“Hilal is 19 years old, he is an Afghan boy who came in Italy in 2011. Hilal is an orphan, he ran away from war and Taliban violence when he was still only a child. After a pastry chef course attended thanks to Luconlus’ friends, he has been hired in a pastry shop in Rome where he has been working since two years. He has a regular work contract, he lives with his friends and talks with shining eyes about courses organized in France to make chocolate sculptures, to always do his job better”.

Hilal’s story is one of many other stories carried out by the Roman social cooperative company Spes contra spem quoted in the catalogue that accompanies Mario Airò’s installation Surplace because a part of the sale proceeds of the catalogue will be donated to Trait d'Union Onlus, a socio-cultural association that organizes and promotes events of different artistic expressions with particular attention to the disadvantaged persons, to give opportunities to the children of the foster home Approdo where Hilal stayed when he arrived in Italy.

After Marzia Migliora’s artwork in 2012 the leading contemporary artist Mario Airò stars in the 2015 edition of Toccare l’Arte, sensory program of contemporary art for a culture without barriers. Through a memory of feelings or driven by a particular desire Airò observes the daily reality simplifying it in some important or essential elements and getting them bigger and amplified with the intent to cause in the viewer wonder and more generally particular moods both emotional and thoughtful reminding us the importance of the creative and contemplative power of the daimon that everyone has within himself.

Surplace, which literally means "on the spot", is a term that the artist has borrowed from the world of cycling races to indicate the technique allowing the athlete to stand still in balance on the bike waiting for the best time to escape its opponent without giving it a chance to react. Surplace is an aerial installation hanged from almost four meters above the ground and consisting of magnolia leaves vitrified and placed in the sky like a flock of migratory birds and free to sway harmoniously dancing in the wind. Those leaves in any case do not go anywhere, they are there still, suspended between heaven and earth, waiting to move and react surprising in this way everyone. Another aspect that emerges from the installation is that the leaves are not only individuals but also part of a community that they themselves create. Surplace recalls the problems of migrants, stateless persons, exiles and more generally of all those who do not recognize themselves in the social conformity, calls the condition/feeling of being suspended between different worlds, different cultures without even reaching the ground so find stability.

I met the artist Mario Airò taking the opportunity to ask him some questions and deepen his poetics but also the realistic condition of his installation.

Surplace (2015) is your latest masterpiece commissioned and produced for the 2015 edition of Toccare l’Arte. Please can you tell us this project and the link with your previous artistic production?

I was invited to create a site-specific installation for St. Alexis' garden in Rome reflecting on the condition of migrants. I always prefer open and polysemic art forms witht more possibilities of interpretation. So I try to search for an image that could transmit with sensitivity more than with contents an idea of fragility linked to our sense of existence. Looking to my past artworks I can find this same concept in many other works although not so central.I can say it is one of the threads that create the canvas.

In the introduction I said that the installation recalls the condition of suspension that characterizes the lives of migrants, exiles, stateless suspended precisely between their culture of origin and the host culture. The contemporary world has accustomed us (I speak of course of us in the West) to rethink our relationship with the movements that become faster and easier than ever before. Just as globalization has accustomed us to a global culture based on international sharing of habits and practices typical of the American way of life. Not always, however, we realize that these changes apply only to a part of humanity concentrated in North-West of the planet with economic and cultural means enabling this vision. Do you think that art can help us to think about these changes making us recover a new sense of ethics or at least some awareness of our responsibilities?

Art in my opinion has always had an ethics role. It is a public affairs and those who practice it take part in the cultural debate of the time through their actions. Even those who claim in the most radical way the total autonomy of art is telling us something about our entire culture.

The migration issue is an extremely sensitive issue also for us Italians who until a few generations ago were a nation of migrants and probably in part still are. Obviously I do not speak of voluntary migration but of the migration of people who have no other choice. Do you think that art can help us to understand better this condition?

Art can make us aware, it can let us see a lot of subtle things. I do not know why it should be outdone on this topic.

Many installations of yours reflect on the relationship between social and cultural complexity and our possibilities of perception emphasizing the importance of perception over form in a world where form almost always prevails over substance. What does "perception" mean and why is it so important for your poetry?

I believe that only the real experience is able to give us a perception transmitting us intensity, urgency and necessity coercing us to take a stance not only in the field of opinions but with an active participation. And I also believe that only throught it we really be aware about something and then change.

What are your future artistic plans?

I have many projects on going; about some of them I prefer to say nothing as at the moment they are only outlined. But there is one that I care particularly: it is a commission of a Belgium community through the program of new customers to create a space for their city. It is the third time that I am selected by different Nouveau Commanditaires committees, a method to bring art into the public space that I really appreciate. In this program I have just completed a permanent installation in Turin, with the cultural association a.titolo and it has been a very nice experience.