As visual artist and filmmaker, Yuri Ancarani has been a household name on the international art scene for some time, but he has long made the breakthrough into popular culture: his installation at Barneys on Madison Avenue turned heads in New York last May, and among his contributions to to Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari's Toilet Paper project there's a surreal music video for Italian popstar Jovanotti.
His latest work, the striking, innerving "Da Vinci," is currently on show at the Biennale in Venice; meanwhile, he's busy acting as member of the jury for CinemaXXI (the section of the Rome International Film Festival devoted to the new waves of international cinema), presided by Larry Clark. His film "Ricordi per moderni", a collection of short films made between 2000 and 2009, is also on show at the festival. For this reason and many more we have subjected him to our ZigZag Questionnaire.
You're originally from Ravenna, in Romagna. In our collective imagination, Romagna is the land of food, beaches, joy and folk dancing: how much of this image filters in your work, and how much of its darker side do you manage to show?
Romagna has always been a land of contrast, where folk dancing goes side by side with the techno club scene. This has always been a great inspiration to me. In my work I always try to show the contrast resulting from ongoing change.
Which colour could you not do without?
Blue, which is the colour of night, although people think it's black. In order to be completely dark, theatres have to be painted blue. In the dark, the human eye perceives black as grey, whereas blue turns to black.
What's your relationship with fashion, from a personal and artistic point of view?
Fashion gave me my first job. After the Academy of Fine Arts I started working with two designers (Pierangelo d'Agostin e Gunn Johansson), who ran a clothing line called Hlam. They were so in love with their work that they gave me the same passion for materials, colour and design. They introduced me to the world of high-end crafts and industry, particularly in the textile field. This is where I also discovered the world of industry and industrial cinema.
How fascinated are you by the contamination and destruction brought on by human civilisation, and how much does it repel you?
I suffer when I see that reality is taking on an increasingly globalised look. As an artist, though, I am almost naturally predisposed towards studying the dynamics of this change.
As an artist and an observer of the world, how do you relate to the mutation in the male aesthetic that has become noticeable in the last few years?
Be it a doctor or a street cleaner... I love a man in uniform.
From a quick search on Google Images it turns out you're never seen in a jacket. Is this a coincidence and your wardrobe is actually full of jackets, or...?
Travelling a lot, there are items of clothing that I use more than others because they give me a sense of familiarity that I'm attached to, but I often end up losing them while moving, so I cannot think of them a irreplaceable. For a time I wore a blue cashmere jacket that I loved, but I lost it, so I had to find another item that I felt was mine. I'm currently quite fond of a scarf and a sweatshirt that I always wear, that is until I displace them and I have to find a new travelling companion, a new “Linus's blanket”.
Was there ever a time when you said to yourself “Enough with art, I'll go work on an office” or anything of the sort?
If I ever leave the art world it will be to become an astronaut.
Are there any artists or musicians you'd like to work with?
I love to share my projects with musicians. The best side of my job is this, to be able to work on a film with a team. If I had to mention one name I'd say I'd like to work with Brian Eno. I listened to his music so much and I never get tired of it... albums like “Apollo” are masterpieces and they're extremely relevant.
How much of “Da Vinci” is tied to your own fear of illness?
When starting on a new project I always do transformational work on myself, in order to feel closer to the main characters in my film.
When I was making “Da Vinci” I had to delve into the psyche of surgeons, who are incredibly superstitious; as a consequence, my biggest fear was I might run into some bad luck.
If you had to name just one genius of our time, male or female, who would that be?
Enough with plastic cities! Peter Zumthor, architect and carpenter.
Is there an ability you'd like to have and could never develop, no matter how hard you tried?
Oh, how I'd love to be able to fly!