Laboratory of artistic experimentation founded by Carlo Santoro.
“Reality beyond aesthetics, aesthetics beyond reality.”
Carlo Santoro, associate professor at the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP), tells us about Metaestetica, an experimental Art Workshop he founded in 2012 in China, that now he continues here in Cambodia.
How did the Metaestetica project start? And why?
The Metaestetica laboratory was founded in Beijing in 2012 in the well-known Beijing Art Zone 798, the heart of Chinese contemporary art. The experiments proposed in the laboratory aimed to deepen the theoretical assumptions of the “eventualist movement,” which originates from the research group on the psychology of art, Jartrakor, founded in Rome, by Prof. Sergio Lombardo, in 1979 and of which I am a member since 2001. In China, the experimentation focused on recording comments and discussions about the emotional implications affecting visitors’ libidinal – sometimes playful- sphere.
What was it like launching Metaestetica in Cambodia?
We started in 2019 by opening a gallery at the Factory Phnom Penh Art Space, where we proposed exercises involving the cognitive area to anyone who wished to share the aesthetic experience.
In 2021, I exposed our work at the renovated Phnom Penh Railway Station. It represented a project within a project: in fact, the renovation of the Station itself is based on a preliminary design that I conceived.
Since then, I have been focusing on installations that involve public spaces.
Reversality Hyperstructures is one of the latest Metaestatica installations. Would you like to tell us more about it?
I created the installation of Reversality Hyperstructures from some photomontage techniques that I have been experimenting with since 2009. It is a straightforward technique that uses images obtained by copying, mirroring, and rotating one or more times portions of photographs taken with a smartphone and using commercial photo-editing software.
The hyper-ambiguity of the resulting images presents a cognitive challenge. In an attempt to synchronize the incongruities, visitors try to make sense of them. The result is a reality constructed mainly at the mental level, which goes from the mental level to the phenomenological one: Reversality or, translated more or less literally in English, Reality-Inverted. In this video, you can see live an example of the process results.
We want to congratulate you on your latest achievements: You were the only Italian representative selected for the PenhArt 2021.
My work Exercise 4 by Metaestetica was chosen by a jury of the PenhArt, an art fair organized by the Ministry of Culture and Arts. I was the only Italian presence, along with 36 Cambodian and International artists: something I am proud of. My work was selected because of its experimental and interactive aspects and a stimulus on Cambodia’s state of abstract art.
Your work was also showcased at the ASEM Festival 2021.
My work “The extended dimension of space – step 05 storytelling” was displayed at the National Museum of Cambodia as part of the Encountering Cultures exhibition at ASEMfest. It consisted of a group exhibition that brought together artists from Asia and Europe living in Cambodia and actively involved in the local arts scene.
As an Assistant professor at AUPP, how do you involve students in your artistic experience?
In Summer 2021, we started a project in the Arts and Culture course at the American University of Phnom Penh that involved 60 Cambodian students to reflect on the expression of intimate space. Recently, I was involved in the STEAM Program at the American University of Phnom Penh High School, Foxcroft Academy. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and it fosters lifelong interest and love of the arts and sciences in children.
What are your plans for 2022?
We will continue to develop The Extended Dimensions of Space and Reversailty projects, presenting new exhibitions. At the same time, we will carry on the experimentation activity involving more and more young Cambodians.
Where can people see your works or follow your initiatives?
📌 To find out more about Carlo Santoro, read his interview here.