About /77

/77 is an artist-run studio open to collaborations and external projects involving young artists and art students whose work has not been exhibited yet.

Let us of WoMA introduce you to this dynamic group of young artists, with whom we had an exchange of ideas and confrontation on their activities inside and outside /77’s venue, as well as on the bigger picture of the contemporary art scene in Milan.

WoMA: Your mission statement appears strong and explicit: “to create a collective debate on the work and research of individual artists also and most importantly outside the exhibition context.” Out of which needs and necessities is the project of /77 born? If present, to what extent these needs and necessities refer to the academic and professional world?

In the sentence you just quoted there’s a lot of /77’s spirit: when we commit to a project, our objective is to create an ideal space for the growth and development of the artist’s research. With this presupposition, the exhibition becomes the result of a process and a fundamental moment of encounter with the public, but it’s not the culmination of the project itself because what interests us most is the possibility of a professional dialogue and critic. This approach surely stems from a kind of academic teaching that we deem as extremely efficient because it allows the artist to grab the consciousness of his or her practice, and his or her research to develop with awareness.

/77 has been first of all shaped by this our necessity of a wide and sincere confrontation with other artists of our generation; a year from its founding, we feel like affirming that we find great feedback in this method and we are satisfied of what it enabled us to build until today.

WoMA: You apply a really interesting and unconventional business model, if so can be defined, that is you operate with zero budget. An economic choice, but also an ethical one, which you yourself consider as not being a limitation. Which are the added values and costs of opportunity in operating with this approach? Have there ever been any significant renunciations due to such choice? 

For us, to operate with zero budget has been, as you would say in these cases, to make a virtue of necessity. Despite this, there’s no lack of positive aspects in our situation: to have as our unique resource a basement and to build the structure of /77 in an entirely independent way offered us the freedom to choose what to do, without compromising with anyone. In this year of activity, we have constantly tried to raise the stakes with more ambitious projects because it starts to appear to us ever more clear that this independence is actually a privilege; moreover, we’re interested in challenging ourselves and closing the annual program in June with great satisfaction.

/77 is an ongoing project that adapts to the conditions it finds, and is born to satisfy the needs of the environment that it’s put into: as a consequence, we feel that there have been no significant renunciations, thanks to this intrinsic aspect of the project.

WoMA: This project targets the youth having no exhibition experience, but who nevertheless carry with them ideas still in their embryonic phase. Do you have specific selection criteria of the artists? Which are the advantages and disadvantages in dealing with embryonic researches?

It’s really hard for us to precisely state which are our selection criteria because they differ in every case; generally speaking, we favor well-structured and coherent researches, we appreciate the experimentation and awareness of the work. Being the critique our main interest, we are interested by works that stimulate and create a debate.

Regarding the difficulties in working with very young artists, throughout our short experience we have never encountered severe issues, on the contrary we’ve always found professionalism and willingness to do. Surely it’s much more difficult to catalyze the attention on artists that no one knows, but we’ve been able to build in these months an interested and curious audience.

Instead, the positive aspects are plenty, but to list them would be silly and reductive, we are building a relationship of trust with these artists, one that is based on mutual esteem: they know that in giving visibility and support to their research we earn nothing, other than the pleasure of collaborating with them, and that this uninterested collaboration uniquely aims to achieve their best possible result.

La nuda verità
La nuda verità – portfolio contest, Samuele Menin and the artists duo Lorenzo Bellini and Roberto Carovilla, courtesy: 77Encounter of portfolio review during “Portfolio review re-enactment”, taking place in the spaces of Viafarini

WoMA: Perhaps the aspects that emerge the most from /77’s environment are those of sociality and confrontation. Which have been the outcomes, in the short and long term, of these encounters and discussions, in particular the series of events La Nuda Verità and the collaboration with Viafarini onPortfolio Review Re-enactment?

The series of conferences La Nuda Verità, organized in collaboration with Samuele Menin, mostly targeted a very young audience, which for the first time received an answer to those questions that were often a taboo in the Academy. The economic topics regarding the professional world are bureaucratic themes that dispel the magic that making art carries along, but that are necessary in order to understand how to behave and safeguard oneself especially once outside the academic dynamics. These conferences allowed us to start setting up a very honest, direct dialogue and relationship with people who were beginning to attend /77: the space had few months of life and that was surely the moment in which we started to exploit the real and actual network.

Then, the collaboration with Viafarini did nothing more but emphasizing what was already beginning to form: we had the opportunity to know the researches of artists that we were interested in further deepening and with whom we had a sincere confrontation. This surely allowed us to make ourselves known both as artists and a collective. We can’t tell you yet which will be the long-term outcomes of these portfolio-reviews, we’re waiting for the exhibition in June in order to draw some definite conclusions.

WoMA: Can you describe the residency activities within /77? Providing a curatorial support to Mati Jhurry and Isabella Benshimor, the ambitious project Exotic Embassy was born. Which has been your role? Which the results of this highly international project?

Exotic Embassy has been the first residency project which we’ve confronted ourselves with. We decided to host Mati Jhurry and Isabella Benshimol, who bring forward a very complex and stratified project with a long term ambition. Since, about one year ago, we invited the artists, we agreed with them that the final residency work would have been the embassy’s website, and from this fixed point, we developed the entire experience. The artists, from the first to the last day, have personified the ambassadors of the exotic, carrying out all the activities inherent to their roles, for example launching a fictitious award to promote the exotic, engaging in occasion of Studi Festival #2 the artist Natalia Trejbalova, who readapted her work “32min. RELAX (how to build an archipelago). 2” within the setting up of Exotic Embassy.

Despite the difficulties in the realization of the project were clear since the very beginning, it has been important for us to realize it in the hope that, after this experience, it will be easier for the artists to propose it again in institutional contexts. We would like to say that it’s of fundamental importance to us that the artists we host don’t have to compromise with the work, but having instead the possibility to be ambitious and brave in realizing the project, which can allow their research to grow as much as possible.

For the very first time, we involved an external curator, Alice Ongaro, born in 1994, so our support, more than being of a curatorial kind, has been that of a constant confrontation and dialogue with the artists: we assisted them in the construction of the embassy and structured the promotion of the event in different phases, always trying to keep the situation stimulating.

We have just concluded the project and we’re very satisfied of the results: it has been fundamental for us to confront ourselves with a challenge like this, that has given us the possibility to prove ourselves, in all and for all.

Mati Jhurry and Isabella Benshimol, Exotic Embassy (headquarters Milan, Exotic Awards 2016), installation, 2016

WoMA: The contemporary art scene in Milan seems to have underwent a strong acceleration a year now, with an exorbitant increase not only in the number of artistic spaces and galleries, but also of exhibitions and fairs. What is your opinion in this regard? How do you intend to act now and in the future, front of this increasing competition?

This is a question that we’ve asked a lot to ourselves in recent times. We are of course very happy of this new ferment in Milan’s artistic scene, also because it’s largely the result of people of more or less our age. In our first year of life, we have tried to realize as many projects as possible to prove ourselves and better understand which were our points of strength. Starting from June, /77 will no longer have a fixed location and this will offer us the opportunity to sit around a table and decide which path to take in the next years. One of the things we’d like to do most is to collaborate with some of these new spaces and try to grow together.

The only thing that has always interested us as a collective or artist-run project is Contemporary Art. As long as we feel we can contribute to this cause we will continue, in ever new ways, from project to project, artist to artist, work to work.

Anni Wu