My latest body of work, SMALLER THAN LIFE, is now live.
SMALLER THAN LIFE consists of seven self-portraits featuring a miniature glass dome with walnut base, a round sandstone base, a customized 1965 Matchbox Lesney die-cast FIAT 1500, synthetic grass, wood, paper, and metal.
Incidentally, SMALLER THAN LIFE is also CONCRETE PRESS' first book, a limited edition catalog that provides a visual and critical documentation of the project. It features Colleen Flaherty's photographs and a long conversation between Bittanti (MB) and Juan Carlos Quintana (JCQ). We are releasing 100 copies today.
Here's an excerpt:
JCQ: Do you identify with a FIAT car because the car-maker is Italian?
MB: In 1972, my dad bought a four-door aquamarine FIAT 128. That was before my time. The FIAT 128 was bought for approximately one million liras, approximately $650, at Franco Spotorno, a car dealer located at 6, Fulvio Testi Street, between Milan and Sesto San Giovanni. For almost forty years (1950-1990), Spotorno was one of FIAT’s most important dealers in Northern Italy. A small sedan, the FIAT 128 was introduced in May 1969 and remained on sale until 1985. Designed by Dante Giacosa and Aurelio Lampredi, the vehicle was voted best European Car of the year in 1970. It featured front-wheel drive. It substituted the previous model - the FIAT 1100 - and was subsequently replaced by the FIAT Ritmo. My dad drove the FIAT 128 for eight or nine years which translates into 95,000 km. He replaced it with a blue Lancia Delta. That was before Japanese cars became popular in Italy. In 1991 Spotorno dropped the FIAT brand and began selling Toyotas and Lexuses. Once, my dad drove Aunt Anna to visit her relatives, from Milan to Crotone, in the Calabria region. Total mileage: 3000 km. The Lesney Matchbox #56 model is the closest thing to a FIAT 128 that I could find. Aesthetically, the two cars are very similar.
JCQ: Why did you use toys rather than, for instance, a painting or a sculpture, to represent yourself?
MB: I am fascinated by the ambivalent and ambiguous nature of toys. In another essay titled “Toys and Play”, Benjamin wrote: "Even where they are not simply imitations of the tools of adults, toys are a site of conflict, less of the child with the adult than of the adult with the child" (118). Childhood and adulthood are not separate states of being. They develop along a continuum. The toy speaks to the child and to the adult. Kuznets adds that “Toys as objects are fraught with controversy that reflects adult values and anxieties in diverse ways, as much as it does the young toy owners' needs, loves, and hostilities" (18). Benjamin foregrounded the cultural process by which a child comes to understand that a given “cult implement” is to be regarded as a plaything (“balls, hoops, tops, kites”), which is akin to the process of aura-making of the work of art. According to Benjamin, this “cult" is not imposed by the adult, but rather created, extended or converted by the child's imagination. For Benjamin, not only the toy is culturally constructed, but the child – as a distinct entity from the adult – is so the result of the aforementioned toy implement and the activity of playing. This is why toys and games are particularly important to understand our culture. As Marshall McLuhan wrote,“games are collective and popular art with strict convictions [...] Dramatic models of our psychological lives providing release of particular tensions”. Thus, “The games of a people reveal a great deal about them. Games are a sort of artificial paradise like Disneyland, or some Utopian vision by which we interpret and complete the meaning of our daily lives" (319).
LINK: SMALLER THAN LIFE (book)