Installation view Elena Mazzi I do not desire, I am moved, der TANK, Basel, 2021, photo: Christian Knörr

Interview between Chus Martinez and Elena Mazzi: ‘I do not desire, I am moved’ at Der TANK, Basel

by Chus Martinez
December 8, 2021
Chus Martinez
Elena Mazzi

How are the works selected for this exhibition talking to and coming from nature?

There are many levels of connections with nature in the show. Several artworks were conceived after a period of time I spent in Iceland, a place where the relationship between humans and natural elements is constantly ongoing. It is a peaceful dialogue, even when one of the two is angry. When I was there, I felt many times as if nature was asking me, like in the poem of Leopardi: ‘Who are you? What are you looking for in these places where your species was unknown?’

I think I was looking for a balance; a personal balance, yes, but also a collective balance with what we call nature. I really feel today the disconnection is getting wider in our society and that we need to act in several different ways. I tried to portray some, I tried to listen too.

Self-portrait with a whale backpack, photography, variable dimensions, 2018 Courtesy the artist and Ex Elettrofonica gallery

Drawings, a tapestry, three video works, a print, a series of sculptures? I love the fact that the works are done in different times and respond, as well, to very different circumstances in your work. Now that we see them together, how does it made sense for you?

I often go back to my previous work. I develop it, I believe there is always something more to say about what I have done. This doesn’t mean that I am not satisfied, I see it more as a book in chapters. Any chapter is a new layer of the story, and they all make sense when they come together.

So often the word ‘research’ and the description ‘research based’ is used to describe your practice. What is your take on this approach to art making?

I studied art history for my bachelor degree, and I am really into reading, studying, gaining depth on topics that are important to me. The first phase, before going into production, is really important and special. I meet people from all kinds of fields, and this is really fulfilling and increases my knowledge. I dedicate months to this part of my work, which also means I arrive at the production phase at a later stage. It is this first phase which leads me to the choice of the materials or media I use, not always but often. Nevertheless, intuition is also playing a fundamental role, and this is not something I would relate to research.

Becoming with and unbecoming with, series of silver and glass sculptures, variable dimensions, 2020, courtesy the artist and Ex Elettrofonica gallery Photo: Leonardo Morfini

To exhibit on Campus is a very special act. Exhibitions happening in the context of an art school have been always very special and important to me. The reception, the context and even the way they are installed is different from other contexts. How do you think your works establish a relationship with the context here in Basel?

The space is not an easy one. It changes a lot from day to night, since it is almost entirely made of glass. Also, it changes in terms of people living it and experiencing it. Students are always passing by or looking at it from their labs, and I felt an important connection with them. I believe it is very important for students to experience artworks in their learning space, I wish I could have had the same. I remember I was using the cities I was studying in as an open learning field: churches in Siena and Venice, marbles in the streets, even the Biennale. But it is not the same when it comes to younger artists, and when they are present in your working space. It’s a different bond, and I had the feeling this time was very special. I decided to spend some time in Basel while the show is on, and I am meeting some of the students in the next few days.

One last question: What are you working on at the moment?

I have just finished my last video that is going to be presented next week at the MADRE Museum of Contemporary Art in a show entitled Rethinking Nature. I am also completing my research assignment at the Free University of Art and Design in Bozen, where I am working with the bio-chemistry department to translate their data on soil pollution into an artwork. They call it data visualization, but I think it is more than that. Last but not least, I am completing my first monographic catalogue with Museo del Novecento in Florence, where I exhibited some of the artworks presented here at der TANK.

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