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200 thousand flowers in a church in Parma: Rebecca Louise Law's first site-specific installation

Curated by OTTN Projects, an all female collective here interviewed by nss G-Club

200 thousand flowers in a church in Parma: Rebecca Louise Law's first site-specific installation Curated by OTTN Projects, an all female collective here interviewed by nss G-Club

On the occasion of Parma Capitale Cultura 2020, FLORILEGIUM, the first site-specific installation by artist Rebecca Louise Law and curated by the team of OTTN Projects, an all-female collective that since 2018 has been promoting new ways of operating in the cultural scene, inaugurated at the beginning of October. 

It might seem odd, even out of place, to talk about art and exhibitions at a time like this, but the project and more generally the philosophy that distinguishes OTTN Projects reflects a broader commitment that focuses on culture, on its meaning on society, on its impact on people's lives, as an integral part for the restart of this country. Even more so if you think that behind this collective are four very young women, Giorgia Ori, Francesca Rossi, Erika Gaibazzi and Federica Pilloni, who in the last two years have worked to bring the works of an artist of the calibre of Rebecca Louise Law in Italy, and who did not stop even in the hardest months of the pandemic. 

The girls of OTTN Projects have told nss G-Club about their story, their aims and their hopes for the future. 

How did OTTN Projects come about? Was it a conscious choice to create an all-female collective?

OTTN Projects was founded in Parma in November 2018 from the desire to break the mould. What prompted us to found it was the thought of a way of operating in the cultural scene that was authentic, fluid, and capable of transforming itself every day like the reality that surrounds us; take care of a culture that reflects our time and our generation; create a support structure for artists in our own small way; and finally the idea of ​​returning to the meaning that exists behind every choice, together with the desire to free ourselves from any type of institutional methodology taken by law, and without allowing ourselves any kind of comfort zone. At the beginning OTTN was a container of scattered projects and perhaps not very solid ideas (even considering our age); awareness and identity have emerged over time, project after project, as perhaps it should be: for everything, there is a time, and lessons to learn. Today, among the kids of our generation, there is a great fear of making mistakes and of the possible judgment of others, but if you don't try the 'zero move' you will never go beyond the zero moments... Here, a few times we have had fear! In these days, together with friends and artists, we are writing a Manifesto which we have arrived at over time; is the desire to mark a moment earned with courage. 

We're four women, an absolutely conscious choice made with the hope of being an example for other young women; it's a message for girls, an alternative model to the mainstream one, and at the same time the desire to contribute, by being at the forefront, to show that young women can fill any role. It is a constant battle against the councillor on duty, the local impresario, the joke of the notary, and those of hundreds of other professionals with whom we come into contact on a daily basis to complete our projects. And every day, we are called upon to explain or prove something to someone ... we usually speak little and let our actions do it for us. Losing strength, and some energy is normal, and that is exactly what we as women are invited to do by our society; and that is why we hope that our experience is instead the demonstration of the contrary. Why we are all women is a question we are often asked, probably if we were an all-male team no one would ask it, or am I wrong? 

 

Can you tell us a bit about FLORILEGIUM and Rebecca Louise Law? 

Florilegium is the first site-specific installation in Italy by Rebecca Louise Law, an internationally renowned English artist. As a collective, we've been working on this project for over two years, and we were able to complete it this year - which is strange to say given this particular period. Perhaps precisely because of the historical moment we are experiencing, people have reacted with great enthusiasm and their encounter with the work was incredible; Over 8000 people arrived this summer thanks to word of mouth. The work consisting of 200,000 flowers, symbolically one for each citizen, is set up inside the Oratory of San Tiburzio, in Parma and will be open until 19 December. Working on this project has taught us a lot: from the relationship with an artist of this calibre to the delicate balance with external collaborators to the entrancing encounter with the public. Curating exhibitions of this kind has allowed us to have the opportunity to leave a concrete mark on people, we have succeeded and this is difficult to internalize; it certainly makes you understand better the importance of our job and how crucial it is to educate to complexity. For every ten people who enter the exhibition, we do a small tour of a few minutes, obviously free, in which we basically tell people what they see, without giving them an established meaning, without directing them towards an emotion or a notion: we give them total freedom both in concept and in movement, and for a few minutes you see these people change, in their eyes and in the way they look. Still, others come to take pictures, and others walk towards the exit almost immediately after entering: however, there is no judgment on our part. A few days ago a group of 10 middle school girls came in, they skipped school to come to see the exhibition, one of them had a very original black kajal and she told us she wants to become an artist; none of them photographed anything, for example, they sat in the middle of the room, looked at the artwork, laughed every now and then and then left. A month ago, however, a man who had recently lost his daughter entered and was moved by this cascade of flowers. For us, this is enough to keep doing what we do. 

One of your goals is to bring art physically closer to people. How did you reinvent yourself during the lockdown and how do you see the upcoming months? 

Having always had a healthy relationship with technology, we didn't feel the need to reinvent ourselves. Actually, the lockdown was a great possibility, an opportunity to see things from another perspective and I believe that for everyone it was, in one way or another, an extremely important experience on a personal level. It gave us certainty about some projects, and brutally exposed others: it was necessary and healthy. Our working methods have always been remote since we don't all live in the same city (Parma, Milan, Rome) and not having a physical location from that point of view hasn't changed things. The meetings, however, have always taken into account a different time and we took the first month off. We used this time to review projects, understand if they were still relevant, and we dedicated ourselves to the 2021 program, but mainly we lived time for what it was, tried to absorb the present and understood in what contexts or areas it was useful to develop significant research. The dialogue with those who follow us was active, both through live questions and through talks edited on our Youtube channel, in which we dealt with scientific and philosophical issues with professionals from different sectors. As for bringing works of art physically close to people... it means encouraging them to make a movement towards culture, and meet halfway: it can't be one-sided. This precious moment of contact, which is the connection and the ability to create connections, is fundamental. Everything passes through empathy and therefore exchange: with the exchange, there is a change, interpersonal enrichment, and a transformation that is first of all ours and of those who live with us. Sometimes to joke we call ourselves a travel agency... because we make so many trips! 

As you also write on your website, culture is essential for progress. In your opinion, what role will art and culture play in the restart of our country? 

For us, culture has a meaning that influences the way we live, going far beyond the concept of paintings and museums. Culture is the ability to investigate the causes of things and not get lost in the countless consequences. Much of this "restart" did not take into consideration issues of primary importance, such as care for the environment from which we draw resources or the sustainability of our society. On a more immediate level, culture is identity, of the individual and of the community, and therefore we should ask ourselves if it represents us and if the institutions are able to satisfy the needs and expectations of the new generations (in which we place great hopes!). We would like the art world to make more noise and be more engaged in the conversation. It would be nice to agree in giving due weight to intangible needs and the right importance to relationships with each other, with the world, with the environment that surrounds us and with the nature that birthed us. Because culture is real only when it's really addressed to us, to a community that actively participates in the changes, from here our country must start over. 

 

FLORILEGIUM by Rebecca Louis Law will be open from November 24 to December 19 at the Chiesa di San Tiburzio, Borgo Palmia, 6, Parma, free entry, booking not required.