Written by – GIUSEPPE ORIGO

Translated by – GIULIA CUCARI

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The first time I found myself in front of Cracking Art’s artworks, it was during the Collisioni Festival in Barolo 2 years ago. I was strolling around the medieval streets of the outstanding village in Piedmont -located on a hilltop and extremely crowded – when I suddenly saw a huge, blue snail. I was surprised at first, but then I asked myself, “what am I actually looking at and why is it placed right here? What is it trying to convey?”

I took a photo, and after a few steps I ran into a yellow, equally huge meerkat carved from plastic, a fluorescent, motionless guard right on the Langhe.

What blew my mind was the fact that those big puppets made of fluorescent plastic did not turn out to be kitsch nor tacky even if they were placed in a medieval landscape as Barolo: it was more of an elegant, pleasant crack. I can’t tell if it was equally funny, since I found myself smiling without thinking.

I subsequently found those puppets in Milan during the inauguration of the Nuova Darsena (the dock of the well-known Naviglio Grande, Milan’s canal): there were big, colored snails in Piazza XXIV Maggio and two huge birds along the banks.

Absolutely amused, I took a few photos with my friends:

Me and Cracking – “it is the rediscovery of the well-known fanciullino inside of us: the child we put aside and hide while growing up, who suddenly runs into a giant animal around the corner.” [Paolo Bettinardi]

Me and Cracking – “Is is the rediscovert of the well-known fanciullino inside us: the child we put aside and hide while we growing up, who suddenly runs into a giant animal around the corner” [Paolo Bettinardi]


I’ve always admired those who made art from the concept of cracking, turning it into the proper meaning of contemporary art – while waiting for new contemporarieties to come.

I met Paolo Bettinardi and Kicco for the first time in occasion of the award ceremony of a contest for college students. With their manager and creative-like behavior, these Demiurges of Cracking Art turned out to be two congenial, clever spokespersons who definitely cannot be labeled as snobby or haughty.

“Cracking in Art or of Art?

K. First of all, it is a technical crack: it starts with the petrochemical process that breaks the molecules of petroleum inside the cracking tower, with them being smashed and turning into a synthesis result. It is the moment in which the living becomes organic, something that leaves its own life in exchange of a new eternal, artificial one given by Man. It is a crack with the past in order to go further.

This is the concept of Cracking. We chose to use plastic because it comes from this process; it is a contemporary, current material. We chose this name because it represents a proper break with traditional art: being a group of people and exhibiting on the street instead of being alone displaying our works in a museum, breaking the chain of the current scheme of art industry. That’s why we eventually chose the name Cracking, along with other reasons: to underline this break between natural and artificial.

Paolo Bettinardi (SX), Kikko (DX) e un gruppo di suricati

Paolo Bettinardi (on the left), Kikko (on the righr) and a pack of suricates

Looking at these gigantic, extremely fluorescent animals creates a sort of oxymoron between the natural shape and the contrasting artificiality of the dimensions and color, a break also underlined by the place where they stand. The first time I found myself in front of your artworks was during the Collisioni Festival in Barolo, and I was genuinely impressed when I saw these animals in a medieval landscape. I therefore asked myself what the bond between your works and the exhibition places was.


P.
 We choose every kind of place, including malls – some people even complained about it. Nowadays, a lot of “fine art” artists’ exhibitions take place in malls, which turned into the new squares, therefore we do not mind displaying in those unconventionally artistic locations. What matters is doing it where there’s a group of people more or less interested in our artistic message; it might be an historical square or a mall, a hotel, any area in which many people are likely to be, any place where our cracking art could be enjoyed freely and with no charge.

K. We also wanted to avoid following the traditional mindset for which “if you’re an artist you’re going to show your works in a museum”. After 20 years of work, we’ve been finally recognized as artists and when people see our works they understand they’re more than mere objects – it is a matter of empathy, where the public perceive the aesthetical, cultural and identity value of those items. They saw them on the streets and perceived them as art.

P. There is an emotional value, too, the same feeling you get when you see these oversized animals in contexts that are different from the artistic one. The feeling you get from watching them is primarily of joy, therefore this is the first feature we try to communicate – and we do.

 

It seems like art comes to life from this contrast between the artificial animal and the crowd who find itself in front of it…

P. Exactly. Like Pascoli said, it is a surprise, is the rediscovery of the well-known fanciullino inside of us: the child we put aside and hide while growing up, who suddenly runs into a giant animal around the corner and reappears without you noticing. What do you do at this point? You take a selfie with the artwork; you play with it and jump on it… you realize you are not a child anymore, but you also perceive the positivity of it – then you rediscover something we should awake every day: our childhood memories.

 

As far as you are concerned, how is art any different from design? And about your artworks: since they could possibly be mass-produced, why do they belong to the artistic area instead of the design one?

P. Design has the purpose to look pleasant solely to your eyes, while art does the same involving also your heart: the feeling you get is not just visual, but also emotional.

K. My parents had a design center; therefore, I know that talking about it means starting from a point of view where the main concept is purely about use and mass-production aimed to a specific application. Our purpose, instead, is to create feelings. We have always had a precise artistic intent, that’s why we have never made it a brand or used market strategies for those who belong to design. It a completely different procedure. The only thing we share with it is the modus operandi, since we work in group – and obviously, we used some of its techniques, especially from industrial design.

 

Un gruppo di gasteropodi invade Napoli

Snails in Naples


 Who is the artist in your group?

K. The group is the artist. It is the six of us plus Paolo, and the beautiful thing about it is that even if he’s a manager he collaborates when it comes to ideate the artworks.

Is the client involved in the process of decision-making?

P. Partially. They can ask for specific works in a specific style – the one of Cracking. I’ll give you an example: we’ve been asked to create an elephant and some of us suggested we made it with its trunk raised, being a symbol of luck, virility and all those stuff. Now, it would have been perfect if only the commercial side was taken into account – but considering the mere cultural side and the animal’s shape, it was too unnatural. We eventually created an elephant supporting, holding the historical memory. This must not be debated.

K. Some people ask us to create giant hats for them, and our answer is that a giant hat does not reflect our work and values. Nevertheless, if they ask us to create an elephant, things become serious: since we work with petroleum, Earth’s historical memory, the elephant is what represents it the most. This is a request that fully embraces our message.

P. It can be done when its meaning is historical and similar to Cracking.

 

I noticed that many people know your artworks, but only a few actually know your name and your company. What is the bond among your brand and your artworks?

P. Do you know Bansky’s name?

I do

P. I mean, the real, full one.

Actually, no…

P. Here it is: you do not know his real name, only his nickname. You are familiar with his artworks and his nickname, but not his full name. Almost everybody know about Cracking Art’s artwork, a few actually know the brand.

 

As a company and artistic center, are you interested in the popularity of your brand?

P. From a commercial point of view, of course. However, I don’t find it relevant on the artistic side, it is just a name. What matters is that people recognize us for our works, not our name. You can easily recognize a Bansky’s wall painting, but few people know his name or face. It might even be a marketing move – wanted or not.

K. Street art is really a thing now, but street artists put their signature on their works – we never did it because we do not want to end up self-promoting us. What happens now, after years, is the opposite: people see an animal and immediately think about us!

P. Some friends of mine even send me pics of rabbits and write, “Oh, this is Cracking Art! This is yours!”, when they are not. It is a double-edged sword.

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What about copywriting?

P. A famous clothing line once used a snail just like ours in order to promote its shops. We contacted its attorney and the snail was immediately removed since it copied the one created by Cracking Art. Therefore, copyright is preserved.

Charity and environmentalism are two of the ideals that your mission and production have embraced. In your opinion, how much does the effort in different dimensions count compared to the purely cultural and aesthetic ones, and why?

K. This was the first question we asked ourselves working with plastic. Just think about the fact the National Consortium for the Collection and Recycling of Plastic was born only 23 years ago, it is quite young and it was an obvious choice for us – as well as the one of using animals. We follow charity projects and we’re currently focusing on fundraising projects for restoring monuments, and scholarships. From my point of view, it is unnecessary for an artist to create art because of an ethical, social or philanthropic purpose: it is not compulsory, given the fact that artworks are not meant to save the world – anyway, it is always a good thing to do.

P. One of our goals is to help Italy in its revitalization and recovery of ancient art –all of this through Cracking, since Kicco taught me that snail drool is an effective revitalizer. This is the concept from which Cracking Art started. We first revitalize the soul by giving joy to those who watch our works, but we also want to give a concrete hand in reevaluating monuments that need to be restored. Speaking about that, we are often helped by superintendence in order to raise funds for this purpose.

 

Warhol said, “Business art is the step that comes after art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art, and working is art – and good business is the best art.” It is undeniable that the bond between business and art has always existed. What is the bond between Cracking Art and Art’s market and business system?

P. We do not follow the rules of the past through which an artist needed a gallerist in order to have their works displayed in the houses of wealthy people. We directly operate through the few gallerists we have previously chosen in order to collaborate with Cracking Art, who support us with those we call “takeovers of public squares” and believe in us. In this context, they are more like partners, friends who believe in this project. We do not take part in auctions: it is our few collectors who sell us – therefore we do not follow the standard procedure of evaluating an artwork. What we do is renting Cracking Art’s installations or giving them as a gift, and subsequently sell the artworks to our collectors. They do not buy them in order to speculate or make a markup, instead they do it because it amuses them and they find it pleasant. This is another reason why we’re different from a painting of Fontana or Fine Art: we deliver a different message and we have diverse artistic businesses.

 

 

 

 

 

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