Meeting Filippo Riniolo - An exclusive interview

We are proud to be collaborating with Italian fine artist, Fillipo Riniolo, to produce his performative artwork, Selezioni, which was released as an NFT exclusively on Artscapy on the 27th of January. The performance, which was curated by Francesco Cascino and Micol Di Veroli and under the patronage of the Italian Jewish Community of Rome, took place at the MAXXI Museum in Rome on 12 October last year. The work is executed around a particularly poignant topic in light of the 78th anniversary of the tragic Raid of the Ghetto of Rome

‘SELEZIONI’ (in English: ‘Selections’) is an artwork with significant depth that aims to be much more than a remembrance piece; it is intended as a teaching moment for us, as a society, to reflect, and allows us to link the past with the presence. Following the initial live performance at the MAXXI Museum on 12 October, this performative piece has now been made available to collectors as an NFT on Artscapy, with the great help of curators Francesco Cascino and Gianluca Marziani, supported by Fluendo Art. This profound work represents a way to bring what many younger generations perceive as a distant memory into a contemporary time, making the past emotionally accessible also to whoever was not part of it, and Artscapy is incredibly proud to support such important art.

During the months of preparation for the release, we had an opportunity to sit down for an exclusive interview with Fillipo Riniolo. We talked about how he came to create an artwork that reflects such an important topic, and also had an in-depth discussion with him around his research process and dynamic practice.

Riniolo started by sharing with us the idea that he wants to create an impact on the world with his art: he creates art with a purpose, with philosophical and cultural meaning. ‘SELEZIONI’ certainly fits in this category as one of the most unsettling, disconcerting, and thought-provoking works created by Riniolo so far. To create change, sometimes you have to be risky and challenge boundaries. In many ways, artists are certainly at the forefront of these ideals, and Riniolo is no different. 

In particular when it comes to his art production, Riniolo said something very striking when he compared the use of his hands as a means to create artistic language. 

“My hands are my tools of communication - they allow me to express my ideas and show others how I perceive the world. For me, art is a combination of elements. Elements that may not be directly connected, elements that may cross different fields and disciplines... but art allows you to make sense of it...Art is a way of communicating. Art is the intelligence of the hands.” 

- Fillipo Riniolo in an exclusive interview with Artscapy, 8 October 2021.

Notwithstanding being highly adept in his understanding of the theory behind the major artistic mediums and techniques, Riniolo felt school was never a place for him to truly develop and grow his artistic practice. Even as a graduate at the top of his class in every module at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, Italy, from which he graduated in 2011, he felt that formal education was not providing him the right tools to produce works which led to a “intellectually-striking conceptual ideas” as he puts it. Instead he tells us the degree felt predominantly focused on the handling of various artistic techniques, rather than inspiring artistic ideation. 

When we delved further into the topic of conceptual ideation, Riniolo shared with us how he brews concepts for extended periods of time. He studies them, researches, and then considers the best way to express the artistic conclusion in a medium. He sometimes experiments with several mediums in the pursuit of the one that most effectively expresses his concept. Riniolo very much considers himself a ‘Conceptual Artist’ first and foremost, and as a second step, looks to weave this idea into a medium. In other words, to Riniolo the idea itself is of the greatest importance, rather than mastery of the technique and, therefore, the technique tends not to be seen as being of the greatest importance when he is trying to communicate a message. He prefers to be immersed in studying history, sociology, theology and philosophical theories to back up his conceptual art. 

After carefully studying and exploring Riniolo’s portfolio you find a particular pattern of two key recurring topics in his practice: Politics and Religion. From placing guns in the hands of famous political figures, to reimagining Byzantine paintings, to a performance piece about the horrors of the Holocaust. Riniolo is interested in exposing the raw concept of ‘power’ and what happens to those who hold it. His aim is to expose these ideas and interrogate them, so that we can reflect thoroughly, and rebuild new power structures. 

“Power is the relationship we have with people in the world. Every relationship is a kind of power.” 

- Fillipo Riniolo in an exclusive interview with Artscapy, 8th of October 2021

However, Riniolo’s work is not just about power, it is also about creating a bridge between past and present. ‘SELEZIONI’, for instance, is a performative artwork that correlates a historically charged event, the simple gesture with which the general of the Nazi army decided the fate of deported Jewish prisoners, into a contemporary setting of our present interactions with technology and social media. In this very unsettling way, Riniolo lets the viewer connect, in a present and familiar way, with the horror of extermination of the past. Riniolo builds a bridge to make this past memory emotionally accessible also to whoever was not part of it.

The ‘Raid of the Ghetto of Rome’ happened on the 16th of October 1943, roughly a month after the Nazis occupied Rome on the 8th of September. On this tragic day, 1,022 Roman Jews were deported to the German laghers. In ‘SELEZIONI’, Riniolo has imposed himself in the role of the Nazi military commander and holder of power, to call out the names of each of the 1,022 prisoners of the raid. Repeating the same hand gesture as the commander, simply moving a document in a left or right sweeping motion, Riniolo reenacts the process of determining who lived and died. This piece will allow the public to regain awareness of the banality with which this tragic and extremist act of ‘selecting’ who dies and who lives happened, and superimposing it into a contemporary context of our present everyday interactions with technology and social media. ‘SELEZIONI’ also strips down this idea of power by exposing us, the viewer, as active ‘destroyers’ of human connection in contemporary culture. 

“Everyday we choose who will stay and who will live on these applications and I don't think people understand that this is a very dangerous practice. This selection is not normal because we are missing so many layers of what defines that person. We are killing human connection.” 

- Fillipo Riniolo in an exclusive interview with Artscapy, 8th of October 2021

Riniolo is showing us that regardless of the final outcome of this gesture, the banality of it continues to highlight our repeated behaviour around power and control. Although an extreme comparison, ‘SELEZIONI’ exposes some of our deepest  values and desires at their core, when it comes to life and death, love and human relations. It is a poignant bridge connecting the past with the present, making a dark past emotionally accessible in a contemporary context.

Artscapy is proud to be supporting such a talented, profound artist for such an important artistic project.

To learn more about how to support the project and the translation of the artwork from a performance into an accessible interactive digital experience here.

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