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My references in my works have changed, but the substance has remained the same.

I have always been convinced that the shape seduces, in one way or another.

If you want to seduce the viewer, a glossy and lacquered surface is always preferable to one that is not.

In this there is the greatest concession I can explicitly make to the seductive images that reverberating invade my imagination and that I continue to use abundantly in my works.

However, I must admit that the surface is the least interesting aspect, if you like, of my works.

I only use it to “seduce” the viewer by inducing him to go “under or beyond” the surface itself. I like to call this oxymoron “unpop”, which stands for unpopular.

After all, as this passage says, the surface matters:


  we only look at what is presented well, which is to say that we only want what others want. The objects set up on these wooden and formica shelves “have been bought, arranged, put together and compared. They can be moved, arranged in a particular way, but once packaged they are separated again, they remain objects like when you find them in a shop.” The subject of Steinbach’s work is what happens in the moment of exchange. 

(Nicolas Bourriaud 2004,19 – paraphrase) 


But in my case, the surface is nevertheless only a lure to attract. It matters less than what it covers.

Pop dominates but does not hide the unpopular.

I have verified that the more I move away from Pop seen, not so much in the history of art sense, but above all in the literal sense of popular, the more I will be able to recount something that really belongs to me.

I have told many stories, all hidden and covered by seductive images in the form made with bright colors.

I have used and use colors and enamels on ferrous surfaces that resemble cars that have just left the factory.

I have verified that it can serve to bring the viewer closer. It works!

But underneath and beyond this surface there are both commonly used objects, such as toothbrushes, buttons, miniature copies of ancient and contemporary shattered statues, in the midst of symbols of luxury and references to the provocations of contemporary art. But there is also a plastic doll lying on the ground which, by analogy, recalls a shipwrecked child, who was not only denied childhood.

This kaleidoscope should be read over a long period of time, slowing down the gargantuan frenzy of images about which almost every one of us has become neurotically insane.

Even if the container is pop, the content is unpopular – as is anything that creates repulsion, fear, indignation, or reflection, etc. I believe our era is unpopular (in the meaning I have chosen to give it). That is, it mixes horrors and honors, beauty and destruction, depth and extreme superficiality, flattening and dulling our senses, as in a scrolling of more or less pleasant images.

It is convenient for us to take refuge in the most pleasant and captivating images but they only recount one aspect of this multifaceted world we live in.

Also, broken glasses, watches, necklaces and bracelets, like the lives of genocide victims, aren’t exactly popular or pleasant images. Only if you choose to go beyond dazzling colors do they tell the anonymous stories of many men, women and children who, despite themselves, have left their mark in history with those objects for future memory.

from lecture: Seduced and affiliated. When the image is unpop-ular - Palermo University 2022

Arrigo Musti

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