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Davide Dormino: the Italian artist who brings Assange, Snowden and Manning in the European squares

This sculpture is our voice, our support for their courage in defense of the truth. It is the monument of all, not of a political or religious creed, not of a single Country, that’s the reason why it travels through the squares of the world.

This is how artist Davide Dormino, Friulian by birth but Roman by adoption, presents to Orwell’s readers the work “Anything to say?“, a bronze sculpture with an iron base (almost a ton of weight), which represents, standing on a chair, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

They are “Examples – Dormino explains- of contemporary revolutionaries, controversial heroes, loved and hated people but capable of undermining the rules of a control system that manages our lives”.

The itinerant art piece, which cost almost 100 thousand euros (mostly collected thanks to an international crowdfunding), has already stopped in 13 European capitals (Berlin, the first, in 2015 ed) and it will soon be ready to face a new journey towards the “truth”, because “demanding to know and be informed is not only our right, but it is an act of resistance in order to decide what world we want to live in”.

 Your work “Anything to say?” Is dedicated to three controversial figures, divisive and, in part, little known at our latitudes: Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Why?

«The project was officially born in 2013 when, intrigued by the courage shown by these three figures, in particular by Assange and his creature Wikileaks, I decided to develop a work able to reflect on the need to defend freedom of speech and expression».

 A work, therefore, with a strong civil value?

“The artist, but I would say, art in general, is the gauge of the world. He is actually an observer who tells his time through his work. “Anything to say?” Amplifies this belief also in order to seek “truth” from alternative, different points of views».

 So, did you want to “formalize” your battle in favor of freedom of expression?

“Exactly. The desire has grown in me, the urgency to formalize, you said right, the battle for freedom of expression”.

 This newspaper, from its birth, supports the battles of Assange, Manning and Snowden. In your sculpture they are represented standing. I assume it is a precise choice. Can you explain why?

«Skilled, capable, courageous and even generous people outstand with courage, never sitting down. They expose themselves».

 In this case, they are also on a chair. It almost recalls a reference to the London Speakers ’Corner…

«Standing on a chair is considered by most to be an irreverent, a rude gesture. For me, however, it has an opposite meaning: “Listen to us, – suggests the work – look at things from another point of view”. You are right when you mention the Speakers’ Corner, but I would also add the enlightened professor Keating of “Dead Poets Society” as a source of inspiration”.

 Unlike the classical monument, “Anything to say?” Is a traveling sculpture …

«Yes, because I wanted to create something different, able to move and go looking for people. A work which, however, lacked an element …”.

 Which one?

«The involvement of the public. The empty chair, in fact, represents not only a question mark, but also the possibility, for every citizen who feels the need, to say something through a simple gesture: get on it ».

 What kind of reaction did the audience have?

«Instinctively to occupy the free chair. An impulse, so at least I love to think, suggested by the other three “present” voices. The chair is nothing more than a pedestal, a useful tool to get out of our comfort zone which often leads to indifference. The battle waged by Assange, Manning and Snowden, it is good to strongly highlight it, it concerns all of us. Allow me to add something… »

Yes, please

«“Anything to say?” Does not want to emphasize only courage because, in the relationship with the public, it can also be read in another way».

 Please clarify.

“For example, it’s like a public execution. Try to imagine the number of people who consider the three whistleblowers to be irresponsible fools. A large part of public opinion, especially the American one, asks for their execution on a daily basis on charges of being traitors. This work, although I refuse such brutality, was designed for them too. Art is free, just like that empty chair.”

 If I’m not mistaken, you met Assange in November 2014: is that correct?

“Yes, I met the founder of WikiLeaks at the Ecuadorian embassy.”

 Can you tell us about that meeting?

«Very hard impact. The embassy was manned by dozens of agents. Once I entered the offices, they took my phone and passport. The apartment was claustrophobic. “

 Excuse me if I interrupt you: did you hear that a Spanish private security and intelligence company, UC Global, was spying on every guest on behalf of the CIA?

“I had the confirmation, of course, only from the press last fall, but I am sure that he already suspected something at the time of our meeting.”

 What makes you think that?

“Because Assange said to me,” Be careful: from now on, for at least a year, you will be under control.” Many still consider the founder of WikiLeaks today as a paranoid (also due to the forced enclosure), however, recent revelations have revealed that his intuition was correct ».

 What have you talked about?

«We spent a long evening together. Reporters Sans Frontières journalists Charles Glass and Christophe Deloire were also with me. Assange is an almost mythological figure: tall, with very white skin. It’s really like to meet a divinity. He spoke uninterruptedly: a casket containing the secrets of the world was in front of me».

 Tell us an anecdote.

«The work was almost over; I was finishing the details of Assange’s face. The rotating base on which the sculpture was standing stopped during a movement, the work becomes unbalanced, collapsed and completely destroyed right above me “.

 I guess the curses. Moreover, not particularly funny as an anecdote.

«I won’t hide my “exuberant” reaction. The funny anecdote, on the other hand, concerns Assange’s joke when I told him what happened: “Now you have felt the weight of WikiLeaks””.

 Try to summarize your work in a few lines.

«Culture creates consciousness. This sculpture wants to be a sort of alarm bell for each of us. Freedom of the press, transparency, knowledge and, also, investigative journalism are at stake. These are all chapters that compose the book of our life and not only the ones of Assange, Manning and Snowden. Being informed inevitably suggests to us where we want to be and especially with whom. In this case, art is an extraordinary defense weapon, much faster than justice and politics. “

However, your work has also received strong criticism because Chelsea Manning is portrayed before her (won) fight for sexual identity. In short, still in Bradley’s shoes…

«I would not like to reopen this controversy born on social networks. Some did not like my choice to represent Chelsea Manning as a man despite the (subsequent) sex change. When I thought the opera, Chelsea was still Bradley … that’s all. “Anything to say?” Is nothing more than a still image elaborated by my mind, blocked on April 5, 2010. Sorry for the criticisms received, but taking responsibility for the contents is part of an artist’s journey ».

In an interview with the German magazine “Der Spiegel”, Assange said: “I like helping vulnerable people, I like tearing bastards into pieces.” We translate, simplifying, that bastard with power/institutions. Yet, precisely these ones, elbow to show “Anything to say?”. Doesn’t it seem like a paradox?

«Absolutely yes, yet this paradox must also be understood as a positive sign. I appreciate when art is understood as a meeting ground, in short, as a bridge stretched in order to bring institutions and citizens closer together ».

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