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Insights of an Eco Artist

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Eclectic Odyssey: Unraveling Artistry and Eco-Feminism with Claudi Piripippi

Claudi Piripippi artistic journey began in Germany and flourished amidst the cultural tapestry of London, Los Angeles and Italy. Their experiences have spanned idyllic rural landscapes to bustling cityscapes, weaving together a narrative of artistry and passion. Claudi's evolution into a radical eco-feminist artist has seamlessly blended multimedia and performance, while their hands remain rooted in repurposed materials and a profound connection to the natural world. Their work stands as defiance against consumerism, challenges patriarchal paradigms, and inspires transformative conversations.

9 August 2023

Joana Alarcão

Can you elaborate on the shift in your artistic approach towards using your own experiences and personal mess as the subject and object of your work? How does this exploration of your inner landscape contribute to your understanding of social engagement? 

I don’t know if I can give a direct answer but rather initiate to outline a process — in progress. Like most things in nature, it’s been intangible like the growth of a seed that was already somehow implanted inside of me. It took long to begin noticing that inner landscape. Prior to that, everything outside of me had had my main attention, paradoxically distracting me so much so that I neglected my authentic self for almost 50 years.

For over 10 years I interacted with all sorts of landscapes by creating large-scale outdoor site-specific installations made out of recycled plastic bags ( In a way I had to distance myself to finally see, the cultural mythological training I underwent as a woman — I can see now, what it has been actually doing to me — to my earth. 

A leaf in the wind for most of my life, everything constantly changes, around and inside of me, my body, my status, my politics, my context, my relationships, my people — nature. We are constantly confronted with change, mostly forced — to passively adapt. But what if change is conscious, could that bring a social political environmental paradigm shift? Could a fully lived self, transform the patriarchal mythological narrative we have inherited and passively perpetuating?

The interactive poems are the manifestation of that start. I wrote them to process my father’s death and give a sense to our relationship. They grew out of loss and pain, out of my unconscious wound, out of my frenzy, my insecurities, my ego, my white privilege and mostly by fear. Fear, the mechanical control system installed in me by my mother and programmed by a patriarchal society, mindlessly nourished by my anxieties and guilt — my art is the child of that inner chaos.  

I really like the word mess, not just for its onomatopoeic visceral sensual, feminine sound — its root, “me”, reminds me of my own menstrual dramas. But etymologically, from Latin, it means a portion of food, something put on the table. The phase I am in now is of re-assessment of my mess — Ss — like the hiss of a snake gliding sideways, an accordion with a detecting tongue evaluating the emotional panorama — yes — I do like this new ancient serpent perspective — Sss!

The separation from my beloved spouse, moving back to Italy after having built a life with her in Los Angeles, my father’s Alzheimer's disease, his death during Covid, having to reset my life as a gender-fluid-non-binary-ageing-woman-artist in provincial misogynist Italian depressed and declining culture, and most importantly facing the conflicted relationship with my mother as her sole caregiver — her past haunting us both with her physical ailments and well disguised mental health issues, were mobilising factors for which my soul — and consequently my art making — have been preparing the ground for since birth, so please, do excuse the accumulation of Ssssss…

With the interactive poems I had found a lyrical intimate tool to confront the unresolved self and weave my personal loss — and ambivalent malfunctioning relationships set in patriarchy — with the unbounded feminine condition through art; a bit like metal exposed to air gaining texture and colour — oxidising. Not fixing anything or anybody other than process, actively looking, watching, seeing, contemplating, feeling, accepting, take in, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing comes to mind.

The poems are a catalyser, a prompt for participation, for assistance, for collaboration, for play, for help, for empathy, for expression, for sharing and collectivising voices and meet in the cosmic wound. One could say that the wound is the representation of pain, and art is the crust over it, if you peel it off you’ll see blood running through the flesh, and what do you do? Scream? Cry? Paralyse? Run? We all have different reactions to flesh and blood.

My art practice developed from a poetic aesthetic research inspired by nature and fuelled by the anger towards the destructive action of consumerism and capitalism, which I am part of both as an actress and viewer. The understanding of how environmental justice intersects with racial, social, economical, class, sex, gender, ableism and ageism seeped in later. Feminism, then eco-feminism, opened up my horizon to “the personal is political” — quite literally so — only now it’s enriched by a spiritual awareness and the fourth dimension of my search.

So coming back to my inner landscape, what is the relationship between inside and outside? Between the parts and the whole? How has context formed me and how I am contributing to forming new contexts? How can art become my emancipatory process weaved into the environmental crisis? 

I know I have not given you a direct answer to your question, it’s still all too fresh, but I trust the answer will come (Morpheus from the Matrix would say!) as it stems from a deep sense of belief that, let’s say it with Ghandi’s words: be the change you want to see, only in my case with a feminist/feminine creative sacred sensibility, is this not social engagement?

You’re not in my gaze by Claudi Piripippi. Image courtesy of Claudi Piripippi

How do you navigate the complex relationship between personal transformation and social engagement within your artistic practice? In what ways do you see personal growth and societal change intersecting? 

By staying fluid so as to become a drop and allow the liquid to flow slowly from one end to the other. What happens when a humble ripple effect intersects with other ripples? One drop widening up into circles, cuddling down with more drops, spiralling the merging centres, in and out, forming shapes, creating patterns: waves stirring the ground. That is how I envision my overall growth, as a sequence of drops experimenting syncing the rhythms of my subconscious with wider circles of consciousness. 

I love to create a sense of complicity between private and public, between subconscious and conscious, and elicit an empathic embrace within an aesthetic that is spectacularly intimate and therefore can reach some sort of inner plateaux while swimming the blue. A drop of water can spend over 3,000 years in the ocean before evaporating into the air, and a drop of water spends an average of nine days in the atmosphere before falling back to Earth — amazing!

As a student social practitioner, I remember Suzanne Lacy’s first teaching: know yourself! Yes, really Suzanne! A lifelong ambitious endeavour, but she is right, it’s a necessary one indeed. It seems kind of obvious, but how many of us can say that we really know ourselves? 

Only by getting to know my inner self can I dismantle the patriarchal ego inside of me, and decolonize from the source of my fears and egotistic emotions that block the flow — of love. Jean Shinoda Bolen words perfectly capture our modus vivendi: all wanting love then settling for power instead.

Right now I need to confront/transform myself instead of fixing others, and in that creative playful space we might be able to touch — in and out — one another.

As an ambitious utopian with a strong sense of justice but low self-esteem, I always sort of felt a bit uneasy with social engagement and its ideological, political, institutional, and controversial aspects. I struggle with the sense of entitlement to enter communities with the intention to better them. Claire Bishop called it missionary art, Nicolas Bourriaud named it Relational Aesthetics, Suzanne Lacy coined it New Genre Art that evolved from Alan Kaprow’s concept of Happenings and from the Los Angeles Women’s Building, and of course from feminist performance art.

What is the use of art? Who does art benefit? Why is art important? These, and many other important questions, rise from the socially engaged art realm that highlights the beautiful spectrum of necessary art- biodiversity — and maybe that’s just what matters most!

Playful and open to messes, I secretly dream of a large public intervention though. Most of my videos are sketches that intimately outline the potential for more ambitious projects. But at the moment I don’t have the mental structure to engage socially on a large scale, not enough support, strength, stamina, endurance, and finance, I need more relational maturity to navigate large crowds of people for long periods of time. 

But there are so many other different and beautiful approaches to social engagement. Maybe just more discreet, mine is the one of brief, lyrical, interventions. I believe that once contact has been made it’s somehow forever, in a non-linear way. A subtle impact, can you envision it? Isn’t it poetic? The contact with the self — a drop in the political Sea — that ripples out into the each-other and back inward all the way to the root of the stars — I dream.

Your artist statement reflects a deep awareness of the societal and cultural judgments that condition our reality. How do you navigate and address issues of white supremacy and the "Myth of Normal" within your work? How does this exploration intersect with your artistic process? 

At the moment I am practising “judge-catch-judge”. Judging this, judging that, is it even possible to not judge!? It’s frightening to face one’s own indoctrination to fear, how it brings out the judge in me, judging everything and everybody all the time, mostly myself and my art practice, of course! It’s consuming to be approved, like livestock branding, it’s a cruel process. Then again the art world roots itself in critique and comparative judgment, in the binary of good and bad, right or wrong, well executed or not, interesting or not, left or right brain, male or female, black or white, and so on and on and on, a dual system that prevents to fully embrace, appreciate biodiversity, spontaneity. It’s hard work to be neutrally open to the messy, the queer. The whole keeps being frayed by the coercion of judgment. Giving and receiving authenticity is a challenge. I am even scared to look in the mirror; in my own eyes, I meet not a compassionate but a judging gaze. Yet I’m interested in anything that involves love. Art to me is an act of reciprocity to give and receive — love. Art is the space where I can perform my authenticity, and experiment with my creativity — art being the enlarger lens of the self. I am not sure how this strenuous exercise manifests itself aesthetically in my work, I don’t know if a sense of confused honesty comes across if the struggle to reach the estuary of love is visible. 

Working with my body I am constantly confronted with self-judgement, and the myth of female perfection. Incomplete, faulty, flawed, weak, irregular, deficient, defected, aged, whose authority is it — that of desirability? Who is the inspector, the referee, the expert, the evaluator, the appraiser, the judge that decides — for me? How can I best represent my authenticity? How to consciously accept my perfectly imperfect self and the artwork that reflects my condition of being? The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf is an important read, especially for women.

Only in nature can I momentarily hide from the controlling patriarchal mythological systems, and reset my overworked left brain to imagine a wider representational spectrum of freedom — away from the standardised — back in five, I’ll meet you in my artwork!

Can you share more about the collaborative nature of your work with your consciousness and the cosmic pain? How do these influences shape your creative process and the voices and energies that guide your practice?

I don’t want to take the poetry out of this sentence by making it too simplistically analytical, what I can say is that I think of multiple truths, of infinite networks, of interrelations hugged by the mystical chain reaction of magic. 

Only by consciously seeing that inner landscape can I begin acknowledging how the pain of unexpressed authenticity stemming out of the wound is also an evolutionary force to gap the patriarchal spiritual void. 

The noticing of my being fragmented has revealed banal, and therefore violent, mechanisms, forms of micro-aggressions towards the self-projected outward, ping-ponged back and forth. Art pushes me to trust and hold my intuitions dear like newborn babies. So I have learned to cherish other aspects of art making, like my romantic nomadic wandering on the outskirts of mainstream art circuits. 

Working myself out of robotic automatism of disenchantment, I am committed to the re-enchantment in the sacredness of nature and therefore of life through art making. One of my current endeavours is to bring the sacred aspect of art into dialogue with the conceptual one so to see if a harmonious complementary relation is possible between these two ways of conceiving art. Suzy Gablik wrote beautifully about the re-enchantment of art.

Overall I noticed that often my artworks depict something that I can only properly voice, and rationally understand afterwards. So I am learning to recognise and honour while also provoking and observing the synchronicities and creative chain reactions unravelling just like Fischli Weiss’ Der Lauf Der Dinge (the ways things go).

Your cultural formation spans different countries and academic institutions. How have these diverse experiences influenced your artistic perspective and practice? How do you draw from nature and an itinerant lifestyle in your creative pursuits?

The spectrum of my life experiences stems from an innate predisposition for swimming, or, for escape from: a victim, an oppressed, an aggressor, from the automatic state of fear and passive consciousness — I don’t want to make art from that place any longer.

My nature is expansive and energetic, nonlinear and contradictory, I am not so much interested in details but rather in discovering connections, this itinerant lifestyle has honed me to view the world as a whole, and to spot wonderful disparate associations. This gives me access to my inborn instinctive fluidity which I hope translates into my art process. I find that my artworks are openly and imperfectly unfinished, like unrefined energy rich in potential.

Could you elaborate on the work I am not in your gaze? What are the main concepts behind it?

From the dictionary, to gaze is: to look steadily and intently at something, especially at that which excites admiration, curiosity, or interest: to gaze at scenery, at a scientific experiment. To stare is to gaze with eyes wide open, as from surprise, wonder, alarm, stupidity, or impertinence: to stare unbelievingly or rudely.

The title speaks from a space of both anger and desire, of hurt and disillusion, yet it’s also a provocation questioning the incapability of true love and therefore of inner freedom blocked by the myth of having to be “normal” for the sake of rushed shallow “eyes”. Whose reference point is that “normal” set against anyhow? What kind of emotions rise from the restraint of the “normal” that prevents our colourful selves to shine?

Directionality, intentionality, temporality, the intensity of the gaze, internal and external, how do we deal with visibility and invisibility? Active and passive, what does the gaze do to us, personally and as a society? What does the gaze really reveal? Is your gaze mechanical or a conscious one? Where does it come from, from which part of your body is generated? How invested and how biased is your/my gaze? We are constantly looking, back and forth, reflecting while projecting our private/public entanglement. But I am also so curious about your, the viewer’s gaze, that is why my titles are often ridden by questions. Question marks to me are another aesthetic form of social engagement, an opportunity to connect with the public. Question marks are the stalactites that form my inner landscape.

Can you tell us about your exploration of eco-feminism in your recent work? How do you express your love for Mother Earth and challenge mainstream consumerist culture through your art?

I do my best to practice creative integrity and gratitude for the gifts of nature of queerness and biodiversity. To me eco-feminism is a daily state of being, a mental frame of embodiment, a guiding reference not a boxing category, it’s a lifestyle where every action leads to a work of art. Some artworks can be discreet, almost secret, some pop the internal mess out. 

  • Like for example not removing leg hair. Through this exercise, I have been recording the emotional movements of unease, or defiance, or pride that it creates according to different cultural, social, and geographical situations, like at the beach, or at the doctor, when wearing certain clothes, in intimate situations, when it is unexpected to see a woman with very, very bushy long dark leg hair. How does the outside gaze affect my confidence and perception of myself? It’s not just the action of resistance and provocation that I am interested in, but how the patriarchal gaze affects my patriarchal upbringing, and how deeply inside it moves my sense of shame, of insecurity, of self-esteem, how my physical appearance and my moral values get distorted by the normative “normal”.

I’ve titled my unshaven legs My living portable secret public artworks. It’s really interesting to see how my hair can also intimidate, and make people uncomfortable as if the hair stares back at them! 

Altogether I am testing my capacity to resist patriarchy by asking to be liked for how I am, but it really is hairy to challenge the patriarchy embedded deep inside my body. Therefore performing my un-removed leg hair in public is the show off of my artwork at the gallery space of my body.

My hairy legs are a daily reminder of my untameable side, of my wholeness, my queerness, it puts me in touch with my wildness and animal nature. Yes, I have been tempted to conform to mainstream beauty stereotypes, but how would removing my hair change me? Make me better and more appealing — to the patriarchal gaze? It’s exhausting (and polluting and time and resource consuming too) to have to be beautiful for others, and fulfil expectations to please ways that are not mine, which are are mine anyways? I am exploring this with my art work. My hair — a dissonant part of my body like the elements always embedded in my artworks, dissonant like my voice — my leg hair, mighty and dissonant, are the fuzz covering my roots.

  • Another example is that I don’t own a smartphone, which gives me a good excuse to stop people on the street to ask them for direction, or for the time. I loved asking for directions while travelling in Korea. I am always surprised and ever so touched by people’s desire to be helpful and connect, it’s like a primordial need resurfacing regardless of technology. While in Seoul some people walked me to my destinations and one person even got on the bus with me. Youngsters were shocked and preoccupied when noticing the tourist map in my hands. These moments made me feel blessed and fortunate.

  • Use, reuse, recycle, I also daily do, everything up, from clothing to shoes, to food (no food-wasting allowed), to cleaning products, sponges, and even tissue paper and paper napkins. I am Inspired by my grandmother’s invisible and undervalued housekeeping LABOUR, by the mundane domestic WORK that sustains us. Frugality and repurposing give me inner joy and put me in touch with natural resources. I see it as a conscious act of care, CARE being another dear form of public engagement: the aesthetics of care!

How do you employ performances, videos, and interactive poetry in your artistic practice to communicate your ideas and engage with your audience? Can you share any specific examples or projects that highlight these approaches?

  • For example, I create situations where viewers are asked to practice what they see while watching my videos — such as eating a clementine or an apple or a strawberry, so as to sensorial layer the experience of art making with art consuming, but also become aware of the body’s interaction with an ingredient and its surroundings: what does it mean to eat a clementine, or a strawberry, or an apple in a certain space? How does it feel? How does it look like? How, in which modality do I eat and weave the inside to the outside?

  • On other occasions, participants are asked to be active complicit players/polluters in the making of the piece. In one performance I tie people to my body and physically pull them, with force, into throwing junk food onto a large wall projection of the sea creating a mess that needs then to be cleaned up. I am interested in the sensorial aesthetics of these actions, of the before and after, again, how does it feel? How does it look? Who cleans up the mess after? Who is active? Who resists and why?

  • Either by wiping dust off leaves, or inviting people to dance, or loving my plants, so to create a direct poetic co2 - oxygen exchange, I also have been interacting with plants both in public and private spaces. I love watching the entanglement of the two, the dance between public and private I mean.

  • I have invited people to chop onions to provoke their tears so as to water onion plants during the Californian draught creating an occasion for intimate narratives, recipes and memories sharing.

  • Another expedient was to synchronise the audience’s breath with mine by breathing into a plastic bag.

  • Collaborating with artist Jenny Kane, we collected all the plastic cups out of the bins, washed them, tagged them and placed them back for people to reuse at the opening evening of an environmental-focused exhibition.

  • More recently, a selection of my early interactive poems was set into a collaborative, experimental, interdisciplinary theatre piece where the audience participated in creating and reciting their own poems as the final act of the performance.

These are all multilayered experimental movement-based, socially engaged performances where the roles of viewer/audience, performer/participant intersect with reality and staged performance, with improvisation, imagination, public practice and video, and ultimately poetry.

Recently you went to Seoul to set up an exhibition and present at a conference. What can you tell us about the journey?

It was my first time there, a fantastic experience to immerse myself in a new culture while meeting a group of amazing international artists and also sharing works and ideas, being inspired and of inspiration, forming new connections, open my horizon.

At CICA museum I had the opportunity to perform twice. Once at the opening of the show and once at the conference. The conference especially was for me a new platform where to experiment with genres and blend formal conventional academia with poetry and performance. I am not sure if it was successful but it’s something I would love more opportunities to play with.

Sadly, I could not help (re)noticing that extreme pollution and consumerism are the pillars of the metropolis’ Western lifestyle and wonder about nature’s law — how will it resolve it? — because surely we cannot cleanse from our existential addictions. One interesting attempt was the system created to recycle underground tickets, which made me realise how much resources is invested just in that basic commuting “necessity”.

Lastly, what message would you like to share with our readers?

Is a whitewashed fairy still a fairy? Does a "supermarket fairy” still come with spiritual powers? After witnessing the rise of greenwashing and green consumerism — the institutionalised cooption of environmentalism — I am now weary of spiritual washing and spiritual bypassing. Is the cooption of the soul capitalism’s next frontier? YES!

I am working hard not to work, or better to work not for — in Bell Hooks's words — imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, but for my greater inner self. My art is a practice of re-earth, re-green and re-flowering the divinity in me. I found that only when I am in a symbiotic relation with the sacredness of art and nature I am truly whole and a constructive generative part of it.

I like to thank Lauretta Dal Cin who for the past two years has spiritually been guiding me, and my dear friend Nerina Wilter for all the loving and insightful support.

Know more about the artist here.

Cover image:

I am not in your gaze by Claudi Piripippi. Image courtesy of Claudi Piripippi.

Born in Germany and raised in Italy, their cultural formation developed at the University of Genoa in Italy, at the London Metropolitan University in the UK, and at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. But their academic experience could not be complete without the knowledge gathered from nature and from an itinerant lifestyle that took them from rural to urban environments in the pursue of art  and love.

For years they worked with recycled plastic bags creatively interacting with different landscapes, indoors and outdoors, forming a large body of work that has been exhibited and awarded internationally. They are a proud recipient of the Joan Mitchell Grant, the Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner Grant, the Royal British Society of Sculptors Bursary Award and the Pritzker Foundation Endowed Fellowship Award. Voted the Public Speaks Winner for the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize they were also short-listed for the BBC2 documentary School of Saatchi and commended for the British Women Artist’s Prize twice.

Since graduating from Suzanne Lacy’s Public Practice MFA program, their work has taken a radical eco-feminist turn.

Through an eco-feminist lens, they express their deep love for Mother Earth by choosing to live and make art in a responsible and ethical way as resistance to mainstream binary consumerist culture. Their latest works explore their feminist, gender fluid, eco-glitch-femininity. By setting it in the relation to environment, they re-articulate their senses to creatively disrupt and reprogram their body away from patriarchal inculcations.

Whilst their art practice might well be their very own emancipatory process weaved into the environmental crisis, they voice themselves through performances that are either solitary or participatory, through videos that intimately depict the tension between private/public keeping and with interactive poetry social engagement.

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