Afa means mugginess in Italian – and “AFA2” is the latest iteration of Bari-based project space 63rd-77th STEPS’ offsite group show, taking place this summer. The exhibition, held at Pane e Pomodoro Beach in Bari, features the work of 13 international artists including Ditte Gantriis, Bradford Kessler, Pentti Monkkonnen Lucia Leuci, Maja Cule and Fabio Santacroce, the gallery’s founder. Each artist was invited to respond to the local environment by creating conceptual works, while attempting to contextualize global and local artistic trajectories within nature and geography. In this interview we discuss with Fabio Santacroce the curatorial framework and artistic ambitions of “AFA2”.
In what ways is “AFA2” a continuation of the concepts you explored in AFA1? In what ways does it differ?
The show reiterates and reconfigures the same sentiment of the previous one. “AFA” means mugginess in Italian – an exhausting weather condition that paralyzes the city in the grip of an insane burning heat and makes you feel irritable, debilitated and lazy.
“AFA1” took place in a dismantled bank with installations, projections, cut vinyl decorations that highlighted the dereliction of this “eloquent” location.
“AFA2” is staged at Pane e Pomodoro Beach, a public sandy beach with a series of black and white beach towels designed by a bunch of great artists and myself. The exhibition seeks a symbiosis with the nature and function of the location, and serendipitously inserts itself within this popular and colourful place in town by suggesting a contrast with it. The mood of the show is condensed in the presentation text that captures a typical southern Italy scenario during the hottest hours, usually corresponding to the “Controra”, which is a sort of siesta when everything is muted, immobilised in a sacred silence and suspended between a terse sky and blinding sun light reflected by the white-washed houses.
Why is Pane e Pomodoro Beach an important location for the exhibition?
Pane e Pomodoro Beach – which is named after a cheap local delicacy of bread topped with tomato, mainly eaten by the poor during their lunch break by the shore – is a popular public city beach in Bari. It’s a vivacious place and super crowded with people who are unable to travel out of the city and get to the nearby private beaches or who generally cannot afford to go on vacation.
Although the beach is frequently spoiled by the sewage that pollutes the seaside area after every storm, it remains an ostensibly pleasant retreat, animated by children playing, families, recreational activities and local folklore.
Fifteen steps and adjacent spaces, a web platform, and a flaming logo summarize the hybrid identity of 63rd-77th STEPS – Art Project Staircase. Why did you decide to setup a project space in this domestic environment?
The choice to confine an art space on the last segment of a communal staircase responds to an exacerbated feeling and to an interest in specific issues, which find in this domestic display, the right dose of tension and sentimentality to be formalized. I have always found this space effectively dissonant, raw and romantic at the same time, with a visual and discursive potential that it was worth exploring. Hence, the choice to optimize its endurance through a gritty programme, with a special focus on those more recent post-pop and post conceptual practices.
63rd-77th STEPS is a non-commercial, sprawling project space. What do you hope to accomplish with it in the long term? Do you foresee 63rd-77th as a commercial space?
63rd-77th STEPS’s programme and identity were built on the exiguity of economical resources, obstinacy and pure pleasure that determine specific choices and developments. I consider these now as its main core. External economic support would definitely facilitate the work, but right now I wouldn’t see the same sense by turning it into a proper commercial space. 63rd-77th STEPS has been a need, an artistic urgency spurred also by the desire to insert my hometown into a broader artistic discourse and to contribute to the local and national scene, as well as a visceral reaction to the decadence of our time.
Text by Mark Pieterson
AFA 2 at PANE & POMODORO BEACH, Lungomare A. Perotti, Bari runs until 12 August 2015