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Filippo Papa’s Conceptual art and body art: The artistic symbolism of performance

Speaking of art, we delve into a special artist, Filippo Papa, according to whom and in his words: “Non è solo corpo ma anima, forza e culture”. Filippo Papa has just performed his last holoperformance “Desnudo” in the III Edition Canal´Art 2022, Ajuntament de Santanyí, in Mallorca (Spain), performed for the first time in October 2022 in the “Estudi Garrit”.

“Desnudo” is the new artistic performance by the artist Filippo Papa after “Regeneration” which he re-presented at the Biennale Amedeo Modigliani in Venezia. This new performance is part of the concepts devised and promoted by Papa: Holoperformance with the dematerialization of the body through holography and the use of the “Skin Collage” technique.

The philosophy of the project is based on a detailed study by Papa of the performing arts, of the artistic nude to focus on a specific work “La Maja Desnuda” one of the best-known paintings by Francisco Goya made around 1800. It is a portrait revolutionary, where for the first time the naked body is represented without any mythological reference that justifies its nudity. Its importance, therefore, is not only due to the pictorial technique but also to the symbolic historical primacy that it holds, since “La Maja Desnuda” is portrayed in a seductive attitude with her hands crossed behind her head, a direct gaze and provocative, who is not afraid of being seen is a self-confident woman.

It is true that defining art is a complex and difficult task. Thus, art must be understood as a skill that seeks an aesthetic result (Hatcher, 1999) through imagination to create environments and aesthetic experiences that can be shared with other people. This ability is used to express and manifest the creativity of the artist, to connect and reach the aesthetic sensibility of others.

Since ancient times, especially in Greece, tekné, a term meaning “art”, has developed, representing various artistic activities not related to the visual arts, but rather to poetry, theatre, music, and science. Later, Kant in 1790, proposed various categories of art, such as the bildenden Künste, as the expression of ideas in the intuition of the senses, including painting, sculpture and architecture; the redenden Künste, like the language arts; and the Schönen Kunst Spiels der Empfindungen, the art of the beautiful play of sensations, such as music and colours. In this way, we can define art as a set of related concepts rather than one single concept. More modernly, in the 1910s and 1920s, Marcel Duchamp will introduce the beginning of conceptual art, which will emerge as a movement during the 1960s, and will influence subsequent art movements, developing a broad conceptual art in the 1990s. in Great Britain, which will be developed to create an impact on the basis that the object is not the work of art. In this way, conceptual art is understood as an artistic movement in which the conceptualization or the idea is more important than the work of art as a physical or material object, where ideas prevail over its formal and sensible aspects, and where artistic is the concept to represent, indifferent to the technique, form, and material. Initially, a conceptual work is based on textual language to convey ideas, although it will evolve and be complemented by other resources from the visual field, including photography and performance, closely adapting it to contemporary art.

Among all these evolutionary processes, we can talk about body art, this is going to be a style framed in conceptual art, using the body as a plastic material. In body art, the body is the support of the artistic work, painting it, decorating it, tattooing it, modifying it, etc. This action, which we can call performance, is generally carried out with a photographic, videographic, holographic, poetic, pictorial accompaniment or other means, all or part of them, used during or after the performance. Body art stands out for the abject aspects of the body, marking strong contrasts, including clothing and the nude. It is here that the body becomes a work to create art, the body itself is the work of art, expressing the acceptance of one’s own individuality and establishing connections with related ideologies and certain social movements. Since the fundamental focus is on the body, it conditions viewers to understand and focus on their own concepts of the physical. Body art will also have a close relationship with questions of gender and personal identity, while delving into themes of the relationship between the body and the psyche, expressed in the body.

Papa’s intention is complex and ambivalent, personifying “il Filippo desnudo” he wants to draw attention to the importance of the artistic nude and uncensored art, a mission that has been going on for years with the “Naxed” project, to reinforce this concept, also Five photographic/performative artistic nudes from the “In the room” project, already presented in Spain, were exhibited. In addition, he wants to launch a message of gender fluidity to educate the vision of the figure of a male artistic nude that is still considered unusual today. Nudity is part of our human being, the male and female nude body is universal, like its beauty.

Thus we come to performance or action art, a term derived from the English performance art, meaning live art, as a form of free expression that emerged to be an alternative artistic manifestation, an avant-garde art developed extensively throughout the 20th century and early 21st century, an art form created through actions performed by the artist, alone or with other participants, live performance, closely documented, following a pre-written script, or spontaneous, presented in an interdisciplinary manner to an audience within an exhibition context. Its first manifestations arise in 1916, welcomed under the conceptual art of the Dadaist movement, responding to artistic purposes and the desire to experiment with new avant-garde trends. The performance needs the presence and execution of the artist himself, involving four basic elements: time, space, the body or the presence of the artist in a medium, and the relationship between the creator and the public. The performances are usually developed in art galleries, museums, cultural centres, and bookstores, although they can take place in any type of setting or space and during any period of time. The themes represented are usually linked to the experiences and ideas of the artist himself, who makes actions emerge through improvisation and a sense of aesthetics with the aim of generating a reaction from the public. Performance is related to Western postmodernism and culture linked to concepts of visual art, being an antithesis of theatre and challenging established art forms, since it is born from an antagonistic and critical position towards the performing arts, since performance differs from the formal narrative idea of other performing arts, linking more to the fine arts, far from any idea of scenic representation as a unique and sublime ephemeral experience. Some artists are closer to the experimental idea, where performance can intertwine many more disciplines, including any type of performing art, such as dance, theatre, poetry or music. In performance, the interpreter is the artist who rarely represents a character as an actor and the content does not follow a traditional plot. The performance will show tiny gestures for a few minutes to many hours, it can be performed once or repeated many times, with or without a prepared script, spontaneously improvised or previously rehearsed. The performance escapes beyond the fact that it is living art made by artists, since it resorts to very diverse disciplines and means of communication, in fact, no other form of artistic expression has such an unlimited manifestation, since each performer makes his or her particular definition in the process and manner of execution.

The artist Papa undresses on a sofa in the same pose as “La Maja Desnuda”, in a pose that emulates showing off behind a screen as on social networks. The nudity of his body will be seen simultaneously both in reality and fragmented, dematerialized through the projection of a holographic video. During the performance Papa will apply the word “NUDE” in 12 languages on the body using the technique that he devised the “Skin Collage” to further emphasize his message by printing it on his skin that will be “dressed” in nudity.

In the mid-1960s, Process art emerged, an artistic movement within the field of study of performance, where the art object is not the main focus of attention, but rather a process of art formation such as the search for and the creation of concepts adherent to the work, as well as the ephemerality of the work itself, concerned with the real «doing»; art as performance. Therefore, art is seen as a creative journey or process, rather than the finished product. On the other hand, in 1982 the joint form of poetry and performance appears, emerged to distinguish vocal interpretations based on the word of artistic interpretations, especially the works of scenic or musical performance artists. Performance poets rely more on the rhetorical and philosophical expression of their poetics than performance artists of the visual arts genres.

The performer Filippo Papa reworks Goya’s “La Maja Desnuda” in a new interpretation, which is still talked about today. In “Desnudo” we find the union between the history of art, the performative act and contemporary technology. Careful work in the unmistakable style that Papa has accustomed us to see.


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