Crossing relational spaces – in conversation with Clara Luiselli

Italiano (Italian)

*Foto in evidenza: Ascensione, 2008 Lightbox (frame da performance) Crediti Clara Luiselli

Clara Luiselli (Bergamo, 1975) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Bergamo and attended the Fondazione Ratti and Fondazione Spinola Banna per l’Arte Contemporanea programmes.

Her research investigates the interpenetration between the work and the viewer, and the relationships between people, space and social dynamics, through a hybrid approach that merges different expressive media. The artistic process is driven by a ‘continuous transformation in a fluid process of impermanence’. The cues of the everyday, seemingly unremarkable, are, for the artist, opportunities to open a dialogue with the unexpected, the ‘other’.

Since her studies at the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, she conducted her research through an extended, interactive creation mode with no interest in singular authorship or a self-centred approach to art. In fact, the artist soon became involved in collaborative and interdisciplinary projects, combining visual arts, performance, dance, sound experimentation and moving freely across the vast world of visual arts communication.

Between 2007 and 2017, the Collective Ovali Mancati was active in theatre, visual arts and sound art, providing a “dimension of creative and productive friction” and giving rise to projects exploring the dimensions of sound, vibration and movement in space. The Fuochi Fatui project dates back to these years and was made possible by a general cultural buzz backed by state and private funding.

Alongside her personal research, a consistent willingness to question her comfort zone led her to favour collaborations such as the one still ongoing with musician Jos Olivini and actress Laura Mola.

As in her art practice, the relational aspect applies to her work with GAMEC, where Clara is a museum educator and runs the well-attended workshop SFOGHI, connected to the Gallery’s exhibitions. Sfoghi is an experience dedicated to an adult audience; it is developed through practices involving a direct encounter with art, promoting the interaction with the artwork from different perspectives. The intention is to provide the participants with physical and intellectual stimuli as investigation sources. These meetings, often attended by other artists, allow Clara a privileged perspective to observe from outside the emergence of creative dialogue between the attendees, a valuable insight. Conveying art through educational activities is a way of reaching a wider audience by engaging users of different age groups and backgrounds. The projects and workshops promoted may last for months and are usually linked to ongoing exhibitions.

At La Carrara, another museum in Bergamo, Clara, together with fellow teachers, conducts Dance Well, a dance and movement project dedicated to people with Parkinson’s disease, and Custodire Memorie, an experimental project developed through the collaboration between the museum and Ferb (European Biomedical Research Foundation) aimed at the possibility of running art activities for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

Visual art thus combines with dance. Bodily expression flows in visual arts without the need for strict boundaries. There is no separation between thought and form; the dimension of the body is embedded in the work. The artist states, ‘when there is an integration, the work flows’; a hybrid piece arises from the interplay of different modes and materials.

In the Abiti sensibili series, a reflection on the separation between people and the desire for proximity emerges. These works are playful but also somewhat melancholic. A unisex, lightly padded tunic of white silk is studded with eyes with luminous pupils, at once captivating and disturbing, moving freely to the rhythm of the wearer’s steps.

“In a society where public spaces are shrinking and blurring into shopping malls, where the “other” is kept at arm’s length because it is perceived as a potential danger to one’s own safety, the Abiti Sensibili come into being. They are new communication tools that can be used as extensions of one’s own body.”

Abito Sensibile n.1_ Mi sento sempre tutti quegli occhi addosso, 2008 Mixed media. Ph.Credits Paola Verde

The works act as membranes, wearable devices that activate the senses to experiment and play with the body and its boundaries in a suspended space-time.

The reflection expands to investigate the viewer’s role, the active artist, and their relationship through the artefact, identifying a physical space between objects and thus playing with their distance and encounter.

On the other hand, the work ‘Helmet’ brings unexpected and often unintended interactions to the fore. Magnetic little hands attracted to metal bodies while walking down the street make us aware that our interaction with the world is beyond our control and occurs rather uncontrollably. The feelings resulting from this unexpected interaction can vary and are not always pleasant. A helmet, which should be an object of protection, becomes a means of communication open to the unknown.

Helmet, 2008 Mixed media. Ph. Credits Paola Verde


A sensible object.

An instrument of silent communication.

A shell waiting to be inhabited and come to life.

A white helmet. With long filaments.

Full of magnetic hands: small, white, disturbing.

A helmet, a protection, a prison.

The wearer acquires a new power: he can touch with his thoughts, attract, repel, embrace, attack, caress, love…

Each time, the performance structure changes; everything happens in a genuine, visceral, extreme way…

Helmet, 2008 Mixed media. Ph. Credits Paola Verde

The sensory search for the Other and the Outside demonstrates the desire to step out of one’s comfort zone by seeking confrontation with curiosity. The idea of bridging the physical and metaphorical distance between people and places through a movent in space and the theme of the journey are at the basis of projects such as “Bagatto-Baratto”, an itinerant artwork that binds places, stories and objects. Starting in 2008, this transversal project, based on poetic exchange, originated as a reflection on objects’ affective and symbolic worth. An ordinary, everyday object with no apparent value other than a personal one is offered in exchange for another thing with the only condition of being coupled with a story. Clara personally goes on-site to perform the exchange, keeper of the objects and their stories, which are handed over to strangers’ hands, creating new connections that she recounts in a dedicated blog. The exchanges take place in different places; the distances covered even more than one time are traced. These lines, more or less prominent, compose a map, on a scale of 1:200,000, a circulatory system from which geographical references are erased, leaving only the trace of the objects’ route. A red graphic path embroidered on black velvet, a travelling blanket, forms the artwork “E.Vado”.

E.Vado, 2014 Black embroidered blanket, cm.140x250. Ph.Credits Clara Luiselli

The swapped items, after being photographed, are transformed into playing cards and pseudo-tarot cards. This part of the extensive project is inspired by Italo Calvino’s Castle of Crossed Destinies. Lost the use of words, so are the cards that narrate, meet and let themselves be carried, enshrining precious stories and the relationships created.

“E.Vado” is part of the Oggetti Molli (Soft Objects) series. Easily foldable and transportable, they fit perfectly into the idea of a portable, extremely contemporary art that tackles the precariousness of everyday life with flexibility and intelligence.

The ‘Visionary’ tablecloth series addresses a mystical journey, far more mental than physical. They are textiles for a shamanic voyage, depicting the horizontal section of ritual plant stems inspired by botanical drawings. ” Inside, they resemble stars,” says Clara. The tablecloth, a powerful symbol of conviviality common to many cultures worldwide, is used to either share ancestral knowledge or create new worlds.

“Eventually, I have only ever embroidered maps: of real spaces already covered, to be found in memory (the one of Baratto), of visionary spaces for new realities to be crossed (the tablecloth with the section of a vegetable hallucinogenic conduit)”.

Portable also become the domestic environments in the Home Sweet Home series (2011-ongoing), representing ” intimate spaces for finding the way back to warmth”.

The topic of the home implies a reflection on the precariousness of modern life, settling or being forcibly displaced, and reflects on the contemporary issues of migration, the need to move and the desire to find a safe place.

On the blankets, everyday objects typical of the domestic environment are represented as patterns in a magazine on a 1:1 scale. The graphics contain all the information required for an ideal reconstruction of the object. Numbers are indicated, as well as how many times a shape should be cut. The colours used, red, black, blue, green and violet, are also inspired by the design of paper patterns. The artist promotes a deliberately conceptual action; the blankets indeed cannot be cut out or reassembled into functional objects, but ‘in the absence of a bed, at least, you can wrap yourself in the blanket’.

The layout of the spaces (the room) takes place alongside that of complex objects such as the refrigerator. The designs are machine embroidered with stitches similar to those on the paper pattern, and the individual parts are arranged, pursuing a balance of form in the relationships between background, surface and colour. The image must be appealing or pleasing as if they were abstract artworks. Each blanket-paper pattern is accompanied by a pillowcase that will accommodate the folded blanket and become a comfortable portable cushion.

“With patience and commitment, everyone can build their own home and take it with them”.

Clara exhibited ‘Home sweet home’ at the international exhibition Appunti su questo Tempo, curated by Barbara Pavan and hosted at the Museo del Ricamo e del Tessile in Valtopina. The show, through contemporary embroidery, focused on crucial issues in our society. Barbara Pavan’s essay in the ArteMorbida Special Edition states: “We live in liquid and precarious times, times of rapid changes and radical upheavals that overwhelm and forsake individuals and entire communities. Yet, is home still an entitlement to a centre of gravity? The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that ‘everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for his own health and well-being including – precisely – a home (Art. 25). And in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 it is considered a fundamental element of a life in dignity (Art. 11). However, in half a century since these statements, what has happened? In his essay ‘Filosofia della casa. Lo spazio domestico e la felicità’, Emanuele Coccia writes that we can do without thinking about houses because we experience love only to live the infatuation. So what is home in contemporary society? Art raises questions and does not provide answers. And with her installation, Clara Luiselli masterfully does so’.

Clara brought to – THE SOFT REVOLUTION – on display at the TEXTILE MUSEUM in Busto Arsizio her latest installation ‘Te. This exhibition is part of the 25th-anniversary celebration of WTA World Textile Art, which will take place in fifteen countries worldwide.

Clara is working on ‘Tentativi’ through which she intends to “explore the traces that arise from crumpled thoughts and attempt mapping new possible worlds”.

A blank, empty sheet of paper is a new space full of expectations and possibilities waiting to be touched and explored. “Sometimes it is difficult to imagine what will happen on it, and it is always a kind of challenge where there is always the risk of throwing away an idea”.

Embracing the actualisation of space-time in a gesture, the artist crumples the blank sheet of paper, deferring all rational decisions. Then, with the pencil, she traces the lines generated by the act of compressing the material in the palm of her hand. Again, the chance will guide the development of the work.

For the Busto Arsizio exhibition, this concept is translated into cloth, a very stiff linen measuring 140×140 cm. Instead of being executed with graphite, the emerging lines are followed with the sewing machine’s black thread. Similar to meteorites or magma in formation, these works are an “attempt to approach a new space-world, to create a new geology”. Suspended in a state of becoming, an in-between open to possible evolutions, the cartouche-planets are about to take shape. So, on 9 October, take advantage of the opening of The Soft Revolution to see Clara Luiselli’s latest piece.

For future developments of her work, follow her social media:

Elena Redaelli

English version Dal 2010 mi occupo di arte contemporanea realizzando progetti fra scultura tessile, arte ambientale e social practices. Negli ultimi anni il mio lavoro mi ha portato a vivere viaggiando con progetti e residenze artistiche nel mondo. Esploro processi di generazione e trasformazione della materia, applicando diversi livelli di controllo e indagando i limiti tra autorialità e partecipazione.Talvolta il materiale prende il sopravvento, altre volte sono i partecipanti di un progetto o l’ambiente stesso a farlo, risultando in un dinamico e continuo scambio. Il fare manuale è per me un processo d’interrogazione dell’ambiente e uno strumento per entrare in contatto con nuove persone e culture. Nei miei progetti applico una commistione di tecniche differenti prese dalla scultura, dall’artigianato, dal disegno e dall’ estetica relazionale. Ricerco e utilizzo tecniche antiche: tessitura a telaio, arazzo, crochet, feltro, ricamo, annodature e carta fatta a mano. Nelle mie installazioni, che si sviluppano su larga scala, unisco metodi di lavorazione lenta a nuove tecnologie. Tutto ciò che riguarda il tessile è sempre stato estremamente affascinante per me. Mi piace imparare e condividere idee e conoscenze sul vasto mondo delle fibre ed e’ quello che ho fatto durante i miei viaggi di ricerca tra Europa, Asia, USA e Africa.