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Projects/2001/1._Si scambiano oggetti d'arte per oggetti personali
Si scambiano oggetti d'arte per oggetti personali is the name of an action of exchange that was realised in Cittadellarte (Fondazione Pistoletto) during the 2001 residence of UNIDEE (University of Ideas). With this project I proposed an exchange as the centre of artistic experience. Participants were invited via articles in newspapers, adverts in radio stations and flyers distributed in different points of the city.

I offered one of my drawings in exchange for a personal object from whomever wanted to participate in the project. A personal object that had to be related to everyday life and that had to have a special meaning for his or her owner - a small everyday meaning. My drawings at the same time, represent these small landscapes of objects and situations that belong to the everyday and that could configure anybody's everyday's life.

Whoever liked to participate in this project could contact me at Fondazione Pistoletto. The exchanges were documented with photographs accompanied by texts which explained the stories and the meaning the objects had for their last owners. In a second phase of the project (the project is still being developed now) a book will be edited with all this documentation born from the exchange of all the drawings.

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The first 20 exchanges

The first object was a ring. My first guest had this ring as a reminder of his previous stay in England. When he was there, in an everyday situation while buying some meat, he met a Pakistani butcher with whom he instantly established a rapport. The butcher, empathising with him, asked him to come to visit him again on another occasion. He did so, and the butcher gave him as a present this silver ring.

2. The second exchange was a pareu. It belonged to its owner for 10 years. It was a very beloved object, a present from some friends and she used it in different ways: as a kind of towel on the beach, as protection against the cold weather at night when going out for a drink, and when it was so old as to begin to disintegrate, she cut it into pieces to use it as a hair-band. She gave it to me as a way of preserving it, as a way to keep it from disappearing completely.

3. The third object was this light. This is a lamp that was used by E. when traveling, because her baby, G., couldn't bear to be in complete darkness.

4. The fourth object was half of a thousand lire bank-note. An object as impersonal as a piece of money lost its original purpose and became a very personal object, holding memories shared with another person. However, time went on and as it turned out, memories were not about to fade but to become stronger and this not only because of the bank-note. Thus, its owner decided that it was time to go separate ways and let the object tell its stories elsewhere.

5. My fifth visitor gave me a comb. She told me that it was the only comb she had used for thirteen years since she was fourteen years old.

6. My sixth visitor was in New York in July of 2001. He visited the most important monuments and centres there, but had not enough time to go to other places such as the World Trade Center. He gave me this ticket he was saving to go there in November. Now, the visit has no sense anymore.

7. This small box belonged to the seventh exchange. It was a present from a friend and he kept it for more than seven years. Although he told me the original purpose of the box, he asked me to keep it a secret.

8. The eighth exchange is this basket made of wicker. It is more than 200 years old and first belonged to my visitor's grandfather. She used it when she was a child, in the same way as her grandfather did, in a kind of traditional ritual, harvesting the first fruits of each season from her grandfather's orchard. She enumerated a listed order, the time at which she used to harvest each fruit. Then she would adorn the basket with fig-leaves and putting carefully the fruit in it, bring it to the table. First, she picked the strawberries, then cherries, apricots, sloe-berries, red and white-currants, figs, pears, nuts, hazelnuts and strawberry grapes.

9. The ninth exchange was a pencil. Its owner told me it was like the survivor of a disaster. It was a present as part of a diary that a friend gave to her. Lately, a common friend of both, stole the diary but forgot to steal the pencil, too. Whenever she looked at the pencil she remembered this negative experience.

10. The tenth object is this plastic key ring. Although it is a simple object and a very practical one, having held the owner's keys to his house and therefore been carried everywhere with him, it is symbolic of a very important stage in his professional and personal life. It was given to him on the occasion of an important concert in the Royal Albert Hall in London at the BBC Proms Music Festival, where he made his debut as a conductor.

11. Exchanger number eleven began his story more or less like this: “when I was 16 my father made a trip to the USA. By then, I didn’t have a good relationship with him -I couldn’t understand him and our relationship was very distant. I couldn’t understand his behavior, nor his attitude towards me. Perhaps this was a situation that not only depended on him, but also on me. Then, he used to drink a lot, and for these two months he went on his trip to the USA with two of his friends. When he came back, he brought me a present of five LPs. One of these was Neil Young’s “ Harvest”. When he gave me the five LPs, I was really surprised, for I just expected a token present, such as a T-shirt or something similar. So, when I had been given them, an example of the music that he liked most at that moment, it was the same music that I liked - this kind of movement of the 70s, hippies and so on. I found for the first time a common field to share with him. So, the first thing I did when I got the albums was to go to my room and put on my headphones... my headphones were by then my best friends, and when I put them on, the first album that I listened to was Harvest”. So, for me, Neil Young’s "Harvest" has a kind of sentimental meaning. Now my father lives with us and my mother for the greater part of the year near our studio and we work in some projects together.”

12. Visitor number twelve sent me his object by mail. When I opened the package, I found some photos, a letter and a small transparent plastic bag with some reddish sand in it. The letter said that this sand was taken “from Sardinia (Cala Cibudda) in May 1991 with Stefania and stolen from my personal collection”. In one of the photos one could see a huge collection of bottles with sand from different places and different times.

13. A small silver earring was the thirteenth object of exchange. Its owner explained to me that it was a very symbolic object for her, that she had always worn it from the moment she had the hole made in her ear. She went to have the hole done with her sister when she graduated from her studies and for her, this mark in her body was significant of this period in her life and her wish she had accomplished.

14. M gave me this piece of red silk that she bought in Atlanta when she was living there with her husband in 1978. She told me that she always brought it with her in her luggage when traveling and that she thought I would like it as it was red, as she saw me wearing some different red colored clothes. She suggested to me that I could perhaps use it to make a scarf for myself...

15. Exchanger number fifteen gave me for an exchange this fragment of a photograph. In it one can see him laughing. This is what made this portrait special for him: the laugh. He told me this picture could be a kind of synthesis of his position in front of life now: laughing as a technique to understand and confront life – past, present and future life – and laughing as a tool that allowed him to think himself as the owner of a new self-confidence that he did not have in past times.

16. One day we went out to have lunch. T was sitting in front of me, with these glasses that she had recently bought in Italy on the table. I told her: “I like your glasses very much. They are really nice”. T gave me her glasses in an exchange for a drawing.

17. J gave me this pin of the jeep. He explained to me that he bought it last year, in summer, and that for him it meant the remembrance of all the changes that took place in his life from this summer on: moving to live in a different city, knowing new people, beginning a new professional period in his life.

18. The eighteenth object was this folded skirt. It was a negative object for her owner. She told me that she liked this skirt a lot, this was not the reason why this skirt was negative, but explained to me that she was wearing this skirt when a very beloved person for her died. She was so shocked by this event that she could not change her clothes for three days. That is why the skirt brought her always back to these sad days.

19. D just finished reading his book when he came to visit me. He explained to me that he bought the book three months ago in Liverpool. He enjoyed reading Kafka very much. He explained an anecdote to me concerning the book: when he traveled to Ireland to visit his girlfriend, left the book at the seashore and went for a walk. But then the tide began to come in and “stole” the book. When he could reach the place where he had left his things, he could still see the book floating in the sea. He saved it from the water and put it up to dry to be able to finish reading it. This is why the book looks so old and badly treated.

20. This is a picture of R, the husband of N, and their two dogs, it was object number twenty. N explained me that her husband sent it to her by e-mail this same summer while she was abroad and far from him for four months. She printed the image and made herself this paper and cardboard frame and kept the image on the night table in her room during her absence.
  Exhibited: Perspectives Creuades (Crossed Perspectives), Can Felipa, Barcelona (ES) in 2002, UNIDEE (University of Ideas) in Cittadellarte (Fondazione Pistoletto), Biella (IT) in 2001