Mail-Interview with Ruggero Maggi (Italy)
Started on: 3-11-1994
RJ : Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?
Reply on: 25-11-1994
RM : At the end of 1975 when I was invited for the mail art shows by the Saõ Paulo Library, by the Librije Beeldende Kunst Zwolle and for the Show "Papel y Lapiz" at Modern Art museum of Bogota.
RJ : How did these 'traditional art institutes' get your address?
Reply on : 9-12-1994
RM : Firstly: "Mail art uses institutions in the places of institutions against institutions". To "Papel y Lapiz" I was invited by Jonier Marin, a Colombian artist (organizer of the show) lover, like me, of Amazon and with whom I spoke, for the first time, of an eventual Amazonian Archive about -multimedia Ecological Art-. For the other 2 shows is a mistery!
RJ : What is the connection of Amazon and mail-art. What is your "Archive of Artistic Works and Projects" all about?
Reply on : 31-12-1994
RM : At 1979 I went for the first time to the Peruvian Amazon and there, by the direct contact with the immensity and the magnificence of that world and unfortunately with all the ecological problems which, already at that time, were borning, I decided to found an international archive dedicated to artistic projects and works about Nature in a general way and about Amazon in a specific one.
Today, after 12 years of activity, the Archive AMAZON reckons upon the participation of hundreds of artists with their works coming from various countries and it has arranged tens of international exhibitions in all the world.
At these last 20 years of Mail Art I have also arranged other projects like: "United for Peace" - "The Shadow Project" - "Playcare" - "Italian Report" - "Not Only Books" - "Aquarantacinquegiri" - Etc..
RJ : The most well-known project from you probably is the Shadow Project. I was lucky to be present during the event in 1985 in Italy where we painted shadows on the ground in Villa di Serio. Could you tell a bit more about the origin of this project, how it grew and if it still is going on....?
Reply on : 30-01-1995
RM : When the 1st atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima 50 years ago, human beings who were within three hundred metres of ground zero were instantly vaporized by the scaring heat, leaving behind only their shadows - the remnants of these innocent victims provide the image and the theme of the shadow project. The silent shadows scattered throughtout the city are representations of a sight, which, if a bomb had been detonated would be seen by no one. Unlike the shadows left by a nuclear holocaust, the images painted on the streets are now permanent.
At 1985 I received the invitation from the central shadow project organization in USA to arrange the Italian event to celebrate the Hiroshima Holocaust. How you have remembered, I invited some artists to "perform" with me at the 6th of August (the H-bomb day) at Villa di Serio, near Bergamo, for the biennia of that town. Between others also Enrico Baj was with us that day. After that event I organized many other shadow project days in Italy (Bologna - Tivoli - Senigallia - Cervo - Pordenone - Como - Scandiano - Etc.), At Dublin, at Minden in Germany, etc.. In 1988 I was invited also to realize the Shadow project in Japan at the same Hiroshima just at the H-bomb day! It was a dream, which had come true! After Hiroshima I and many other Japanese and foreign networkers, realized the Shadow project also at other Japanese towns: Kyoto - Iida - Nishinomiya - etc...
RJ : Are you at the moment planning any new projects connected to mail-art or is your interest shifting into other areas connected to art?
Reply on : 2-5-1995
RM : Since about 10 years I'm developping a theory about chaos art. I have always loved monsters since I was a child. The so-called irregularity, synonym of "ugliness", of some forms has always fascinated me. On the contrary, the aesthetic regularity of some lines, a pathetic attempt at perfection has very often bored me to death.
At a certain age, I also have sincerely tried to deepen the contact, to probe into the knowledge with a possible geometric "beauty", but, to my great surprise, the squares never were perfectly spaure, the circles never were perfectly circular, and so on. And yet I realised my work in that period scrupolously following the "ancient rules" tought at school. But nothing could be done: in spite of my efforts. The geometric figures, realised in different materials, did not fit in an exact way or at least in a way satisfactory to me.
There almost was a repulsion of the forms in fitting together. Strongly enough, a repulsion of the forms and not of the materials, which, on the contrary modelled themselves together joining in their greater or lesser roughness. The fault, as I discovered some years later only, though I had already got some signs, was Euclid's and of his deceptive geometry. Yes, it was really the foult of mathematics, which has been administred to us at school and which is introduced as a decoder of Nature, but is very little natural! She is in fact a pure and simple abstraction, so abstract and deceptivele regular to forget completely that nature is instead set up by forms, diverse ones: perforated, twisted, fragmented.... Forms however, that are easily fitted in. This world which only appears chaotic, needed a new type of geometry allowing a more realistic measuring of nature: the geometry of the fractals (from latin "Fractus" : broken, split).
In contrast with the Euclidean forms, the fractals are geometrically irregular forms in every part and present the same degree of irregularity on all scales. The irregular aspect of Nature and her discntinuous side, which have been real monstruosities to science for a number of years at a mathematical level, come at last outdoors and are studied through the geometry of fractals. Now that it's been looked for, CHAOS seems to be everywhere, from the spirals of smoke of a cigarette, which break into irregular spires to the dripping faucet passing from a regular rhythm to a chaotic one. These and other aperiodic and now linear movements are clear examples of turbolence, which is at the basis of the study and the revelant visual representation of the strange attractors. Strange not because unusual (in reality they are incredible incomprehensible). A further feature of the strange attractors of of being fractals, i.e. of having a complete structure (independently from the scale of magnification).
Chaotic art must inquire into the inner side of world, at last "cleaned" from the old scientific prejudices, looking for the mainforld aestetic and conceptual possibilities contained in chaos. A part from researchers concerning computer graphics, the possibilities are infinite. For instance, I am projecting a "chaotic machine", which will be a metal structure 8 mt. high, with a central plexiglas sphere providing for the insertion of a person which will be the first interference disturbing and therefore shifting to aperiodic the movement of the sphere itself, which will also be set in motion by some magnets. Being designed for outdoors, the other "disturbances" will be caused by elements like rain, wind, etc. All the structure will be connected to a computer, which will compute all the relevant strange attractors, and, through a printer, will visualise them on sheets, which will be given to the public.
The great discovery of the science of chaos is that apparently complicated behaviors can become simple if the right graphic representation has been chosen. The images of chaotic art are not only splendid but also contain an infinite series of data and information.
RJ : Did you use the computer before in your art? What is the potential of this machine?
Reply on 28-7-1995
RM: I have just used the computer at the Basel Art Fair (1989) to elaborate some Nazca drawings into spatial signs - all this was a part of my space art installation at the stand of OURS (Orbiting Unification Ring Satellite) at the same art fair. The result was a series of works reproduced then by copy machine which I have here enclosed. Pierre Restany has written some time ago: "In this society it becomes necessary to recreate the relationship between man and machine, and today this machine is the computer. To re-define this relationship implies the creation of right and true conditions of a dialogue between two types of intelligence: Artificial and human. And it's in the core of this dialogue where Maggi's linguistic research is inserted."
RJ : Are you already working with the Internet or are you planning to? What will be the impact of the Internet on the 'traditional' mail-art?
Reply on 17-8-1995
RM: I have planned to work by Internet for the "Quintessences" project about the death of the Count of Gagliostro and the vital necessity "to free yourself and to gain an essential truth". I wished to realize a plan of the Papal Fortress of San Leo (near Urbino, where Gagliostro died imprisoned) and include it into the Internet system, inviting artists from all the world to visit him (!) at the day of his bicentennial death: 26th of August 1995. All this was not possible and we are organizing a fax art project with the same spirit! Or better..... Metanetworker in spirit!
RJ : What will be the impact of the Internet on the 'traditional' mail-art? I've noticed that a lot of mail artists in the USA are using e-mail now besides the traditional mail system? I've written down my thoughts and experiences with e-mail. What are your views?
Reply on 8-1-1996
RM: Dear Ruud, sorry for the delay to answer but I have been in Brasil at São Paulo participating to a great interactive art event and now I'm in Lima from where I'll return to Italy at the 29th of December -- Happy New year to you & your family!
Your question -- Internet is the positive answer to the utopic danger: The Great Brother! Instead of a great central power, the Man has created a fantastic system of millions of peripheric little PC's connected through internet.
Some virtual network museums have been born in in all the world. In USA Honoria and Crackerjack Kid are very active in this sense. In Italy, at Porto S. Giorgio, the first Italian mail art virtual museum and gallery have been founded. They have opened their "doors" with a celebration of Ray Johnson and a "show" of mine, Internet URL : < http://www.sapienza.it/magam >. I'm planning also two computer-installations: A Telematic Totem and an Anti-Nuclear French tests in Pacific work.
RJ : You write quite opimitic about the Internet. I see also lots of negative sides, like the access to the hardware (no electricity or computers for e.g. African networkers), no money for the access to Internet. Also "The Great Brother" is still there, since the companies that own the telephone-lines can now monitor all the e-mail if they want to. Am I being to negative or are there also real dangers to the Internet?
Reply on 26-7-1996
RM : The poverty in Africa and in all the so-called 3rd world is a tragic, incontestable fact to which naturally also the defiency of electricity and the following lack of computers are joined.
If a certain kind of mentality and a sadly overflowing culture doesn't change in the rest of the world, it will be impossible for those countries to raise theirselves. After having ravaged throughout centuries, now it's time to give back something. But not in the shape of simple assistance, but building schools, hospitals, etc... Don't send shoes but build a shoe-factory!
However, how in all the cultural mutations (and surely internet is one!) there are some beginning problems but, for me, the game.... IS worth the the candle! The real danger has always been in the use which man can do and not in the machine.
RJ : I sure agree on that issue with you. Another subject; the mail art projects that are currently done in the mail art network mostly aren't that interesting for me anymore. How is this for you? Do you still participate in all the project-invitations you get?
(because of time & other things that happened in both our lives this
interview was broken off. On November 25th 2001 I decided to put all
unfinished interviews online as well).
Archive of Artistic Works and Projects.
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I - 20149 Milano