Agata Polizzi: The last time we met we were in Milan having breakfast in a “dopolavoro” (working men’s club) in a former factory near your studio, everything had remained relatively authentic and intact considering the time past. Not far from there in Milan things are progressing at a very different speed and moving in a different direction, we talked a lot about your city and how strong your bond is to it. What remains of the Milan of the Nineties? The decade in which a lot happened to you. How much has this city changed?
Liliana Moro: Until a few decades ago the area of Precotto was a peripheral and working class area of Milan, a few kilometres from Officine Breda, Pirelli and Falck, a place where people stopped to meet one another, to play “bocce” (bowls) after work, in places just like the one where we had breakfast. Only now there are tables instead of the garden, but the atmosphere has remained the same, a working class neighbourhood where at the end of the day they would meet for a glass of wine or a coffee in an all embracing space. This is a Milan that I know well and from which I have never strayed too far. I like this feeling of authenticity, I prefer the more underground and less glossy side to the city. Milan has always been a city with many different souls, it has always offered a lot in terms of cultural spaces, public, private, but also those that are independent and outside of the official circuits.
The thing I love most about Milan is its capacity to take advantage of these differences, and its ability to adapt and change with the times. The 90s were dense years and even more so were the years that preceded them, namely the years of the economic boom, of fashion and economy. I was twenty years old when “Milan da Bere” raged.
It was then that the artists’ vision was liberated thanks to experimental projects such as Corrado Levi’s exhibition inside the former Boveri Brown & Cie factory.
The trauma of “Tangentopoli” (Political corruption scandal in Italy in 1990s) brought about an awakening of public conscious and left an indelible mark, this was the prelude to the phase of change that over time led the city to becoming what it is today.
I really like Milan and sometimes I don’t think I could think otherwise, it is a city that complains little and does a lot, it is productive and has great energy. It is also historically democratic, welcoming and forward thinking.
What binds me most to it, however, is its apparent character of being extremely reserved, that attitude of hiding yet then revealing a great depth. I recognise myself very much in this characteristic.
AP: Your work has always transmitted a great sense of control, freedom and even acute irony, how important are these elements for you?
LM: I try to be essential in my work, control is a fundamental tool for me, in reality I am interested in only saying what is “strictly necessary”, because my work emits my point of view but it is also an unambiguous vision, a process of some-what extreme cleansing, allowing for greater concentration. Observation helps me to put everything into focus, with apparent simplicity. The often concealed, subtle irony is an interesting possibility to lighten reflections on contemporaneity, those that are often very hard and complex.
Many define my work as eclectic, I prefer to think that my research revolves around the contexts that define who we are, art keeps pace with history and this leaves a great freedom of observation, in this sense it really is contemporary.
AP: You have taught for years at the Academy of Fine Arts, the relationship with the new generation is a powerful tool for understanding the changing present, what is your exchange with your students like and how do you think the teacher/student relationship has changed? Also from the point of view as a student yourself and your relationship with Luciano Fabro?
LM: I believe that young art school students, despite the enormous stimuli they receive today from the contemporary world, need to work hard. The excessive possibility of accessing information is sometimes paralysing. If I think to the days when I attended art school, there is an abyss of difference. There remains an ever profound uncertainty on being an artist, because then, as is the case now, it remains a point of fragility, perhaps the journey was more difficult for us then but it certainly was clearer.
Technology has distorted the approach to things, one has the impression of being able to skip steps that are mandatory and fundamental to personal growth, one must be hungry to learn and be curious.
Regarding my relationship with Fabro, among his greatest teachings was his constant nourishing of the habit to “see everything” to understand what happening, to observe what others around us are doing, to confront each other and if necessary be critical.
This outlook has been lost, I think. As a teacher I keep repeating the mantra “see everything”, as I tried to listen to the talent of my students and cultivate it, encourage it, provide the ingredients to grow and strengthen their visions on art. Then everyone needs to be free, this is a necessary conquest.
AP: Liliana Moro, I have been fortunate enough to work with you on several occasions and I have always admired the way you “suggest” different points of view whilst leaving ample room for reflection and entrusting the autonomy of the viewer. Is this generosity of yours an attempt in some way to encourage an open dialogue with external reality?
LM: When I think of my work I believe that it is not possible to separate it from myself, from what I am, so this way of living work as a “world” allows me to deeply share my vison with others. For example, I almost always entrust my work directly on the ground without interference or intermediation: for me, to put work on the floor means creating zero distance, I like that there is continuity and also a relationship between my work and space, so it is as if a flow has passed through different elements, without interruption whilst maintaining open communication between them.
Sometimes I am surprised by art’s enormous capacity of allowing a concrete relationship with reality, much more than one can imagine.
AP: The next Biennale 2019 arrives after many years of research that separate you from the 1993 edition, what has changed in recent years to Liliana Moro’s system and vision?
LM: I don’t think I have changed much except that I’ve grown up, and aged!
I certainly feel great excitement but am less foolish than I was then, I am more aware, more confident. The context has changed a lot too, Milovan Farronato has entrusted us with the joy of working at the Italian Pavilion with enormous responsibility, this implies an attention that is totally absorbing, absorbing all my energy.
It’s a great feeling but it’s also a great challenge, and I thank him for it.
My relationship with Milovan is one of great respect and esteem, an exchange between two people who have known each other for a long time, this umpteenth experience together I consider an important step forward for both myself and