MASSIMILIANO GIONI with David Carrier and Joachim Pissarro
Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Exhibitions at the New Museum was curator of the 55th International Art Exhibition, “La Biennale di Venezia” in 2013. When one of us saw that exhibition and then we both read the massive catalogue Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2013) we could scarcely believe our eyes. Here, it seemed, he—working in a parallel universe—was developing an analysis marvelously compatible with our own research. When, for example, he speaks of presenting art not “in a linear fashion” but by “revealing a web of associations through contrasts and affinities, anachronisms, and collisions”; when he hopes that “the coerced coexistence of heterogeneous objects and the friction between art and other forms of figuration might be able to strike new sparks”; and above all when he says that “the exhibition celebrates exceptions and eccentricities instead of attempting to achieve a total systematization” his analysis spoke to our concerns. And so we eagerly anticipated this chance to talk.
David Carrier (Rail): We are interested in your idea of an encyclopedia, and the idea that the encyclopedia has become impossible at this point. You are trying to gather all of this material and yet it is a failed utopia of images that you are trying to gather—more than can be gathered, more than is possible, which is an interesting concept for an exhibition.
Joachim Pissarro (Rail): To use the Plato quote that you use, “To know everything equates divinity,” which is wonderful—it relates to the wake of Enlightenment, the end of the 18th century. The very first museums of the late 18th and early 19th century dealt with exactly that issue. Map out everything, and you had everything. These museums were not just cabinets of curiosities; the idea was to map out the entire production of visual information.