“I was born in La Paz, to Italian parents. My father is a lung specialist and he used to treat Bolivian miners back in the days when birds were used to detect toxic gas leaks. As a kid I used to draw by myself, I wasn’t good at playing football, I couldn’t watch TV except for Jeux Sans Frontières in summer and a selection of video tapes, I didn’t like toy soldiers so I didn’t know the parameters of social interaction with other children. This made me suffer a lot, because there was no confrontation, I happened to discover the wonder of working with watercolours and none of my mates could care less. However, even though being different made me suffer, in time I came to value my parents’ strict methods of education. When I was seven I started attending a catechism class, which turned out to be a very bad experience for me, I think children have some traits that are subject to interpretations but never analysed for what they really are, and I felt that they weren’t teaching me positive things. They would talk about martyrs, all those who did good in their life but suffered a bitter end, being torn to pieces, tortured, burned alive. I was shocked when I had to watch the movie about Jesus, the famous one, where nails are hammered into people, mothers cry, and Jesus is tortured without reason, not because he did something wrong… they taught me that only acts of evil could have negative consequences… and I lived in Crema, I didn’t watch the news, I used to listen to my grandfather’s accounts of the concentration camp as if they were tales, I used to think my grandfather was born old, I never thought he could have been young. What frightened me (and still frightens me when I think about it) was the contradiction between the life I was leading and the one that was presented to me, the one that had happened and still was happening. ‘What is the logical mechanism that allows me – and not others – to live a good life?’ I would ask myself. Children take refuge in logic, in what they know, in what they have been taught.
When I was seven I also started drawing, my father took me to an exhibition of an illustrator whose name or origin I don’t remember now, but I felt as if I had been struck by lightning! I went back home and started drawing. Drawing was my escape route, maybe I have never been able to accept reality and the contradictions in which I lived and still live today. To this day there are still a few things that make me suffer a lot, that I really can’t understand. The first time I took a plane I was moved… if human beings invented a way to fly… it seems just absurd that they can’t find a way to prevent a whole series of terrible things from happening every day… My parents taught me that where there is a will there is a way and I believe it. What I feel is not a consequence of a way or logic of life, but it is something suddenly switching on. I can’t bear watching people die in the sea, every day… I’m not talking about ending world hunger, but other small things that it would take little effort to stop. Before taking that first plane I used to think that people lacked capability, not goodwill. God doesn’t exist. God is in the kindness of people, someone says in a Bergman’s film and I believe in the kindness of people, I firmly believe in the intelligent redemption of each and every person. I worked as a carpenter at La Scala in Milan for one year. I had never heard a hundred instruments playing together before, and if you hear a hundred objects rubbing, hitting, blowing without any technological aid and think about what the human brain is capable of achieving, you can’t be cynical. I am always deeply astonished even when considering bad things. I’m not surprised when I hear of a terrorist attack, I know human beings are capable of such things. When a friend loses his grandfather I always tell him it’s a normal thing, it is biologically expected that an eighty-year-old person dies. I think that many of the things that make people suffer are normal because they are part of a life cycle, but when I went to the ZEN 2 in Palermo I wondered how it might be possible that here in Italy, in Europe, in a technologically advanced Western country with a better healthcare system than in America, there are areas in the outskirts of the city with twenty thousand inhabitants and four-metre tall piles of garbage where there should be public gardens, burnt-out cars, animal carcasses, dogs barking and fighting in the night in the presence of children whose education is not deemed important – in fact many of them don’t even complete middle school education… and no one does anything about it. I’ve travelled a lot. I even worked in the favelas in Brazil… I’ve seen situations for which I can’t find any correspondence, consistency, or raison d’être in what I have been taught. It is contradictory and absurd that some people in this world die because there are no aspirins, or antibiotics, or wells close to their home.
When I was asked to paint a wall by the sea in Messina I thought about what it could mean for the city. THREE THINGS. ONE. In Messina, the sea means feluccas, the traditional sailing boats used to catch swordfish with a man spotting the fish from above and the other following his directions to harpoon it. TWO. In Messina, the sea means Scylla and Charybdis, the two monsters from Homer’s Odyssey – one Sicilian and the other Calabrian – that stirred the waters to create strong undersea currents that wouldn’t let anyone pass. THREE. In Messina, the sea means migrants. People dying in the sea. I could have represented three big topics and I decided to represent the one which is more relevant today. I am a polemic person, I don’t like certain things so I try to draw them. What are these shipwrecked migrants to the society we live in? Every time there are discussions about anything but their deaths. Let’s stop them here, let’s stop them there, they steal our jobs… but nobody ever discusses the fact that these people drown or how to save them from drowning. So I imagined what society could do with these bodies fished out of the sea, a society that talks about anything but their deaths. Probably, they would take these bodies and hang them out to dry, because they would think that the only problem caused by their drowning is that they are wet, not that they are dead, so I hanged them out to dry in front of the sea.
Street art is surrounded by a great deal of ignorance, ordinary people like my mother who are not very interested in it or read only newspapers are misled, muralists like the Mexican ones or Rivera are not street artists. Street art is the major and most complete form of anarchy of thought and creation that can be experienced. I think it is the greatest movement in history, because it knows no bounds. I can fill the façade of a building with painted windows, and then add a door. I can transform the floor, the ceiling and make a chimney become something else. I can interact with sunlight at a given hour of a given season. I consider street art as the INTERACTION between the artist and the urban environment. One thing that I discovered being a street artist is that I love casualness. Casualness is a very important aspect of every project and it occurs thanks to the interaction between people and my work. I put a thing out there and people can modify, cover, or improve it. I firmly believe in interaction and joint participation in an artistic result. And I firmly believe in drawing: one of the greatest forms of redemption and education in the world. Drawing can achieve anything. Drawing is drawing. It is immediate. One of the first forms of communication for children is drawing. Prehistoric men used to draw to communicate and educate. The first letters were drawings. On the contrary, a text depends on language, on form and requires a certain degree of culture.”
(Nemo’s because it means “nobody” in Latin and when I draw in the streets my work becomes property of everyone or no one, and also in honour of the character Little Nemo created by Winsor McCay.)
March 29, 2016.