When you interview Daniela Collu, it’s never just an interview. It’s always like a little adventure, which ends with a reflection. Especially if you do it immediately after reading all in one breath her new book “Un Minuto d’Arte” (“A Minute of Art”) where, in an ironic, intelligent, and, yes, we can say, unique way, she explains art to everyone. With a democratic and hugging language, she makes us discover curiosities about works of which, I’m sure, not even you know anything about. Or almost anything.
She takes us to dinner with Dalì to eat meatballs, to be fascinated by the depth of contemporary art; she shows us what sensuality is and, at the same time, she makes us discover something about her, precisely through art. Art saved her, made her feel at home, made her grow, and made her understand the color of things, even the one of words.
With this book, Daniela becomes, even more, a friend with whom we can grow up to the sound of brushstrokes, laughter, and snapshots.
In short, thanks to this book (which we loved), we got to know her a little more, and in turn, we asked her something more about herself, without forgetting the musical interlude that led her to host X Factor Italia. And we can say that she did it great. That’s it.
“I’m sure there is no need for me to demonstrate how art, in each of its forms, is the entire world, and its story, how it describes everything that mankind is, even what it doesn’t know it is, how it has often allowed understanding things that the mind and the words would not be able to explain.” What have you understood of the world through Art?
Three-quarters of the things I know and that I can explain. I have a brain that reasons through images, the other day, during a therapy session, I managed to bring into focus a key-event of my childhood thanks to a painting by Munch. A picture by Wolfang Tillmans allows me to tell the fear of speaking, of not being understood. No one like Borromini, in my opinion, can tell the ambition of breaking the limits. Artists are my medium to knowledge, through them, I give form to the things I know.
Some anecdotes linked to art you say have changed your life. Can you tell us one?
One above all, perhaps the most substantial: I went to an exhibition by Jenny Saville at the MACRO in Rome as the simple curious person I was at 22, she is an English artist from the Young British Artist group, and I was struck by these gigantic canvases with hyper-realistic and deformed bodies, the very full-bodied brushstrokes, the color applied with a spatula, the truthfulness of the nudes. A year later, I applied for an internship at the Carlo Bilotti Museum in Villa Borghese because I knew they would open with an exhibition of her and I was fascinated by the idea of seeing her work. They called me, they hired me and I worked in the museums of the Municipality of Rome for eight years. Thank you, Jenny, for my very first steady income!
“Artists are my medium to knowledge, through them, I give form to the things I know.”
In which museum you felt the most welcomed?
Surely the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (“national gallery of modern and contemporary art”) in Rome. When I was 17 I would go every day; the entry was free for underage people and I would bring and do my homework. I remember doing my Greek translations and I just needed to look up to have Schifano and Tano Festa in front of me or Balla and Boccioni, I felt like I had found my place in the world.
If your life at this moment were a painting, what would it be?
A Jackson Pollock. It feels like a nonsense mess, but I assure you it’s all calculated and hopefully it’s a masterpiece.
Your favorite dish of meatballs?
Ahahahah, my mom’s meatballs, of course, maybe cold, to be found at 3 in the morning when you get back home after a night out with your friends. But also some codfish balls from some Venetians “bacari” (bars).
You often speak of art as also a demonstration of sensuality. What’s sensuality for you?
I still have no idea, at 38 years old. I have not yet understood where sensuality comes from, sometimes it is precisely the fact of not being able to always find it in the same place, in the same clothes, in the same attitudes that makes it so irresistible and effective. I believe that art demonstrates exactly this: it makes sense to think that sensuality is in the naked bodies of the sculptures, but try looking at the flowers photographed by Mapplethorpe and tell me if something isn’t moving inside. Or the baroque churches in Lecce, or the burnt cellophane by Burri. Sensuality is probably in everything that touches inner chords that otherwise, rationally, we wouldn’t know how to reach.
What is the strangest or strongest reaction you have felt in front of a work of art?
I started crying in Paris in front of “The Raft of the Medusa” by Théodore Géricault. It was my first time at the Louvre, I wasn’t ready, seeing it live was a shock. And “Guernica,” I know it sounds like a cliché, but Picasso has this effect, or you are dead inside and you don’t know it.
When you talk about the work of the Chapman brothers you talk about attraction and repulsion. How much do you think these two emotions are related and separated in each of us?
They are not at all separated, just look at the morbidity with which we are attached to the pandemic data and with which we obsess over the news and viral videos. I believe that art has often freed us in our love for the ugly, the horrid, the scary, for what should disgust us and instead mysteriously, ancestrally attracts us.
“And I think the more we know our drives without judging them, the better – the sense of guilt is not for me.”
Your latest “Stendhal syndrome,” metaphorically speaking?
Artistically speaking, I haven’t been excited and amazed for a while, everything feels already trite and stale, or maybe I’m just getting old. I gladly go back to my beloved ‘60s with Franco Angeli and Pascali, with Cy Twombly and Kounellis.
Speaking of Klimt, the best “kiss my ass” you’ve said in your life?
Ahahah, this would put me in the category of “artisti rosiconi” (sore loser artists)! I’m not someone who carries grudges and I forget the wrongs, plus those who do my work are quite used to being carried in triumph by the same people who didn’t greet you in the hallways. I take my satisfactions and my revenge, yes, but no revenge paintings…maybe because I’m not as good as Klimt?
You talk about the 5 elements of modern architecture according to Le Corbusier. But what are the 5 elements that must not be missing from your home?
Comfortable sofa, a well-stocked fridge, a nice floor to sit on, fresh flowers and extra keys to leave with my friends. My home has always been a port, I like it that way.
“My Bed” by Tracey Emin makes us understand how much something so ordinary can reveal about us and the human condition. What portrait would you make of your bed right now?
Poetry books, rolled up socks, sweatshirts and t-shirts that I take off during the night because I’m hot, a stuffed animal shaped like a pig and one shaped like an octopus. Since I live alone, at night, I need something to hug.
Melancholia. It’s one ugly thing. How do you deal with it?
I don’t face it, I ride it. Sadness and that sense of existential heaviness are sacred to me, they are the only thing that makes me slow down, stay silent, take time to breathe. I think for me it is physiological, necessary for survival because I have inhuman rhythms and my life is also very full of bullshit. And then I’ve learned that feelings and moods pass, often quickly, it makes no sense to fight them, they would win anyway.
Your favorite recipe of “Les dîners de Gala” by Dalì?
Impossible to just pick one. Every single one of them, from the first to the last one, after all, dinner with Salvador Dalì is my time travel impossible dream and I fear I would be too excited to eat.
If you could go to dinner with someone from the past, present or future, who would you go with? And why?
Apart from Dalì, whom I have already mentioned, I would like Basquiat but also Michelangelo. I would like to become a friend with the first, and from the second I would like to be told everything, about his work, his time, his creativity, and about the Popes.
“If you sell it well, we also buy shit.” How much shit do you see around?
Good heavens, 95% is shit! But we are now so trained to look at the finger and not at the moon and the rhythms with which we digest everything are so fast that perhaps we do not even notice it. A mediocre project, if communicated well, still wins the favor of the public, it is as if the content were no longer central, the packaging is everything. In the end, that story of the medium and the message is true, there is nothing to be done.
And if you were a Guerrilla Girl, what would you protest about right now?
We have to stay in the places of power, I want, I long for, I demand that women occupy the top offices of politics, companies, institutions. Only in this way can the course be reversed and the situation on equal opportunities, fair compensation, abortion really changed: all things on which it seems absurd to have to take sides again in 2020. And then there is systemic discrimination, the creeping one that dies hard: that of language, of the judgment of bodies, of the value of femininity still too tied to the home, of sex and stereotypes, where enlightened mothers, fathers and teachers are needed.
How important is it for you to be consistent with yourself? And how often not to be it?
A lot. Consistency and credibility allow me to expose myself knowing that I can back up what I say, and since I never shut up and have an opinion on everything, I would say that it is the least. But I question myself, I change my mind and I apologize, if needed, I retrace my steps. If, it’s not needed, then, I’m the worst steamroller you can meet on your way.
Art can save lives. How did it do it with you?
It raised the bar and gifted me with a different and broader horizon. I grew up in the suburbs, my parents did not have the opportunity to study, it was not obvious for me to have this type of education, in a field that does not guarantee an immediate job; a field more linked to passions rather than building a career. And it gave me a new language, new tools, parallel universes and a constant escape into wonder.
You talk about the filter of memory with Bonnard. Is there a place in the world that you would be able to paint without having it in front of your eyes? A place, of which you remember every single detail.
The houses I lived in, certain seas, the faces of some of the people I’ve loved if I can expand to metaphorical “places.”
Speaking instead of the feeling of not being satisfied with your work or trying to always add an extra detail to improve it, has this ever happened to you personally? How do you overcome dissatisfaction?
By doing. For me the only thing is to do, to work, to grind kilometers, to study and produce, to make mistakes, throw everything away and start again from scratch. Then, satisfaction usually comes.
“And it gave me a new language, new tools, parallel universes and a constant escape into wonder.”
Your favorite work by Mapplethorpe?
The portraits of and with Patti Smith. They are the testimony of a bond that goes beyond categories, which is friendship, love, artistic complicity, and are of moving power.
With your book, you also show us how much art is made up of rebellion and anger. What was your greatest act of rebellion?
Quitting my job at the museums, hahaha! I think that for those of my generation, giving up a permanent position and the certainty of a paid contract is a kind of crazy act of courage, and in my case I was right. For the rest, I am not a rebel, a bit anticonformist yes, but I hardly put myself or stay in contexts or situations within which I then have to rebel. The only revolution I put into action is to consciously decide, on a daily basis, to be very happy.
What’s the last thing you have discovered out about yourself? And what has art made you discover about yourself?
That you can speak in so many ways, you can mix languages and change tones, be psychedelic and reassuring, and that you can maintain your value and identity even by spacing around. An oil painting on an altarpiece and a body art performance can have the same disruptive and intoxicating effect while being so different, we might as well experiment.
“The only revolution I put into action is to consciously decide, on a daily basis, to be very happy.”
In the works of some artists such as Mondrian, we speak of essentiality. What is the essential for you?
Who knows? I am baroque and a sideshow, my house is a bazaar, I would like to have a mind capable of reducing to the essence, to a minimum, but I add, complicate, multiply the layers, I am crowded inside and out. Therefore, Malevich’s white square on white canvas or even Mondrian’s lines fascinate me so much, it must be nice to be able to give birth to such a definite perfection.
If you could “steal” and have one of the works you mentioned in your book at home, what would it be?
Cindy Sherman everywhere, in all rooms and on all walls. I would never get tired.
Among the painters of the past, who for you could be the greatest stylist of ours? (stylist in the fashion sense)
I am a Pre-Raphaelite woman in my dreams: dressed in forest-colored organza, foot-length dresses, softly braided golden hair, a kind of Florence Welch for Gucci.
What medal did you give yourself when you finished writing “A Minute of Art”?
I swear, I did not think I would be able to get to the end of it, without museums, libraries, bookstores and locked in the house with the ambulance sirens in the background. The pat on the back is for not having given up, not postponed to better times and for having trusted my memory!
But let’s also talk about X-Factor: a “last minute” challenge. How scared were you?
It was a demanding test, but I also had a lot of fun. X-Factor is a super popular show, and a perfect machine, for me it was essential not to ruin everyone’s work, and not to stain in any way the show that the audience is used to. The comments were all positive, even from the press, I am very happy to have been trusted by those who chose me.
What colors does the word art have for you?
It is white. Always.
What have you told yourself more often these days since you heard that you will host it?
Calm down, you know how to do it, if you fall off your heels, you get up and make a joke.
Music is a form of art. If you could do a minute of art on an artist or a musical work, who would you choose?
Daniel Johnston, I love outsiders.
Which artist would you have immortalize/paint this crazy moment of your life?
If Damien Hirst is waiting for me post mortem, I would be happy to be cut in half and put in formaldehyde, otherwise, a Mini-me by Maurizio Cattelan will do just fine!
“Un Minuto D’Arte” is now available
Photo and Video by Johnny Carrano.
Thanks to Other.
Thanks to The Fifteen Keys Hotel.
Makeup & Hair by Chantal Ciaffardini.
Sweather: Almeno Nevicasse
Ankle Boots: Unknown Footwear