EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW. 10 jours en Lituanie (10 Days in Switzerland)


Switzerland is rightfully proud of world-class festivals. The annual film festival in Locarno is one of them. The idea was embodied in 1946 as an association with the purpose to organise, promote and support the festival, open for both natural and legal persons.
The 71st Locarno Festival will take place on 1–11 August and is one of the major European film events. The events, targeting various fields of the cinema industry attracts influential representatives of the cinema business: producers, sales agents, funders, directors, screenwriters, artists and other professionals working in the field.
In recent years the festival has been focusing a lot of attention on the Baltic States. This spring representatives of the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian cinema institutions and the international Locarno Festival signed an agreement, based on which 6 representatives of the Baltic States (two from each country) will participate at the international ‘MatchMe!’ programme. This is the continuation of the partnership, which began in 2017 with the successful introduction of the Baltic cinema makers at the festival.
The open air, which takes place in the main city square and attracts thousands of people, is followed by a number of art and cultural events, organically blending in with the main event. il Rivellino Leonardo da Vinci Gallery, managed by the brothers Arminio and Paolo Sciolli, has been among the first to take the lead in the feast of arts.
This year during the 71st international film festival il Rivellino Gallery will host 10 jours en Lituanie – an event, dedicated for Lithuania’s 100th anniversary, initiated by the gallery’s Director Arminio Sciolli.
We discussed the event with the guest of our magazine, Arminio SCIOLLI, philanthropist, art collector and co-owner of il Rivellino Gallery, himself.

Mr Arminio Sciolli, during the film festival your gallery is at the centre of events. It’s simply impossible for you not to participate at the festival. What is your experience so far? What il Rivellino can offer during the festival?

For 11 days of August each year Locarno becomes the Swiss Capital of Culture: every night the historic city of 15 000 inhabitants invites 16 000 cinephiles, artists, intellectuals, bohemians and tourists. In 2017 the International Film Festival of Locarno has even changed its name into Locarno Festival.
‘il Rivellino’* (‘Ravelin’ in English) is a fortress built by Leonardo da Vinci in 1507 in the most strategic location of Locarno and still remains in the geographical centre of the monumental old town. From the Rivellino terrace you feel surrounded by the Visconti Castle, the Hans Arp Museum and statue garden (Casorella), as well as the newly built House of Cinema. You simply cannot miss it.
So, all VIP guests, movie stars and authorities must cross the little path of via al Castello (Castle Way): a privileged position for an artist or performer to attract attention and be seen while painting or else.
Besides that, il Rivellino has become a well-known brand from which the public expects surprize art shows. The Boccalino d’Oro, the Prize of the independent journalists at the Locarno Festival, is presented at il Rivellino, and Robert Wilson, Peter Greenaway, Oksana Mas, Stephan Spicher, Mario Dondero, to name a few, had their shows inside the fortress.

The gallery focuses on ‘a new way of making art’, while your events are full of various connections and symbols. How did you notice Lithuania?

The key word in our motto is ‘WAY’, which stands for artistry in the widest sense, the attitude of the artist while investing into his creative moment, while executing not only – and sometimes not even – a physical form of art. But ‘WAY’ stands for the inner passage from the real world to the state of grace, resulting from the revelation of the holy fire dwelling inside the artist soul. Starting his creative action – the performance – the artist, consciously or not, goes into a trance, immediately hypnotizing his single auditor and, ultimately, the entire audience.
My three grown-up sons born from a diaspora Lithuanian mother have Baltic blood in their veins.
It was at Astana EXPO 2017 while supervising the live art shows for the Italian Pavilion, sharing walls with the Lithuanian Pavilion, that I got in touch with this freedom-conscious nation again. Commissioner Romas Jankauskas, highly experienced and sensible, invited me and artists Ottavio Mangiarini, Izuru Mizutani and Doncho Donchev to perform in the frontline of the Lithuanian Pavilion. Commissioner Jankauskas fostered our friendship, inviting me to Vilnius and introduced me to photographer Antanas Sutkus, Vilnius Film Festival, Martynas Mažvydas National Library, the MO Museum, JŪRA MOPE SEA magazine and a long line of artists. Last June our joint action brought Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway to Vilnius.

Why 10 jours en Lituanie (10 days in Lithuania)?

We took the title from Antanas Sutkus’ photo book 5 jours en Lituanie about Sartre and de Beauvoir visiting the dunes of Nida back in 1965. It seems to fit the Lithuanian delegation’s trip to Locarno and it sounds like an invitation to discover a small country, about the same size of Switzerland – an important point that we have in common.

You mentioned Jean Paul Sartre, most famous existentialist of the 20th c. and Antanas Sutkus, the well-known Lithuanian photo artist, whose photo of the philosopher, walking on the dunes of Neringa in 1965, became world-wide famous and inspired the French sculptor Roseline Granet to create a bronze statue, which currently stands in the courtyard of the National Library of France in Paris, as well as the Lithuanian sculptor Klaudijus Pūdymas, whose sculpture Against the Wind, featuring Sartre, the worshipper of freedom, walking across the dunes of Neringa, has recently been opened on Parnidis Dune in Nida. And now, not without your help, this story was picked by the famous British film director Peter Greenaway, who was engaged in a mysterious discussion with the Lithuanian photographer Antanas Sutkus at a Lithuanian oaken table at the end of June this year. What kind of synergy has brought these artists together and what creative results could we expect from this?
Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke knew the work of Master Antanas Sutkus well and asked to meet him. Their visit to Vilnius on June 27 turned out magic, it had the savour of the return of Sartre and ‘the Beaver’ 50 years later. You can’t imagine the joy the photo star Antanas Sutkus was emanating of this epic encounter; he must have shot 300 photos at least. On the top of that another great Lithuanian photographer Ramūnas Danisevicius took incredible images (one of them featured on the cover of this JŪRA MOPE SEA issue) at the MO Museum and at Sutkus’ house/studio. Peter and Saskia will probably return to Vilnius with an important exhibition by 2020.

Let’s get back to the festival and the 10 jours en Lituanie. What will these ten days offer during Lithuania’s stay at il Rivellino Gallery? What people will represent Lithuania here? What message will they send at the famous international event and what experience will they bring from Switzerland?

First of all, the National Library of Lithuania will organize an exhibition on the history of Lithuanian language and literature: it is extremely important because the Lithuanian people have suffered a strong language and cultural repression from all surrounding nations. So did Ticino, the Swiss-Italian part of Switzerland. Allow me to express my deepest sympathy and solidarity for all struggling minorities in the world and the three Baltic Republics.
A Swiss collector has lent 10 original photos of Antanas Sutkus and a few artworks of Rimvidas Jankauskas-Kampas.
We are very thankful to the Lithuanian women artists Irma Leščinskaitė, Jurga Barilaitė, Jolita Vaitkutė and Zita Tallat-Kelpšaitė for accepting our invitation to perform and exhibit their artworks at our gallery. They are all very different in style, but will demonstrate the excellence of Lithuanian art, which is not yet known to our public. A selection of Swiss and Italian artists will perform in the intervals.
il Rivellino has closed an agreement with the PAN Association of Muralto to screen a selection of Lithuanian films and exhibit the Sutkus-Greenaway photos taken by Danisevičius in June.
The innovation company HoPro from Vilnius, awarded at Astana EXPO 2017, has prepared a special hologram of the Rivellino fortress which will astound the viewers.

What artists from other countries will participate at the 10 jours en Lituanie?

Doncho Donchev from Bulgaria, Claudio Taddei (singer and painter) from Uruguay, Ottavio Pompa from Italy, calligrapher Gabriela Hess from Switzerland – all four are EXPO artists. Then Adriano Pompa from Germany, Sferico from Ticino.
Two exclusive artists of il Rivellino – Stephan Spicher from Basel and Ultramarine (Michele Lamassa) – will exhibit and perform live. Both have interacted at Milan and Astana EXPO.

What is your opinion of the Lithuanian modern art? Can you see it at il Rivellino Gallery, which keeps the course towards the new way of making art, in the future? What, in your opinion, is that new way?
I think that the choice of contemporary artists will give a good idea of what’s going on in Lithuania: they are all four very different and represent very personal ways of expressing art (abstract, expressionist, performative, optical).
During my last trip I got acquainted with Rimvidas Jankauskas-Kampas’ art, it blew my mind, not just the strength of his artwork and creativity, but the character himself, his ‘maudit’ (wicked) aspect, the Lithuanian Basquiat.
Let me add that Lithuania – as well as Latvia and Estonia – has a unique opportunity to reveal its high quality of contemporary artists thanks to the Baltic Symbolist ‘Âmes sauvages’ exhibition at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. I went to see it twice. I was taken by surprise by the superb quality.

Your sympathies to Lithuania, entwined in your family history, were strengthened by close cooperation at the international EXPO exhibition in Milan (2015) and Astana (2017). Could it develop into a new project to embody Peter Greenaway’s idea, based on Jack Kerouoac’s On the Road, which is supposed to be introduced at the world EXPO 2020 in Dubai, uniting artists from Lithuania, Italy, Switzerland, the Great Britain and, perhaps, other countries?

I want to thank the Lithuanian EXPO Commissioner Romas Jankauskas, Martynas Mažvydas National Library, JŪRA MOPE SEA magazine, and all participating Lithuanian artists for giving an opportunity to il Rivellino gallery and my people, the people of Ticino (Swiss Italians), to reopen the amber road which took our artists, the so-called artists of the Lakes (simply indicated as Italians) to Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda, besides Saint Petersburg 400 years ago.
There is still a long way to go to Dubai EXPO 2020, but I am sure Peter Greenaway’s On the Road installation will find its place.

Thank you for the conversation.

Interwiewed by Aleksandra Džežulska

* il Rivellino LDV is the right name and brand. It starts with a lowercase letter ‘i’ for graphic and historical reasons and emphazises the capital letter ‘R’. The font used for the logo is the one used by the Parisian printer Jehan Petit in his 1507 incunabulae, the year of foundation of the ravelin (or pentacular fortress), when the Duchy of Milan -and therefore the castle of Locarno – was a part of the Kingdom of France. These use of these late-gothic font letters generates a pun: il Rivellino can be read as ‘il Ribellino’ - ‘the little rebel’.


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