Grazie!