The red cross of Franko B
As soon as you see him, you realize that he is an artist. No – an Artist. Or better still, an ARTIST. His entire being reflects such genuine and avid interest in the world and in you, which has the effect of a strange energy elixir. And you start to look differently at the people in the gallery, and the paintings there, and the video clip about this strange and charming man called Franko B.
Franco, what do you think is the point and meaning of art?
Art is a language. Regardless of the medium the artist uses – paintings, books, myths… An artist uses this language to express what he must say. People ask “why?” and go to art. But the point of art is not to provide answers, but to ask the right questions. Everything that artists give to people, they only find within themselves.
When did you start working as an artist? How did you come to art?
It happened when I was about 23. I was a very political person, I was an anarchist and took part in manifestations. This happened in Italy, with the “red brigades”, and when the communist party almost got into power but lost to the Christian democrats. And I was supposed to serve in the army, but as an anarchist I decided to avoid this, and so I moved to England. I led a nomadic sort of existence there for a while, and then I joined the local anarchists, the Animal Liberation Front, and got into politics, drugs and crap like that… But suddenly I felt completely disappointed. I saw that this was all stupid and illogical. I started noticing anarchists who didn’t like black people or beat up their girlfriends. I told them: you’re anarchists, brothers, and anarchists cannot be racists or violent towards women… And they told me to go to hell. Some of the brothers started giving me shifty looks because I was gay. And I suddenly realized that I had been an idiot to believe in the commune, and that it was not just a bunch of people who put up each other, but something more – common ideals, and a common desire to make the world better and happier. I really did believe.
But now you don’t?
I believe in art. Art is like an epidemic, it infects everything, in the good sense, and makes changes for the better. Even when it repels you, even when you don’t like it!
I see. So, you lost your faith in the commune…
In short, I became depressed and started thinking about ending it all… But near my home there was a girl who rode past on a bicycle every day. We didn’t know each other, we just nodded to each other. But one days she stopped and said: “Listen, I’ve been a bit worried about you lately. You seem very unhappy. What’s wrong?” I said: “I don’t know what to do… I don’t know how to go on living…” And she said: “I go to pottery classes, why don’t you come along?” And I did! It was so easy! Pottery…
So instead of killing yourself you got into pottery?
I discovered art for myself. I started doing it and realized that this was true freedom! It is the only way for me to live and not go mad. Everything else is death. I felt life and realized that I don’t want to survive. I want to live! And living is enough. And I will never kneel again.
Your childhood wasn’t very easy either, was it?
I spent all my childhood waiting. I lived and waited to grow up at last. I remember my mother who beat me, and I put up with and thought that I wanted to grow up as soon as possible. Then I lived in a home, where for everything you did or said wrong – that God doesn’t exist, for example – you were made to kneel for hours. I kneeled and waited. Until I was 16 I dreamed of growing up. Because I knew that once I had grown up, I would never let myself be insulted and never kneel again. I will never kneel, neither physically or metaphorically.
This probably had a strong effect on your world view.
You can say that again. I hated my childhood, I hated being a teenager, and hated being a youth. I hated not having the right to have my own opinion about my life. In many ways, this determined my views and my philosophy today. I believe that a person should have the right to chose. Every one of us is a person above all. We are people, and we must respect other people. And it’s unimportant if you believe in liberal values, you don’t have the right to humiliate anyone and deprive them of their rights for the sake of these values.
What did you feel when people finally began to listen to you and think about what you were trying to tell them?
I felt an incredible emotional surge. I was very inspired that so many people wanted to see my work. As an artist, it is important that as many people as possible see my work. If you sit alone with yourself and your art, you can go mad. You start to think in circles, and you may end up with your head up your ass..
Your pictures on display in Moscow are black on black. How did you reach this form of expression?
I move and I develop. I used to be into performance art, because this was what I needed, and people wanted this and avidly took in my message. But I don’t want to be remembered only for dripping blood on to canvas. My favorite painting of all time is Malevich’s “Black Cross”. I love Mark Rothko… I adore monochromatic intensity, the intensity of one color. The intensity of blood is also like this. And black is the richest color for me, as it contains all the other colors. If you simply mix all the paints, you get mud. But if you add black to this, it gains meaning and nobility.
Event Date and Time:12.12.2007