In Profile: Milovan Farronato

Curator of the Fiorucci Art Trust talks about the recent Volcano Extravaganza on Stromboli and the Trust’s unique way of working

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Milovan Farrone, 2016. Photograph: Camille Henrot

Milovan Farronato, 2016. Photograph: Camille Henrot

Amy Sherlock  What is the Fiorucci Art Trust and what does it do?

Milovan Farronato  I met Nicoletta [Fiorucci] in 2008 and began working for her as the curator of her [contemporary art] collection, which is something I am still doing. A few years later, we decided to investigate the possibility of producing art experiences that would not be related to the work that she was purchasing. We were interested in producing art in a non-conventional way: That’s not saying much, but it has allowed us a lot of fluidity with our programming. We have the flexibility to work on different scales, to be mobile.

AS  You’re not tied to a fixed exhibition venue. The aim of the Trust has never been to present objects in a space?

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Camille Henrot, Buffalo Head: A Democratic Storytelling Experience, 2016, performed by Amira Ghazalla with the participation of Jacob Bromberg, David Horvitz, Maria Loboda and Milovan Farronato. Adapted from Italo Calvino’s folktale of the same name.

Camille Henrot, Buffalo Head: A Democratic Storytelling Experience, 2016, performed by Amira Ghazalla with the participation of Jacob Bromberg, David Horvitz, Maria Loboda and Milovan Farronato. Adapted from Italo Calvino’s folktale of the same name.

MF  No, exactly. We didn’t want to build a foundation, to have a regular programme. That’s beautiful, but we wanted to do something different. So, in 2011 the Fiorucci Art Trust was set up in London. The idea was to ‘collect’ or to promote art experiences. We have organized events on various scales: from evening performances at our headquarters in London to partnerships with Serpentine Galleries’ Park Nights to the annual Volcano Extravaganza on Stromboli [15–21 July 2016], which has become the biggest event we produce.

AS  When was the first Volcano Extravaganza?

MF  In 2011.

AS  And why Stromboli?

MF  When we started working together in 2008, Nicoletta had just purchased the house of Marina Abramovic [one of the two Fiorucci houses that are the main exhibition venues for the Volcano Extravaganza]. I started working for her during Art Basel – which was a baptism of fire – and afterwards she invited me to Stromboli. I loved it. A few months later we invited Runa Islam to come and visit. I thought, given the cinematic history of the island [Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film Stromboli, Land of God starring Ingrid Bergman, was filmed on the island], it could be relevant to her work. She came and made a film, called This Much Is Uncertain [2009–10], composed of long shots of the black, glittering Strombolian sand, which was presented at the São Paulo Biennale in 2010.

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Dinner on the Siremar 

Dinner on the Siremar 

Shortly after, Nicoletta bought the second house on the island, by the sea, and we started to think seriously about doing something more formalized. Stromboli has a history as an island for artists: Marina Abramović was here, also Mimmo Paladino; Cindy Sherman was staying the summer I arrived. It’s an island with a particular energy that attracts creative people. And we wanted to make the most of that. Initially, we were inviting people to stay in a more causal way – for New Year’s Eve, for instance, or we would throw a summer party – and the artists would be producing work. The first Volcano Extravaganza, in 2011, was really a way of bringing together all of this work that had been made up to that point. The pieces – Runa’s film, Christian Holstad’s work etc. – were on display in museums and galleries, but they related to our presence on Stromboli and we wanted to bring them back.

It was successful – well, I don’t know if it was successful, but already, even though we were in a very remote place, the event’s resonance internationally was quite sparkling. We wanted to draw on this energy and the following year we invited Nick Mauss to curate the programme.

AS  Has every edition since been curated by an artist?

MF  Apart from last year, which I programmed.

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Jacob Bromberg performing as part of Camille Henrot’s Buffalo Head: A Democratic Storytelling Experience. Adapted from Italo Calvino’s folktale of the same name.

Jacob Bromberg, The Clinamen, 2016. Choreographed poem at La Lunatica for Maison Absolue 

AS  It’s interesting that, in a sense, you were positioning yourself in relation to an artistic community that was already here. I have noticed that most guests this year are return visitors – people who have participated in previous years and have come back. It feels very much that what you are doing – not just in Stromboli, but also with the events you host in London and elsewhere – is building a community: a ‘Fiorucci family’ of artists, curators and writers. Perhaps you are as much a curator of people as of artworks?

MF  That’s something I have always been interested in. It is very much my way of working; and it’s also something I share with Nicoletta.

AS  For a while, the Trust did have a more permanent space in London, at 10 Sloane Avenue.

MF  What was interesting about Sloane Avenue is that it was a house: it was an entirely domestic space. At various points, we had artists living there – Paulina Olowska, Christodoulos Pantanyiotou – inhabiting it on a functional level. One of the first works that we installed there was Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s Jean Cocteau [2003], which is a fictional domestic space. We put it in a real bedroom: so is it real or is it fiction? This idea about what a house is and how is can be reconfigured is clearly something that is very interesting to Marc.

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David Horvitz, Paint the Wind Watercolour Workshop as part of Day 4: Danger and Eroticism of Distances  

David Horvitz, Paint the Wind Watercolour Workshop as part of Day 4: Danger and Eroticism of Distances  

We hosted Camille Henrot at Sloane Avenue while she was in London working on her Chisenhale show in 2014 and that was when we started to discuss doing something together on Stromboli. There was one long night when we stayed up drinking and talking – about her collection of relics and artefacts; travelling over seas, crossing the equator; trying to assume the opposite, imagine the other; fear and confidence – and those thoughts were the genesis of this year’s edition [which is titled ‘I Will Go Where I Don’t Belong’].

Camille first visited Stromboli when she was 18. She speaks Italian and had spent summers here, so immediately there was a connection with the island. She definitely does not belong to the black Strombolian rocks, but there is a kind of familiarity.

AS  Did Camille choose all of the artists who are in this year’s edition?

MF  It’s been a collaboration. Some artists, Camille invited; others, like Maria Loboda, who is a mutual friend and whose work we have both been interested in for a long time, we decided on together. Anna Boghiguian and Joana Escoval were my suggestions.

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Maria Loboda, Nobody could explain this: That’s the way it was, 2016, sedan chair and daily announcements 

Maria Loboda, Nobody could explain this: That’s the way it was, 2016, sedan chair and daily announcements 

AS  What is Anna doing?

MF: We don’t know! I proposed her to Camille, who was immediately mesmerized by the work that Anna had done for the Istanbul Biennale: a whole-room installation, which looked like a kind of shipwreck. Camille fantasized about having a big installation in the house [on Stromboli], but I knew Anna would have to be on the island for months and months to produce something on that scale.

The thing with Anna is that she doesn’t belong to any place, really. She is Egyptian but with Armenian heritage, she grew up in Canada, she’s spent a lot of time in India: she’s always come from one place and is on her way to somewhere else.

AS  She’s like Odysseus on his travels.

MF  There is a way in which she embodies this being caught between different worlds, which is the theme of this year’s edition. Her presence, in that sense, is a contribution.

I think she will do something on the night boat at the moment of exile: when we all leave the island and go back to the mainland. I consider this a performative gesture itself: all getting inside the boat together, sharing this moment of transition. I think Anna will do a reading or a lecture.

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Tea drinking ceremony

Tea drinking ceremony

AS  This year there is a programme of screenings that take place each night in the homes of people who live on the island. Is it the first time you’ve done something like this?

MF: I think, for both Camille and I, Roberto Rossellini’s film Stromboli, Land of God has been a very important reference. Of course it’s very direct, but it isn’t something that previous editions have engaged with, and film and cinematography are obviously very important to the mythology of this island. It also goes back to this thinking about domesticity and Camille’s idea of the maison absolue (absolute house). The suggestion to do screenings in Strombolians’ houses grew out of that and the fact that Camille, when she was thinking about this project, was using a lot of films as research. She came with a kind of reference library of films.

AS  Was it easy to find hosts? It’s quite a special thing to do, to have 20 people you don’t know turn up to watch a movie at your house. And also to have to provide food and wine.

MF  It was not difficult but what was interesting was that the people who immediately said ‘yes’ were not Strombolians. There were people that had lived here maybe 20, 30 years, but everyone had moved from some place else. The ones that were most keen to give hospitality were people who were also in this state of belonging/not-belonging that we are trying to reflect on with the programme.

AS  What are the Fiorucci Art Trust’s next projects? Are there events that you would really like to realize?

MF  Honestly, I have to say that I would quite like to stay and take a sabbatical here! Next we are doing something with the Mycorial Theatre at Pivô, in São Paulo, during the Bienal. Mycorial Theatre is a project initiated with Paulina Olowska, which has taken place for the past two years in Rabka Zdroj, Poland. It is a performative event, which centres on mushroom picking in a remote forest. In São Paulo, we will be finding fungi in a more metropolitan context.
If I can fantasize – although nothing is planned – it would be nice to bring the Mycorial Theatre and the Volcano Extravaganza together at some point. Because there are mushrooms on Stromboli …

AS  Mushrooms grown in the shadow of a volcano – that would be a trip!

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Joana Escoval leading her Volcanic walk

Joana Escoval leading her Volcanic walk

MF  The two projects look similar and the way of making work, the emphasis on process, is quite similar in both cases; but, actually, the Mycorial Theatre has stayed much more experimental. It’s a smaller group, we stay in a tiny village – the dynamic is different. As Stromboli has become more and more ambitious, it has had to become more structured, more organized.

AS  I was wondering about that. What’s unique about the Volcano Extravaganza is that, even though it’s grown, it’s an intimate experience. You have very direct interactions with the work, the artists, the curators. As programmes become more evolved, they necessarily become more structured: but how do you maintain that same sense of community going forward? That must be something that you’re thinking about as this event becomes better known and there are more visitors.

MF  The Volcano Extravaganza didn’t start as a biennial and it shouldn’t turn into one; it doesn’t have that ambition. Stromboli is an odd place, you know: there is an active volcano, some mornings you wake up and everything is covered in ash; taxi drivers are in golf carts. We have to maintain some of that.

Amy Sherlock is deputy editor of frieze and is based in London.

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