The very first pizza-meme is from September 2018, we are in full yellow-green government, the spread rises due to the fear of Europe, the declarations of constant electoral campaign and the incompetence of the various upstart members of the new Parliament. Immediately, the first post is a very judicious combination, that is: pizza and treasury bills. The Instagram profile has a name that makes you laugh at how stupid and spooky it is and, it seems, self-ironic: Pizzeria U ‘Memeriell’. Then the pizzaiolo-memer must have realized that there could be too much political topicality in that debut, and too little surrealism, and the experiments that have become the trademark begin: pistons and kebabs; youtuber and bottles. Sometimes a neutral background, sometimes a maritime landscape, sometimes a pattern with a vaporwave scent. At the center there is never the same pizza, but each time a different base. Manicured details, carefully cut ingredients. In March 2019 an anticipation of the future, to give space also to a wave of conspiracy: ham and vaccines. A year has passed. Throughout the first lockdown, from March 2020 to June, not a post: the pizzeria remains closed like all the real ones. First clash between reality and metaverse. Indeed, memeverso.
It reopens in the summer. Microchip tomatoes and a cellphone. Only pizzas, no explanation. The complexity increases, you strive to find meaning, perhaps with more overlapping layers everything will clear up, you think, the strands will stretch. Emoji hands and hats. The Internet itself gets more and more into the dough. Rosemary and vowels. Ham and regrets – with the sad face of Keke the frog. Sausage and blue ticks. Fungi and memempsychosis. Diphthongs and buffalo. You understand that the pizzeria is not in Naples because all your friends from Naples have explained to you that the buffalo in Naples is not put on pizza. More and more complex: mushrooms and polemical phrases; hoax and things that incredibly resemble Damiano of the Maneskin; other layers arrive: mushroom pizza and amazed emoji served on xyz axes; salami and skip ad. The followers increase, the shares too. Share a Memeriell pizza in Instagram stories. You ask yourself: why? Because it’s funny, because nothing makes sense. Then another twist: hoax and phrases to end a conversation served in reality. What does it mean? Which is a real pizza. Physics. Tangible. Memeriell ‘left the internet and went down to earth. Out of the memeverse, he crossed the gate. On April 13, one week after the opening of the Venice Biennale, the post it is not a pizza but a poster: Sagra del Memeriello, in Venice, April 21st and 22nd. From memes to the Biennale, an Instagram profile of silly (or brilliant) pizzas becomes an installation. It will be found in Campo Santa Margherita, at the Pizza al Volo premises. However, we still do not understand anything. Thanks to the curators of the meme-artistic event – Study lounge – one spring afternoon I can talk to the pizza chef-memer. An Instagram call, he anonymous, faceless, without provenance. Just an obvious clue: Memeriell ‘is not from Campania.
Ⓢ How was a pizzeria like this born?
The idea comes first from when I went to get pizza with some friends. And I like rich, full-bodied pizzas with many ingredients. One evening with some friends we had some pizzas and I had particularly exaggerated by taking one with spicy salami, gorgonzola and anchovies. And it aroused great amazement and disgust among the diners. A very rich and heavy pizza. At this point followed the joke: well, if we have reached this level we can even eat one buffalo and wipes. From there, this assembly line of pizzas that could have absurd ingredients began to be generated. After a few attempts we decided to open this pizzeria as an Instagram page.
Ⓢ You say we decided: but is it managed alone or shared?
Sometimes suggestions come, but I like to talk about it in the plural as if it were a pizzeria. A pizzeria is a choral work.
Ⓢ Does it make you laugh more or think more?
Yes, there is a lot of humor. Some are made just for laughs, but many are a practice of personal reflection. Choosing a pizza is like choosing a place where you choose your favorite things, a kind of safe haven. With the ingredients you express yourself, you also express your moods. There is always a lot of tension when choosing a pizza. It’s a bit like writing a diary.
Ⓢ But then do you also make these pizzas concretely? And how are they done?
With polyurethane rubber.
Ⓢ And painted.
Yes, and then painted.
Ⓢ With paints such as those of the characters of Dungeons & Dragons?
Also acrylic. It’s something I’ve recently started doing.
Ⓢ And doesn’t this thing of being at the Biennale seem absurd to you?
Pizzerias can also be present at the Biennale. I don’t think there is a limit to the absurd things at the Biennale now. In this memeverse in which we live there can also be a pizzeria.
Ⓢ Right. Was research on memesthetics something you had been passionate about for some time?
Yes, a lot on my search for personal images. For example the pizzas: I photograph them. I photograph them when I go to the pizzeria early, before they get cold. And then I make a collage… A lot of them are photos that I take personally, not downloaded. Like my friend’s dog. My mother.
Ⓢ Suppose a generalist TV arrives in Venice, he discovers Pizzeria U ‘Memeriell’. He asks you: What is this stuff? What do you reply?
It is a digital space of a pizzeria that makes very good pizzas, for example pizza stucco and mushrooms, raw and polemical phrases, stuffed egg white and Scandinavian metal albums. It is necessary to try them and prove oneself with what everyone is looking for. Ultimately it is an inclusive space where any combination is welcome.
Ⓢ The layers have increased over time, because it starts with hoax and bedbugs, and then they start to be more complex, like: “served by Goku doing bodyshaming”, and it’s a video in which Goku calls Majin Buu fat.
In the beginning they were object ingredients, attributable to the physical world. Let’s say that then on the page I go to periods. Sometimes we don’t post for a long time, but then these surreal ingredients, sensations, emotions, atmospheres that go beyond the physicality of everyday life begin to introduce themselves.
Ⓢ Memes contain a kind of summary of a context and a moment, about the world and the internet. However, it is essential that they are “fillable” and customizable. Your pizzas are not, they are a work of Pizzeria U ‘Memeriell’. So aren’t they memes?
This question is difficult for me to answer because it starts from a definition that is not convincing. The definition of meme as a repetitive format in which to insert the token “topic of the day” has disappeared from the Paleolithic in our kitchens. When we bake pizzas, we don’t focus on definitions and categories. Perhaps, flying a little, we can say that pizza is content and container, they are semantic ingredients at the end open and work when associated as colors.
Ⓢ Have you also received insults for your Pizzeria U ‘Memeriell’ business?
In the norm. Maybe on Facebook, where stranger people circulate.
Ⓢ In your opinion, can there be gastronomic spin-offs with other national-popular dishes that can host other ingredients?
Do you mean pastas?
Ⓢ Or risotto. Salads.
I don’t think, not now. A pizzeria is limited to pizzas. I think it’s nice to keep the pizza base. Then in the future who knows, maybe it will become a separate page. At the moment there are already many layers.
Ⓢ Are there already plans for other layers, or for further pizza-based artistic developments?
No, let’s do it as it comes. It keeps it more genuine. A more detached approach too.
Ⓢ A thing like war wouldn’t end in a pizza.
It is complex.
Ⓢ I don’t even ask you where you’re calling me from.
I prefer to stay in the memverse.