Art and culture in disco: a new format for Artissima. Interview with Paola Nicolin

On the occasion of Artissima in Turin, there will also be a talk program that starts with a reflection on Piper, Turin's historic disco. We talked about it with Paola Nicolin.

Among the novelties proposed by the 2017 edition of Artissima, the international contemporary art fair to be held at Turin’s Oval from Nov. 3 to 5, arouses great curiosity is the PIPER program. Learning at the discotheque, which will be curated by the classroom, an art and education center directed by contemporary art historian Paola Nicolin, who teaches History of Modern and Contemporary Art at Bocconi University in Milan, is a curator of exhibitions, author of numerous volumes on contemporary artists and has experience at the Venice Biennale and the City of Milan to her credit. A series of meetings that start from a reflection on Piper, a historic Turin nightclub active from 1966 to 1969, frequented by many cultural personalities of the time, including Michelangelo Pistoletto, Alighiero Boetti, Carmelo Bene, Piero Gilardi, and Mario and Marisa Merz. Why can the Piper represent an international model of a non-institutional space for contemporary art? We talked precisely about this with Paola Nicolin.

Il Piper di Torino nel 1966
The Piper in Turin in 1966

Where did the idea of starting an education program by reflecting on a 1960s disco come from?
It stems from the fact that the disco has in the first place always been a space of freedom, contamination, diversity, a kind of defense against gentrification in all spheres. And therefore also that of education. Daltra reasoning more in historical terms, Piper in Turin was born in the framework of profound cultural reform in the late 1960s. Pietro Derossi who was its designer and manager with his wife Graziella in those years participated in Turin in the activities of demonstrations and occupation of university buildings. And the theme, in Turin and elsewhere, was on the other hand precisely the revision of the teaching structure, the relationship between disciplines, the experimentation of participatory methodologies. The project of a discotheque as a self-managed cultural center was born out of the intertwining of these temperatures with the echoes of British and American radical and pop research. A rather strong relationship between content and container. This tension demanded different spaces and produced different art. I this sense the disco class is a metaphor for saying that every space affects the way we learn: what can we learn then from disco?

Paola Nicolin
Paola Nicolin. Ph. Credit: Linda Fregni Nagler
The program aims to reinvent the relationships between educational and exhibition practices: how to achieve this goal?
Actually, more than achieving a goal, we are looking for it through the experience of an artist and a mixed group of students working in a specific context. Producing and then revealing the outcome of the production - which inexorably is only just beginning. The classroom was born out of a desire to test left-handed intelligences, all those irregular aspects of education that in other words do not necessarily fit or escape formats, filing, and classification. In this way we try to reinvent the relationship between production and its narrative.

Can we already have some anticipation about the program?
It is a three-day program of close encounters with artists and curators, preceded by an opening of Seb Patane’s class, of the Piper room reinterpreted by Superbudda, and an interview with a well-known protagonist of the international music scene. Three days, three themes, three guiding works that the guests will decline according to their subjectivities. For the names still some waiting.