The first time I didnt see the work of Paola Pivi was at the opening of Massimo De Carlos new gallery in Milan in 1999. A friend took us to the opening and we waited in a queue outside. We met our friends partner there (they work together). She had a neck brace on. Given their pranks and trickery I didnt know what to think. Her pain seemed real but they are always making fun and puns of shallow perceptions.
When we got in there was a big crowd, all dressed up. It was hard to push to the front to see what was happening. In the hall, half way in, I saw the gallerist Massimo De Carlo sitting in a wheelchair with bandaged feet (I think). It looked real but I was very distracted looking for the show, for it. The exhibition, I was told, was by a young artist from Milan and it was a performance with a group of Chinese people. But apparently the performers had got jack of it and were already packing up and getting changed back into their street clothes. They were quietly talking to each other and, it seemed, getting ready to leave. Within about fifteen minutes all the performers had left and the show was over, and we hadnt found anyone who had seen it. Apparently there is some documentation of the event, and Paola Pivi once lived in China in Shanghai ( I think).
The next time I saw Paola Pivis work was in the catalogue of the 1999 Venice Biennale. It was an aeroplane turned upside down in the interior space of a gallery or pavilion. In another catalogue, I dont remember where, there was a huge semi-trailer also on its back but this time outside.
In 2000 I met Paola Pivi and she told me she was preparing to put a helicopter upside-down in the piazza in front of the Duomo in Milan. It never happened. The show went ahead and she showed two cds of music by her partner. The cds were part of a project in Switzerland made in collaboration with a think-tank of physicists. Each researcher made comments about the art she provided for them, as a kind of interactive research.
Im in a bus writing, looking out the window, its hard to tell if Im in the US, Italy or Australia roads, signs, cars, trees and hills. Theres a lot more I dont know (about it) than what I do (know).
Paola Pivi now lives on an island near Stromboli with her partner Martin Creed. Sixty people live on the island. They went there to get a way from a stream of commitments to return to a kind of authentic self. Something that was there rather than a phantom.
I still havent seen the work of Paola Pivi save the upturned tin model plane she spontaneously signed in a friends apartment. When I e-mailed her to ask her about her work she wrote:
Its not so much a mystery as something I know about but havent seen.
One night at the beginning of September I was taken around to the openings of commercial shows in New York. It seemed tens of galleries were opening the same night in Chelsea. It reminded me of Christmas shopping in Melbourne. Following the crowd. We saw a group show at White Box that was stupid, but I wasnt sure if it was good-stupid or bad-stupid. Next door we saw a video show with three dark rooms and projections. With the big crowd I couldnt tell what we were looking at and I said to my guide, Whats this about? She said just a minute Ill ask my friend Michelle and she returned and said, Michelle says this one you have to look at. From this moment I thought, what a great idea; art you dont have to look at. You already know because Everybody Knows anyway.
In the next month at The Project in Harlem Paul Pfeiffer showed some good-stupidworks. The shower scene from Psycho enlarged 1:1.5, with real water and video cameras leading to some worn beige/grey computer monitors in the next room. There was nothing there, no protagonist, only our looking, or something Upstairs I looked at some landscape photographs and felt stupid for not-knowing what they were about.
There was a fantastic video of absent boxers revealing the crowd at a big fight. But the landscapes, I really didnt know I found out they were backgrounds of Marilyn Monroe publicity photographs without Marilyn. She was removed. No it. Suddenly I remembered these landscapes and seascapes well. I was ready to go, I didnt need to look anymore. Once I knew, my pleasure was in what I thought about what was presented to me by Paul Pfeiffer. Im hoping someone reading this might have that same pleasant feeling, just a moment ago or soon.
In science when two researchers independently come up with the same data or knowledge it is called verification. Its like two people independently dip into the blazing muddle of the real and find something that seems like its already formed.
The more I know about Paola Pivi two aspects present themselves. One is that it is utterly amazing that this girl performs these feats of art and organisation. And two, that as each work takes shape in the world and in my mind it seems as a flash of something I already know, something Everybody Knows. Maybe someone in New Zealand is already doing the same?
Geoff Lowe is one half of the Melbourne based and well travelled A constructed World