Edition 2020

Conceived to promote a dialogue between contemporary art and the historic territory of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, the DucatoPrize focuses on those artists—both Italian and international—who are able to inspire a critical analysis on the most significant aspects of our contemporaneity.

This second edition found itself going through a critical phase for our society due to the COVID-19 emergency that upset the way we operate, live, and think. March 8 was not only the last day to present the applications for this edition, but it was also the first day of a long reclusion imposed by the Italian State and the World Health Organisation that ultimately marked the pandemic spread of Coronavirus. During this months I asked myself several times if I would be able to guarantee the exhibition of the winning artworks. In the first week of April, with extreme hesitancy, I decided to cancel the exhibition due to the enormous uncertainty of the months to come, nevertheless ensuring the emanation of the prizes.

The 2020 edition of the DucatoPrize, thanks to the precious work of the jury and its collaborators, has rediscovered the positivity and a new source of pride in being able to reward artists of great quality, intuition, and ability. The works awarded this year highlight some important aspects that revolve around hot topics of the present and the near future, such as the relationship between man and the environment, monoculturalism, origins, the stratification of memory, and archiving.

Indeed, the DucatoPrize identifies with all the artists who took part in the contest and with all the artworks, especially with those of the 40 finalists of the Contemporary Art Prize and the 10 finalists of the Academy Art Prize, whose work has been published in the official catalogue that you can browse on this website. Therefore I hope that the prize, as well as the catalogue, will promote a critical analysis of contemporary art in both a local and wider context, offering a cultural contribution to all the artists, enthusiasts, and art lovers of today and tomorrow.

Michele Cristella
DucatoPrize, President
Guendalina Cerruti
Winner of the Contemporary Art Prize
DucatoPrize 2020
guendalina cerruti, ducato prize
Thanks a Million
Dark grey granite, cedar totem, wood burning pen, greetings cards messages
230×70×30.5 cm

Zoë De Luca: The work selected by the award, Thanks a million, starts from a standardized language to explore the processes of Monoculturalism. How did you approach this topic?
Guendalina Cerruti: In the past, in my work, I used phrases like Love you bye, I never meant to hurt you, Get well soon. I am fascinated by this use of language, specific to digital communication, instant messaging, social media interactions where manifestations of feelings and closeness become slogans, decorations. This form of language finds its ultimate expression in greeting cards, through a combination of words, fonts, colours, and images.

ZDL: Slogans that mark the emblematic stages of life, or rather of all lives.
GC: The greeting cards become symbolic representations of cultural experiences: a birthday, Father's Day, a milestone reached such as university or a driver's license, which along with balloons, bows and butterflies want to outline our time experience without taking cultural differences into account. The concept of Monoculturalism is reflected precisely in the idea that the experience of the human being can be enclosed by combining all these greeting cards, from the celebration of birth, to condolences to the family of a dead person. Thanks a million stems from this reflection and maybe seeks with bitter irony a deeper meaning.

ZDL: Your sculptures and installations often have a potentially performative component, whether it is the use of kinetic objects or the preparation of displays that invite to interact, like a silent request for attention.
GC: Yes, coming to think about it, there is a performative element in my work. I think of a performative presence of the objects. A performativity that is perhaps an expression, deriving from a specific attention for aesthetic and material choices and a strong communicative intention. I like to think that my objects, paintings, and sculptures can have a presence more like that of a person than that of an object. Maybe like a person who does not speak. In this sense, I think of an intense expressive quality that invites to interaction, that requires attention.

ZDL: The common denominator of your work is the isolation of easily recognizable elements, reduced to the minimum terms and recontextualized to trigger other narratives. To what extent are you interested in their fruition?
GC: Precisely for this communicative aspect of my practice the viewer has a particularly important role. The use of easily recognizable elements and the repetition of the latter interests me to facilitate the use of the work and to amplify the narrative aspect. For example, in You and Us the use of simple elements such as fir, a stylized snowy cartoon style landscape and fabrics with childish prints allows me to focus on the composition of the different elements, on their conceptual value, on their storytelling potential. I want my work to operate on multiple levels of communication, through different dimensions of language, while maintaining an and a precise vision and intention.

ZDL: Very often the deconstruction of these scenes relies on perceptual experience, creating a sort of déjà-vu…
GC: Yes, I like how the perceptual experience is not preserved as a memory through a more or less precise image, but that, instead, it translates into a feeling of familiarity. As in a déjà-vu, looking at my work you have this strong sense of familiarity, alternated with a feeling of strangeness and disorientation, which is often precisely given by the deconstruction of its subjects and objects. This halfway state brings those who experience it to have a special attention, a sort of lucidity towards what surrounds them.
Pietro Agostoni
Winner of Contemporary Art Special Mention
pietro agostoni, ducato prize
Printed paper, Coccoina
74×88 cm

Zoë De Luca: Experimentation is the common denominator behind your productions, which every time are triggered by an external factor and then develop in an intimately empirical dimension…
Pietro Agostoni: Experimentation is the means that I use to guarantee freedom, irreproducibility, and originality to my production. That is the reason why the paths that my work must track down and follow are many, preferably endless. Let us take a spider web graphic as a metaphor for artistic experimentation. First of all, it is necessary to establish the frame that determines the scope of our objectives; how extensive we want the reach of our research to be, how much area it will have to cover. As many are the tie rods on which it flexes, as many will be the research cues which distinguish the artistic versatility. The denser and more meticulous the fret that makes up its plot, the greater the possibility of polarizing concepts and fresh sources of nourishment for the work.

ZDL: A visualization of the interdisciplinarity of the practice and the intensity of the single work.
PA: It is about training your awareness and channel multiple common disciplines straddling different techniques, from the top to the centre. Drawing, talent, observation ability, sensitivity are just some of the requirements that allow the connection of increasingly disparate synapses, filtering the content within a multidisciplinary logic.

ZDL: Your practice often involves rather long times, both for logistical issues and for an almost liturgical approach on how to deal with the matter. Where does your attitude towards sedimentation stem from?
PA: I do not follow a special liturgy; I wash my hands, I sharpen my pencils, I work on crystal tables. I wait patiently for the ideas to get entangled in the web, then it is up to my loose and ability to establish what strategies to take to connect and assimilate them. It may happen that a tiny fly gets caught, quickly and effortlessly consumable, as on the contrary, a large fly can upset the entire scaffold and its capture oblige me to a huge effort. I let her wiggle, elucubrating a strategy how to get hold of it and evaluating the risk deriving from an impulsive or unconscious approach. Sometimes giving up is the only solution - to cut off the flap and free the utopia that it embodies. There are infinite possibilities to frame ideas, but it is not always possible to face them, either because we are not mature enough or because our web is not strong enough; even by persisting on the same carcass for days or years, it is not obvious that we can aspire to define the work as 'solved'.

ZDL: The work presented at the prize, Pluffy, represents not only your fascination for stratification, but also that for drawing, of which you have explored different gestural and language aspects over time.
PA: Pluffy it is the manifesto of a fallen, abandoned and already forgotten pop-art. The work highlights our addiction to the overproduction and over-reproduction of images and languages, highlighting the inconsistency with which we assimilate the ultra-saturation of contents and self-reference typical of the #art that must be shaken off. Pluffy embodies the junk we consume and dispose of for the sole purpose to be able to produce some more, it is a product projected directly into its inevitable destiny, a fossil from our time.
Monia Ben Hamouda
Winner of the Contemporary Art Special Mention
monia ben hamouda, ducato prize
Steel, silicone, pigment, wax, resin, plaster, water
110×110×20 cm

Zoë De Luca: Your practice is mainly oriented towards sculpture, but this is partly due to your relationship with drawing and figuration.
Monia Ben Hamouda: Figuration is a central theme in my research; it is a subject linked to my biography and the identity of my family, partly Italian and Catholic, partly Arab and Muslim. Figuration and iconoclasm are prohibited by Islam, and therefore the accepted art is that which uses abstract motifs and geometries. From an early age I was brought to this topic: my father painted, and sometimes he turned away from religious will and composed the calligraphic motif within figurative forms. A stratagem often used in Islamic art, a sort of abstract figurativism.

ZDL: This refers to the work selected by the award, Exhaust.
MBH: Exhaust it is part of a series consisting of two circular sculptures, assembled by articulating the ritualistic aspect of the gesture: they become the most obvious metaphor for speaking about passive-aggressiveness. Keeping in mind the magic-shamanic gesture of assembling an amulet or symbol, the sculptures are made in the hope that this object can protect us (and protect itself). Exhaust refers to the power charge that some images intrinsically hold and to the idea of power loss of those same images.

ZDL: Instead, in the Predictions series, the main component of the creation of an amulet are gestures.
MBH: Predictions is a series of wall pieces capable of predicting the future. It is composed by washing the fabrics over and over again in a viscous liquid, a mix of materials that makes washing tiring, but which allows me to get in touch with an ancient gesture, that of a woman intent on immersing fabrics in a sacred river to exorcise an event or relieve her spirit. Predictions can occur by reading the material viscosities on the surface of the work, as if they were coffee grounds.

ZDL: Some sort of atavistic identification?
MBH: We are all marked, not to say contaminated, by the psycho-mental universe of our ancestors. Being born in a family is like being possessed, and this possession is passed on from generation to generation. My surname is made up of the prefix Ben (Èä), literally "Son of": in dependence on and relationship with the life and culture of my ancestors.

ZDL: In this regard it is interesting to remember that in your work the imaging process is often influenced by the cinema filter.
MBH: Cinema is a keystone in my research. Despite being focused on the sculptural activity, both gaze and thought are articulated in a narrative and cinematographic way. For some years, my research has been questioning some topics related to pining and the possibility to use the space surrounding the work as a sculptural material, exploiting it for the narrative necessities of the work itself.

ZDL: This led you to found Something Must Break, a curatorial project co-founded with Michael Gabriel in 2017; how is this parallel activity intertwined with your practice?
MBH: Something Must Break represents our desire to stage the most 'melodramatic' and romantic part of art through the immediacy and power of the images. We want to show the most emotional and immediate part of the work; what inspires us is a precise feeling, the need for a narrative that is much more layered than the composition of the works in a room. We want the works to stage a story, almost a screenplay, we regard the works as Subjects, not as Objects.
Byron Gago
Winner of the Academy Art Prize
byron gago, ducato prize
Melted fructose, F400 epoxy resin, linear fluorescent tube, two electrodes, ballast
67×109×15 cm

Zoë De Luca: Your practice is centred on the dualism nature-artifice, both to explore dynamics related to knowledge and power, and to work on the development of a personal ecology. What brought you closer to this neo-materialistic vision?
Byron Gago: I think my approach stems from wanting to question my consumption, understood as the material and immaterial set of concepts; from here an attention develops on the sense of identity and on active and passive roles in relation to the agents of my environment, therefore, also to forms of power and influence. I guess, it arises from the need to put the different elements back on the plane and get the opportunity to rethink or redefine what has already been assimilated in a personal way.

ZDL: In your work there is an evident interest in experimentation and the unpredictability of organic materials and processes. What is the proportion between research and empiricism in your work?
BG: I would say that they are complementary and equivalent, there are specifications for each work. Some experiments stem from moments when ideas do not yet have a defined relationship; in other cases, it is an instinct linked to matter and form that stimulates a theoretical output. There is also a moment of observation of the completed work which often becomes the drive for further experimentation, sometimes even towards new territories.

ZDL: In this sense, Placenta, the work selected for the award, is an emblematic installation.
BG: In the case of Placenta, an empirical aspect prevails, the result of days spent in the atelier, at the time located in the Morel1 space: it is the result of numerous tests, where the unexpected factor and the error have delimited structural aspects and at the same time defined the future relationship with space also as far as the display was concerned.

ZDL: You were born in Ecuador, raised in Italy, now you live in Switzerland, but some of your most recent projects concern the South American and Amazonian culture. What has brought you closer to Latin America, and with what attitude have you faced these searches?
BG: In Ecuador I spent my childhood, and then went back over the years whenever it was possible; I experienced a kind of slow and gradual re-appropriation as to my identity, and I have a more intimate and familiar type of relationship with Ecuador, regardless of my practice. As for the Amazon culture, it has always been one of my interests, between fascination and controversy. I was involved in another research work about the Psylo culture and its successive drifts in the Internet culture. In another case, however, starting from an idea of rediscovery of the forest territories on the borders between Ecuador and Colombia, I dealt with the issue of the location of the oil industry with a focus on infrastructures and the implications on the territory.

ZDL: In particular, you are developing a project on Antigua Ciudad Guerrero, which delimits the political and geographical border between Mexico and the USA.
BG: It is a work in which I observe architecture and its transition from a Spanish colonial model to a city model, rather based on the American model, following the construction of the dam which caused the partial flooding of the current ruins. Here the focus on architecture testifies a sense of identity I went through, which was deeply undermined by political interests, it is an approach of investigation and respect in an attempt to want to return a product that reflects on the dynamics concerning forced displacement, identity and territory, highlighting points in a more global or Latin perspective.
Clarissa Baldassarri
Winner of the Academy Art Special Mention
clarissa baldessarri, ducato prize
Sound data logger
Projection, sound level meter
Environmental dimensions

Zoë De Luca: You started by studying decoration, but despite your production is often dedicated to the concept of vision and its limits, you never use the pictorial medium. How did you develop this approach?
Clarissa Baldassarri: My health problems have certainly had a great influence on my research; about 5 years ago I had the first vision problems related to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The poor eyesight has led me to wonder a lot about the role of vision, discovering how it can present itself as a limit for knowledge rather than a resource, as it makes us stop at the surface of things, without going further. So, I somehow had an argument with colour, finding my answers in transparency and in the truth that can provide shape. What I want to do is to search perceptual limits and find other solutions to overcome them.

ZDL: Your transfer to Naples seems to have greatly influenced your work, leading you to deepen the theme of sensory perception and particularly of sound.
CB: Yes, after investigating the visual field for a long time, last year I started to listen to other frequencies, shifting my attention to the auditory plane. The constant submission to external sounds leads us to ignore other sound intensities, often the most important ones. It is increasingly difficult to find a space to devote to deep and inner listening, being constantly guided by the rhythms that lead us towards unconscious and mechanical movements. Hearing, in fact, is the sense of orientation, and when the frequencies to which we are routinely subjected change intensity, the question that arises spontaneously is "where are we?".

ZDL: The work you presented for the prize is in fact an installation linked to sound…
CB: Sound Data logger is a visual and silent restitution of the sound frequencies that we emanate through the environment. Scientific measurement thus becomes an excuse to focus attention on other ways of listening and on the position we occupy in a given space and time. At the end of each registration period, the data is saved and processed in numerical data, giving life to a paper archive witnessing every intensity issued, felt in that precise moment, thus forbidding the memory to alter its perception over time.

ZDL: You then wondered about the concept of presence through the creation of a work which in turn was completed by the presence of the spectators. Is it correct to say that interaction is a fundamental component within your practice?
CB: What I try to give back are problems, limits, questions that I want to share to find 'solutions' together. I almost never return a precise idea or a one-way vision, but spaces, doors open to dialogue that everyone can enter to find his or her personal vision or interpretation of the 'problem' I presented.

ZDL: You have addressed the community issue also in Eikona, a series of votive altars that problematized the phenomenon of idolatry. The analysis of spirituality seems to be a constant within your practice.
CB: Yes, the theme of spirituality is always central in my work, but I try not to talk about it explicitly. For me, discovering it was like crossing a path through visibly hidden roads, and to return such a personal and delicate topic is something that must occur in the same way. That is why I often use contrasting images in its presence to talk about it, analysing the theme with an eye that is often scientific, mathematical, or mechanical.
Giulia Crivellaro
Winner of the Academy Art Special Mention
giulia crivellaro, ducato prize
Smooth Threshold
Audio-video projection

Zoë De Luca: The use of found footage and the practice of the archive are recurrent in your works; in which way do they represent your relationship with images?
Giulia Crivellaro: Especially today I find it necessary and essential to reflect on the images and the relationship that we maintain with them every day; and I think this is especially true as visual artists of our time. The found footage, but also the archive, acquires a fundamental value for me; not so much in the specificity of what you see, as in its being a symptom of human practices and attitudes. So what interests me most is the type of content they represent or the drive that pushed someone to produce them; the fact that it is material produced by others therefore allows me to consider them as the fruit of an authentic human drive and therefore generalizable in its meaning.

ZDL: So, your basic interest is to use reality as a raw material?
Giulia Crivellaro: The reality in which we are immersed is certainly a fundamental element for me. My operation is mainly based on an almost anthropological rereading process of human practices and their digital products. In this sense, reality enters this development on several occasions and not only in the visual condensation of the final product. The work starts from an external stimulus which, once introjected and nourished, is regurgitated in the contemporary world to be then looked at from another perspective. Its meaning is therefore shaped by the reworking that I implement; an action that does not often act on the level of what is seen materially, but on the meanings that it mobilizes within us.

ZDL: In Smooth Threshold you matched the audio of the description of an Egyptian sarcophagus with the vlog of an American man showing his tattoos. How does the tension towards the spiritual dimension of life manifest in these two seemingly distant contents?
GC: Tension always develops through the activation of a two-force field; the juxtaposition of these apparently different areas allows the rereading of this man's act, as an incorporation into the present of that sign that in ancient times the Egyptians used as a propitiatory for life after death. Smooth Threshold enacts this shortening of temporality: if once the tension developed towards an unknown future, now, in the acceleration of secular and technological capitalism, this projection becomes anachronistic. Like the other dimensions of our existence, also spirituality finds its temporality contracted and can therefore find its way to manifest itself in the present within the body itself, living and carnal.

ZDL: More generally, you are interested in bringing together different spheres of human life, however united by the response to the same impulses…
GC: My research focuses on the possibility to find a common primeval root in forms and products that are quite different from a cultural point of view. For this reason, what I seek most of all in my work is friction, that energetic meeting point between two worlds, even very distant worlds. It is precisely in the gap between these components that that further sense is played out which often manifests itself in an apparent contradiction. My aim lies in recognizing two distant things as an abstruse solution of the same drive, to bring out an unexpressed or latent potential from a dissonant union.
Jury 2020
The jury of DucatoPrize 2020 edition was composed of the following members:

Marina Dacci
Zoë De Luca
Yuri Ancarani
Attilia Fattori Franchini
Denis Isaia
Promoted by
COIL Art Motive
Sponsored by
Fondazione Piacenza Vigevano
Patronage of
Regione Emilia-Romagna
Provincia di Piacenza
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