60 61 The body and the shelter: right to water and contemporary art. A conversation with Gian Maria Tosatti Fabiola Triolo Contemporary art is the realm of symbol, and sovereign of symbol is the metaphor. It is in the wake of a metaphor that Ossigeno is today grateful to Gian Maria Tosatti (b. Rome, 1980, lives and works in Naples) for having accepted our invitation to walk through these pages on the track of a fertile ground: that of the metaphor between art and water. Art vivifying like water. Plastic like water. Powerful like water. Right to freedom of art, as free is – or should be – water. It is in the name of the symbolic and prismatic power of water that the greatest contemporary artists have sprinkled and submerged their artworks, but having chosen Gian Maria Tosatti – trustee, in 2022, of Italy’s two major art institutions, the Venice Biennale and the Rome �uadrennial – as a beacon, to investigate the protection that contemporary art puts in place with respect to the universal right to water, transcends the shape and involves the essence: beyond the significant, poetic and symbolic use of the aquatic element within his art, Gian Maria Tosatti is a body of water. I mean: H2O, two parts of hydrogen and one of oxygen, to give life to the substance that quintessentially gives life. Degreed in Directing, graduated in Modern Literature, artist, essayist, reviewer and cultural columnist, his structure, like that of water, is composite. And more. Drawn out of the website of a contemporary art temple the likes of Pirelli HangarBicocca: «The practice of the Italian artist Gian Maria Tosatti is focused on the concepts of identity, collectiveness and memory, in their historical, political and spiritual value. Carrying out long and articulated researches, and dipping freely into the language of visual arts, performance and architecture, Tosatti creates majestic site-specific installations, often conceived for entire buildings or urban areas and intended to last for long periods of time. His work also involves the communities connected to the places where his artworks, often marked by a strong sense of cyclicity, take shape». Cyclicity. Dipping. Permeability. Collectiveness. Fluidity. Long-lasting. Even his official biography has the features of water. And still: imaginary is the primary source from which the artist draws in order to give substance to his vision, and in one of his editorials dated 2009 for that luminous stolperstein called La Differenza – whose he has been parent, before having been the director – he wrote: «Imaginary is a soft world, made of mercury, traversable, rapid, elusive, liquid, made up of desires and fears. Yet sometimes entering the world of the imaginary, crossing it, becomes an obligatory step to continue towards a certain direction, to be able to go truly further. Imaginary becomes the river that you have to swim across». With the awareness of the precious value of water, and with the will to undermine prejudicial clichés, I would tell that both the work and the imaginary of Gian Maria Tosatti make water: they do generate and nourish. And as a Calabrian who lives by the sea, in a Calabria that smells like that Naples that Tosatti has chosen as his home, I am equally aware that a body of water needs water. That’s what he himself has confirmed to me: «In 2013, I began a project in Naples called Seven Seasons of the Spirit. Three years of intense work. I moved there from New York, the city where I lived. Peppe Morra, a great patron of the arts, made me available a house with two rooms. One was the studio where I had to work. It had small windows, set very high, you could hardly see out. Only the sky could be seen. The other one was the bedroom, with six large windows, from sky to earth. They all overlooked the Gulf of Naples. Below there was the city. Facing the sea. All-out. Nothing to cover it. At night, the glow from the lighthouse came looking for me in the corners. Once finished the project, in 2016 I moved back to New York, but two years later I decided to go back and live in Naples, to establish my studio there. And I decided that I would have done it, only if I had been able to find another house whose windows could overlook the sea. And so it was». There is still a reason why Gian Maria Tosatti can bear witness to the relationship between contemporary art and water, and it lies in that sameness between his way of working and what Leonardo called the blood of the Earth, between sea, sky and soil, between evaporation, condensation, precipitation and infiltration: it's the water cycle, and it's simply vital. One of the constants in Tosatti's work is that of working in cycles. Visual novels, as they have often been called, sequential chapters making up a single, powerful portrait. About the duality of human nature, both transcendent and mundane, in Devotions (2005-2011). Concerning the relationship with space, in Landscapes (2006-2011), and with memory, in The considerations on the intentions of my first holy communion remain a dead letter (2009-2014). About the alien solitude that flows from the broken promises of New York, in I've already been here (2011-2014).