The trilateral relationship between Street Levels Gallery, Mīlěs, and Nemo’s began in 2017 with the exhibition Urban Nature, where six artists -including Sea Creative, Rame13, Leonardo Borri, and Mr. Fijodor– were invited to investigate the behavior of nature rebelling against the frenetic pace of modern society to then reclaim the city. The last corner in the gallery saw Mīlěs and Nemo’s works conversing with each other and facing each other. Here, on Palazzuolo Street, was the first exchange between the two artists. A few years earlier, in 2016, the founders of Street Levels Gallery had collaborated with Nemo’s to create a mural on the facade of the S.M.S. Peretola; then, in 2017, the H20 exhibition project was born on the occasion of the presentation of the books Who is Nemo’s and H2O; in May 2019, Mīlěs’ solo exhibition entitled In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni; then the collaboration on the occasion of the 2019 Florence Biennale, where Street Levels Gallery invited Nemo’s, Mr. Wany and Ache77; finally, with The Wood and the Flesh, the Florentine gallery renewed in 2021 its interest in deepening Mīlěs’ personal research by combining the exhibition with the publication of the illustrated book on the story of Pinocchio with Contrabbandiera Editrice. Therefore, in 2023, the paths of the two artists converged again in the same place where the first conversation had begun.
After their first meeting, Mīlěs and Nemo’s expressed interest and curiosity in getting to know each other’s work. Hic et Nunc was thus born out of a desire to create the pretext to let this tentative human and artistic affinity manifest itself in times and ways that were spontaneous. The conception and process of the residency also goes along with the intention of Street Levels Gallery to self-produce and self-finance itself, in order to guarantee the project’s main participants the appropriate autonomy, ways, and spaces of work in the residency’s duration. The intention to offer itself as an alternative in terms of research and production accompanies an experimental proposal in terms of reception: during the ten days of the study, the space in Via Palazzuolo remained open in the evening and night hours, every day from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. A choice moved by the purpose of promoting a nighttime cultural proposition that could break the habit of consumption and activate the opportunity to follow the work in progress of two artists, transforming the gallery into a hybridized space existing between the public street and private studio. Hic et nunc is thus affirmed to stand as number 0 of the residency project that Street Levels Gallery intends to pursue in the coming periods with the implicit but conscious commitment to be a de-museumized exhibition space, and to be inhabited and shared as a true domestic environment.
Mīlěs and Nemo’s have inhabited the space of Via Palazzuolo without any temporal or spatial constraints, adhering to an intimate and domestic way of artistic production that preceded the process of creation, which is marked by investigation, orientation, and imaginative practice. The hic et nunc, the here and now, and the time and space of the present represent the dimension that has traced the evolution of the residency project, dominated by improvisation and a complete spontaneous process; acting as a poetics of the gerund, and indicating what is happening in the present moment. A collaboration that, among various similarities on the level of vision, first saw the two artists find their own relational chemistry. Therefore, the research among the nooks and crannies of the gallery unfolded naturally, allowing the artists the chance to communicate only through the perception of their respective bodies and how they were going to trace on the walls, instead of through words.
“It is natural to seek one’s own privacy but to do so without wanting to mark territory. I learned this attitude on the street, where you can draw and put yourself where you want while respecting the space of others, without worrying too much about if the drawing trespasses” Nemo’s says in recounting his own experience in residency.
An attitude also shared by Mīlěs, to which he shares, “there was a mutual respect from the very beginning without having to ask each other anything. We communicated with the body, understandings were created spontaneously, simply improvising” . And indeed, many of the scenarios that appeared on the walls emerged like rebuses, acting as two distinct codes that, in aggregating, come at the loss of the boundary that separates the places of expressive autonomy from those of contamination. Mīlěs and Nemo’s acting like two animals sniffing and sensing each other with their eyes closed. The anatomical rigor of Nemo’s body is overwhelmed by the animal instincts of Mīlěs’s creatures; Mīlěs’s creations in turn find themselves in Nemo’s fleshiness and adhere to his use of the written word; Mīlěs’s sculptural skills stimulate Nemo’s manual dexterity prompting him to create Tormoffol using paper and other discarded materials found in the gallery; finally, the nihilistic tension of both is fed and amplified by irreverently disintegrating beliefs, convictions, and taboos.
Mīlěs and Nemo’s portrait is that of a sub-civilization conducting its own obscenities.
The animal instinct, the grotesque, the ugly and brutal, the ridiculous, the disgusting, the despicable, the caricatured human. Mīlěs and Nemo’s spare themselves nothing, and perhaps the only attitude they both choose to censor is that of shame; in their quests, it is the sense of modesty that nullifies itself to reveal the human being in both his wondrous and monstrous aspects. This is precisely why the admirers of their works include children, as the viewing of the works arouses amusement and hilarity. The disinhibition of childhood is the end point of their imaginaries, aimed at the naturalization of roughness: what does it mean to bring this provocation into public space? What implications are inherent in their nonchalance in portraying the taboos of contemporary society?
Nemo’s retells a story about an event that happened in Bergamo a few years ago while working on a new project intended for a senior center. With the intention of narrating the passage of experience between generations, the artist portrayed a set of bodies resting their heads on the person in front of them. Despite an attempt to engage the project’s target audience, Nemo’s encountered general disinterest in the design phase of the work and brutal criticism – expressed even through insults – at the conclusion of the work, the epilogue of which saw the removal of the intervention by third parties. This case, however, seems to have been neither the first nor the last occasion of conflict between its imagery and the receptive context; Nemo’s serenely welcomes the possibility that his vision may not be digestible to a portion of people but criticizes the curatorial choice in inviting an artist with a strongly identified imagery and then later asking him “not be too creepy” or to limit the expression of the language.
Mīlěs confirms it has been in the same experience, arguing that “sometimes commissions demand from us what we are not. If you invite me to work by asking me for a style that does not belong to me then what is the point in calling me? I think it is wrong to place such constraints and conditions, just call an artist who brings a more pleasing vision to the street if that is what the commissioner wants.”
For two researchers devoted to the grotesque, finding space on the street is not always an easy thing to do, yet Mīlěs and Nemo’s narrative about being human draws heavily on the everydayness of the individual. The perception of strangeness in the face of trivial situations stems from the refusal to accept that passions and vices are not conditions alien to the individual but inherent to existence itself. To accredit this awareness, the two artists relate another episode they shared during their residency days. Both seated at a table in a trattoria, they are recalled by the conversation of three characters who were making perverse comments about some friends. “We cast each other a look of understanding and began to eavesdrop because we were both viscerally interested in the behavior of strangers. The banality of a situation such as a business lunch clashed incredibly with the monstrous words of these three individuals. There was a strong sense of unease and frustration from which those brutal comments then arose. We were intrigued and partly fascinated because in our research we tell the story of just that, and we both really like to be inspired by the observation of the every day,” Mīlěs elaborates, while Nemo’s finds the perfect closure to the subject with a quote from Charles Bukowski: “people are the greatest show on earth. And you don’t pay for a ticket”.
This casual posture makes Mīlěs and Nemo’s two of the most radical exponents of the contemporary urban scene. Both are hardliners in proposing their uncompromising imagery; both are determined in portraying human nature in its grotesque and animalistic obscenity; both present to themselves and to what, by osmosis, they receive from the outside world. From a news item they learn from reading an article to the burp of a passerby, they pass on the street to the most curious discoveries in physics and science, such as the equation that identifies the movement of birds in flocks. The quasi-scientific observation of the mundane and the unusual look at the world inextricably binds Mīlěs and Nemo’s research, always striving to transform reality into a fascinating partnership between wonder and disgust.