OZMO (Gionata Gesi)
Milanese from Pontedera, 40 years old, street artist

IT COULD WORK, YES TO GRAFFITI ON BUILDINGS BUILT FROM 1950 ONWARDS

by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI

gionata gesi OZMO

Video 1
GRAFFITI IN MILAN
I came in ’98 the first time because we made a fanzine, I Graffiti, and so we came here to present it in the Isola neighborhood.

FIRST IMPACT
It was great because for me coming to Milan was a bit like going to New York.

STREET ART WAS BORN HERE
Up to mid-2000 and in 2005, 2006, 2007 Milan still created culture. Street art was actually born here.

EVERYTHING IS OVER
The terrible thing is that now there’s nothing left. Also because of the crisis, the transition from an alternative status to a recognized status has failed, even if it happened elsewhere.

THE DUCK DOESN’T KEEP AFLOAT
If there is no money, the duck doesn’t keep afloat…

BETTER IN LONDON
I see situations in London, where even those artists who started ten years ago, after those of Milan’s scene, are now recognized everywhere. They manage to do well, to live well.

GRAFFITI
Graffiti are a phenomenon that comes from the United States and it involves spray cans. Graffiti are part of this world (the street art world).

WIRTING
First of all you write your tag, a concise written name using a spray can.

STREET ART
In the 90s there were five people in Italy who painted and made figurative things. My friends told me, since I was one of them, ‘Enough with these faces, these stick figures, do letters. That’s what counts, now ‘. In the late 90’s, early 2000, the phenomenon that has been called street art was created. The first graffiti were considered only by the graffiti artists or people who complained and said they were a form of vandalism. Many things happened in Porta Ticinese, which is now a farce, the so-called ‘street of irony’.

THE TURNING POINT OF PORTA TICINESE
Some fellow adventurers and I made some interventions at the corner of the former Bar Rattazzo, bringing a creative breakthrough to what is now a street with trash graffiti… At the time there was Armani, there were boutiques, Guru… We gentrified that area.

POSTER ART
We illegally created a sort of Hall of Fame poster art, something that nobody had ever seen before. We created an aesthetic-cultural shock and made a change… now almost everyone has become accustomed to street art.

AESTHETIC REVOLUTION
Seven or eight years ago what we did was really a revolution. We offered revolutionary aesthetics to the viewer.

GRAFFITI AND ILLEGALITY
I want to put in a good word for graffiti, though. In my opinion its illegal dimension, the ‘vandalistic’ appearance of the phenomenon, is also important and has given me a lot. Now it’s time to think about legalization interventions. After works of 4/5 floors were made, after they have been made in every city, abroad, international festivals of mural painting, and there are many artists, even very young, 25 or 26 years old… Every now and then I still do some tags, not I don’t repudiate what I used to do. Take it with a grain of salt, I don’t go around on a tag tour as it was twenty years ago, filling a neighborhood with tags and throw ups… I think I did that only in Pisa. When I arrived in Milan I was already working with galleries.

Video 2
LIBERALIZE VANDALISM
Liberalize vandalism on everything that was built after the 50s. I am for harm reduction. As for drugs, the problem can’t be solved through repression, it is impossible to solve it even by charging the canister 15 Euros. It is not going to be solved by ‘Milano muri puliti (Milan clean walls)’, the anti-graffiti association… The phenomenon has also social ingredients.

ARTISTS AND JUVENILE DISTRESS
It isn’t enough to considerate it only in terms of youth problems, the full extent of the problem is not fully understood. When you read something like ‘Ah! These guys want to become artists’, an important part of the whole phenomenon is ignored.

KIDS OF MILAN’S UPPER CLASS
Many kids who do this sort of things come from good families, often their father is a lawyer and their mother is a manager… It is too easy to say ‘these are children from the suburbs’. I was an educator for the youth organization Amico Charlie.

OUTLAWED EDUCATION
Absurdly teaching them how to draw graffiti, therefore teaching something that has a definitely illegal development.

ART HELPS
We try to push these kids to do something creative, to create a high conception of themselves, instead of smoking pot all day, stealing, smuggling or wasting all day at the park.

THANK YOU MILAN
I owe everything to Milan. When I arrived here I had all my papers in order, I was already oil painting and I had already realized elements of proto Street Art, but certainly here I found a number of fundamental people and fellow adventures, a fertile and receptive context…

INTEREST AND SLOW TIMING
The city bestowed great interest on me, certainly the timing I was a bit slow, maybe in New York it could have happened in 3-4 years while in Milan it took 14…

ALWAYS HERE, DESPITE THE TSUNAMI
Still today many young artists come to Milan for suggestions and inspiration. Still today many young designers or those who want to work in fashion, advertising, communication, despite the tsunami crisis – there is no budget, they all say – come here. This still remains a place where everyone comes to do an apprenticeship and to find inspiration. Milan is still this stuff.

Video 3
DARSENA: FANCY
About the Darsena, all nice and fancy, I can say that if they had done it in the Netherlands, or Belgium, or wherever in Paris, it wouldn’t be only nice and fancy, but they would have made it enjoyable, right? So not only something beautiful to the eye, like the skyscraper that is in Piazza Gae Aulenti, all posh and only with a shopping center. I think the shopping centers can’t be the alternative to the social life of the future.

SHOPPING CENTER? NO THANKS.
When I see that in the United States everyone hangs out at the shopping centers, I’m afraid that the same thing will happen here. The square in my opinion should be the square, not only a space for selling goods.

A FALSE PROBLEM
In Milan, until recently, in the spring and summer there was the big problem of the Colonne di San Lorenzo. This was seen as a problem, not as an asset. A place where young people go and play, meet up, get drunk must be an asset, not a problem… Here in Milan someone said that it was necessary to put up fences, bars, to close everything with architectural barriers… What sort of city gives its citizens the opportunity to meet people only within architectural barriers? It (that area of the city) must be thought so that people don’t make noise until seven in the morning, don’t play the bongos all night long… But an environment where people can meet must be created. The alternative can’t be fancy clubs where watered cocktails cost 10 euros and in the bathroom you find marble sinks so people can do cocaine… Well, this is what is replacing life in the squares.

SPACE TO PEOPLE
I’m in favor of progress, of cleaning the dock, but there must be a meeting place for humans, pouring of concrete and clean bricks can’t be enough.

LIKE A PUNCH IN THE STOMACH
I hope that art is something more than simple recovery, a coat of paint on a wall that used to be dirty or full of writing. Primarily because often writing is art in my opinion, or at least an urgency that is not necessarily artistic… I want to give dignity to the artistic gesture. Art is more than furnishings, it is superior to the idea that ‘Well! It is something that doesn’t bother anyone, it’s cute’. In my opinion cute is… I am reminded of Kafka, when he said that the work of art must be like a punch in the stomach. Now, maybe not a punch in the stomach, but at least it has to be like a slap in my opinion.

Video 4
The wall of Leoncavallo, the main wall, with my crew of graffiti artists involved in social activities, the volkwriters, we have gone and painted it for ten years.

FAVOURITE DISTRICT
Isola, because of what I said earlier. It was the first district in Milan where I lived: via Garigliano, Pergola, La Stecca…

MY CITY
Southern Milan, Corso di Porta Ticinese… When I go there now I see that crap, those drawings through ‘Way of Irony’ and I think it’s bullshit… On the one hand I’m glad I inspired creativity in the area, but in the past there was someone who said ‘It is not important if you go to school, but which school you go to’.

BALANCE
The artistic choices have always won over every possibility, so I never made money… I think a social choice is necessarily because I always tried to keep some freedom and the possibility to do as I wanted…

EXPLOITING THE MARKET?
Never exploiting the market. ‘Beautiful work, Ozmo. Make it 15 that I’ll sell them all ‘. I have never been interested in this kind of thing.

STUDIO IN BRERA, HOUSE ON THE OUTSKIRTS
My studio is in Brera, but I live in Via Padova, one of the few multicultural places Milan… You don’t see Milanesi in Via Padova, they will come in a few years because they will want make an investment buying a loft for their children.

UNPAID WORK
Milan still offers work, maybe unpaid work, see the Expo for example… and the policy of adverts like this: ‘Come to volunteer, come to work for free. It’s a great opportunity, we’ll give you a sandwich’.

BAD MASTERS
In my opinion Italy creates the wrong masters of thought right at the start. You can’t ask Vasco Rossi or Adriano Celentano for advice on how the world is going… Because I think it’s enough if they know how to tie their shoes and get out of bed without assistance…

THE FUTURE
I got back on oil painting as you can see here behind me, also through these portraits of Jesus Christ…

FROM STREET ART TO SACRED ART
Sacred art is the key to implement the reflection on the strength and power of images, which is created just by using… What is better than a sacred image in a Italian mass context?