Paolo: a video by Lorenzo Silvestri

On the occasion of the opening of the 2024 Venice Biennale, Golden Goose opened the doors of the new “Haus of Dreamers” space in Marghera, inviting young creatives to participate in workshops, performances and installations. The city centre is buzzing with activity for the 60th International Art Exhibition, transforming, as it does every year, into a melting pot of events that breathe new life into the city.

Lorenzo Silvestri, photo portrait, ph credit Giacomo Riccardi, courtesy of the artist

Keeping up with all that’s on offer, however, can be overwhelming and there is always the risk of not giving the proper attention to some of the interesting projects on display. By veering off the beaten path, one might encounter the most fascinating things: for example, “Paolo”, a video work by Lorenzo Silvestri, presented in the Golden Goose spaces and curated by Ghandara, a collective of women curators based in Rome. Lorenzo Silvestri (Rome, 1999) is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Rome. “Paolo” is an unpublished short film lasting 6 minutes, shot in Rome in 2021 on analogue Super 8 film. The work, which is centred on the character Paolo (Paolo di Noto), explores the theme of fragility of a person but also of the urban landscape he inhabits and how they relate to each other. At the same time, “Paolo” represents the staging of a friendship, captured against the backdrop of an oneiric city that escapes categorisation.

Lorenzo Silvestri, “Paolo”, video, 2021, 06’02” min., still frame, courtesy of the artist

Enrico Boschi: What inspired “Paolo”?
Lorenzo Silvestri: “Paolo” is a short film I shot three years ago. I often work this way: I shoot films and then leave them on my hard drive for some time before releasing them. This six-minute work stems from a close friendship with Paolo, a guy who I would describe as “timeless”. He’s a character who hides within the city, is always on the move. My film tries to depict a dreamlike Rome that deviates from the classic image of the eternal city, thus portraying fragility. The starting point is personal and autobiographical, but “Paolo” isn’t meant to reflect me. Instead, the work aims to give the viewer the tools for a personal interpretation. Working with Super 8 film helped me significantly in constructing a narrative and developing my own idea of a fairy-tale.

You often work with various media: painting, video, sculpture…
I don’t have a privileged relationship with a single medium. First, I create an idea, then I try to structure it through the most suitable medium. Sometimes, I think it makes more sense to create images with painting rather than video, and sometimes it’s the opposite. The creative process always begins spontaneously. For “Amo Roma scappo da Roma” I developed an idea through a series of paintings, which then became a video in its final form. A quick way to capture ideas is to draw and write. I always take notes. Places play an important role in the creative process and, depending on how they are viewed, they can become one thing or another. I like that everyone sees something different in my works.

Lorenzo Silvestri, “Paolo”, video, 2021, 06’02” min., still frame, courtesy of the artist

Do you like leaving room for broad interpretation?
I see myself primarily as a mediator. In “Paolo” I wanted his character to emerge, not mine. I wanted to create something with my friend Paolo. I fall in love with people, and when that happens, I want to create something with them. For me, it’s also an attempt to stop time. Growing up in Rome felt like living in the Land of Toys. But, like Pinocchio, there’s always the risk of being turned into a donkey. Rome gives you so much; it can seem like paradise, a city that can be both fast and extremely slow. I have a strange relationship with this city. Sometimes I think Rome is the thing that caused me to become an artist. If I hadn’t been here, I might not have done what I did. But Rome is also a cursed city; it distracts you so much with its past that, ultimately, almost nothing happens in the present.

How did you work on the sound for “Paolo”? How important is the soundtrack to you?
I composed the music of “Paolo” along with musician Mauro Remidi. We worked on two existing songs, re-sounding and reworking them in relation to the images. The sound component of my works is very important. Often, the sound comes first, and then the work takes shape around it; sometimes it’s the opposite, but the sound component remains essential. When I talk about sound, I’m also referring to silence, not necessarily music or noise.

Lorenzo Silvestri, “Paolo”, video, 2021, 06’02” min., still frame, courtesy of the artist

At the beginning of the video, a mirror is shattered, revealing the landscape behind it…
The mirror in the opening scene ties back to the theme of fragility, both metaphorical and literal. I wanted the mirror to break within the city. It was like breaking myself inside the city. Paolo’s image breaks immediately, creating a snapshot. Behind it, you see Rome, that I try to cover as much as possible. In the next scene, you see footage of social housing in Valle Aurelia from the ‘50s and ‘60s, establishing a relationship with the city’s fragility, even at an urban level, a fragility inherent in architecture. I shot “Paolo” back in 2021. Perhaps now I feel a bit more aware, but my approach remains the same, the desire to do things with my friends. Once I finish a project, I feel it no longer needs me. Maybe when I shoot on film I make fewer mistakes, but Rome I tend to capture remains the same.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on collages with miniature objects, as if photographed in an environment recreated in a small niche in my studio. I’m making new paintings, mainly large-format drawings which I’m very pleased with. I’m also writing another short film I want to shoot in a month, and I’m designing miniature cinemas inside shoeboxes. This last project is coming together as a collaboration with my girlfriend, Benedetta [Pistolini], who is a director. When I’m in the studio, I don’t necessarily have to work: I look at many images, browse books, watch film clips. Sometimes I take a walk, trying to stay as little closed in on myself as possible. Regarding painting, I create a waiting situation: I wait to want to paint, sometimes spending a week or two without painting anything until the moment comes when I can’t wait any longer. And then it’s beautiful.

Lorenzo Silvestri, “Paolo”, video, 2021, 06’02” min., still frame, courtesy of the artist

How does your creative process develop?
I work on many things simultaneously, even with different media. I move from painting to collage, then maybe edit a video on the same day. I’m currently trying to be a bit stricter with myself, setting rules, but I rarely succeed.

I could see your work fitting well within the “Nebula” exhibition at the Ospedaletto in Venice. The theme is opacity, a positive cloud that gives the work different levels of reading without revealing itself immediately. What do you think about this concept in relation to your work?
I’m interested in creating works in which everyone can see something different without a mandatory single interpretation. The work is ultimately just a container: I provide certain tools, but it’s up to the viewer to see what they believe. However, I sometimes can’t stand when this opacity is created only for aesthetic reasons; art becomes boring and useless.

Where would you have your dream exhibition?
Definitely in Rome. I’d like to have an exhibition at the Teatro Argentina, a historic theatre, or at the Giulio Cesare cinema, my favourite. But there are many places I’m fascinated by, so I can’t give you a definite answer.


Lorenzo Silvestri. Paolo
Golden Goose Haus
via Dell’Atomo 8, Marghera


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