ABSINTHE §1 Interview – Luca Bosani
Originally published in the ABSINTHE §1 Catalogue, published by Kronos x Elam Publishing, produced to accompany ABSINTHE §1, curated by Billy Fraser, Charlie Mills and James Capper, 23/02/2019-11/05/2019, Spit and Sawdust Pub, Elephant and Castle.
February 2019

Hector Campbell : Whilst primarily based in performance, your artistic output also includes painting, sculpture and fashion design. Do you see your work in these other mediums as purely accompaniments to your performances, or as stand-alone artworks?

Luca Bosani : Through painting, sculpture and fashion my live performances are expanded in time. These objects are carefully elaborated pre-performance and arranged post-performance. My work in these mediums is not only an accompaniment or a remnant of my live works but it aims to retain the same energy and intensity.

H.C : Your performance pieces frequently address questions of gender, masculinity, identity and male stereotypes. What draws you to these themes, and how do you develop the conceptual ideas, which support your work?

L.B : Where I grew up, a small town in the outskirts of Milan, I always thought that being a man meant hiding any insecurity and vulnerability. Proving your masculinity to oneself and to others felt like a command. This toxic pressure heavily influenced most aspects of my life until I moved to London where I encountered performance art, a medium that allowed me to decode my past and to reconfigure my future. My artistic practice is the result of an escapist strategy from a constricting situation, where gender norms and male stereotypical behaviours limit freedom of expression and the development of identity.

My work is constructed by dissecting and questioning masculinity. Boundaries of identity are stretched and re-imagined. After breaking down my own identity and analysing my recurring thinking patterns, I build an alternative visual and emotional vocabulary, promoting personal and collective transformation.

H.C : Fashion and clothing play an important role in your performance work, often in the form of oversized sculptural shoes, hand-painted pairs of socks and performers in unconventional states of dress. What messages do these performance outfits aim to portray?

L.B : For me, clothing has been the first tool to cross the boundaries that define what is generally considered normal and acceptable in western societies, and what is not. It has been a direct and spontaneous medium in the search of diversity and personal transformation.
All my designs attempt to deliver a message beyond appearance. My oversized shoes function as a metaphor for masculinity, portrayed as uncomfortable, dangerous and ridiculous. With my hyper-visible garments I want to draw the viewers into my world, disorienting them, blurring the boundaries of gendered behaviours and provoking self-questioning. My jackets resemble uniforms, which can be perceived as serious and intimidating but are equally playful and fun, featuring both feminine and masculine identified visual references. The painted socks are for me the ultimate quest for freedom; mocking and challenging an existing florid market in contemporary consumerism that, in men’s fashion, allows colourful socks but neglects any other forms of self-expression.

H.C : Collaboration is traditionally an important factor of performance art, and your work features sometimes up to four other performers, as well as direct collaboration with visual artists such as Alice Blackstock. How do you approach artistic collaboration? Is it hard to rely on other performers to enact your artistic vision?

L.B : My works are an attempt to talk about groups and societies, not only about isolated individuals. By involving other people in my projects, I cannot fully predict their final outcome. Multiple identities coexist and react to each other, carrying different stories and past experiences. Collaboration is for me a unique occasion to meet with the unknown, encountering and negotiating with the other. In this exchange, my performances take a supplementary dimension beyond myself.

Working in a team allows me to revert and explore power dynamics, hierarchies and conventional roles. My approach to artistic collaboration is very direct; during a good conversation, emailing or calling I invite others to be involved in my works. I only contact artists, performers, designers and musicians whose work I admire, and whom I respect as human beings. It is not hard to rely on the other performers to enact my artistic vision; it is a necessity. The work requires their participation.

H.C : Having previously featured in the one night only Absinthe 2018 exhibition, what are you excited about for Absinthe 2019? Can you give us an insight into the work you’re producing for it? 

L.B : Absinthe 2018 was a very successful event, kindly hosted by James Capper in his Bermondsey studio. During this extravagant night, I was activating Tom Ribot’s sculpture, serving Absinthe to the audience.

For Absinthe 2019, I am working again in collaboration with Tom, taking this first performance one step further. Three adepts will be performing the Absinthe ritual on the night of the 23rd February. If you are being approached by one of the adepts, it means that you have been selected to access the room. Be prepared for an otherworldly experience, a mind awakening, a journey in your own body and perceptions.

… your presence is required upstairs, follow me…