If you like the uncanny, or even the dark and grotesque, you’ve found your new favourite artist: Monica Piloni. Her sculptures might seem disturbing to some but very poetic to others. She explores the human (and non-human) form by distorting, stretching, adding, or erasing body parts, thus creating unclassifiable objects-beings. Keep reading and see it for yourself.
Your work focuses mainly on the human figure. But you distort it, modify it to create strange, amorphous, and even bizarre creatures. When did your interest in the body begin, and more especially, its deformation and alteration?
I started to modify the structure of the erect human body with the series Illegals, where I use a doll as a model but modify its features from a biped to a tripod. At the same time that it gave stability to the sculpture, which wouldn’t be too effective balancing itself on only two legs, it caused aesthetic consequences which influenced my work until today. The biped body has the front, the back, the right and the left sides harmoniously distributed on two legs while a radial body is more harmonious on a tripod because the front and back, left and right are indistinguishable.
In other words, if the viewer is looking from a determined point of view at my sculpture where he/she can only see two legs, the third will be hidden behind them so the viewer will suppose the doll is showing its back. As soon as s/he changes his/her point of view, s/he will see the third leg and realize it is a tripod with a cylindrical body and hair covering the entirety of its spherical head. What at first sight would seem to be a doll the size of a small child suddenly becomes a phallic object that stands on the floor with its head at the height of the viewer’s crotch. After this experience, I applied the same concept to adult-sized human figures in other works, such as the Odd and Triptych self-portraits.
Siamese twins, faceless dolls, and a dismembered ballerina whose body parts are kept in different glass boxes. Who are these creatures and where do they come from?
Each creature has its own origin. The faceless dolls came from Illegals series I was telling you about. The Siamese twins are the mirrored image of the same sculpture symmetrically duplicated. The technique used for these is not much different from the one used to create daily-use objects, for example. But when the object turns to be a human body, it gets strange because we do not really consider it as one. In fact, it is an ‘object-body’.
It is almost the opposite as in a sculpture by Ugo Rondinone, who uses stacked stones to create a representation of an erected body. When I produce tripod objects based on the human body, with three legs and three breasts instead of two, and three vaginas and three belly buttons instead of one, and one faceless head at the top, the viewer considers it more of a creature. Because there are biped and quadruped forms in nature, but a tripod can only be an object.
One could say that your work is dark, uncanny, and grotesque. Would that be right?
I believe that ‘dark’ may be a matter of perspective based on how disturbing one or another sculpture may be, while ‘uncanny’ is exactly what I am trying to provoke with these forms – I guess I have been successful in that sense. Historically, grotesque was an aesthetic category that was part of the Renaissance – but was a minor art that served to fill the void through the absurd. Without a deeper analysis of these ornaments, I think it would be possible to find similar figures to my sculptures in them.
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How do you define your own style, and how has it evolved since your early works till now?
In contemporary art, several styles have appeared or were incorporated during the same period: land art, video art, sound art, body art, performance, happening, etc. But my work is still sculpture. Nevertheless, if I try to find a place for my work within a subcategory, that would be feminist art – together with the many women artists that have surprised me, impacted me, taught me, and inspired me to make art.
 I know it’s been five years since you first presented it, but I’m too fascinated not to ask about it. The Hybris series is mesmerizing. You craved little rib cages in different fruits, from an orange to a papaya. Could you please tell me what was it about, how did the idea come up, and how do you preserve them so they don’t get ruined? 
The first step was to select the fruits and find the animal carcasses to match them according to their shapes. It was necessary to hollow the fruits to fit the carcasses into them. As I was working with perishable materials that change their colour when in contact with the air, I had to take pictures of them while fresh and then make a silicone mould for each fruit. As soon as the moulds were ready, I removed the fruit sculptures and discarded them. I used the moulds to make copies in vinyl plastic. I was interested in giving a trophy status to these sculptures produced from banal foods like fruits and poultry and fish carcasses I bought frozen in supermarkets. To transform them from mere consumption products to works of art.
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You’re from and based in Brazil, a country most people associate with bright colours, joy, crazy carnival celebrations, nature and good-looking people. Your work, though, doesn’t seem to be much influenced by this – probably stereotypical – vision. Actually, it seems pretty opposed to it. What’s your relation with the country you live in?
Brazil is a country of continental proportions with fantastic cultural diversity from north to south. I was born in the South, a very cold place, with massive Italian and German immigration during the last century, where behaviours are very different from these clichés, which correspond more to the aesthetic coming from Rio de Janeiro, which promotes its image as any touristic city does.
You are right not to associate my work with these Brazilian stereotypes sold to the world since Carmen Miranda. I lived in São Paulo for more than fifteen years, a city with more than twenty millions of inhabitants, and probably the most workaholic, cosmopolitan and capitalist city in Brazil. For example, if you to take someone born in São Paulo and put him/her in some place in the middle of the Bahia state, in the Northeast region of Brazil, s/he will probably be taken for a ‘gringo’ tourist.
Who are your main influences, both in art and other creative fields?
I love sculptures, from miniatures to public works. Architecture doesn't influence me directly but I like to imagine sculptures in these places. More specifically, large sculptures interacting with different elements like buildings, trees or the light. And especially, imagining the people’s reactions. Unfortunately, there are very few contemporary sculptures in public spaces in Brazil, especially if compared to the large number of extraordinary artists, something that is difficult to understand.
What projects are you currently working on?
I'm working on a site-specific sculpture that is a female with four legs and two heads but no arms. It will be cast in bronze and will be fixed on the edge of a pool, ready to dive headlong into the water. I am also working on several new projects, but these are still studies for my new solo exhibition in March next year at Zipper, the gallery that represents me in São Paulo.
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