Paola Pivi: ‘Every Cell in My Body Is a Workaholic’

The Italian artist, who currently has a solo show at MAXXI in Rome, discusses her influences, her frustrations and her love of mozzarella

Andrea Pazienza, illustration from The Extraordinary Adventures of Pentothal, 1982. Courtesy: Marina Comandini and Milano Libri

Andrea Pazienza, illustration from The Extraordinary Adventures of Pentothal, 1982. Courtesy: Marina Comandini and Milano Libri

What images keep you company in the space where you work?

No images at all. I constantly struggle with the mess of my desk. I try to keep it minimal and clean, but it always looks like the kitchen of a boat in a hurricane.

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you? 

The drawings of Andrea Pazienza and Egon Schiele.

If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?

The drawings of Andrea Pazienza and Egon Schiele.

What is your favourite title of an artwork?

My husband, Karma Culture Brothers, comes up with titles for my artworks, which I pick and place. He is a song writer and words come out of his mouth in a great way:If you like it, thank you. If you don’t like it, I am sorry. Enjoy anyway.’

What should change?

Systems of power over the people.

What should stay the same?

Nature.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do? 

Every cell in my body is a workaholic doing what we do. I never made a plan B.

What music are you listening to? 

Karma Culture Brothers.

What are you reading?

In past years, I have binged on Dave Eggers, Primo Levi, Cesare Pavese and Fernando Pessoa, but I don’t read at all these days. I was just given Il grande marinaio (Woman at Sea, 2016) by Catherine Poulain. 

What do you like the look of? 

Mozzarella: the real one you can find in Rome and other cities across Italy; all round and turgid, dripping milky fluids, exploding at the cut, rebellious to the knife, all white and pure, hard to split, chewy, rooted with grown filaments like fibres in a tree, with its smooth, thick skin which always appears like a surprise, all soothing to the eyes, to the mouth, to the throat, to the stomach.

This article first appeared in frieze issue 204 with the headline ‘Questionnaire: Paola Pivi’

Paola Pivi is an artist based in Anchorage, USA. In 2019, she has two solo exhibitions: ‘World Record’ at MAXXI, Rome, Italy, runs until 8 September and ‘We Are the Baby Gang’ at Perrotin, New York, USA, runs until 8 June 

Issue 204

First published in Issue 204

June - July - August 2019

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Janiva Ellis, Catchphrase Coping Mechanism, 2019, oil on linen, 2.2 x 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Joerg Lohse

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