Photographed by Paola Kudacki
We are delighted to count Stefania Biliato as a friend of the gallery.
She is also one of the Juror along Natalie Krim and Diana Widmaier Picasso for the Eros Project.
We asked Stefania what her vision of EROS was.
In her private life as in her work, Stefania Biliato, aka Billy, loves to lose herself and connect to diverse environments, but which emanate a strong communicative impact. Curiosity is the crowbar which opens even the most unexpected doors in life.Eclectic even in her studies, Billy has deep-dived into subjects as various as theories of cinematographic language, military strategy analysis, and marketing in Contemporary Art.
In the Veneto region—her beloved Italian bolthole where she grew up and has run away from more than once—she contributed to the unfolding of a multi-year music and artistic performance live festival with budding artists, held in the park of the exquisite Villa Caprera, and she also collaborated with the 'More Festival' in Venice.For a few years, Billy has continued her personal and professional exploration through the irreverent world of TOILETPAPER magazine—the creative laboratory founded in Milan by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari.
The Curators: What would be, instinctively, the three artistic references that come to you when thinking about Eros?
1. Princess X (1916), Constantin Brancusi
2. Maddalena Penitente (1627), Guido Cagnacci
3. Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions (1963), Carolee Schnemann
Constantin Brancusi, Princess X, 1916
Pablo Picasso Bust of a Woman (Marie-Thérèse), 1933
Brancusi’s Princess X artwork is interesting for its audience’s controversial interpretations, which alternate the feminine shape—“essence of woman” according to Brancusi— with the phallus. Initially, this was the reason why the sculpture was condemned by the police as obscene. His work, in fact, is famous for mixing up in an organic way its sinuosity and the female body figure.
Guido Cagnacci, Maddalena Penitente, 1627
Guido Cagnacci, famous for his erotic imbued artworks which were strongly innovative and inflaming in the XVII Century, reminds me of Freud's vision of Eros and Thanatos: in the Maddalena Penitente, he captures a bare breasted woman in her moment of maximum pleasure, while holding a skull between her legs. I guess a very provocative subject for those times.
Carolee Schneemann, aside from being one of the most underrated feminist artists of the New York's scene in the 60's, had a very personal thought: “performance has these connections with cultural pleasure, for a male audience.”In her Eye Body #5: 36 Transformative Actions, she moves in a nest of snakes, a sacred symbol of sexuality and one of the rawest exhibition of sensuality, besides a critical statement on the objectification of the female body.
Carolee Schnemann, Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions, 1963
The C. : What would be your definition of Eros?
Stefania Biliato: Eros is pulled by two forces: exchange of glances, and dance. My favorite Italian actress, Monica Vitti, plays with the male gaze in every movie she starred in, as in L’Avventura, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Watch it: you will instantly understand what I mean.Dance is a nonverbal form of communication. George Bernard Shaw once said that "dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire".As a primary approach between possible partners and their bodies, dance precedes words and intellectual confrontations. It exists since ages and is a primordial way of courtship among animals. No needs to talk, but act!
Photographed by Franco Bellomo, On the set of The Girl with a Pistol, 1968
Michelangelo Antonioni L'Avventura, 1960
The C. : Is there a book, a sentence, in particular that marked you on the subject?
Diana W. Picasso : Among many, Aphrodite, by Isabel Allende, expresses in words the love for food, and the food for love: desire ignites from sight and smell, before taste. As for erotism, Aphrodite is not a cooking book—at least not specifically—and its narrative enlightens the assorted connections between food and eros: the narrowed aspect that caught my interest is the sophisticated irony Isabel Allende evokes in her writing as a further layer of human attraction.
The C. : What could be for you the obscure object of desire, the one who troubles you?
Stefania Biliato : The brain.
The C. : Is Eros in trouble in 2021 ?
Stefania Biliato : Human beings are one of the most capable animals able to survive and adapt to adversities. Being human, we cannot count solely on our intellectual capacities: we sense the urge to satisfy our more intimate desires, as eros.
Can humankind exist without erotic play ?
Year 2021—and 2020 of course—is challenging us more than most, and I believe we are… adapting. Someone may walk down the streets tempting to make eye contact with others, daydreaming how she looks like behind the mask. Others may try finding affinities on social networks. And perhaps, just right now, someone else is climbing her loved one’s balcony..