10.03.2017 | all' aperto

Even if it’s fine, bring an umbrella!

Alek O. talks about her experience of working with Trivero kids at the workshop organized for the ALL'APERTO project.

Within the framework of the ALL’APERTO contemporary art project, three artists - Alek O., Laura Pugno and Valentina Vetturi – have been working for a year in close contact with the community and schools in Trivero on initiatives and projects relevant to the territory. At Casa Zegna on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 March (the “FAI Spring Days”), it will be possible to visit a temporary exhibition entitled “Alek O., Laura Pugno and Valentina Vetturi: three Artists for Trivero” that displays the results of workshops held for secondary school students in Trivero, while Valentina Vetturi presents the latest stage in “Alzheimer Café”, a project specially developed for “All’Aperto”.

To find out more about the initiative we interviewed Alek O., the Argentinean artist who worked with Trivero secondary school students on the "Even if it’s fine, bring an umbrella!" project.

Can you describe this workshop - “Even if it’s fine, bring an umbrella!” – that you organized for secondary school students in Trivero? Where did the idea come from? Is it the first time you’ve worked with kids of this age?
Yes, it’s the first time I’ve worked with a group of young kids. The workshop took shape gradually, day by day, as I really began to understand what it means to be 11, and remembering the energy you have at that age.
I asked them to bring any broken umbrellas from home. At the first meeting we detached the fabric from the metal parts and split them into triangular modules, following their structure. These triangles, with various colors, subjects and patterns, were then mounted on wooden panels having the same size and shape. At the second session I asked the kids to work in groups and freely combine the panels to build other forms. The results were very different. From the perfect symmetry of a star to the stylized representation of a cat or a robot. Their work was then hung on the walls of the school’s stairways.
An umbrella is a day-to-day object that’s usually thrown away when it breaks… In this art workshop, on the other hand, it acquires aesthetic significance and lives on, albeit differently: how did the kids find this new experience?
Our approach during this workshop was very similar to that of a DIY enthusiast. You find something, you handle it (none too respectfully) and produce something else with it. The transition is the fruit of your hands and your imagination. The point of departure limits you somehow – the umbrella is like that, with a given color, its fabric is made of lots of triangles, it’s not virgin material that you can cut however you want. And there’s not much material anyway. But counterbalancing these limitations there’s freedom to do what you want, without worrying: the material isn’t worth anything, it’s just rubbish.
The extraordinary thing was seeing how the kids approached the job in a way I often do. How did they live the workshop? I’d like to hear them tell us. I saw they were very engaged, even angry at times – and for me that was proof that they were really participating. I hope it was extraordinary for them too, an opportunity to see things with a sharper focus.
Thanks to your project, these kids were “artists” for a couple of weeks and maybe one day someone will decide to continue along this path. In your own experience, did you come across anyone who particularly inspired you?
When I was around 5, my mother took me to the studio of an Argentinean artist, Clarisa Cassiau. They sat me at a big trestle table, all spattered with color, and put a sheet of white paper in front of me. I stared at it for what seemed ages, an eternity. I was very timid and didn’t make a single mark on it. After this, Clarisa began to give lessons in the museum-home of a sculptor, Rogelio Yrurtia. There things went better: I spent time in the courtyard full of plaster models of muscular men and little nooks where I could draw in peace. Now and again Clarisa showed us albums of artists like Rousseau, Matisse, Chagall... that’s where it all started.
What made you, an Argentinean, come to Italy?
After high school I started studying industrial design in Buenos Aires. At the time the UBA and the Politecnico di Milano were about to enter an exchange agreement between the two universities, a bit like the Erasmus program in Europe. So I started dreaming of coming to Milan. The negotiations dragged on though. I don’t think an agreement was ever signed. So I decided to move here and sit the entrance exam independently, even though I still didn’t know much Italian. I was 19 and felt I was invincible.
In your artworks you often choose materials in daily use that convey personal memories and into which you breathe new life. The object is transfigured, but the memories associated with it remain. Is there any object you’re particularly fond of in this way?
Years ago my grandmother gave me a ring. It’s very beautiful and I’m extremely fond of it. Every time I wear it though, something goes wrong. So I stopped wearing it. The ring has become a sort of prohibited object for me, which generates this enormous desire in me.
Projects for the future?
I’m working on an exhibition that will open at Galleria Frutta in Rome on 16 March.
In addition to “Alek O., Laura Pugno and Valentina Vetturi: three Artists for Trivero” at Casa Zegna on the weekend of 25-26 March from 10.00 to 18.00, there will be an educational workshop held by artist Laura Pugno on Saturday 25 March. It’s entitled “A place I like” and is free of charge, but by reservation only.

Info and reservations:
Casa Zegna
Via Marconi 23 - Trivero (BI)
Tel. 015 7591463