Interview with Hadas Yossifon
For REdesign Magazine
Hadas Yossifon: How did you come up with the idea to exhibit your work in Israel, how would you describe your motivation?
Federico Solmi: I always been fascinated with Israel, its history, its people, but for some reasons and weird coincidences I never had the chance to visit the country , it's a bit of a shame that also this time for my solo exhibition at Haifa I couldn't make It. Unfortunately, I was traveling to take care of others events, but I think I will come soon… maybe before April 2016. The Idea of the exhibition title "American Circus" came to me after watching on TV in my home in NY the Republican Party Presidential election debate. I felt the all show was ridiculous, its candidates, the moderators, the stage itself was funny. It felt I was watching a dark comedy. In a way I had a lot of fun, but at the same time it was scary and sad to see the debate because I felt like watching in real time the end of American politics and consequently the fall of American Empire. The American circus represents for me an allegorical/surreal place in which are taking place the tragic comic misadventure of the human race. Since the beginning of my career, I was always interested in understanding and investigating the cause of human decline, and its self destructive tendency. This research motivated me and inspired me throughout the years and I never get tired or bored because history and the society in which we live always feed me with precious insight of human folly and stupidity. In those years I read plenty of interesting books, but what is remarkable to me is that our leaders, blinded by thirst of power and greed, are not capable of learning from the mistakes committed in the past.
HY: You work with many galleries around the world, in NY, LA, Washington as well as in Europe: in Italy and Barcelona. Beyond the desire to share your view of the world, which is natural to an artist, and especially given that you are playing the lead characters in your videos – do you identify with the megalomaniac figures you depict? Is there a dimension of conquer in the wish to exhibit in more and more places in the world?
FS: I would not define myself as megalomaniac, I don't feel the needs of conquering new territory and to become rich, and I am definitely not trying to emulate some of the characters I depict and portray in my works, believe me! What fulfill me is not fame, but is the opportunity to create ambitious cutting edge projects, and what excited and keep me alive is to see those projects exhibited in galleries and museums around the world .
HY: You've been to America for 15 years. Would you say you were American in a way?
FS: Not really, I don't think I would ever feel American, don't get me wrong, I love this country and this is my home with my wife and children, but since I was not born in US I feel more Italian than American. In fact I spent the first 25 years of my life in Italy, and than I move to NY in 1999. I can't erased my memory, it was too important to me growing up in Europe, I would never traded with anything in the world, it's a different mindset.
HY: In your work there is a criticism of global political leadership, but very much also about the American culture. This criticism, as I understand it, wishes, through humor, to air some traditional perceptions, for example about consumerism and the lust for power. Do you believe in the ability of such criticism to affect reality? To make a change?
FS: Yes, I do believe that art a form of expression can influence people’s mind, and it can help to have an impact and create change in society. I think in free democratic society people has almost forgotten of the power of persuasion of art, poetry and literature. But if you think how still today despotic government around the world are still enforcing censorship law with barbaric brutality, it is easy to determine that art can indeed effect reality. This is also the reason because I wanted to be an artist and in fact I have always been very interested in social commentary works with the hope I could influence and inspire other people and other artists. There must be some inner truth on the famous claims by English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley - "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” and that's why authoritarian governments had always feared artists, they knew.
HY: In the history of art there is this approach towards art as entertainment. In contemporary art we see this tendency enhanced, thus actually assisting the cultures of rating and excessive consumption. Do you see your role as an artist to be, in a way, the clown who entertains the audience?
FS: I agree with you, it seems to me that art is becoming more and more a form of entertainment, and I believe this is happening also because the United States has been the dominating force for decades behind the art market. But I would not worry too much, I believe time will re-assess things, and many of the dominant figures of today’s art world - they won't be relevant tomorrow. I don't really care of entertaining an audience, I don't care what media is trendy or what art is cool today or tomorrow, I have zero interest in seeing myself next to a celebrity, first of all because I hate the TMZ celebrity culture and because I know that there will be always space for whom are seeking a unique a path that is not the mainstream art, or the coolest one. To me the most important things about an artist success in the long run is originality and innovation.
HY: I like our show and I think we did a good work together, but I feel very bad about the option that you will not see it. I think that - many things in life, but especially art, involves endless encounters with disappointments. How do you deal with that?
FS: It was a great pleasure working with you, I really mean it. I think we should be very happy of how we conceived and installed the exhibition. Personally, I don't have any regrets for the unexpected changes that we were forced to do from our original proposal, or for the few pieces that were left out. For an artist sometimes it's good to work with restrictions, it helps to stay focused. I don't see my life or my profession as endless encounters with disappointment; instead I see my life as an exciting adventure full of big challenges. I think great artists are always able to overcome big challenges and to make good works also in the worst circumstances.
HY: To conclude, could you please tell us about an interesting project you are currently working on?
FS: I am in the process of preparing a solo exhibition at Luis De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. This is very exciting because will give me the opportunity to develop further new works from The Brotherhood series that I have exhibited at the Haifa Museum Of Art. I am also eager to begin my new teaching job, in fact in January 2016 I will begin to teach an experimental film-making class at Yale University, but many more things are exciting me - I am thinking also to create for 2016 a new series that deal with 2016 American presidential election. Maybe the next step is to develop further my American Circus exhibition and bring it to New York City during the election.