(Conversation with the artist)
Claudio Cravero. In your works, you generaly include your personal experiences and reflections of the collective nature that circle round your everyday working and living sphere. How do the both directions ( I and the others)appear in “nature morte”?
Sophie Usunier.When I arrived in Milan 5 years ago, I worked as a cashier in a supermarket for my living, and during this experience, I’ve collected the found shopping lists the people daily left in the shop, these lists of alimentary and house products that, little by little, take a concrete shape first in the trolley, then in the shopping bag. I begun to frame them in order to make them special and precious, and in order the spectator to be able to read them carefully, giving them a different importance.
CC. Thus, these pieces of paper that have became precious with a simple frame, are not anymore anonymous and forgotten lists, but they become real evidence worthy of attention and care, that is to say, that first it could have represented only a sign on the paper writing in a mechanical way, but now, it creates a large and infinite imaginary where the words transform themselves in some shapes that we know through a mental association.
SU.That’s what “nature morte” exactly means. In the collection of the material, I noticed that, in spite of the different dimensions of the lists, the written content is often unchanged. The mankind signs and records its needs ( basic food and hygienic products) but it omits to write what it is currently called surplus. And yet, the trolleys are full of them.We rarely write the super flu, we buy it without premeditation. The surplus seems to glitter and to attract us in the stands of the supermarket.
CC. In your “nature morte”, there’s often shopping lists written in a language different of the Italian one. How much has this work been influenced by the fact that you’re not Italian?
SU. So much. My first approach to know the meaning of the things has been caracterised by a linguistic study of each word, then I analised it etymologicaly up to the decomposition of it. Generally, I start from the definition of the dictionary, the first and more simple tool of knowledge. I asked also the persons I know the meaning they give to some specific words. In this specific research, for example, the dictionary Zanichelli defines nature morte according to the fine Arts and describes it as a representation of fruit, flowers, game (hunting), different objects. As far as the fact that I am not Italian, this work gave me the possibility of getting near the langage and the country I decided to live. Each collected list indicates the place where the proprietary made shopping. The words on the list signed, then bought, help us to understand how a lot of things can be called in a different way but that, after all, the basis is still the same.
CC.Does Art for you also represent the possibility to discover and understand the reality in some more sociological terms than aesthetic ?
SU. Definitely. “Nature morte” is a real and tipical operation that has impressed on my understanding of the world that surrounded me and that surrounds me. I also approach the intimacy of the people without revealing their privacy. You know, we usually say, to know a person, you should have a look in her dustbin… The result that emerges of “nature morte” is a sociological study of the place where I am and the city where I live; a contemporary still life, mirror of the present and of the needs of the actual mankind.
CC. In november 2005 you hung 30 frames of“nature morte” on the wall for the exhibition Multiplo3 in the gallery NO.Gallery in Milan. How does the singleness of each” nature morte” work in an exhibition about the serial reproduction of artwork ?
SU. “nature morte” is an artistic operation that you can infinitely repeat, it is a work in progress that goes on through the time. There will always be shopping list to collect and cumulate in Italy and abroad. This work doesn’t have a pre-established end but it is connoted of a constant and precise caracteristic : in spite of the repetition of the gesture ( in collecting and archiving the lists), each “Nature morte” is understood as the single of its being multiple. It is true that the reproduction, as Walter Benjamin said, contains the lost of aura, the original hic et nunc, but in the case of “Nature morte”, it acquires this singleness that marks it of the previous gesture. The words are often the same on each shopping list but the list is only one, with writting, paper medium different one from the others. As a matter of facts, the shopping lists are written by different persons whose name we don’t know but their habits. As you can see, this gesture is unrepeatable. Through the whole installation, the frames (often collected from second-hand market)s, or can set up a serie of all equal frames, as a baroque collection of painting, either can be gathered by typology so was the Dutch 16-centurygenre- painting. In this project, I was interested to reflect on the writing and on the multiple in a different way, which means on the dissemination and on the collection of forgotten signs as a language made of images to sketch new geographies that reflect our society and its anonymous protagonists. (november 2005)