A colorful sky covers a gray Milan; it’s the first image that appears going to discovery THAT’S CONTEMPORARY. An interactive map, Giulia reminds me that the map is the winner of the European Design Award information sector, and tells about the artistic universe that explodes with a thousand lights and colors every evening. Giving a precise definition of the project founded by Francesca Baglietto and Giulia Restifo in October 2011 is a complex matter. A first indication, which contains and summarizes their thinking, can be found in the “About” section of the site: “THAT’S CONTEMPORARY develops projects halfway between artistic practice and a creative use of technologies and communication mechanisms”.
A single sentence is not sufficient; the only way to understand such a complex reality is to see up close, step by step, the most important events that have characterized seven years of art conceived as work for the society.
Marco Roberto Marelli: Giulia leads us to the discovery, starting from the motivations that led to the birth of her project.
Giulia Restifo: THAT’S CONTEMPORARY was born from a study of the reality of the Milanese art spaces and immediately embraced a wide audience, which goes beyond just the insiders. We have found that the variety and the vastness of the cultural offerings in the city was not matched by adequate and extensive communication aimed at all fans.
M.R.M. Hence the idea of an interactive map?
G.R. Like every project, even the most democratic, THAT’S offers its own point of view. Our map highlights a selection of cultural proposals that are not initially divided by type of space (institutions, galleries, non-profit, etc.) or by type of event (exhibition, talk, screening) but only choices based on the value of the contents. Then there is the section “Place” on the site where you can identify, this time by categories, the various realities present in the urban area of the city of Milan. From the homepage of the site you can also select the map by event types and opening dates (today, soon, current). Our will is to make the contemporary art scene easily identifiable in the most possible democratic way, without using criteria of distinction based on mediatic power or on the economic strength of the spaces.
M.R.M. Let’s go in order; THAT’S was founded in 2011 and during the following year it activated people and territory through two profound and original events.
G.R. After the foundation of an association with cultural aims, the identification of the spaces and the creation of the platform, the first phase was guided by the need to make our work known and communicate in a different and creative way. We have combined the artistic proposals that came from the outside with our desire to create bonds. We are a network and the first project That’s meet was born from the desire to connect; a project that involved prominent realities and personalities of the sector such as E IL TOPO, Ambra Pittoni and Traslochi Emotivi, realized in the historical Milanese space of Ca ‘Laghetto with the collaboration of Careof DOCVA Viafarini and the support of START Milano. The seat of the event is a deeply symbolic place, with a fascinating history. It was the home of the marble workers of the Duomo, where the canal that connected the city with the marble quarries passed through. To us, that place seemed the best to start building the That’s project, a cultural building in connection with the city and the world.
Traslochi Emotivi brought to that place culinary experiences from different geographical locations. The currency in order to taste the dish was the willingness to listen to the stories of those who offered it to you; everything stemmed from a desire for approach and integration.
Ambra Pittoni, a Piemontese artist interested in gestures, asked individual people gathered in a group to imitate the sound of some animals in order to create an encyclopedia of sounds.
E IL TOPO, prestigious independent publication, was reborn for the occasion after years in which it had stopped its publishing activities.
That’s meet was a highly symbolic event, that well represented our willingness to meet and dialogue with people. It was the beginning of a process that saw us devote more and more time to confronting one another, about art and dialogue on the most important cultural issues of our time.
Tango Illegal is an interdisciplinary work, linked to a group of Tangheri who organize private meetings in unusual places in which to dance. We wanted to link ourselves to this experience because, in spite of its mysterious and elitist aspect, it actually comes very close to our idea of making art. All true fans can participate in the dances, it is not important who you are or what work you do, your passion for dance is important. Tango Illegal revitalizes and gives new life to places through an artistic form. THAT’S wants to lead people to discover these new areas to live, to develop a network that spreads to as many people as possible, showing how art can bring energy and save territories from degradation, making them human realities that are both alive and shared.
M.R.M. From single places to the whole city; in 2013 the achievements of THAT’S CONTEMPORARY spread through the radio, literally running through the streets of Milan.
G.R. In 2013 we launched the That’s app to ensure that the exhibitions and events we highlighted were even more “within reach”.
As we like to do, we sought a creative way to promote this new technological support and the collaboration with The Art Pacemaker was born. The Art Pacemaker is a performance by the artists Franco Ariaudo and Driant Zeneli; a non-competitive walking tour of 10 km that took place in the streets of the Lombard capital involving trained art lovers and Radio Città del Capo. Via ether, the radio commentary of the correspondent / art curator and critic Marco Tagliafierro needed.
In the running field, the pacemaker is a fundamental figure, he is the person who holds the time, that gives the minutage and that reports the step that is being held; it’s a bit like the advisor in an artistic process. The race was designed in stages, for each stop, made in an art gallery, the artists spoke about a single work on display. The idea was to create a widespread exhibition in the city, to be used only quickly, an exhibition that existed only in its itinerant development. The Art Pacemaker was a performance presented at miart (the annual Milan fair of modern and contemporary art), a work that is based on scientific research that is linked to the world of medicine and communication. Franco Ariaudo is an artist and sports expert. On the occasion he applied, the principle according to which, when a person stops after a physical effort, the information he acquires is more than what he would have acquired while remaining in a continuous state of stillness. Technology and art come together for common purposes.
M.R.M. Started by the city of Milan, in 2015 THAT’S CONTEMPORARY opened up to the world with two projects that highlight the technological achievements of your work, two ideas that may appear opposed but which are linked to the same willingness of sharing.
G.R. That’s Valley was born with the desire to propose the THAT’S model outside the city of Milan. Our system consists of a series of features: mapping, description of events, in-depth analysis. Our work is guided by values and promotes the diffusion of art in certain ways, not just conventional. Valle Camonica is very active from the point of view of contemporary art; studying it we realized that it was an ideal place to develop our working model. We entered a process that already led international artists to operate with people on the territory. Internationally, the valley proposed strategies that are increasingly coomon today. We have applied our mapping, we have led groups of journalists on the site, we have created paper-based information media. It was a shared work that led to shared growth. Before talking about The Witness, we must take a step back. In 2015 we felt the need to open our own in-depth page, Hideout. Simultaneously to the page, an editorial office was born where Simona Squadrito was a member and today Elisabetta Rastelli, Gianluca Gramolazzi, Roberta Ranalli and other young and talented authors take part. In that year Simona developed The Witness, a curatorial project that uses THAT’S Instagram account as an exhibition space. The idea, also taken from other companies in the sector, is to totally entrust our Instagram to an artist or a curator for a week, giving him the opportunity to show us his ideas, on any field. The page becomes a free place of expression for seven days; on Sunday a report is made. The Witness is repeated every two years and fits perfectly into our work dynamics, creates new ways to combine artistic practices and technology allowing artists and curators to communicate directly with our readers, responding in the first person.
M.R.M. We arrive at the year just passed; THAT’S does not stop, on the contrary, it rises and develops an important collaboration with Google.
G.R. Google Arts & Culture is a non-profit project that wants to be the largest diffusion tool for works of art. We, together with other prestigious companies, have been contacted in occasion of the Milanese launch; they proposed for us to make a selection of contemporary urban art.
By opening our page on Google you can find focus on some artists; realized through biographical images and storytelling, they tell the story of the aesthetic operator from his first works up to the exhibitions in progress. Our intent is to provide a new tool to know the artist and his poetics in order to intrigue and urge the audience to go and see the works on display in the city. THAT’S has two targets: the first is represented by a public made of art lovers and special collectors, people who approach this world with curiosity and passion; the second is composed of art spaces that we communicate: sector operators, galleries and companies that, over the years, have become our partners.
All our initiatives are always born thinking of both. We provide differentiated services that are personalized and personalizable, our will is to offer the best tools to promote and communicate the company reality to each of our partners. Our will is also to create tailored-made services, which arise from a real relationship with people.
M.R.M. Created thanks to the support of the Fondazione Cariplo and the FUNDER35 notification, in 2018 there was That’s Experience, a project you take such care of and that you are developing, cleverly and passionately, as a spin-off. Can you tell us what it is about?
G.R. That’s Experience comes from the meeting between Martina Grendene, Jessica Tanghetti and myself. We have complementary skills: Martina as an advisor, Jessica in the business sector and I’m concerned with system and communication. What truly unites us is the passion for contemporary art. Starting from personal networks, realized also because of the work of THAT’S CONTEMPORARY, That’s Experience creates unconventional, exclusive and tailor-made experiences in contemporary art, which allows us to get in touch with the true intimacy of art. With us it is possible to undertake immersive itineraries that allow you to discover, in a unique way, many places of art together with its protagonists. We address individuals, collectors and companies.
M.R.M. I know it’s a renovated energy period for THAT’S. You can anticipate an important news for the future.
G.R. THAT’S wants to generate an increasing interest in contemporary culture and art. We are very happy to be part of an important project for Milan, together with other associations of different natures and interests. It will be born in a beautiful physical place, with a series of initiatives that will unite the artists to the city and then open them to the world.
The project has two keywords, the same as THAT’S: people and artists (in the broadest sense of the term). We will create connections between the various artistic expressions and with the territory.
The public of the different art forms are still very divided today but the culture is unique, our soul too, and it is very nice to enrich both with this plural vision. Our dream with this project is to bring art back to the citizens.