Today’s Feature, June 14-15, 2007: The Black Cubes – Michelangelo Roberti

January 18, 2008 at 6:25 pm (Today's Feature)

Where to start, where to start, where-to-start…Well, I am pretty
sure I have found one of the most intriguing people in the world. I
actually heard about “The Black Cubes” last year, and coming across
featuring the creator of this project just happened to be, pure luck.
I say this because I have created a site that features people whose
talents fascinate and overwhelm our culture. Just by visiting the
Archive section of the site shows a pretty good example and I believe
that Italian artist, Michelangelo Roberti has made a strong claim for
the title of “most fascinating”. “The Black Cubes” is a mesmerizing
contemporary art project, toying with human curiosity. Roberti will
create 999 black wooden cubes, every cube has the same shape,
appearance and dimensions (every side is 20 cm.) and all contain
“something inside”-which Roberti refuses to divulge. Roberti has
become an artistic enigma; constantly leaving people in complete
disbelief. Not only is Roberti’s “black cubes” sweeping the art
community, it is frustrating people as well. Now, I don’t own one of
Roberti’s cubes but I have been staring at a photograph of one, as if
it will come to life. I have no idea what is inside of that box but I
have several dozens of ideas on what “could” be (I stopped keeping
track around 60 ideas). I know what you’re thinking, “Why not open the
box?” Then again, why not let an author tell you how his next book
will end? Or go to a movie and have the ticket-taker tell you what
happens in the second act? You can’t thing along those lines in art.
That would be like telling an abstract painter to just “paint a [real]
figure.” Art, in all its fascists evokes thought and emotion; love,
loss, fear, laughter or lack there of feeling. Roberti’s work makes
you think and by opening the cube (or by destroying it) depletes the
purpose of enjoying a genius piece. Reoberti’s cubes have become a
form of therapy, meditation and even good conversation. You can rack
your brain for hours, days or years…or just discount it all
together; regardless you will always remember “The Black Cubes”. Read
his XXQs to find out more…

XXQs: Michelangelo Roberti (PEV): How/when did you first get involved in art?

Michelangelo Roberti (MR): I have to say that my favorite artistic
expression has always been music. I’ve spent more than 15 years
playing drums and percussion, and I’ve always been interested in
electronic music composition. I also like producing and recording
music; I spend a lot of time in recording music and I’m building my
own recording studio in my town. It’ a dream that is coming true!

“The Black Cubes” is my first conceptual art project. I have a lot of
ideas in that kind of artistic expression, but before giving them a
concrete form I want the black cubes to grow quite more.

PEV: Living in Italy, what is the art scene like there?

Unfortunately I hadn’t traveled a lot in my life, but I think that in
the place where I live, in the grey and foggy Pianura Padana area,
I’ve found a lot of interesting realities, first off all in music.
Even if I’ve started a conceptual project I don’t attend museums and
art galleries very often. I’ve always preferred music and
“underground” culture, and I’ve noticed a particular fervor in the
Italian scene, that often is not coinciding with the impressions you
can have from outside. To understand better this feeling, you must
know that the best composer and musician I’ve ever known is one of my
best friends and is a cook.

PEV: In all your travels, which city has the best environment for artists?

I found a lot of places very exciting from this point of view in
Europe, especially in post-communist countries, in the East-Europe. In
a city like Prague, I’ve been very impressed by the excellence of
handicraft, and the expressiveness of artistic creations, even in the
popular contest. I’ve visited a high school in which a very impressive
percentage (if compared with Italy) of boys, expressed their
creativity in the wood carving, painting, sculpting or playing music.
Here I’ve thought for the first time that the lack of tools and
utility improve cleverness.

PEV: What is “The Black Cubes” project?

MR: “The Black Cubes” is a project started to describe human
curiosity. As you can have already guessed I don’t consider myself an
artist in the right sense of the word, because I think that you can
define someone an artist only if he has artistic culture and his own
artistic history. I have also to say that art is not my first purpose,
as I consider art a way to achieve philosophical and conceptual
results. I’ve simply thought that it would have been funny to
understand what human curiosity is, starting from people reactions.
What happens if you are in front of a box that you can’t open? To
create this situation I had to create a belief in people and this
belief is that in the cubes there is something (and there is something
of course). People believe that there is something because if they
want they effectively had the possibility to open the cube: even if
they don’t, this possibility is real. I had also make them believe
that the content has a sense which is lost forever if the cube is
opened. To protect the cube from being opened so, I had to think about
some different levels of beliefs.

– In the cubes there’s something

– Even if you see the content you couldn’t understand it

– The cube is a piece of Art

The success of the project is determined by those three levels of belief.

PEV: How did feel the first time you walked into a place and saw one
of your cubes on display?

MR: I think that the place for a black cube is to be a private space.
I can’t imagine a cube closed in a museum; as this is almost a
behavioral research; their place is in the house of their owners,
which want to face the challenge. I want the relationship between the
cubes and those owners to be something very intimate, in this sense
private. However I’ve seen some photos of one of my cubes (number 500)
in an art gallery in Madrid and I’ve thought that it was really cool!

PEV: Why do you think people are so interested in “The Black Cubes”?

MR: There are different facets; first I hope that the idea fascinates
them, but I’m sure that a good part of them consider the cube an
investment for the future. I must say that this is very important for
the project, because if the cube shouldn’t be considered as Art,
everybody would open it, to see what is inside it. Opening a cube
means not only destroying the sense of its content, but also the
Artwork that is the cube closed the cube in its integrity. This
integrity not only gives sense to the content but to the cube as
Artwork and to my whole project. Only if the cube is closed it can
talk, make questions and induce temptation. As curiosity dies with
knowledge, the cube dies when you want to reveal its secret.

PEV: Your project is a fascination of human curiosity but what fascinates you?

MR: I’m really interested in philosophy, in particular to the path
started by Husserl phenomenology and evolved in the philosophy of
language of the early Å0ä5900. I’m referring to this path and I want
to know what is the essence of the concept of curiosity?… What are
the particularities of this concept?

PEV: Has anyone ever actually opened one of the cubes?

MR: No one, I think, has already opened the cube.

PEV: Will you ever tell us what’s inside?

MR: Absolutely not!!

PEV: What do your friends and family think about your work?

MR: They are curious to know what will be next, how many cubes I’m
going to sell and if this project will change my life… Obviously I’m
curious too…

PEV: How many cubes have you sold to date? And what will happen when
the 999th cube is sold?

MR: 70 cubes have been sold. When the last cube will be sold something
will happen. This thing cannot be done now, as I’m not still a big
name. Being a big name and having some influence on people and the art
world will let me develop in an unexpected way the project. But if I
will not sell all the cubes what I want to do will lose its sense. So
we have to wait!

PEV: What has the feedback been from people who have purchased a cube?

MR: Everybody finds them nice.

PEV: A lot of artists listen to music when they work. What kind of
music are you listening to now?

MR: I’m always listening music. Now I’m listening to some Load Records
group, like Usaisamonster, Lightning Bolt, some rock classic, like
Doors, Can and Soft Machine and Morricone, that helps me dream…

PEV: What do you say to the people that don’t “get” abstract art?

MR: I don’t want to judge people tastes. A lot consider “beauty” as
the aim of art and I can’t criticize their personal sensibility; some
don’t want to think in front of a picture or a sculpture and probably
a lot will not like my cubes. I think that abstract/conceptual art can
have a great diffusion because it can be described. You don’t have to
actually see the cube, because the most important thing is the
concept, not its form. Instead you can’t describe Michelangelo’s (the
real one!) Cappella Sistina, you have to see it.

PEV: If you could sit down for dinner with one artist, alive or
deceased, who would it be? Why?

MR: It’s a very difficult question, but beautiful. I think I would
choose Spike Jones, a mad jazz musician from the 40s that had the
ability to play everything as a musical instrument. I’d like to drink
wine and play with him what remains on the table. It’d be very funny!

PEV: What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about
Michelangelo Roberti?

MR: That he is a woman despite the moustache

PEV: What is a normal day like for you?

MR: I wake up, drink a coffee, take the bike and go to my studio, when
I work as a web designer till 3 p.m. If I’ve sold a cube, I made it,
if not I try to finish some musical work I’ve started.

PEV: If I just walked off the street and into your studio, what would I see?

MR: By now two friends of mine that are working to make the recording
studio, some wrong cube, me in front of the PC working and listening
to music and my friend cook (the best guitar player I’ve ever met)
that sleeps on the sofa during the break.

PEV: What do you like to do when you are not working?

MR: I’d like to do nothing, but I can’t resist making and listening to music

PEV: So, what is next for Michelangelo Roberti?

In the next 5 minutes I will drink a beer and smoke a cigarette.

For more information on Roberti, check out:


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