COSIMO TERLIZZI ::
INTERVIEW

“I’m guided by my experiences and by the poetical need, I do not think about what I don’t want to do, but about what I must to do. I would be incapable to deal with subjects I do not acknowledge. I love art”. That’s how Cosimo Terlizzi describes his work, with a few sentences that summarize well his biography too. Artist, director and photographer born in 1973 in Bitonto (Bari, Italy), Cosimo Terlizzi lives and works in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in Switzerland. His last project is the film L’uomo doppio (click here to read the review), that shows a self-knowledge process realized as a personal diary.

DROME: An unavoidable question: how did the collaboration with the Buena Onda production, the film production company owned by Valeria Golino and Riccardo Scamarcio, come about?
COSIMO TERLIZZI: In 2005, Valeria and Riccardo watched and fell in love with Murgia, my first docu-film about the Apulian nature park (Italy). Since then, they have started following my career. In May 2012, I was invited by Massimo Vattani to present Folder at Cinema Aquila in Rome, and Riccardo was sitting there amongst the audience, together with his Buena Onda staff. Folder confirmed his love for my work. Perhaps with a little bit of insanity, he agreed to set out on our collaboration with the production of L’uomo doppio.

D: L’uomo doppio starts with the death of a friend of yours. What is your fondest memory of her?
CT: The years we spent at the Art Institute in Bari (Italy) where, little teenagers as we were, although we were bullied by most of the students, her joy of life was so contagious that I owe my positive attitude mostly to her. That grit and determination led us to become, during the last two years of school, the most loved people in the Institute. To me, she was the reason why I keep believing strongly in dreams. Her final act shattered me also for that reason, a part of me has fallen with her.

D: In a scene of the movie, there is the manufacture of a dress made of several pieces of animal flesh. An external-internal dichotomy that someway recalls the famous armor by the costume designer Eiko Ishioka. In your opinion, what’s the relationship existing between body and dress?
CT: The dress is a sort of like thin city walls of our body. A protection of our most intimate territory. But it’s also an expression of ourselves. It definitely is an extension of our skin and of our psyche. In that scene, I dressed up the artist Sissi using any kind of entrails. The flesh turns into a dress. So, the dress is seen as a paradox of the body itself. However, the elements are put together so as to really look like parts of the dress and of the hairdo, meaning that what we wear on the outside matches who we are on the inside more than we imagined. Maybe that’s just a challenge, or maybe a trap, where the seductive potential is obvious. The dress is also the skin we change every day, our stale remains that we keep or throw away at the end of the season.

D: The relationship between the Id, Ego and Body is a recurring theme in L’uomo doppio. In your opinion, what’s the relation between these three elements?
CT: The body as it appears is also the result of the struggle between the Id and the Ego, and I’d also say the Self. If the Id represents the instinctual drives of our psyche and the Ego the reasoning mind, the Self is the side that makes us enter in contact with everything, not only withdrawn from the others in our restricted territory. Surely, all that is part of a long work and process of reasoning that in the movie we hear – not by chance – through the voice of the “Ego-narrator”. A purpose-made summary of readings and life experiences.

D: The film has been recorded in low quality, in some cases using a camera phone. How did you come up with this technological choice?
CT: I thought that today the most coherent way to talk about oneself through the screen is exactly to use the media offered by our times. Just like you would do with a journal, written in one go, without censorship. The low-fi media, the low-cost travels, hypertextuality, the social networks, they have all revolutionized our way of living. In these years, in our archive files we have gathered images, sounds and videos mostly in low quality; surely, the view of movies on YouTube doesn’t satisfy our craving for perfection, but it definitely slakes our thirst for meaning. The audio and video files compression highlighted their fascinating fragmentation, we are no longer afraid of the defect. The body of art is also that, a layered tissue. The meaning of the work – not even its aesthetic value – will never be marred by the unveiling of the various layers it is made of, if the work itself is able to go beyond them (think about those masterpieces of art that, although have lost a part of their “tissue”, have maintained their value through the centuries).

D: You also tackle the issue of the sexual messages daubed on the walls of public toilets. In what way do these messages strike you?
CT: What strikes me is the absolute boldness in writing certain words alongside phone numbers. Moreover, in such public and intimate places. Places that for a few minutes become ours. The handwriting also indicates the individual personality. It’s a dark way to reveal ourselves, in which the impetuousness of the most unspeakable sexual desires becomes evident, as they are compulsively made public in anonymous places. Such unruliness of the instinct served me as the subject matter of my movie-diary.

D: A scene of the movie shows a confessional and your voice-over telling: “The body confesses its guilts to the void. The Ego would like to relieve itself from guilt.” That consideration then brought you to produce the artwork Confession to the Void. Is it a critic to the sacrament of confession?
CT: No, I’ve actually replaced the man with a superior entity which is the Void indeed. When Roberto Ratti (art director of Traffic Gallery) asked me to elaborate a new installation project during Arte Fiera 2012, I was working on the idea of the Void as the keeper of the mystery of creation, as claimed by the subatomic physics. My attempt is to bring myself closer to the spiritual dimension of the Church with a renewed awareness, where the fear of new scientific discoveries and the truth about the origin of the body is overcome.

D: Another wonderful scene of the movie is that of the wedding. Have you ever thought you were showing too much of your private life?
CT: I sticking to the diary’s truth, I couldn’t leave out the peak of all the experiences I lived. I’m at the crest of what maybe will be remembered as the most voyeuristic age in human history. Bringing that in to the motion picture dimension is also an attempt to historicize the phenomenon.

D: Can you recommend three books or films or albums that have particularly influenced your production of the movie?
CT: As for the books, I would say The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, Particle Garden by Gordon Kane, Phenomenology of Spirit by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Among the albums, I’d pick Ode Road by Melampus and Dreams Less Sweet by Psychic Tv and almost everything by Christian Rainer.

D: L’uomo doppio starts with “Destroy your Ego” inscribed on a wall and ends with “Know your Ego” written on a mirror fogged up from the condensation. What message you wanted to get across to the viewer?
CT: The process of self-knowledge that started from that writing on the wall brought me to reconsider everything from a different point of view. At the beginning, everything seemed to lead me down that path, that is the necessity to destroy the Ego, but then, after a research covering a broad range of topics, during which I reread religious, scientific and philosophical texts related to my past, I understood the importance to know it deeply. The writing drawn in condensation will dry and disappear, because the research could be endless.

Text by: Gabriele Girolamini
Photo: Courtesy of Traffic Gallery, Bergamo (Italy)
23.01.2013

web: www.cosimoterlizzi.com