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We meet Federico Bardellotto Penzo in his recently opened venue in Bangkok, BLACK PIRATE, a very special location, it contains a coffee shop but is much more: it is a quiet sisha location, a corner of privacy, relaxation and intimacy in one of the beating hearts of the Thai megalopolis. It is located in a very special location indeed, on top of a building that houses inside "Cloud on Sala Daeng," a building structure of traditional Chinese style, where the color lacquer red reigns and variously embellished with typical and colorful Chinese features. Arranged on several levels, it now welcomes tourists and travelers as it has been used as a lodging facility, a hostel that you really have to want to look for in Sala Daeng District, because it is in a narrow alley off the main road and suddenly leaves you immersed in a stillness and a relaxing silence that seems absolutely and profoundly different from the urban chaos that reigns a few steps away.
We meet him inside BLACK PIRATE, where one can enjoy the exquisite arrangements that he himself helped to create with his hands as well as his ingenuity, the sophistication of the garden roof top featuring numerous plants, among them of course cannabis, given the very sisha nature of BLACK PIRATE.
A dense cloud of smoke envelops him, the soft light coming from the large windows, piercing the cloud of smoke and making it luminous, as if endowed with a light that shines from within, he savors the cigarette he has prepared with his own hands and appears to us in all his existential quiet achieved with great effort, despite his young age. The quiet after the storm we might say, a storm also made up of many harshnesses experienced in her own life.
Meanwhile, there is to be counted his conversion to Islam, following his wife in this. The stillness you read today on his face is composed of a Thai wife, a small child and a recently born baby, a stillness that you glimpse today in his ever-bright face and where a wide smile camps out that at times lets you imagine the long and sometimes painful path behind it.
How did you end up in this place coming from Veneto?
I am originally from San Donà di Piave, I moved to Thailand in 2014 when I was 26 years old. I have a different professional background from what I do in the workplace today, in fact, I have a degree in the position of Occupational Nurse, a degree from the University of Padua. But when I started in that profession, my initial yearnings and enthusiasm collided with a much harsher reality, a remarkable disillusionment on which crashed my hopes of alleviating suffering and in performing a profession that was useful to others, regardless of culture, skin color or religion or regardless of differences in census. The world of hospitals and Medicine more generally have shown me a face on which I rather quickly found myself at odds, where the human factor becomes distinctly subordinate to the purposes of multinational pharmaceutical corporations or the medical and hospital caste. In a sense, the disease is cured but not totally; it is as if a perverse mechanism has been set up, in which the patient is put in the condition whereby he or she is dependent on medical and pharmaceutical input for as long as possible, so that he or she continues to be dependent in Time, ensuring -thus- the benefits of the doctors and pharmaceutical companies virtually without end. Everything is framed from a monetization and profit-based perspective, both in the private and public spheres. And so, my initial idea to which I was particularly fond, that of Public Health accessible to all, turned out to be a pious illusion soon shipwrecked in a reality that was no longer acceptable to me.
So you decided to change something in your life?
A first important change is connected with the search for my father, due to difficult family events I had to rebuild my family imprinting, social, from this point of view, helped me, this factor led to a later turning point, namely, that of "going to the workshop" of a master, a famous artist in this field, for seven years, deeply committing myself to learning glassmaking. It was a very important experience for me, I learned many things in the specific field but I also learned many aspects in the attention to detail and the artistic and stylistic approach to things. I returned a second time to Thailand in 2016 and decided to open a tattoo studio. At the end of a particularly complex love affair, I found myself literally despoiled of everything I had at that time, tools, objects, instruments, money, everything. It was -once again- like being reborn and being a parent of my own rebirth.
Another important work and training experience, for me, was in China, where for a well-known Italian Brand, I did interior design and stylistic work contributing to the creation and management of a real "home boutique," within which there were real complete reconstructions of an apartment, complete with furnishings, furniture, etc. The client could then choose real, finished housing "patterns," whether they were private clients or hotel chains and the like. All this experience has served me well in conducting this profession, today, in Thailand, in Bangkok, where I live with my family.
Is there some kind of guideline in the way you do your work? I mean, a personal approach of yours determined by your previous existential and professional experiences?
I have always been inspired by the stylistics of Art understood in its most global aspect, that is, composed of factors typical of Italian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese styles, to give examples. A cultural melting pot reworked, however, through my personal artistic and stylistic experience. Thus, in my installations, you can find Italian Renaissance elements, some Middle Eastern and Arabian graphics, or stylistic components from geographically and culturally different contexts. Underlying all this, however, is a personal idea of mine whereby I focus on cultivating the hidden powers of the mind, so that it always guides the hand and not vice versa. The material datum, therefore, does not prevail in its necessities or imposed obligations but I try-at least I strive-to always make sure that it is Mind, in its indefinite and immense powers, even creative powers, that dictates the guidance to the hand that then executes.
Black Pirate, Soi Saladaeng 1/1 Bang Rak, Bangkok, Thailand, 080 578 7180