The Great Valley, 2012-2018 

Daniele Girardi’s work is essentially focused on the relationship between experience and vision: from here were born various nuclei of works, including the project The Great Valley (2012-2018) on Val Grande, the largest wilderness area in Italy. His research focuses on the extension of experience through spatial invasions and the archiving of Sketch Life Books, transforming art into something that is lived and not created, that is expressed and enjoyed through experience, until it becomes a total identification between art and life.


Daniele Girardi, The Great Valley, sketch map – 2015




All your research is based on an interminable journey, mostly solitary, in nature. An aimless journey that feeds on experience and does not leave physical and tangible evidence of its action. The references are those to the artistic avant-garde of the Seventies, from the ethics of “Don’t leave traces, leave what you find”, to the value of experience “An object (work of art) cannot compete with an experience”. If the references are obvious – Richard Long and Hamish Fulton in particular – what do you think are the differences with these authors and their artistic practices?


“In order to understand the real meaning of artistic objects, we must look at where they are rooted in experience and consider them in their raw state. Paraphrasing J. Delwey, unlike other practices, I never start with the idea and concept of realization, in case, it only materializes in the necessity of the moment or from what I have available. Being and exploring a place is in itself the work itself, so even the simple action of walking (or sailing, many projects are also developed by water) to get into the territories becomes a means and not an end of my artistic practice. The search for the unknown in the territories explored follows a circular motion which, like a mandala, develops in the present moment in which I live the experience and then dissolves towards the outside, leaving or not a trace, a rarefied memory of experience.
The exhibition I am working on “A Line made by walking, immersive practices and experiential residues in Long, Fulton, Griffin, Girardi” in collaboration with the Panza Collection will be an opportunity to understand the fil rouge, in this case sketched, of this comparison.


In your project on the Val Grande (2012-2018) you explored its innermost habitat until you skirted the integral reserve (to which access and all anthropic activities are forbidden). The result of this long residence, made of stays, overnight stays and movements in close contact with one of the wildest naturalistic areas of Europe, more than a set of works seems to me to be the sharing of an experience. But how do you solve this sort of aporia, that is, the sharing of a solitary experience with a viewer who has not been able to experience it? How can your personal experience become universal?


All that should remain of a journey or an experience are 3 or 4 signs, no more, as many as, in fact, are the cardinal points necessary for orientation.
In the age of virtual connectivity, I have chosen to experience travel alone and then to report a part of it; I don’t think that everything can be transmitted or shared, even if the current system suggests the contrary.
Every action, even if not directly shared, affects an invisible collective fabric; a subtle transmission through symbols, scenarios and fetishes evokes archetypes that are less immediate but more powerful in terms of communication.
The trace of a fire, a map on a notebook abandoned in the forest are echoes of a sublime that is now distant and dormant but sedimented within each of us, and the Val Grande Wilderness has been an open-air anthropological laboratory to recover its dimensions.
Woods, valleys and rocky canyons are natural sanctuaries, the last bastions where the wild potential is fully expressed and indispensable for an authentic connection.


In order: Daniele Girardi, The Great Valley, archivio 2014 e archivio 2015


The experience of the mountain as an opportunity to meet with oneself and with the other, with the concepts of limit and diversity (so important today), represents an exceptional possibility of knowledge of being and existing, as an indispensable condition for a sustainable future. This seems to be precisely the cultural legacy that the well-known mountaineer-explorer Walter Bonatti left us, and of which Museomontagna preserves, since 2016, the entire archive. Although in different ways, both of you are united by the encounter with nature as an opportunity for self-knowledge and silence “as a living thing” (Chandra Livia Candiani). Bonatti’s fascination with exploration stems from the great adventure novels, what is your training path?


Living the experience is unfortunately not enough to ensure the internalization of new adventures, to train the mind it is also necessary to practice the least physical of human activities: reading. Immersing oneself between the lines of the stories allows the thought to convert into images the psychic contents that constitute the cultural baggage of everyone.
At the end of my immersions in nature I always have a very long time to sediment the experience, mine is a political choice of degrowth and through a grammar of sobriety I tend to limit the number of actions to increase the depth of each experience.
I alternate periods of apparent stasis to prepare my residences, in the moments of silence in the refuge food philosophical and literary suggestions. Pages written by explorers, travelers and writers are fuel for my departures. Bonatti himself has been a source of inspiration for me, he has accompanied me to distant places and made me understand the necessity of the unpredictable; art, as D. Laferriere suggests, sometimes appears to be the only thing that makes sense. Laferriere suggests, art sometimes appears when you are willing to put your own culture at risk.


In order: Daniele Girardi, The Great Valley, foto archivio 2013; sketch map, 2015, courtesy Collezione Caccia Dominioni


Daniele Girardi (Verona 1977), moved to Milan in 2000 and in 2006 began a series of stays in America thanks to a scholarship at the ISCP in New York City. In the last years he concentrates his interests on the relationship between experience and vision: from here various nuclei of works were born, among which the project “I Road” realized in the Death Valley desert and “The Great valley” set in Val Grande.

Between 2014 and 2016 he realizes the project “North Way”, a cycle of outdoor residencies in the territories of northern Europe between Norway, Sweden and Finland.
He participates in several exhibitions both in Italy and abroad and his works can be found in private and public collections. He is currently involved in the biennial project “A line made by walking” in collaboration with the Panza Collection, which in 2021 will host an exhibition with works by R. Long, H. Fulton, R. Griffin, D. Girardi in different locations in Val di Non.
He lives and works at the edge of the woods in Verona.