Landscape Stories: In your works you mixed theatrical and ritual elements together with Carmelo Bene's "irrleligious mysticism" and a constant reference to the popular culture and iconography. You're always searching for a metaphysical and unreal dimension. For instance, for the celebration of Saint Antonio Abate in Novoli you produced the performance "La benedizione dei pavoni" (The Peacock benediction) in which there was a dialogue between sanity and magic. You staged your vision ofa group of peacocks inside a big cage, with only two children as spectators. You remained still for six hours, creating a still tableau vivant. Could you tell us about it?
Luigi Presicce: There is also a lot of mythology around my work, but on the other hand I'm certainly not a fake. It took quite a long time to realise the performance, in particular to let the peacocks get accustomed to my presence. If you watch the video (we started with the shooting in the morning and we finished it the same evening) you would say that peacocks totally ignore me, as if I had always been with them. However, the first time I got in their house they had a really strong and emotional reaction towards me and they fled in all directions. I think my stillness helped them a lot to accept my presence within their cage.
Landscape Stories: At the beginning of your career you had a preference for the medium of painting and drawing, then you preferred expressing yourself through performances, videos and photos. Could you please tell me about the evolution of your language?
Luigi Presicce: At a certain point I started to look for the invisible side of things and painting was no longer the most appropriate means for such research. That's why I started to create private performances in which the process was the real work and the object obtained was just a relic of the act. Then I met Joan Jonas in 2007 and Kim Jones in 2008, two American performers who I learnt a lot from. As for the Videos and the Photographs I wouldn't say they are my best ways of expression and actually I never work on them. The videos and the photos of my performances are always supervised by some co-operators who share my same point of view on things and yet they keep their own identity as authors.
Landscape Stories: What does Gino De Dominicis represent to you?
Luigi Presicce: Well, probably the same he represents to many other people who where fascinated by him when they were young.
Landscape Stories: You are a contemporary mystic of art, an initiate. How do you "feed" yourself? I mean, what do you read, where do you find the cues and the details that you transform into your works? What catches your attention?
Luigi Presicce: Some time ago I realised a book in two volumes (one single copy) titled Mystics and Magicians (Mistici e Maghi) which collects different images that I found, collages, original drawings or simple free hand interventions on the pictures. This book contains all the elements I constantly refer to in my work, and it's not only about saints or illusionists, it's also about places connected to facts or people, apparently meaningless combinations, tools or different moments of the same subject. In brief I can say that my work comes out of sudden flashes which are not accidental at all, and as they become obsessions I feel the necessity to know everything on a certain subject or character. Then, new signs and new paths to follow start to appear and things become more complicated.
Landscape Stories: I really like your photographic work "Janny Haniver Show", published in 2010 and created from a performance you producedat the Claudio Buziol Foundation. It really caught my imagination. Can you tell me something about it?
Luigi Presicce: Well, to be honest the photographic work is by Nicola Turrini, a good photographer suggested by Cesare Pietroiusti who cooperates with me time to time. As for the performance, I can say that it was very interesting for me to work in those spaces and in cooperation with the Milan O'Artoteca and The Venice Buziol Foundation. The title of that performance directly refers to the object you can see in the foreground on the round marble table. It is a marine species I cut out during the performance to make it look like a sort of little devil-shaped figure. This practice and the object that comes out of it have been very popular in the United Kingdom since the 16th century under the name of Jenny Haniver or, as it is simply called today, Devil fish. In addition this suggestion came Klossowski's short story about Bafometto, the animal-like figure worshipped by Templars and the secret orders related to them like the freemasonry, the stone cutters and the original masonry represented by two disciples (adepts) standing by their master. They are holding two swords so as to represent the symbol of the sun and a rough stone measured with a compasses. From their neck are hanging two pictures of Aleister Crowley in two different moments of his life. One which shows the modern Satanism founder as a thin man, wearing dresses and magic tools in the moment of greatest spreading of the Golden Dawn, and the other shows him in Cefalù, where he was exiled, as an old and fat man. The master is sitting in the middle of the scene and showing with his hand his supremacy on his adepts (the big finger covers the two little ones) whose identities are erased by a black shadow on their faces and by a fake golden nose made out from a cast of their master's nose. And there is also a last element to take into consideration, which is the golden foot: a clear reference to Pythagoras's golden leg, which I had also used in previous performances.
Landscape Stories: Visiting your atelier seems to be a unique experience... as unique as landing in an unknown land and finding lost heirlooms. A way to understand illumination...
Luigi Presicce: It is probably a way to get in where the thought manifests itself through the objects and the act of picking them (to what is 'them' referring? Doesn't make sense) up.
Landscape Stories: Did Alejandro Jodorowsky's movies influence you? I'm thinking of "The holy mountain"
Luigi Presicce: In Il Grande Architetto (The Great Architect) there is a clear reference to Jodorowsky. The performance is realised in four different pictures, and it is based on the symbolic murder of masters, first of all that of Hiram Abif, the Egiptian architect who built Salomon's temple, then that of Benito Mussolini, than it was Gurdjieff's turn and than there was Jodorowsky's murder. He appears in two different characters' features in the same picture, once as a young man and once a sad old man.
Landscape Stories: How much is your artistic language influenced by your origins? How much magic is there in Southern Italy's culture?
Luigi Presicce: All that liturgy in my work comes from the fact I grew up spiritually inside a typical southern family; what many define "ritual" in my work is, on the contrary, "liturgical."
Landscape Stories: Your subjects are strongly anti-renaissance, and this position involves Eugenio Battisti's brilliant thought. He diverted the main ideas of truth and order and painted the sixteenth Century as a time when magical, pagan and popular elements were mixed up together. What do you think about it?
Luigi Presicce: I'm a young medieval artist (this is a quotation).
Landscape Stories: You are taking part in the coming Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev's Documenta 13 with a collective work about Salento. Can you tell us about it?
Luigi Presicce: The collective Lu Cafausu was born in San Cesario di Lecce from the ashes of the more well-known group Orestes. Luigi Negro, Emilio Fantin, Giancarlo Norese, Cesare Pietroiusti and me , we were invited by ANDANDAND, a curatorial team formed by two New York artists of adoption. René Gabri and Ayreen Anastas we have proposed to participate in their project that is part of Documenta 13. Documenta has fully produced the first edition of the festival of the living (reflecting on death) occurred on November 2nd 2010, a pilgrimage with various stages made in the streets of San Cesario hand pushing a boat.
Interview curated by Camilla Boemio
Translation curated by Mirco Pilloni