Until the Sixteenth century “true” artists were supposed to master a wide range of arts and crafts. Spanning from music to fashion design, Rome-based creator Emiliano Maggi is a contemporary example of this forgotten archetype. Wen he opens the door of his studio, located in the Capital’s vibrant Testaccio district, hypnotic music and a glass of his own-produced wine welcome us into a surreal atmosphere. In Maggi’s work country and nature are major themes, identified by the artist as “the origin of everything”. We sat down with him to discover more about his eclectic approach.
Emiliano, what is your backroung and how did you developed your creative streak?
My parents worked as makeup artists and hairstylits in Cinecittà during the 70s. Since I was born, I have been surrounded with costumes and I was constantly in contact with the exaggerated aesthetics of those years. I also spent a lot of time with my grandfather in the countryside. I was a curious child. I experienced a lot by being alone and observing animals, playing with knives, catching spiders and scorpions to make them fight… I learned from my grandfather that the land may be your only resource. I still cherish this value.
We met for the first time when you were presenting a collection of beautiful jewelry pieces. Then I got to see your artistic performances and I discovered your experimental music project Ecstasi. You draw, you sculpt, you make clothing and you just launched a new video installation. As a truly versatile creative talent, how would you describe yourself?
I am still a curious child. For me creation is a game, a way to freely experiment with different mediums while having fun. My sculptures and my live perfomances are often perceived by the public as frightening, even terrifying at times, yet I find them extremely amusing. Among all the arts, music is always present in my life. It is the never-ending soundtrack of all my experiences.
Like you said, your art is often seen as disturbing and bizarre. How do you relate to that?
It’s easy to label my work as esoteric, shamanic, sorcerer, white magic, black magic and so on… But that’s the sickness of present time, people want to stick a label on you and what you do, they want to put you in a box so they feel safer in making their judgments. For example the masks I use in my performances are certainly connected to the shamanic universe, but their meaning goes far beyond it.
What are you aiming to express then? What’s the story behind those masks, which also feature within Danse Royale, your latest video installation on display at Operativa Arte Contemporanea Gallery?
Through the masks I refer to the most ancient cultural heritage of mankind: the folklore. I draw inspiration from this precious melting pot and I rework suggestions and traditions, making them mine and suitable to our era. Those symbols tell the story of my grandfathers, of my father, of my own childhood and breed. They reveal my fears and passions, they embody my angels and demons… Art arises from an unsolved question that you can eventually solve through creation. I do not solve my problems through my work but at least I give them importance by not denying them. Concerning the boogeyman, the monsters and all my creepy creatures, I always found them funny!
The video installation currently on show at Operativa Arte Contemporanea Gallery can be interpreted as an esoteric ritual, a frightening war dance, but it actually was filmed on a night spent in the countryside with my parents. After few glasses of our home-made wine, I convinced my family to wear one of their thousands costumes and to dance. They let themselves go, free from any social constriction. And here they are: my father in a Pierrot costume with a fur face and my mother a carioca dancer with a rubber mask, both dancing restlessly under a strobe light. They might appear frightening and grotesque, but oh what a night… We really enjoyed ourselves!