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Triennale Milano
ph. DSL Studio

Ujumbe, the Message of Art: An Interview with Louise Manzon and Luca Beatrice

November 26 2022
The Kenyan pavilion is taking part in the 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition by presenting a project that speaks of underwater mysteries and environmental concerns. The artist Louise Manzon, who has always been attentive to the relationship between sculpture and nature in her practice, is presenting ujumbe, “message” in Swahili, a work that has filled the pavilion with sea creatures, raising a cry of alarm about toxic substances in our waters. Their lament brings to the surface as yet unknown issues, such as the lack of sufficient information on the cocktail effect of chemicals in water resources.
We have interviewed Louise Manzon and the curator of the pavilion, Luca Beatrice, exploring some of the issues related to the impact of art on the public and the role of beauty in protecting the environment.
ph. DSL Studio
How does ujumbe fit into Louise's artistic practice?
Louise Manzon: As an artist, in all my projects I always look for the energy of beauty and the power of harmony, in an effort to convey thorny messages. Triennale Milano has offered me a perfect platform for this, allowing me to communicate an urgent message about the need to protect our planet. By presenting ujumbe, an immersive environment filled with deafening images, I believe I have succeeded in creating a kind of empathy with the visitor, stirring consciences through the power of poetry and beauty alone. For me, it is always through sensitivity that one can speak to people’s heart, through continuous yet silent action.
ph. Gianluca Di Ioia
ph. Gianluca Di Ioia
You mentioned the environment in which your works are immersed in the Triennale; how important is the setting up of the pavilion in terms of the impact on the public and the rendering of the work?
LM: Obviously, the set-up too conveys a message, a message of alarm and emergency, which as such must be direct and easy to understand for any audience. We have tried to capture the viewer’s attention from an aesthetic point of view in this regard as well, through an enveloping atmosphere with a strong visual impact. The idea is to elicit questions and emotions that appeal to the viewer’s instincts, so as to engage them on an intellectual level.
Luca Beatrice: I believe that the staging is always an added value when it comes to interpreting a work, especially when you find yourself in a context like the International Exhibition, with a wide variety of artists eager to reach the public with their message. In my opinion, the work done on the staging of Louise’s works is a bonus for them, insofar as it makes them easier to interpret and more evocative. Besides the environmental message, what strikes me about Louise’s art is the irony of her figures. After all, hers are big fish that come out of the dark, arriving from who knows where, and looking at you with an air of indifference – an irony that helps you understand the work and the idea behind it.
Moving on from the concepts to the material, what are the materials used for your sculptures?
LM: I like to use ordinary and eco-friendly materials, not only to translate my message from a conceptual level to a material and practical one, but also because I like my works to make the viewer wonder what they are made of. The appearance of the materials used is totally distorted by my practice. In ujumbe, for example, I use sand, plaster and recycled plastics, which I reshape to such an extent that they become unrecognizable, elevating them from their status as ordinary and common materials and giving dignity to what has already been seen and used. This is one of the aspects I love most about the materials I use: the fact that from afar people do not realize their nature and origin.
ph. DSL Studio
Luca Beatrice, how did you become acquainted with Louise’s work?
LB: Ours was one of those lucky encounters between people with completely different backgrounds who met at a certain point in their career and had the opportunity to collaborate on many occasions. Undoubtedly, the Triennale was an important platform for both of us; we were given the opportunity to interact not only with the public of art exhibitions, but also with the design and architecture crowd, with students, enthusiasts and people who were simply curious. This has also led us to create a project that might be accessible to everyone without being trivial.
ph. Marco Gasparetti
At this point the question arises: what role can ujumbe and art in general play when it comes to environmental protection?
LB: First of all, I would like to say that Louise’s work carries an absolutely genuine touch of poetry, which is fundamental when it comes to art, regardless of what message one wishes to convey. In her work, it is easy to detect the hand of someone who is aware of contemporary cultural, social and political issues, and who pauses to reflect on the most pressing questions. In doing so, however, she never forgets that she is an artist, and conveys her contributions through actions that are always enjoyable from an aesthetic point of view. This is precisely what art should do: it cannot be completely divorced from reality, otherwise it would lapse into pure academicism; but neither should it be reduced to sociological commentary, for it would lose the aesthetic value and conceptual reworking that define true works of art and their effectiveness.
LM: As I said before, mine is a stubborn, direct, insistent and silent action, which uses beauty and harmony to imprint itself in the minds and hearts of the viewers, stirring them from the torpor of inactivity and indifference in which they are absorbed.

Louise Manzon, ph. Marco Gasparetti
ph. Marco Gasparetti
Luca Beatrice
Louise Manzon, ph. Marco Gasparetti
Louise Manzon was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and was raised in a cosmopolitan family, training between South America, Europe and the United States. She graduated in Industrial Design from the “Armando Alvares Penteado” Foundation in São Paulo. She worked for an international architecture studio and continued her studies by obtaining a Master’s degree in Industrial Design at the Pratt Institute in New York, where she explored different expressive languages and artistic styles. She worked as a designer at the Young & Rubicam agency in New York City. Her sculptures have been exhibited in the United States and Italy. Philippe Daverio, Achille Bonito Oliva, Alain Elkann, Paul Laster and Luca Beatrice, among others, have written about her and her work.
Luca Beatrice, curator and contemporary art critic, teaches at the Accademia Albertina and IED in Turin, and at IULM in Milan. He has written for the magazines "Tema Celeste," "Arte," and "Flash Art." Since the 1990s he has been curator of numerous exhibitions related to new Italian figurative arts, including the Prague Biennale and the Italian Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Recent exhibitions include the anthological exhibition of Andy Warhol at the Palazzo Ducale, Genoa (2016) and of Edward Hopper at Palazzo Fava, Bologna, and Vittoriano, Rome (2015-2016), the group exhibitions Pollock and the New York School, Palazzo Reale, Milan and Vittoriano, Rome 2018, Easy Rider. The Myth of the Motorcycle as Art, Reggia di Venaria 2018, Warhol and friends, Palazzo Albergati, Bologna 2018, Diabolik alla Mole, Cinema Museum, Turin 2021, Carlo Levi, GAM Turin 2022, Giacomo Soffiantino, Ferrero Foundation, Alba 2022. For Gallerie d'Italia, Intesa Sanpaolo he curated at Palazzo Zevallos in Naples the exhibitions dedicated to New York, London, Berlin and Los Angeles, and the exhibition Futuro at Palazzo Leoni Montanari in Vicenza (2020). He has published numerous essays on art and music criticism and contributes to "Libero" and "Linkiesta."