On the Couch with Eugenio Viola

Eugenio Viola - photo by Riina VarolWho is Eugenio Viola?
An Italian art critic and curator, who considers himself an “artivist” (art+activist). He moved to Australia last February after being appointed Senior Curator at PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts). Eugenio is thoroughly enjoying his new life in Perth and he very much embraces all the discoveries and challenges that ensues with such change.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I really can’t imagine doing something different in my life. I have the privilege of doing something I really like. In this sense, I consider myself fortunate, because I was able to transform my passion for art into a career, and since finishing university I have always worked in art.

Who inspires you and why?
Too many people! It’s actually impossible to list them all. However just to name a few starting with philosophers; Mario Perniola, Giorgio Agamben, Federico Ferrari, Jacques Lacan, George Bataille, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Deleuze-Guattari, Jean-Luc Nancy, George Didi-Huberman, Paul Virilio, Bruno LaTour, Julia Kristeva, Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray. Art critics such as Pierre Restany, Achille Bonito Oliva, Boris Groys, Arthur Danto, Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster and of course my university professor Angelo Trimarco. Several curators like Lorand Hegyi, who was my mentor, Germano Celant, Nicolas Bourriaud, Hans-Ulrich Olbrist, Daniel Birnbaum, Okwi Enwezor, Chrissie Iles, Catherine Wood, Nancy Spector, Stuart Comer, and many others…

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
This is a very utopian question: I would love to inspire people to show greater respect toward each other and promote tolerance for all the possible differences connected with our globalised society. Our world unfortunately is witnessing an upsurge of intolerance at every level: cultural, social, political, religious, gender, racial. I think that this is the most alarming symptom of our uncertain times. This is something I am trying to do within my own job because I really think that art has to help people face the reality from another perspective, it has to be socially (and politically) committed, and I strongly believe that art always stands for the co-existence of all the possible differences. That’s why I consider myself an artivist!

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I don’t have any favourite destinations, because I am not a big fan of routine, and I am always excited by new discoveries. I could also consider a perfect ‘holiday destination’ an intriguing journey inside the meanders of my mind. All joking aside, I really like Nice, Cannes and the Côte d’Azur. When I was based in Europe I used to join some friends there on holiday. Now I have just came back from Bali, and it was the first time in my life. It is an intriguing place, so close to Australia, but a completely different environment. Very Asian of course, like the chaos from the anarchic traffic, but it reminds me also several different places I have already visited in my life. It is a lascivious tropical paradise, full of contrasts and contradictions, but I definitely enjoyed it, and I think I will be back there as soon as I’ll need my next fix of some self-indulgence.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Well, the most part of my friends are not based in Australia, and the few friends I have here are mainly from Perth. However, if I have to show them around, for sure King’s Park where you can probably experience the best view of the city, Hyde Park, which is one of my favorite place here, and of course PICA!

What are you currently reading?
I am always reading more than one book at the same time: I am currently re-reading in English, The Songline by Bruce Chatwin, because it gives me the possibility to familiarize myself with some topics connected with the Outback culture, the fascinating Aboriginal culture and religion, as well as the Aboriginal land rights movement; and Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger by Arjun Appadurai, a sensitive analysis of ‘the darker side of the globalisation’, which helps to better understand our complex reality.

What are you currently listening to?
I know this might make me look like a Dinosaur from the ’80s, but I particularly like the New Wave, Electro Pop, Electro, EBM, and Gothic genres. I also have a never-ending passion for Bjork, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, PJ Harvey, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and many more…

Happiness is?
This is probably one of the most difficult subjects to define. Albert Camus once said: “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of”, and in simple terms, I agree with him. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a transitory state of mind. Perhaps the best definition in this sense is associated with the Horace Carpe diem (seize the day). It is also a matter of attitude, related with how we approach life, that’s why I consider myself an ‘optimist by constraint’. In other words: for me the glass is always half full, and never half empty!

What does the future hold for you?
Several different and exciting projects, stay tuned!

For his curatorial debut at PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts), Eugenio has curated the exhibition, I don’t want to be there when it happens – currently on show until 24 December 2017. For more information, visit: www.pica.org.au for details.

Image: Eugenio Viola – photo by Riina Varol