Mixed media art with guitars

artwork by I. Giardina


In revising the narrative around Italozazen’s mixed media artwork “GIG,” we must first delve into the historical context of the term ‘gig.’ Originally, ‘gig’ referred to a live performance by musicians, often in small and intimate settings. Over time, it evolved to encompass a broader range of temporary or freelance jobs in various sectors, reflecting a shift in the modern work landscape.

The artwork “GIG” finds its roots in the town of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia, known for its vibrant arts scene and traditional craftsmanship. Here, miniature guitars, integral to the artwork, are crafted. These guitars are not just musical instruments but symbols of cultural interplay, representing a fusion of Western musical heritage and Balinese craftsmanship. This juxtaposition is a hallmark of Italozazen’s syncretic approach, blending diverse cultural elements to create something uniquely transcendent.

The concept of ‘soft power,’ a term coined in political science, refers to the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion, often through cultural or ideological means. In the context of “GIG,” this idea is explored through the lens of how Western cultural influence, manifested in music and consumerism, has shaped industries and cultural practices in places like Bali. This influence is not just economic but also cultural, shaping perceptions and values.

Italozazen, straddling the realms of academia and visual arts, uses “GIG” as a medium for cultural critique. The artwork is not just a physical layering of paint and materials but also a metaphorical layering of meanings and interpretations. Through scratching into the surface to reveal underlying layers, Italozazen symbolically uncovers the deeper cultural dynamics at play. This technique mirrors his academic pursuits, where he delves beneath the surface of cultural phenomena to reveal the complex interplay of forces shaping them.

Thus, “GIG” becomes a canvas not only for artistic expression but also for intellectual exploration. It reflects Italozazen’s ongoing journey to understand and critique the interactions between the Western and Eastern worlds, combining his philosophical insights with his artistic practice. This artwork, therefore, stands as a testament to the power of art in bridging cultural divides and sparking critical thought.


In the evocative collection of Italozazen, one finds a profound exploration of ‘soft power,’ a term coined by political scientist Joseph Nye, which describes the ability of a nation to influence others without the use of force, typically through cultural or ideological means. This concept becomes the thematic nucleus of the piece “GIG,” where Italozazen delves into the intricate web of Western cultural impact, particularly focusing on its manifestations in music, consumerism, and its consequent shaping of industries and cultural mores in regions like Bali.

Side A of this artwork is a mosaic of photographic elements, personally captured by Italozazen in South East Asia, focusing on street murals. These murals, vibrant with the cultural lexicon of the West, unfold tales of pop music, celebrity culture, and a certain ‘chimera’ of artistic tastes. They represent not merely an aesthetic choice but a commentary on the pervasive, almost osmotic influence of Western culture in the global tapestry.

Embedded within these depictions are subtle nods to Australian contextuality – a bicycle on a dirt track, emblematic of a spirit of travel and adventure; a jet, symbolizing the magic of flight that connects disparate worlds and cultures. These elements, while distinct, are harmoniously interwoven, reflecting Italozazen’s nuanced understanding of global interconnectedness and cultural diffusion.

Italozazen’s work thus becomes a dialogue between the local and the global, between individual identity and collective cultural narratives. It’s an acknowledgment of the soft power inherent in cultural artifacts – how a song, an image, or a fashion trend can become a vehicle for ideological dissemination, subtly shaping perceptions and values across geographical and cultural divides.

Side view photographic elements

In Italozazen’s artwork, a striking juxtaposition emerges as one transitions from the vivid depictions of Western-influenced street murals in Side A to the Side view photographic elements. Here, the artist deviates from the anticipated narrative of Western cultural hegemony, introducing a tapestry rich with traditional motifs, particularly avatars from the classic Hindu and Indonesian traditions. These elements, captured during Italozazen’s research and development projects, infuse the artwork with a deeper, more introspective layer, contrasting the Western cultural lexicon with the enduring and profound imagery of Eastern spiritual iconography.

This deliberate deviation is not merely a contrast but a profound commentary. By integrating avatars from Hindu and Indonesian traditions, Italozazen invites the viewer to contemplate the complex interplay between traditional spirituality and contemporary popular culture. These figures, steeped in centuries of religious and cultural significance, stand in stark contrast to the modern imagery of pop music and celebrity culture previously depicted. This juxtaposition highlights the diverse sources of ‘soft power’ and the multifaceted ways in which cultures can influence and shape each other.

Furthermore, Italozazen includes depictions of figures from the Americas, which he cites as a source of inspiration for his broader explorations into power and cultural production. This inclusion not only broadens the geographical scope of the artwork but also deepens its thematic exploration. It suggests a global conversation about cultural influence, where Eastern and Western traditions, modern and ancient narratives, coalesce to create a nuanced understanding of how power and culture intermingle in the contemporary world.

Thus, Italozazen’s work becomes a rich, layered exploration of cultural dynamics, challenging the viewer to consider the nuances and complexities of cultural influence beyond the simplistic binaries of East and West, traditional and modern. It’s a visual embodiment of the global cultural mosaic, where diverse elements coexist, contrast, and converse in a perpetual dance of influence and inspiration.

Theory of relative primitives.

Italozazen’s artwork “GIG” delves into a concept called the “Theory of Relative Primitives,” which might sound complex but is actually about how we all see things differently based on our own experiences.

Imagine looking at a series of small prints on one side of the artwork. These prints might seem simple or basic at first glance, like just color fields or shapes. But the interesting thing is, what they mean can change depending on who’s looking at them. These prints are like a blank canvas for our thoughts and experiences. They might not mean much on their own, but when we look at them, we bring our own stories and ideas, which gives them meaning.

Italozazen suggests that the entire artwork has enough elements to catch anyone’s interest, but it’s not necessary for everyone to see the same thing. What one person might see as just abstract shapes, another might find deeply meaningful. This difference comes from our unique backgrounds and the communities we imagine or belong to.

So, when you’re looking at “GIG,” remember that what you see and feel might be totally different from what someone else experiences. And that’s the beauty of it! This artwork is like a conversation between the piece and each viewer, where the meaning changes based on who is looking and what they’re bringing to the table. This idea of “relative primitives” is all about how our personal perspectives and imagined communities shape how we see and understand art.

“The print depictions on the side are of ostensible relation to what might be primitive elemental forms. These tiny print depictions are what references waking states of experiences, as consciousness, of for example colour fields when viewing a painting in a gallery. They are after all visible to an any observer but lack semantic content or meaning in a statistically significant sense relative to whom the observer may be given any number of social facts of the matter.

The content of all four sides are sufficient but not necessary for any given abstract field (depictions above) to be realisable as as a relational bearer of truth that is represented at any of the perspectives on the narrow side of the entire construction/artwork. This relational bearer of truth is the relative primitive. That is another viewer may find the content of what may appear abstract (lack of direct meaning in a figurative sense) to the first viewer, meaningful to them. This could be through an extension to an imagined community of referents. So in this sense a relative primitive is the perception of the viewer interacting with abstract and figurative fields as cultural markers of bearers of truth based on an “imagined community” of referents.”