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Gianni Motti

“I didn’t go to any fine arts school, other than just three months in Florence to convince myself there was nothing for me to do there.” (Gianni Motti)

Born in 1958 in Sondrio, Italy, Gianni Motti is a self-taught artist whose work eludes all of the usual categories. His hybrid interventions are something of a cross between performances and “happenings”, questioning social, artistic or religious norms. Since the mid-1980s, he has never stopped inventing new practices by offering actions that are articulated outside of traditional exhibition spaces.

From staging his own burial (1989) to claiming responsibility for the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger (28 January 1986), his art cleverly works its way into reality and mixes with it. Like a spy, he succeeded in infiltrating the UN (1997) for the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council, where he spoke about defending ethnic minorities.

In 2005, Motti walked the 27 kilometres of CERN’s particle accelerator, a journey lasting five hours and fifty minutes—never before achieved—whereas a proton makes the trip up to eleven thousand times per second. His work does not aim at imitation or reproduction, but inserts itself right into the heart of political systems, scientific systems or the media, to thwart their rules and reveal their internal inconsistencies.

The creative process is not concentrated into a finished object but rather into a critical approach, a unique and singular action. This results in an essentially ephemeral, “unexhibitable” art that challenges notions of legitimacy and authorship. Gianni Motti shakes up habits through his uncommon, sometimes unsettling, ambiguous or purely ironic way of operating.

For his retrospective, Plausible Deniability, at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich (2004), he designed an exhibition that had to be listened to. In an empty space, approximately 600 metres of partitions created a path that visitors were invited to roam in the company of guides and cultural mediators who told them about his various works.

Gianni Motti lives in Geneva.