Zen and the art of turning thought into matter

Italian artist Scerbo reflects on the deep pool of philosophy, science, and Buddhist doctrine which he pulls from in creating sculptures that work to preserve the vibrations of thought and action.

Published: September 20, 2018Words: Scerbo & J.Scott StrattonArtist Link: www.scerbo.it/Instagram: @_scerbo_

The first thing that I can say about Scerbo, AKA. Giuseppe Solinas, is that he is prolific to an astounding degree. If you follow him on Instagram as I do – which you should, and I’ll make it easy for you HERE – you will see that he is posting works nearly every day. Now, this would not be so impressive if he worked with drawing or illustration, but Scerbo’s mediums are far more, well, various – concrete, umbrellas, bricks, chairs, mannequins, textiles, glass….you get the idea.

The fact that he can produce these works to such a degree and volume – that he can post documentation of the work on such a frequent basis – was, and is, surprising to me. But what was more interesting, and what sparked me to contact him and talk with him about the work, was the variety of mediums that he chooses to work with.

His explanation of his work was…academic. Not that that is a bad thing in any way, but it did take some pondering to wrap my head around the particular research that informs his work, and how he has chosen to conceptualize that research into his art.

Scerbo comes from educations in what I can only describe as somewhat polarised academic fields – one of which is highly analytical, the other deeply philosophical. With that, I think it is safe to say that Scerbo is a man that possesses the tools to ponder the human condition from a rather atypical perspective. And this is precisely what he does.

Exposing oneself to his work without prior knowledge of his research, one might see it as a strange, yet aesthetically pleasing, arrangement of seemingly random objects. But Scerbo does have a deeply researched process and concept behind these works. So what might seem to be a random collection of objects, is anything but.

To understand this, though, it is best to hear it directly from Scerbo himself.

scerbo 'ENTRAPMENT' for Blacklisted Copenhagen
scerbo 'PAPPA REALE' for Blacklisted Copenhagen

You’re educated in computer science and theoretical philosophy, so what made you leap into artistic expression?

Surely, the feeling of incompleteness I developed during my studies stimulated my desire to experiment. While the programming language constrained me within the limits of its practical ends, philosophy did the exact opposite, leading me along an endless trail of abstract reflections which felt like an aimless pursuit.

During my university years, I used to draw a lot: I was probably already feeling the unconscious need to find a viable dimension for containing the extension of my thoughts, a dimension lying beyond the reference systems of conventional norms and public language, capable of manifesting itself through an original, personal aesthetic.

My wife understood my urge, and in 2007 she bought me a box of primary oil colors, for my birthday: it all started from there.

Artistic experimentation has granted me the privilege of creating “ideal types” able to sustain visual contents that transcend the rules of codified languages within which we usually frame our thoughts.

How do you utilize your knowledge in these more academic disciplines in your artistic practice?

It is not easy to answer this question since the intellectual stimuli I got from my studies – which have undoubtedly shaped the development of my work – often emerge and operate irrationally, prompting feelings and ideas that can materialize and vanish in the blink of an eye, and cannot always be put into words.

In my art, meaning manifests itself as transcended intuitions, supported by the fundamental tenet that forms can be more abstract and evocative than whatever type of informal expression.

scerbo 'NEUROPIA' for Blacklisted Copenhagen
scerbo 'EXIT' for Blacklisted Copenhagen

Back in the days, my high school provided me with basic training in digital techniques, which has certainly stimulated my interest in reworking some of my art into video art and exploring the medium of video performances. The expressive power of the hybrid reality I create through video editing lies in the fact that this medium seems to travel at the same speed of human thought, free from the restrictions of a space-time system subject to the material laws of physics. This allows me to shape the space and play with time as if they were plastic material, and therefore intensify the complexity and contradictions of what we call “reality.”

I’ve noticed that the mediums that you use in your work are quite varied, so tell me, how do you come to choose the elements and objects that you work with?

I do not have a precise method of selecting expressive means and media. When a particular material keeps catching my eye and triggers my curiosity, then I understand my brain is telling me that that material is the right one.

It is as if my unconscious was able to perceive objects and media in relation to the thoughts that absorb my mind at a particular moment. Everything happens almost automatically, a sort of biological process that determines an “artistic adaptation.”

I read your explanation of the research for your work, which includes references to Zen Buddhism, Existentialism, and quantum entanglement. Rather than trying to summarize that myself, can you tell me more about it?

I have always been fascinated by the existential worldview of Far Eastern cultures, and especially by Zen philosophy, with its disarming concreteness that paradoxically turns away from any form of philosophical or artistic thought.

According to the Zen doctrine, the word must become gesture and knowledge must become action, since no intellectual activity could ever lead to the fullness of an existentially profound experience. This way of life is the antithesis of Western philosophy, which channelled all human energies towards intellectual reasoning and the deification of theoretical truth and mathematical laws. In its quest for truth, our civilisation seems to rely totally on the power of the human brain, and through my art I try to undermine this principle as much as I can.

scerbo 'CIAO-TEMPO' for Blacklisted Copenhagen
scerbo 'AFTER-VIBRO' for Blacklisted Copenhagen

The captions that accompany my works act as introductions and not as explanations: I aim to prompt pure and unbiased aesthetic experiences in the viewers.

Together with the principles of Zen philosophy, I also try to visually evoke the phenomenon demonstrated by the discovery of quantum entanglement: matter can preserve the vibrations of any thought or action, and reverberate them into a space able to influence events and the conscience of those connected to it.

Can you tell me a little bit about the pseudonym Scerbo which you create your work under? What is that a reference to?

Nothing mysterious, it is just my mother’s surname. I spent my childhood and adolescence without a fatherly figure, and she never made me feel this lack, for which I am extremely grateful. She supported all my choices and gave me complete freedom of action, so I decided to use her last name as a pseudonym, to remind myself that if art has become my life, it is also thanks to her.

Recently you’ve started working with the digital plane, referencing the idea of quantum-vibrational artistic communication? Can you tell me about that?

Sure. Personally, I see quantum physics not so much as a science but as a form of thought that contains a very particular vision of existence, supported by the human desire to understand reality at its deepest ontological level. The recent discoveries of the possibility of non-local particle communication made a strong impression on me and convinced me even more that reality is much more complex and mysterious than we believe.

If all matter has a frequency, it is because it vibrates, and vibration is a real, quantifiable fact. Thoughts too determine a dominant frequency in our brain areas and condition their biophysical state by physically acting on reality.

scerbo 'STRETTO' for Blacklisted Copenhagen
scerbo 'FONDAMENTALE' for Blacklisted Copenhagen

This concept led me to believe that particles (such as photons or electrons) are in a sense forms of consciousness, capable of carrying meaning and thoughts through the frequency that they retain in their dimensional “travels.” This idea also suggests that digital reality is connected to the “real” world on an empirical level, and in a way, it seems that these two dimensions are now overlapping more than ever before.

Therefore, I think that digital art contains the same amount of intentional data manifested by an artist who expresses himself through physical media, precisely because it can memorize the vibrations of the artist’s creative processes as he works on his tablet or PC.

This data remains in the “quantum memory” of the digital work and is discharged every time the video is viewed. The viewer can absorb the digital contents of the work, on a conscious or even unconscious level: this is what I call “vibrational communication”, a new way of conveying artistic contents whose efficacy depends on the intensity of the intellectual vibrations transmitted by the artist to his work.

That is both deep and fascinating. So, beyond these ideas and looking into the future, what are some other subjects of interest to you that could spark new research?

I think I would particularly like to explore different types of encounters between digital and physical realities, either through sculpture or video installations.