Plague and Locusts 2020. November: Matteo Campulla.
Continuing a series of interviews with video artists who responded to our artist call Plague and Locusts 2020 with had a virtual Q&A with Matteo Campulla.
Outside, Matteo Campulla.
I am 38 years old and I am a Sardinian artist based in Milan, Italy. After graduating from the artistic high school “Foiso Fois” in Cagliari, I continued my artistic research dividing myself between painting, writing, music and video. I approached video by chance, initially with VHS: as a teenager I had fun editing ungracefully television clips for fun but the first contact with a video camera I had in the early 2000s, when the only way to record some audio experiments made with friends, without then having a PC or a real recorder, it was to use the audio inputs of an old video camera. This forcibly tied our sound compositions to random video, as we always used old recycled miniDV tapes to record. The result was often interesting and then I began to study and try digital editing, to improve what at that moment I considered the “weak side” of my work. This then became my primary means of artistic creation, also because it allowed me not to give up the sound aspect of the works. Life is strange then, you know, and a few years later I found myself doing a one-year internship in a small local television in Sardinia. I have now been collaborating with national and regional televisions for almost ten years, even in important contexts, both as a camera operator and as an editor as well as a director. Becoming a television production technician has had a lot of influence on my artistic work, especially in the use of television language in my works, both in the perception of reality and in its expression. All this makes me alive, not having lost the desire to be amazed and learn something new every day from whatever life wants to put me in front of. All this has certainly influenced my artistic work and the perception of things. The work with which I participate in Plague & Locust 2020 (“THE COVID-19 SPRING BREAKERS”) was a work that wanted to show my and my partner’s perception of how the world, Milan in our case, was changing.
When the first coronavirus cases appeared in Italy, we were in the so-called red zone. Milan and all of Lombardy becomes a major hotbed of covid cases. We knew we were facing an [unprecedented] historical event but we didn’t want to stop and we never did. In this situation (and clearly healthy and symptom-free) we decided not to give up our long-planned trip to New York to see the week of contemporary art fairs. When Italy decided for the total lockdown, we were still in NY and it was surreal to see how life there continued as always, there was not a person who used the mask, only the last days appeared the first notices on the subway on the hand sanitation. We knew they were going to cancel our return flight and they did. Fortunately we solved it in a short time but it was difficult and strange to return to Italy. The first thing that greeted us is a deserted city manned by the police and the military. As I write these lines we are on the third day of the second lockdown, after both France and Germany have taken this path in recent days. The thing that scares me most about this situation is the increase in covid-related mental problems, the presence of greater individualism at the expense of others, the lack of empathy and clarity that should never be lacking.
I dedicated other videos to the virus, three of these represent an ideal triptych which, together with the aforementioned “THE COVID-19 SPRING BREAKERS”, is completed with the prequel “LIKE A RAT IN CAGE – an infodemic short” (currently part of an international group show at the Galerie ROMPONE in Köln, Germany), a work that talks about infodemic or the circulation of an excessive amount of information, sometimes not carefully screened, which makes it difficult to orient oneself on a specific topic due to the difficulty of identifying reliable sources . In this video, set on a New York sidewalk, the images of people walking and a rat looking for an escape route alternate without ever touching, giving a sense of disorientation and imminent danger, as if death were behind the corner. The cycle ends with “OUTSIDE”, a video that talks about freedom, about the desire to escape, in this case in the role of an insect that frantically flies in a garden, among colorful flowers, in a sort of lysergic datamosh journey. These fit perfectly in my work and in the research that I have been carrying out for years, without forcing. It certainly hasn’t become the reference theme, I go through it as I have done with other themes in the past, through myself. An example is “CRISIS | the fear of missing out in pandemic times ”which talks about the FOMO syndrome and the fear of disappearing in this period where almost everything happens online and everyone lives their fears alone.
As for the other part of my work, the commercial one and unrelated to my artistic research, I can say that I have not had major changes. I work much more remotely (but this also from before) and above all as an editor. Working in a studio house we did not have any major problems, even if the isolation paid a little in fatigue. Also because we never stopped. We weren’t very social before, now we’re even less social.
Since I often work as an editor, I have a very particular view of time which is mostly based on the delivery date. For the rest I never have time. I haven’t had any particular drops in concentration on the contrary, I’m working much better. Even if it is difficult to live in these conditions. For the type of work I do, this has simply integrated into my [vocabulary] like any other aspect of my everyday life. My work has never been therapeutic or even a challenge, if not to myself. It is more like a deep path of analysis where I continually test myself, always living and going through the things I am talking about. It is certainly not a reassuring fiction.
Living in the uncertainty of a creative job, especially in a country like Italy, certainly makes you more creative. This is definitely an advantage.
I don’t think it’s the role that changes in art, our use of it will change if we are unable to take a physical approach. Indeed, I hope that art will play an increasingly fundamental role in the formation and vision of the world around us. A few years ago in Italy the history of art was removed from high school. This fact would be enough to explain a lot of things. Or just say that Italy invests more in armaments than in health and culture, even in this period of crisis. The museums are closed now but the military exercises continue. I come from an island, Sardinia, which, due to its strategic position, owns over 80% of the Italian military territory , every year it’s home to NATO military exercises.
I don’t think anything will change if we don’t change the foundations on which our society is founded. We will live this situation in fits and starts for a long time I think.