The name, "Ninu Nina" stems from the alien language spoken by Robin Williams in "Mork & Mindy" ( a popular 1970's comedy show).




In conversation with Italian artist Matteo Rubbi

Artist Matteo Rubbi was born not far from Bergamo, Italy in 1980 and is one of the most influential contemporary artists of his generation. Feeling very fortunate to have the opportunity to share his inspirations and share his perspective on the art world.

Tell us about yourself Matteo.

I studied industrial chemistry at high school, loved it but I was kind of a mess in the lab so I studied art instead.. I graduated in 2005 at the art school of Brera and since I’ve been exploring ideas and inventing projects with other people, that’s my own way I think since I started to set a Solar System with people orbiting themselves, or transforming museums and schools into shipyards to rebuild an old vessel in 1:1 scale with waste material. In 2007 I cofounded with other two friends, visual artists Emiliana Sabiu and Marco Colombaioni, Cherimus, an art association based in Sulcis (Sardinia) -we experiment alternative ways to work on the relationship between art and community. We focus on building connections, address social issues and find possible solutions through art. More recently, the project I am most proud to have been part of is Carnival! Nairobi (2018), an idea of Cherimus and Koinonia Community, a Kenyan Association that works to give support to children that live in the street. There, in Nairobi, I and other artists both from Italy and Kenya worked together with Kenyan street educators and with communities of kids living in the streets to invent an entire Carnival based on the dreams and ideas of the participants. All the workshops’ process and the final parade in the street of Nairobi was for me a real landmark in my artistic practice.

Matteo your greatest inspirations or influences?

  • I’ve always loved art, my mother used to paint in her free time. I used to always leaf through her art books on Impressionism and the avant-garde. At seven, I remember feeling stunned in front of the Pietà Rondanini by Michelangelo and at nine in the Camera degli sposi by Andrea Mantegna I saw on a school visit.

  • During art school, the encounter with visual artist Alberto Garutti as a teacher was fundamental, also to deepen the work of artists such as Alighieri Boetti, Gino De Dominicis, Felix Gonzales Torres, Chen Zen, etc.

  • In the same years, Isola Art Center, the work of Bert Theis and Mariette Shiltz in the neighborhood Isola in Milan, and all the people I met there, artists, writers, activists, was of great importance for my growth, both artistic and personal.

  • The work of my friend Marco Colombaioni (1983-2011) and its energy is still essential in all the projects we are writing as Cherimus, as well as working with Emiliana Sabiu, a true visionary artist. 

  • The work of visual artists like Alek O. that touches and transforms objects of our everyday life with a rare sensitivity, little things, infinitesimal moments into a completely new experience; or Dafne Boggeri, who over the years has challenged the rigid art system of Milan with innovative projects about art, music and publishing, are always a reference point. 

  • The irony of the work of Yassine Balbzioui and the happiness he has when he paints is always very contagious, and with him I've gotten back to being a pretty good painter. 

  • The work of artists, activists and educators we are collaborating with in Cherimus, such as Mass’art in Tunis, Koinonia in Kenya, Ker Thiossane in Dakar, Art Gallé (the wonderful initiative of visual artist and activist Amy Sow in Nouakchott, Mauritania), reminds me constantly of how much art is a complex, powerful, wonderful tool, that requires courage, patience and above all the ability to listen.

  • Last but not least the work of my partner, writer Zeyn Joukhadar, with whom I am collaborating in various projects at present, has definitely been a bright star in these last few years.

most interesting response you've heard about one of your works? 

For the exhibition at CAC La synagogue de Delme, in France, a kid who participated in creating a 6 meter diameter Sun made of paper, came to me at the opening of the show and told me, looking very proud of herself: this show is very, very beautiful, Matteo Rubbi!

what do you think of the art industry and how it works. 

If for art industry we consider the totality of the initiatives, projects and collaborations that visual artists, writers, musicians, activists are activating world wide, especially in places that are considered by the richest countries to be on the margins, well, I think that industry is alive, fighting for a change, industrious and innovative as never before, maybe.

If we consider instead just the institutional western visual art world circle, the museums, the biennials, the art fairs, etc, I perceive that industry as very conservative, exclusive and very clumsy at approaching the complexity of today, maybe because it mainly targets very privileged people's consumption while still pretending to be the only and most reliable narrative of contemporaneity. 

What do you think about social media and its effect on the art world.

I think social media made a big difference. Even if personally I am quite inactive, or lazy on social media, every day I can follow the work of artists all around the world that I love who share their work or articles that they feel are relevant and which I could not find or access on my own. Social media can really help with communication and collaboration between far away initiatives, exchange of best practices, and the construction of alternative and unexpected networks.

Favourite websites, publications, or social media handles?

Thank you Matteo, anything else you'd like to share?

This year I will participate in a residency at the Montalvo Arts Center, in Saratoga, CA, and next spring I will be in Marseille at the Camargo Foundation residency where I will develop a project with my partner Zeyn Joukhadar, a research of the history and traditions surrounding the constellations of Mediterranean peoples throughout the centuries that we would like to transform in a real Atlas of the night sky.

With Cherimus we are now working on a cooperation project between Sardinia and Senegal about music; the collaboration between three Senegalese musicians and three Sardinian musicians gives rise to a new band called Gegò Yegó, and later in the summer there will also be a European tour. With Cherimus we are working on I giardini possibili a project that aims to create four new public parks in four small towns of Sardinia, based on workshops that are taking place in local schools with international artists from all over the world. Check it out. www.cherimus.net

Credits and Caption

  • Atlas Of Marvels

    2018-ongoing. In collaboration with Zeyn Joukhadar. Spray paint and calligraphy pen on paper. 317cm x 317cm.

  • Carnival! Nairobi

    2018. With Cherimus, Koinonia and the communities of kids that live in the street of Nairobi. Workshops and carnival Parade, Nairobi. Ph: Francesco Cavalli

  • Kan Ya Ma Kan

    2017. Site-specific installation. In collaboration with writer Zeyn Joukhadar. 250cm x 50cm approx. Montalvo Arts Center, Lucas Artists Residency Program. Ph: Leonardo Chiappini

  • Voyages dans la mer perdue

    2017. Le Soleil. Paper, oil pastels, adesive tape, ropes. In collaboration with the primary school and secondary school of Delme.

    CAC – la synagogue de Delme, Ph: O.H.Dancy.

  • Cieli di Belloveso ( first visual)

    2017-18. Public Art Work. Permanent Installation, granite, marble-concrete. Piazza Burri, Milan,

  • Carte du ciel

    2014-2015. Workshop (Col de Vence, Collège Vernier, Nice 23-30 June 2014), video installation. In collaboration with Leonardo Chiappini.

  • Festival internazionale degli aeroplanini di carta / The International Festival of Paper Plane

    2014-2015, Workshop, sport event. Bibliotheque National du Royame du Maroc, Rabat; Lazzaretto, Cagliari. Ph: Baptiste de Ville d’Avray

  • Bounty

    2011, Bounty nello spazio, installation view. GAMeC, Bergamo. Ph: Jacopo Menzani

  • Solar System

    2007. Performance. Centrale di Fies, Dro, Trento. Ph: Hugo Muñoz. Courtesy Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea Trento.

  • Portrait Cover of Matteo Rubbi

    Zeyn Joukhadar