interview met Franco Angeloni

volgend interview: Berlinde De Bruyckere

Interview with Franco Angeloni (1967), september 2012 , interview for DAVIDvzw. (

Hilde Van Canneyt: Hallo Franco, je bent van Italiaanse afkomst en hebt in Rome kunstgeschiedenis gestudeerd. In ’90 ben je naar Amsterdam op residentie gekomen, om dan nog in ’94 in Den Haag Monumentaal design te studeren. Is ‘kunst’ je met de paplepel meegegeven?
HVC: Hi Franco, you are an Italian en studied arthistory in Rome. In the nineties, you moved to Amsterdam for a residency. You proceeded with a study Monumental Design in 94 in Den Haag. Were you brought up with art?

Franco Angeloni: I find the word 'Paplepel' very funny and, metaphorically speaking I can take it, although I would never myself use such a word to describe what happened, when I first started to consider, that I did not have much choice in life but stepping into the world of creativity and yes, the world of Art. (PS: Mind you, I see creativity as a sensitivity of the mind that can be developed and applied in all the fields of human operations, actions, and behaviors.

And this does not necessarily have to be confined within the fields of artistry and/or seen as an exclusive 'matter' fallen in the hands of visual artists, designers, architects and all the rest of it...). Looking back at those early days, (I must have been 8 years old), I recall making a drawing of a Chinese servant who floated in the air wearing very colourful clothes. I can't see the reason why I chose an Oriental subject matter - especially considering that China, in the 1970s was only a remote dream for most of Europeans. However Asia did not forget this and took her revenge on me. And I will tell you later why ;-)

HVC: Hebben Italianen een andere visie op kunst dan Nederlanders? En zo ja, is dat door hun rijke geschiedenis, denk je?
HVC: Have Italians another thought on art then Dutch people? If so, has their rich heritage anything to do with it? What is your opinion on this?

FA: I do not like to make comparisons but if I make a quick observation without any historical reference, and take the Universe as the mother/giver of 'beauty', I see Italian creativity as a permanent chaos within that massive obscurity where sometimes a marvelous planet gets born and is left to live until it finally explodes and fades away, leaving indelible tracks which are difficult to decode. Dutch creativity is a permanent chaos where great planets are regularly given birth but are often held on a leash and their watermarks are always there to be historically traced back. ... I am not sure I made myself clear.

HVC: Je werk gaat vooral over de vraagstelling rond cultuur, sociologie, politiek, wetenschap en ecologie, maar je maakt niet echt een onderscheid ertussen.
Wat wil je verder vertellen met je werk? Wat is je hoogste betrachting als kunstenaar?
HVC Your work questions culture, sociology, politics, sciences and ecology, but you don’t make a real distinction between them. What do you want to teach us with your work? What is you ambition as artist?

FA:To say 'je werk' that is, to refer to 'my work' and give a clear answer about it, is something that I usually do not like to do. But then again, if I accept an interview where 'you ask' and 'I have to answer', I am obliged to give some explanations, am I not? ;-)
So, here we go, and I'll make it simple, work is political.

HVC: ‘Het woord’ is heel belangrijk in je beeldend werk. Kan je wat je kwijt wil niet in beelden ‘zonder woorden’ kwijt’?
HVC: ‘The word’ is very important in your visiual oeuvre. Can you not express what you want in images ‘without words’?

FA: "Words are important", ... I do not know who I am actually quoting but I hear that statement so often in the Media (in the public), as well as in the private life of ordinary people. Just think of how effective newspapers headlines are and how much they influence people's perception on a specific local or global event. It is easy to see what an effect the words: Terrorism, Illegal, Corrupted, Taxes, Sexual, Democracy, Sustainability, Environment, Fascist, Racist, Economical, etc... have had for everyone on an emotionally as well as psychologically level in the past decades. So, words are indeed important and the fact that we often use them randomly, fascinates me a great deal. I would not say that I use words 'randomly' ...far from it, but the fact that I meticulously select them and offer them to the public, opens up for an unpredicted dialogue, with the possibility of random results. In that 'random result' I sometimes see the germ of creativity, which comes to life from an interaction with the anonymous audience.

As for why I use words instead of making 'sculptures/objects and all the rest of it', I reply by saying that this is not true....there are plenty of 'illiterate' works I made and still make.

And lastly....going back to the 'words' issue, if the 'random result' triggered by the use of words is disappointing, you can still look at that word as an abstract drawing and/or sculpture. That's what it is anyway, before the brains gives it all that paraphernalia of significances and implications thereby. ;-)

HVC: Vertel je eens iets over  'The Super Genetic Market®'?

Het werk bestaat uit een video en een installatie met ‘kleur’ in potten die de DNA kleuren voorstellen. Hoe bepaal je de kleur van zo’n pot? Met dat werk ‘verbeeld’ je onder andere de genetische manipulatie: welke idealen streven we na? Hoe gaan we om met het pervers gebruik ervan? Welke idealen streven we ermee na?
HVC: Tell us more about ‘The Super Genetic Market ®'? The work consists of a video and een installation with ‘colour’ in jars, referring to the DNA-colours. How do you chose the colour of such a jar? With that work, you include the genetic manipulation: what ideals do we pursue? How do we cope with the perverse use of it? What ideals do we strive for?

FA: It must have been around 1993-94, when I first started to speculate on the possibility of preserving life, extending it, perfectionating it, or reproducing it by using artificial processes. It doesn’t take an artist to reflect upon these issues I believe.

Indeed when asked what I do in life for a living I always answer that I am a human being first, (which is the most interesting thing to be and deal with), and then that I am one whom is operating in the fields of arts and economy and the business world…..

I don't quite recall whether it was '94 or '96 that the staggering news (staggering for the masses, that is) about the cloning of Dolly the sheep got the headlines of most popular world newspapers.

In spite of this event, I think I have always been interested in what man-kind and its inventive mind can do in order to better understand who we are.

I perceive human beings as a sequence of similar biological animals, yet bearing their wonderfully different features and personal characters, and of course the ability to communicate using an alphabet (…..).

While I share the common place opinion that biodiversity is a priority for the preservation of “beauty and diversity” on our planet, I definitely believe that what man kind is doing in trying to preserve this diversity is totally against Nature's perennial strive to re-achieve its ancestral homogeneity.

So one day while I was strolling through the supermarket isles I was struck by the fact that I could practically buy all I needed for my daily ration of human sustainable functioning.

But what if I wanted to change or replace my feeling with a much happier one, and do so at that precise moment? (I was in Amsterdam back then and it must have been the bad weather outside that made me reflect upon this option….aahh!)

It is natural to realize this I know, but that time I think I must have missed something personal and deeply in that supermarket.

It is then that I first conceived The Super Genetic Market ®

Basically I foresaw the starting of a commercially-driven outlet where people could go and buy their missing gene, (read, identity, personality, features, character, attitude, sex, etc….).

Perseverance, more than believing or dreaming, can take us somewhere. However, I developed an interest in genetics because I am fascinated by the possibility that man might one day, through scientific research, sell immortality. By the way, overpopulation – which might be an argument against that possibility – does not concern me as I have often noticed that this is not a human aspiration shared at unsustainable levels. In the meantime, I dream of “making” a fairer world; then again, if I received that mandate by the community, I would soon be accused of inequity by those who have a different idea. Thus, I would have many enemies and I would have to resign. What would happen would be more or less what has been taking place by almost 10,000 years, the frustration growing with progress: the “clash” before the “dialogue” and the inability to share a purpose that might serve the common interest. Yet, I like the challenges that society provides me every day and I think that that it is possible to go on, indeed it is necessary.”

The early version of The Super Genetic Market ® was only a couple of shelves with jars on them, and they displayed a number of made-up genes as a soft-drink, (read it ironically such as a drinkable would-be agent that makes you: intelligent, perseverant, anxious, clever, entrepreneur, horny, potent, relaxed, creative, muslim, god, etc…). This early work was auctioned at Christie’s Auctions Amsterdam in 2002 and was purchased by a Dutch pharmaceutical company. At this stage I was the only one to choose 'that colour' to 'that specific gene'.

As for the subsequent versions of this project, I have been developing it as a site specific work, that is, I design it together with the promotional material depending on the venues I am asked to present it. Sometimes it happens at Art fairs, in art galleries, in International fairs for the Packaging Industry, IPAC-IMA of Milano (in 2001 and 2002 I cooperated with ETIPACK Spa Italy, a middle size industry of the packaging that has its head quarter in Milano and a few join ventures in France and the US.

They produced the jars, the labeling the packaging and all the prom material, and we presented it in Milano and Rimini with success (…..), at other times I may present it at projects conferences that creatively propose meetings and idea-exchanges among artists and scientists and biotech industries.

At other times, and in order to reach a different audience I seek co-operations with the managers of unusual venues and I design and present this project at night clubs of-a-kind, (such as was the case recently in Bangkok at BED Supperclub).

Besides reaching a different audience, when I work within entertainment-devoted environments I found out that looking for sponsors(which have a specific interest in promoting art projects) can be fun and sometimes profitable. That was indeed the case with the presentation at BED, Bangkok, in which we were able to be fully supported by ABSOLUT Vodka, a company that has a true inclination for and interest in supporting the Arts.

One time I installed this work at the entrance all of a public Hospital in Amsterdam.

HVC: Wil je bewust confronteren?
HVC: Do you consciously confront?

FA:Yes and no. However, the beauty of your question is that with or without me and/or my work, confrontation would still be there for everybody to deal with.

 HVC: Wat zijn jouw andere sleutelwerken?
HVC: What are your other keyworks?

FA: Well....this is quite a weird question. I have to resist from saying 'an aggressive question', (poetically speaking), in that, if I were interested in producing masterpieces, at the end of my life I should look back and point at those 'works' which are the most important and worth to be remembered. But honestly working, living and producing 'creative objects with a message' ;-)

is more than making masterpieces. I mean, it is the seriousness with which one goes about 'the matter of living' that for me counts the most and no so much how one encloses that seriousness in an object or a concept. But, in order to please you and stay on earth I can mention a few more works which if not really to be considered 'key works' are the ones I enjoyed the most working on:

1- "Natura et ars nihil agunt frustra. Ha, ha, ha...! [Nature and science do nothing in vain. Ha, ha, ha...!]" Franco Angeloni ©2007, which was produced on a laid out Island in the Gulf of Thailand and it is now in the permanent collection of the Verbeke Foundation, Belgium.

I would love to go on another far remote island in the Pacific Ocean and 'produce' a work with that specific idea in the back of my mind.

2- The series of installation/performance works that I started to set up in public spaces using recycled beer/water/other glass bottles. During the setting up of such works I am constantly confronted with an audience made of perfect strangers who passing by, ask the most interesting questions. An example of these series of installation I can take this:


A public installation by Franco Angeloni VEDETT® ///// ©2011 All Rights Reserved

TINA B 2011 Contemporary Art Festival . Prague

More examples, Phuket, Thailand:

3- Another project that gave a turn to my artistic life, but which is complex to put into words is one that I realized during a residency at The Grand Central Art Center, Fullerton University, Los Angeles (USA). We are talking about 2001 and here it was the time when I told myself that objects and matter was a total nonsense in the artistic activity, so much so that the work that I set up at this art space was quite ethereal. It consisted of me driving around Los Angeles, collecting information based on life-style, dreams, aspirations, political views, etc..., 'generously given away' by interviewing at their homes, local South Californian people. It all resulted in a final ceremony at the art center during which I gave away a flight ticket to come and visit Amsterdam and Rome.  The project involved more than a hundred people.

It was if you like, a "Social or Relational (art)work". Beautifully reviewed by Kinney Littlefield in the Los Angeles Times.

Santa Ana (Southern California) Cal State University Fullerton Grand Central Art Center.

May June 2001 “Win a trip to Roma or Amsterdam Contest” by Franco Angeloni.

4- However, the work which I consider as a break through in recent years and, that really made me understand in what direction I wanted to go is this traveling/riding ongoing project which I started when I struck a cooperation deal with KAWASAKI MOTORS ENTERPRISE THAILAND. Art, life, body and mind have come to move forward in a perfect and holistic way. Ever since, I/we travel and set up projects sometimes artistic sometimes commercial

with the aid of several sponsors and partners. All of it has come together after the name:


and The Super Genetic Market® has become an integral part of these recent creative activities. _

HVC: Als ik op je website kijk, zie ik dat je al een rijk palmares van kunstwerken in verschillende materialen en expo’s achter de kiezen hebt.

Hoe begin je aan een kunstwerk en hoe bepaal je met welke materialen je werkt? Denk je op een abstracte of figuratieve wijze?

HVC: If I stroll through your website, I see a huge record of artworks in different materials and exhibitions. How do you start an artwork and how do you chose the materials you work with?
Do you develop the work on an abstract or figurative level?

FA: Actually I never asked myself such a question and if I look at what happens during the 'conceiving process' of a work I don't think there is a beginning and an end.

Of course the audience, the art environment, the galleries, the curators, the critics, the art collectors, or whoever wants to see what other people do, demand that one materializes his/her ideas, but to me any work it is like a coma in a infinite sentence. So, the result that one sees in a work it is one of many possible versions. As for the materials I use, I am fascinated by non-hybridization. What I mean by that is that when I choose materials I try to minimize them to a minimum, .... so for instance, concrete must be concrete, steel must be steel, paper must be paper and so on, ... and finally, concepts must stay concepts. There are quite a few and most intriguing works that I have not realized yet and that reside peacefully and beautifully in remote areas of my brains. And that's where they must be. Instead of making them mutate into dead objects. If we have a chance to meet in person I will then show you one of the most provocative (to me) and expressive works I ever made. Even the title is of great joy for me to recall: "The Total Understanding Of the Puzzling Disappearance Of Dry Matter", which I showed at The Art Center of Chulalongkorn University of Bangkok in 2010.

Ok, I attach 2 picture of it for you to see here down below ;-)

HVC: Je werken zijn veelal een work in progress…
HVC: Your works are mainly a work in progress…

FA: Life, is a work in progress,....Oppsss! Mistake. I am using the word progress whereas I do not believe in progress at all. How can we possibly call progress all the mess that human kind has produced around us over the past 10.000 years? This one needs to be discussed on a very serious level and demands for the right time and the right attitude. And although this interview is serious but time-limited, I will reserve the opportunity to go deeply into it on a more appropriate moment ;-)

HVC: Hoe is je loopbaan verlopen? Als een rechte oplopende lijn of met veel kronkels en blutsen?
HVC: How did you career pass? As a straight forward line or with a lot of crashes?

FA: If I say that my life and activities have been 'walking' on a straight line that goes upwards, I would contradict myself as to what I said here above regarding 'progress'. But I have to be honest again and I can not deny that today is the best time of my life. So, with such a daring statement I could not possibly answer that the 'loopbaan', as you call it in Dutch was contorted,  difficult and full of hurdles. In fact it was but it was a pleasure to go through it. Imagine if it had been easy and 'successful'* from the start, who knows where I'd have been now? For sure at a different stage and most likely at a less satisfactory understanding. Or if you want, I could have been at a non-spiritual level, floating in total confusion, inwardly as well as outwardly ;-)

 HVC: Welk verder discours wil je nog verder afleggen?
HVC: Which other discourses do you still have in mind?

 FA: I have nothing to say and nothing to teach but one thing, that I think it is at the core of my work, (at least in the work of the past 3-4 years). I will try and summarize here for you: "without conflicts and feeling of competition, with no struggles and idealizations, with no dreams and most of all, in the absence of any sort of ambition, anything can happen. And that 'anything', whatever it turns out to be, for sure it is the actualization of yourself, that is, the realization of God.”

I apologize if I am so short about this, but here again as above, we should need more time to understand - even myself - what I actually mean ;-)

HVC: Wat is de belangrijkste relatie tussen jou, je werk, Astrid en ‘DAVID vzw’?
HVC: What is the most important relation between you, your work, Astrid and DAVID vzw?

FA: I am interested in physical persons rather than groups and/or organizations, or even association, corporations or Nations. So, I will answer you only what my relation is with Astrid David. I first met Astrid in 2002 during an Art event called FRACTALS Beelden Buiten in De Tuin De Brabandere, Tielt - Belgium. I was showing there an interactive neon-installation, using Conium Maculatum (Hemlock plants, or Socrates potion), a deadly poisonous plant that I uprooted in a public park in Rome, smuggled through the custom at Brussels airport and replanted in that 'tuin' in Tielt. Astrid was working on that project together with the local Cultural Office. She moved swiftly through the park and the city and worked (apparently) very hard in order to get all the things done and make each of the artists satisfied with their presentations. I thought to myself, this woman rocks! She is driven by exceptional forces. And ever since we have become friends and have worked together on a couple of art projects. She is looking for something which I am sure it is neither fame nor success and, this can easily meet with my work ethic and life views, on the professional as well as the personal level. I think Astrid has an energy of a kind that it is difficult to understand. This has obviously and clearly shown when she recently had to go through the most dramatic experience that one can have in life. Yes, 'life' indeed, or life and non-life. - Astrid seems to be the one of the few who looks beyond the mere beauty and the colourful irony  that lies at the surface of The Super Genetic Market®. Or better, she seems to see something that I myself have not yet seen. This is also what makes me want to cooperate with her on the presentation of this project and the ethical, legal and psycho-social implications/discussions that genetic issues bring along with it.

HVC: Wat denk jij van kunst als medicijn? Denk je dat jouw werk een troost kan zijn voor anderen?
HVC: What is your opinion on the statement art as a medicine? Do you think your work can be a consolation for others?

FA: Yes, besides the fact that Art is always 'political', I 'use' myself Art as a medicine, or better, as a mental therapy. Art in general must have that quality of being a healing force. And it usually shows this character at best when you look at it and a smile cracks on your face. That's the case with works that have wit and irony in them. However, as to my own work, during conception I never think in terms of healing others when the work is done and shown. Doing so would put an unnatural and unnecessary pressure on me and the work itself. But if that force unexpectedly explodes when someone is looking at it, that work has found its reason to exist.

HVC: Is kunst de spiegel van de ziel voor jou?
HVC: Is art a mirror of the soul?

FA: Although I know the word 'ziel' (soul) because I have seen it written in many books and heard it spoken out by many people, I do not know what the soul is. I have never seen it nor have I ever touched or experienced it. So, my answer is no, Art is not the reflection of one's soul.

HVC: Heb je ooit al een fysische ervaring gehad bij het kijken naar of onderdompelen in een kunstwerk?

FA: A true physical experience? Yes, I had a few in the past when visiting galleries or museums and observing some art works produced by fellow artists. But it often turned out to be short-lasting and would soon be replaced by strong physical and at times psychological emotions derived by looking at other works.... in an ongoing fashion for many years.

Eventually I realized that these mental or bodily seizures were still of a poor significance when compared to those which our everyday life would offer me. So I stopped letting go of this raptures and focused more on the aesthetics and concepts behind the works.

But something happened in recent years (.....) and, since my work has started riding on 2 wheels, that 'physical experience' has become a continuum throughout my life, ...a sane, considerate, fluid and most of all enjoyable totality.

Whatever comes out of that experience is, today, by definition good, or, nearly God.

HVC: Welke elementen moet een kunstwerk in zich hebben om een geslaagd kunstwerk te zijn?

HVC: Which ingredients does an artwork need to be considered as a successful?

FA: I don't think there is a bunch of elements or qualities anyone could ever list and say: "This is what an art work should bear within, in order to be called as such".

In fact, the best art is that what you can never define. When defined art dies, it ceases to become interesting. It is a little bit like 'questions and answers'. Answers are dead, whereas questions are immortal. Try to understand why I say so ;-)

HVC: Succes nog met je verdere carrière, Franco!

HVC: I wish you a lot of succes in your further career, Franco !

FA: If I am sure of something now, that is that I am not after any sort of achievement or, success*...

Was it not for the fact that success is a dead quality/element of life. And I/we will have plenty of time to swim within that inexistent element, will I/we not? ;-)

Hilde Van Canneyt, copyright 2012.

Franco Angeloni ©2012