On the occasion of its 10th anniversary, Villa Lena Foundation – the residency in the Valdera hills between Pisa and Florence – is presenting Studio visit diaries, a new column by Juliet Art Magazine curated by Benedetta Monti. The initiative comes from the intention of showcasing the identity and collection of the Tuscan residency through the voices of some of the artists who have experienced the place, in dialogue with actively working in the art sector figures. A new piece will be available to read every last Wednesday of the month throughout 2024.
First of all, one needs to highlight that Villa Lena does not exclusively house artists, or creative production workers in general, residents also include curators and writers, as well as yoga teachers, chefs, and floral decorators. Villa Lena is a reality that promotes multidisciplinarity within a protected, paradisiacal and isolated territory. Animating the internal rhythm and programming are two macro themes, Art and Nature, which give character to the conceptual practice and coexistence exercise of those who live the place. Even the place itself is divided into two different areas: on one side we can find the former 19th-century aristocratic villa, where a sharing of space is experienced and a constant confrontation operation is implemented; on the other, we have the farmhouse, the studios, the vegetable garden and a few steps away medieval rubble and abandoned villages. Cyclically, from April to October, groups of artists, selected by the scientific committee, are given the opportunity to share large studios made available by the Foundation for experimentation and research. The nearest built-up area is only a few kilometers away, thick with hairpin bends and dirt roads; as a result, it is not easy to chase little trips. Thus, the guests gradually perceive a sort of bubble that separates their stay from the outside world, and inside this bubble time flows dilating in a crescendo that verges on hermit-like atmospheres. This very aspect – for someone extreme – is fundamental to understanding what underlies most of the important insights I have seen arising among creative minds. Those who choose Villa Lena find themselves radically detached from the overstimulation that characterizes the city. The “Villa Lena method” invites to embrace the slow life, which for some may prove to be unfamiliar terrain and therefore a real challenge, where isolation becomes a device for activation, and absence from everyday life a productive impulse. Paraphrasing Nemytov’s Tales of a Russian Pilgrim, I could assert that if uncomfortableness is the dazzling sun, Villa Lena is the necessary screen to appreciate it. We can also say that distancing oneself from a habit of constant inputs can create an intrusive experiential fraction, such that it could influence production (even if for a short time), surprising those who allow themselves to be pervaded by this simultaneously turbulent and soothing whiff.
As a result of the curatorial collaboration, I felt the need to leave a trace that would also become warning and incentive for the future curators-in-residence to be on site, a push for the elaboration of a closing legacy that could go to summarize one’s contribution and signature. Personally, I selected and gave voice to those who, at this moment, embody the concept of being in the world but not of the world (of art), both through Studio visit diaries, such as the series of dialogues linking Juliet Art Magazine to Villa Lena, and through the curatorial talk where I called to speak Gaia Bobò (Noto, 1995) and Edoardo De Cobelli (Bergamo, 1992), curators currently active and militant in Italy. During my experience I had the opportunity to get to know figures of different and unprecedented complexity including the protagonists in residence, the internal team, guests and external figures. The Foundation’s entourage, coordinated by the founder Lena Evstafyeva, is composed of a range of professionals who support the residents through their constant presence on site and make possible a direct and immediate type of communication. I have had the pleasure of working with Annalisa Ferrante, Gregorio Burgio, Gillian Donaldson. Villa Lena implements a systematic and rigorous selection process that is extremely open in its variety and inclusion of creative and labor categories. In Studio visit diaries I wanted to bring attention to artists who can represent the Foundation’s manifesto and self-portrait, combined with pens that can convey its topicality.
Benedetta Monti, Studio visit diaries
via comunale di Toiano 42, 56036 Palaia PI
is a contemporary art magazine since 1980