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136. POST-WATER

Narcissus 4.0 and the utopia of the modern world

text by Andrea Lerda, published in the catalogue of the exhibition Post-Water, Museo Nazionale della Montagna in Torino, 2018.

0 Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON

William Henry Jackson, Photochrom Co., Castle Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, 1898. Photochrom print (Photocrhrom Co.) from original negative by William Henry Jackson,17x22,7 cm. Centro Documentazione Museo Nazionale della Montagna – CAI Torino. Fondo Fotocromie


When in 1979 Christopher Lasch spoke of “the failure of liberalism”(1), he was already outlining the main traits of the hyper-globalized twenty-first century society.
The American historian and sociologist has depicted contemporary man as being prey to the culture of individualism, constantly in search of happiness and victim of a growing narcissistic concern of the self.
Far from the acquisitive dynamics of nineteenth-century culture, the modern individual responds to a need for “instant gratification”(2) and “perennial dissatisfaction”(3).
At the turn of the seventies and the eighties of the twentieth century, Lasch speaks of a modern narcissism that prevents us from looking at the past, now identified with outdated consumption models, and even less able to think and face the future.
Today, almost forty years later, we are faced with the unreal myth of unlimited economic growth. The ideology of well-being, fueled by the machine of progress at any cost, is leading us towards a clear and inevitable collective failure of global proportions. The social logic of consumption, that of “overgrowth”(4), forgets to deal with the finiteness of the biosphere. As Wendel Berry recently wrote, “the claim to productivity, profitability and efficiency [...], power, mechanization and automation without limits, for a time can enrich and empower the few, but sooner or later they will destroy us all”(5).

SEBASTIAN DIAZ MORALES 1

2Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene JEPPE HEIN 

In order: Sebastián Díaz Morales, Oracle, 2007. Video installation, 11’. Courtesy the artist and carlier ⎥ gebauer, Berlin; Jeppe Hein, Who Am I Why Am I Where Am I Going, 2017. Powder-coated aluminium, neon tubes, two-way mirror, powder-coated steel, transformers, 100x100x10 cm. Courtesy König Galerie, Berlin, 303 Gallery, New York and Nicolai Wallner Gallery, Copenhagen. Photo credits Studio Jeppe Hein / Florian Neufeldt

 

Nowadays any kind of object or experience are easily available to us. On the other hand we lack awareness, because we participate in a narcissistic attitude that involves the entire global community. Reassured by the progress of science, we believe that new technologies are able to provide solutions to all the problems that the immense anthropic action produces. But are we sure that well-being, happiness and progress can only be achieved through a constant increase in consumption, purchasing power and huge economic growth?


3Post-Water. Exhibition view at Museo Nazionale della Montagna 2018 Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino 1 4Post-Water. Exhibition view at Museo Nazionale della Montagna 2018 Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino 2 5Post-Water. Exhibition view at Museo Nazionale della Montagna 2018 Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino

Views of the exhibition Post-Water at the Museo Nazionale della Montagna, Turin 2018. Courtesy Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino.


The thesis that the overestimation of the human position, the belief in the “miraculous statute of consumption”6, together with the “technical-scientific delirium”(7), have definitively eliminated the “Gaia paradigm”(8), seems correct.
Never, prior to current times, has the myth of Narcissus been such an adequate reference to describe the pathologically self-flattering attitude of mankind. Immersed in the ephemeral universe of the digital age, it seems to be unable to see reality objectively. We are trapped by our own reflection, as Narcissus was by his. The clear water in which the son of the nymph Lirìope is mirrored, infinitely multiplies the images of his face and in doing so deprives him of himself. Unaware and attracted to a deceitful source, one loses himself in contemplating his own “deceptive beauty”(9) without being able to see.
Contemporary society’s tendency to mirror and reflect itself in its image of power, and confidence in the equation consumption = growth = happiness, risk leading us to die of the same poison as the young Narcissus . Not perceiving the destructive attitude that mankind imposes on the natural resources of planet Earth, means losing the sense of “belonging to a succession of generations”(10).

Water, the most essential of the natural elements, that generates and guarantees the maintenance of life, is only one of the goods that suffer from the acute sense of responsibility crisis of our times.
Melting of glaciers, pollution of seas and oceans, desertification of lakes and rivers. These are the most disturbing images that the Anthropocene era spawned, altering natural balances at every level. The decrease in water resources and their increasing state of pollution are the consequence of the emergence of development models that violate the life cycles. Vandana Shiva, speaking of the scarcity of water as a phenomenon that mankind has created, affirms that “at each of these levels contemporary man has abused the Earth, destroying its ability to receive, absorb and store water”(11).
However, the global economy machine, fueled by our “consumer mentality”(12), knows no rest. All these scenes are mostly accepted and considered as a necessary consequence to the maintenance of a fundamental status quo.


6 Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene MARIO FANTIN3

8 Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene Laura Pugno FM 02

8bisPost Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene Olivo Barbieri

In order: Mario Fantin, Spedizione Groenlandia sud-orientale: missione etnografica e archeologica, luglio-agosto 1966. Silver bromide gelatin prints, 23,6x18 cm. Centro Documentazione Museo Nazionale della Montagna – CAI Torino. Fondo Mario Fantin; Laura Pugno, A futura memoria, 2018 Jesmonite molds, different dimensions. Courtesy the artist and Alberto Peola Gallery, Turin; Olivo Barbieri, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System CA, 2017 Inkjet print on Archival paper, 111x146 cm. Courtesy the artist and Mazzoli Gallery, Modena-Berlin


If until a few years ago the priority was to protect the polar ice, today the need is to regulate the maritime traffic. In 2017 the International Maritime Organi- zation (IMO) has in fact launched the Polar Code which, together with the SOLAS Convention, introduces a series of regulations for the control of the so-called “Northern Maritime Route” and for the protection of passengers’ safety(13). A year earlier, over a thousand tourists took part in the first large scale cruise along the Northwest Passage aboard the Crystal Serenity. “A dream experience” and “a memorable milestone” commented Edie Rodriguez, CEO of the company of the same name and Birger J. Vorland, captain of the ship. From images of polar bears, who have become testimonials for awareness campaigns, to those of young lovers on their honeymoon through the new Northern sea paradises, the step is a very short one.
One of the largest fresh water reserves on our planet is rapidly opening its doors to the future which, once again, calls loudly to march on. In a very close tomorrow we will be able to enjoy a new, faster and cheaper trade route, to which nations such as China and Russia have long addressed their political strategies and their economic interests.
After all, according to the 2018 UNESCO World Water Development Report(14), by 2050 the world population will reach ten billion individuals.

10 Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene Federica Di Carlo

10 Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropoceneGAYLE CHONG KWAN   DETAIL1

In order: Federica Di Carlo, Cassandra’s eye, 2018. Semi transparent plexiglass sheets, ambiental dimensions. Photo Jacopo Nocentini; Gayle Chong Kwan, Coralities, 2018 Photographic vinyl print, ambiental dimensions. The pieces were produced by the National Mountain Museum in Turin. Courtesy the artists and National Mountain Museum, Turin.


Meeting the needs of such a large number of people will be inevitable. We will see a further increase in trade routes, industrial and agricultural production, with the consequences that can be imagined.
The global demand for water, which has already increased at a rate of 1% each year as a function of population growth, economic development and changes in consumption patterns, will further escalate.
Within this context, where the indifference of political and economic powers to the water crisis prevails and the consequences that development dynamics have on the state of water, the scenarios of a post-water future seem easily predictable. Analyzing the facts in light of present events, we can understand how the future repercussions on natural resources, on the conditions of the biosphere and on mankind’s life in the first place, do not appear to be positive.
According to Jeff Peakall, Professor of Process Sedimentology at the University of Leeds, it is not so much the Earth that is as endangered, as much as man. While we are probably destined to become extinct, our planet will proceed on its natural path of life. The point then may not be how much the anthropic impact is devastating in the long run. Rather, how much the management of our planet and a fundamental resource such as water take place in ways that are unsustainable, and therefore harmful, in the short term.
The conclusion, as Serenella Iovino wrote, “is that this modernization has progressively removed the human from himself”(15).

12Post-Water. Exhibition view at Museo Nazionale della Montagna 2018 Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino 3 16Post-Water. Exhibition view at Museo Nazionale della Montagna 2018 Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino 4

Views of the exhibition Post-Water at the Museo Nazionale della Montagna, Torino 2018. Courtesy Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino.


The “utopian quality”(16) of the journey undertaken therefore makes the rediscovery of our ability to “know how to see” indispensable. Avoiding the end of Narcissus implies a change of position. It means breaking the spell of an ecstatic look, in favour of a more objective and conscious analysis of reality. Some might argue that by relying on the increasingly sophisticated potential of technology and science, we will be able to overcome every crisis. But water resources are limited. Water is a renewable but not incrementable commodity and science alone is not enough.
Also according to the 2018 UNESCO World Water Development Report, the solution to be adopted to respond to the most urgent water related challenges of the twenty-first century is that of Nature Based Solutions (NBS). By employing solutions offered by nature and imitating natural processes that have always been in front of our eyes, we will be able to rebalance the water cycle and mitigate the effects of climate change, while ensuring an increase in the amount of water and sustainable growth that guarantees human survival.

17Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene Mario Fantin

18Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene Bepi Ghiotti

In order: Mario Fantin, Spedizione italiana al Karakorum. K2 sorgente di acque termali sulfuree nei pressi di Chogo. Da sinistra Lino Lacedelli, Cirillo Floreanini, Carlo Mauri, 1954. Silver bromide gelatin print, 29,7x39,7 cm. Fondo Mario Fantin, Centro Documentazione Museo Nazionale della Montagna – CAI Torino. Fondo Mario Fantin; Bepi Ghiotti, Unknown source, Bali, 2015. Giclée print on dibond, 124x158 cm. Courtesy the artist


To get back in tune with these processes, however, a change of course is necessary. It is requested to complete a process of spiritual redemption and “to send our dear Ego for a walk”(17).
We must free our gaze, abandon the external and indifferent position so dear to Narcissus to “immerse ourselves in the water”. From this position the reflection is precluded, the surface shatters and the body dematerializes. As Cécile Guérard writes, “one’s self becomes soluble”(18).
“The Age of Great Blindness”(19) makes us live this experience more brutally every day. More and more disastrous floods lead us to perform this dive in a painful and deadly way. But water is by nature a vital element. While trusting in the great capacities of scientific research, it is nonetheless necessary to re-establish an authentic and primordial contact with all natural cycles, to regain control of our gait, putting aside the myth of speed by which we are possessed. This “being in the water” cancels our image and thanks to this bath, which becomes a sort of “horizontal meditation”(20), we can get out of it regenerated. We lose our reflection and turn into something new.

18Post Water. Exhibition view at Museo Nazionale della Montagna 2018 Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino 5

19Post Water. Exhibition view at Museo Nazionale della Montagna 2018 Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino6

20Post Water Museo Nazionale Montagna Torino a cura di Andrea Lerda acqua narcisismo ecologia antropocene ANA MENDIETA

In order: views of the exhibition Post-Water at the Museo Nazionale della Montagna, Torino 2018. Courtesy Museo Nazionale della Montagna CAI Torino; Ana Mendieta, Ocean Bird (Washup), 1974. Copyright The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD. 4’09’’. Courtesy La Gaia Collection; The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC. Copyright The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC


Because “happiness is found in water [...] and a sea bath is much more than a sea bath: slaves of nothing, freed of our narcissistic ego, we plunge into the absolute. We come out of it with a better idea of life and of ourselves as if the sea, prodigy of care, had given us its absolution ... “(21).

 

POST-WATER
Curated by Andrea Lerda
Museo Nazionale della Montagna, Turin
26.10.18 - 17.03.19
Works by: Andreco, Georges-Louis Arlaud, Marcos Avila Forero, Olivo Barbieri, Gayle Chong Kwan, Caretto/Spagna, Jota Castro, Sebastián Díaz Morales, Federica Di Carlo, Mario Fantin, Bepi Ghiotti, William Henry Jackson, Adam Jeppesen, Francesco Jodice, Jeppe Hein, Frank Hurley, Peter Matthews, Ana Mendieta, Studio Negri, Giuseppe Penone, Pennacchio Argentato, Paola Pivi, Laura Pugno, Gaston Tissandier.

 

1) Christopher Lasch, Introduction to La cultura del narcisismo. L’individuo in fuga dal sociale in un’età di disillusioni collettive (original title The culture of narcissism, 1979), Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri-Bompiani, Milan 1981, p. 8.
2) Ivi, p. 11.
3) Ibid.
4) Serge Latouche, La scommessa della decrescita (original title Le pari de la décroissance, 2006), Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, Milan 2009, p. 28.
5) Wendell Berry, La strada dell’ignoranza, Edizioni Lindau, Turin 2015, p. 17.
6) Jean Baudrillard, La società dei consumi. I suoi miti e le sue strutture (original title La societé de consommation. Ses mytes ses structures, 1974), Il Mulino, Bologna 1976, p. 25.
7) Serge Latouche, Op. Cit., p. 35.
8) Regarding this Serge Latouche writes: “By eliminating the ability to regenerate nature, by reducing natural resources to a raw material to be exploited instead of ‘drawn on’, modernity has eliminated [the] reciprocal relationship”, Op. Cit. p. 13.
9) Ovidius, Le Metamorfosi, first volume, Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri Bompiani, Milan 1988, p. 173.
10) Christopher Lasch, Op. Cit., p. 17.
11) Vandana Shiva, Le guerre dell’acqua (original title Water Wars: Privatisation, Pollution and Profit, 2002), Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, Milan 2003, p. 18.
12) Jean Baudrillard, Op. Cit., p. 25.
13) “The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), and related amendments the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to make it mandatory, marking an historic milestone in the Organization’s work to protect ships and people aboard them, both seafarers and passengers, in the harsh environment of the waters surrounding the two poles”. http://www.imo.org/en, page consulted 4 july 2018.
14) From http://unesdoc.unesco.org/ images/0026/002614/ 261424e.pdf, page consulted 4 july 2018
15) Serenella Iovino, Ecologia Letteraria. Una strategia di sopravvivenza, Edizioni Ambiente, Milan 2006, p. 36.
16) Hans Jonas, Il principio di responsabilità. Un’etica per la civiltà tecnologica (original title Das Prinzip Verantwortung, 1979), by Pier Paolo Portinaro, Giulio Einaudi Editore, Turin 1990, p. 29.
17) Cécile Guérard, Piccola Filosofia del Mare. Da Talete a Nietzsche (original title Philosophie légère de la mer, 2006), Ugo Guanda Editore, Parma 2010, p. 29.
18) Ivi, p. 52-54.
19) Amitav Ghosh, La Grande Cecità. Il cambiamento climatico e l’impensabile, Neri Pozza Editore, Vicenza 2017, p. 18.
20) Cécile Guérard, Op. Cit., p. 41.
21) Ivi, p. 55-56.

135. ECO-VISIONARIES

Art and Architecture after the Anthropocene AT NEW MAAT in Lisbon

Eco Visionaries Antropocene MAAT Lisbon art exhibition ecology human impact platform green1

Eco Visionaries. Art and Architecture After The Antropocene. Courtesy of EDP Foundation ©Paulo Alexandre Coelho


In MAAT’s first collaboration with several European museums, the Eco-Visionaries: Art and Architecture after the Anthropocene project is centred on current practices that propose critical and creative visions vis-à-vis the environmental transformations that are disturbing our planet. At a moment when climate changes are even more widely felt, Eco-Visionaries launches the debate on a vast array of questions associated to the Anthropocene, term coined in the eighties by the biologist Eugene Stoermer and adopted in 2000 by the Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen in the book Benvenuti nell'Antropocene. With it we intend to define the current historical-geological epoch in which the main causes of the structural, climatic and environmental changes of the planet Earth are to be attributed to the presence of man and his activities.

Eco Visionaries Antropocene MAAT Lisbon art exhibition ecology human impact platform green7

Eco Visionaries Antropocene MAAT Lisbon art exhibition ecology human impact platform green2

Eco Visionaries. Art and Architecture After The Antropocene. Courtesy of EDP Foundation ©Paulo Alexandre Coelho


The exhibition addresses the concept of “ecological” and “green” at a time in which everything – particularly the natural sciences and art – speak of the Anthropocene: a new geo-chronological epoch in which the human being has become one of the most important influences on our planet’s biological, geological and atmospheric processes. In doing so, the works address and evaluate earth’s materiality, particularly through the use of measurable data. The exhibition looks at the methods, the means and the possibilities of producing a techno-aesthetic relationship with our environment.
With contributions from over thirty five artists and architects, the show in Lisbon is the first and most wide-ranging of the four exhibitions that will appear simultaneously in Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden.
The exhibition is produced in co-operation with several European partners (MAAT, Lisbon/Portugal; MAXXI, Rome/Italy; Bildmuseet, Umea/Sweden; Laboral, Gijon/Spain) and will be presented in all those locations with different thematic emphases.


Eco Visionaries Antropocene MAAT Lisbon art exhibition ecology human impact platform green4

Eco Visionaries Antropocene MAAT Lisbon art exhibition ecology human impact platform green6

Eco Visionaries Antropocene MAAT Lisbon art exhibition ecology human impact platform green5

Eco Visionaries. Art and Architecture After The Antropocene. Courtesy of EDP Foundation ©Paulo Alexandre Coelho


ECO-VISIONARIES. ART AND ARCHITECTURE AFTER THE ANTHROPOCENE
Curated by Pedro Gadanho and Mariana Pestana
Maat Museum, Lisbon
Until October 8, 2018

Artists: Territorial Agency, Design Crew for Architecture, Malka Architecture, Daniel Arsham, Ana Vaz & Tristan Bera, BIG, Carolina Cayedo, Parsons & Charlesworth, Ant Farm, Regina Frank, Unknown Fields Division, Buckminster Fuller, Design Earth (Rania Ghosn & El Hadi Jazairy), Genomic Gastronomy, John Gerrard, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Tue Greenfort, The Center for Genomic Gastronomy, Nelly Ben Hayoun, HeHe, Femke Herregraven, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Andrés Jaque, Wanuri Kahiu, Kristof Kintera, The Living, Basim Magdy, Pedro Neves Marques, MVRDV, Eva Papamargariti, Ornaghi & Prestinari, Rimini Protokoll, Dunne & Raby, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Wasted Rita, Jeremy Shaw, Miguel Soares, Superuse , SKREI, Superflex, The Harrison Studio, Philippe Rahm Superuse, Ursula Biemann + Paulo Tavares, Pinar Yoldas, Zak Ové.

134. PETER MATTHEWS

WITH THE FORCE OF THE SEA

Is it therefore possible that by losing our reflection and our shadow in the water, we become better creatures?

Petermatthews artist ocean sea painting contemporary art nature art sublime2


"Qui se baigne il ne se réfléchit pas", wrote Gaston Bachelard. The swimmer who agitates the surface of the sea, which immerses himself in the waters of a river or of a lake, moves his body away from a known place, to make it enter an informal space, often infinite and obscure. His body projects splashes of water. The space of the water is shattered. The shape of the body, the sharpness of thoughts and the limits of the world as we know become vulnerable. All we can do is to reconfigure our certainties, feeling the space that surrounds us like a different universe, like a primordial liquid from which we come from and to which we belong.
Is it therefore possible that by losing our reflection and our shadow in the water, we become better creatures?


petermatthews artist ocean sea painting water contemporary art nature sublime2

petermatthews artist ocean sea painting water contemporary art nature sublime3

petermatthews artist ocean sea painting water contemporary art nature sublime

Peter Matthews artist ocean sea painting art practice platform green1

Peter Matthews, A Journey In, On and With the Pacific Ocean, 2015, courtesy the artist and BEERS London


Place of life but also place of death, the sea is home for an unimaginable number of stories. Space to be crossed in search of the promised land, frequently the protagonist of ecological disasters, the sea is one of the best known battlefields for raising awareness on environmental issues.
One of the most suggestive subjects of romantic poetry, in particular of the painting by Caspar David Friedrich, the sea is one of the places in which the feeling of the sublime takes shape. Whether it is quiet or stormy, the enormous expanse of water is able to reduce the "egocentric" tendency of contemporary man.
"The individual, a tiny point in the immensity, nonentity between nothing and everything does not reflect himself in it [in the sea], but he lose himself there. Erased from the scene like an insect “ (Cécile Guérard, Little philosophy of the sea, Ugo Guanda Editore, 2006, p. 52).

The sea is also the place of discovery, of an authentic contact with a natural element linked to life, a source of inspiration for poetic and solitary souls.
This is the starting point for the artistic research of Peter Matthews, a London based artist who has made the sea his privileged interlocutor. Like a modern neo-romantic painter, Peter Matthews plays the role of an explorer in search of the sublime. The artist has understood that to give shape to his artistic practice it is essential the direct and unconditional contact with the sea.
From this awareness arises the need to go physically towards the ocean, be it the Pacific or the Atlantic. The immersion of his body in the often wavy and dangerous waters of the sea is the ritual element from which start the production of his paintings.


petermatthews artist ocean sea painting water contemporary art nature sublime5

petermatthews artist ocean sea painting water contemporary art nature sublime1

Peter Matthews artist ocean sea painting art practice platform green4

Peter Matthews artist ocean sea painting art practice platform green6

In order: A Journey In, On and With the Pacific Ocean, 2015; Installation views from the group show No Man Is an Island at the Künstlerforum Bonn, Germany, April, 2018. Photography by Álvaro Valdecantos and Cynthia Rüehmekorf. Courtesy the artist and BEERS London


It is at this point that Peter Matthews finds the necessary harmony to give free surge to his creativity. At the limit with a practice that could be read as performative, the artist immerses the canvas in the water and starts the production of the painting. A "four hands” creation process, which is both a production of an artwork and an exploration of the expressive potentiality of nature. Then the artist bring back the canvas to the mainland adding more signs on it; these are suggestions that emerge from the marine depths, which give life to an iconography and a universe of colors whose references are hidden in the sea.

peter matthews artist drawing water ocean sea pen sublime nature2 peter matthews artist drawing water ocean sea pen sublime nature3 peter matthews artist drawing water ocean sea pen sublime nature4

Peter Matthews, In and With the Pacific Ocean (Chile), 2018, courtesy the artist and BEERS London


“It is a crude reality that many of Matthews' works are lost to the oceans that produce these monumental works. And they are monumental, both in dimension and in scope. But they reference the sublime in their presence and also their absence: suggesting a journey the artist has taken, drifting, heaving, swelling, and breathing somewhere out there in the beautiful fluid liminal spaces between ocean and land. For Matthews, each day is an adventure, "found and revealed within the dynamic experience of wandering with the sublime, the mysterious, the unknown," where Matthews paints in, on, and underneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. But for Matthew's the real object of art exists where the object loses itself in the subject, where the ocean and the painting are indivisible to one another and where the ocean and universe write their own image.”

 
  

133. METAMORPHOSES

The exhibition at THE CASTELLO DI RIVOLI

Curated by Chus Martínez for Castello di Rivoli, the exhibition Metamorphoses – Let Everything Happen to You in the Manica Lunga explores the concept of transformation and flourishing through the works of emerging international artists.

Lin May Saeed exhibition metamorphoses castello di rivoli museum turin chus martinez art nature platform green 4

Lin May Saeed, St. Jerome and the Lion (San Girolamo e il leone), 2016, steel, lacquer, 150 x 186 x 10 cm. Courtesy Nicolas Krupp, Basel. Photo Sergej Hasenböhler

Conceived specifically for Castello di Rivoli, the works of Nicanor Aráoz (Buenos Aires, 1980), Ingela Ihrman (Strängnäs, 1985), Eduardo Navarro (Buenos Aires, 1979), Reto Pulfer (Bern, 1981), Mathilde Rosier (Paris, 1973), Lin May Saaed (Würzburg, 1973) and Ania Soliman (Warsaw, 1970) consider art a transformative experience, encompassing the entire range of feeling and perception.
These seven new works feature alongside I Have Left You The Mountain, a work by Simon Battisti, Leah Whitman-Salkin and Åbäke shown in the Albanian Pavilion of the 2016 Venice Biennial of Architecture, and the video Army of Love by Alexa Karolinski and Ingo Niermann, commissioned for the 9th Berlin Biennial in 2016. 
Made up of installations, sculptures, performances, paintings and videos, the works on display engage with the idea of metamorphosis as a process shared by the natural world and the creative one. For the artists in this exhibition, metamorphosis can mean not merely change but transition, departure from the self, movement that coincides with nature, whose presence, interwoven with sound, conjures up another dimension.


Lin May Saeed exhibition metamorphoses castello di rivoli museum turin chus martinez art nature platform green 1

Lin May Saeed exhibition metamorphoses castello di rivoli museum turin chus martinez art nature platform green 2

Lin May Saeed exhibition metamorphoses castello di rivoli museum turin chus martinez art nature platform green3

In ordER: Lin May Saeed, Dach der Welt - The Liberation of Animals from their Cages X, 2010 
polystyrene, acrylic paint, polyester wool, wood, 
100 x 140 x 38 cm; On the float /Auf dem Floß, 2007, 
polystyrene, acrylic paint, steel, 
140 x 264 x 58 cm. Photo Eric Tschernow; detail


For the art of today it is important to distinguish the old “modern” idea of change current in the 19th and 20th centuries (as in Kafka’s Metamorphoses) from the contemporary concept of transformation based on the idea of metabolism/metamorphosis through ingestion of things. Many artists today are working with a notion of digestion or processing one element in order to energise another. Their works examine the way in which we are vital and create our subjectivities as Dionysian forms in motion, transcending inertia.
As Martínez explains, “Metamorphoses – Let Everything Happen to You represents a way of thinking about life with imagination and above all with no hierarchies and constraints. Through their freedom of action, unconfined by styles or genres, these artists have endeavoured to capture the hidden patterns of nature, the subtle pathways that free thought and prompt it to transcend limits. Drawings, flowers, an army of love, a cloud of magical fabrics, songs, voices, loaves of bread like beads, dancers upside-down on canvases, Babylonian reliefs in polyester ... Works that elude the constraints of form and definition. Metamorphoses exposes us to the unforeseeable, the material of life itself, of its inexplicable beauty and its mysterious energy as revealed in a raindrop on a leaf of an ancient fossil tree.”

Eduardo Navarro exhibition metamorphoses castello di rivoli museum turin chus martinez art nature platform green

Ingela Ihrman exhibition metamorphoses castello di rivoli museum turin chus martinez art nature platform green

Mathilde Rosier exhibition metamorphoses castello di rivoli museum turin chus martinez art nature platform green

In order: Eduardo Navarro, We Who Spin Around You, 2016, documentation of the action, work commissioned and produced by The Highline Art, New York. Photo Liz Ligon; Ingela Ihrman, The Giant Hogweed, 2016, cane, paper, nylon thread, plastic, lacquer, nylon straps, foam rubber, wheat flour, 600 x 300 x 300 cm. Courtesy the artist; Ingela Ihrman, installation view at Castello di Rivoli - Museo d'arte contemporanea.


METAMORFOSI - LET EVERYTHING HAPPEN TO YOU
Curated by Chuz Martínez
Castello di Rivoli - Museo d'arte contemporanea
Until June 24, 2018 

132. SIMONE MONSI

CAPITOLO FINALE

Simone Monsi capitolo finale artista instagram tramonti fotografie antropocene andrea lerda federica di carlo arcobaleno platform green5

Sunset Hand Pouf (Healing of Solastalgia: A Proposition), 2017, sublimation print on neoprene fabric, polystyrene, stuffing, 76x116x116 cm. Courtesy the artist and UNA gallery, Piacenza. Photo © t-space studio


Two elements immediately jump to the eye when observing the works of the series "Capitolo Finale" by Simone Monsi. Two elements immediately jump to the eye when observing the works of the series "Capitolo Finale" by Simone Monsi.
The first is the hardness of the "macro pixels" that saturate the surface of the totemic presences, whose subject is always the same: images of sunsets with decidedly vivid colors. The second is the softness that these sculptures naturally express, in their reference to hands and soft objects of domestic use.
In a certain sense it is as if the artist wanted to declare immediately what are the two worlds to which he refers. On the one hand the digital universe, the one that lives in our smartphones, among touchscreens, video cards and micro electronic components, on the other the natural one in which we are immersed.

Simone Monsi formalizes what is now the norm. A technology that allows us to photograph reality, to intervene virtually on it, to create infinite possible versions. So it happens that you can no longer understand the limit between the original and the artifact. The experience of autonomously intervening on images thanks to the touch-up programs present on smartphones allows anyone to be a little artist and a little graphic desiner. At the same time it is an emblematic experience that is symbolically placed within a palststage of neo-liberal actions that have as protagonists the man of the XXI century. 

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Simone Monsi capitolo finale artista instagram tramonti fotografie antropocene andrea lerda federica di carlo arcobaleno platform green1

CAPITOLO FINALE: Let’s Forget About It Let’s Go Forward – From Meaning To Intensity, il ventiseiesimo episodio di Mani!! I Love Holding Hands – It’s okay for me to be here!, 2016, mixed media, dimension variable. Courtesy the artist and UNA gallery, Piacenza. Photo © t-space studio


The artist starts with photographs of digitally altered sunsets found in the universe of Instagram. Images within which the photo retouching makes the color of these subjects, already naturally lit, even more saturated and lively. The reference is to an increasingly common environmental phenomenon: the presence of extremely colorful sunsets, but for this reason unnatural and such due to the presence of micro particles of fuel in the air.
Also Federica di Carlo, an artist to whom Platform Green has already dedicated a news, has created a series of very interesting works on this topic. In her case, the rainbow becomes a visible manifestation of the fragility of balance in which the planet and our existences are found.
The question that the artist has and asks us is the following: can an atmospheric phenomenon like the rainbow signal us something beyond its fascinating beauty?

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Federica di Carlo artista arcobaleno roma istituto svizzero inquinamento aria platform green1

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In order: Federica Di Carlo, Untitled / The unbearable lightness of being, installation view at Istituto Svizzero, Roma, 2017, print on plexiglass, grips; detail; As in earth, so on heaven (ongoing project from 2013), digital print on plexiglass or glass. Courtesy the artist. Photo credits Fausto Brigantino


“Capitolo Finale is one of the three works I made for my Degree show at Goldsmiths. In this work I wanted to condense three elements that had been central in my practice during the previous two years: the hand, representing the frictions between physicality and technology; the sunsets from Instagram, as a metaphor for a transition towards the new geological age of Anthropocene; and the little legs that come out of Lilith, an character of Evangelion, as a reference to a broader interest in how the theme of loneliness is treated in this anime. In my sculptures, those legs look also like roots, and for a moment the big hands become trees. There is a sense of grotesque liveness in these Instagram pictures that generate tiny legs to run away...
Also the title of the work is structured like the anime ones, which have the title of the episode split in two parts plus the main title of the series followed by a subtitle; they often put together English words and Japanese language that, in this case, I replaced with Italian. Each of the four parts of the title refers to a moment of my research that I feel has been important, from Bifo Berardi to Hiroki Azuma to Evangelion.
As for “il ventiseiesimo episodio” – which means “the twenty-sixth episode”, is traditionally the final episode of an anime series. Regardless of the fact that I was ready or not, it was coming to the last episode of a path started six years before, when the idea to carry on my studies abroad came to my mind for the first time. For me it is a moment that represents the metabolization of several years of study, the acceptance of the failure of an economic system that had promised to make us richer generation after generation, and positioning myself within an academic frame that reflects on possible future scenarios. And then, from that point, starting again, as part of a community, as part of a network”.
(Quoted from the interview between Marco Arrigoni and Simone Monsi, published on ATP Diary, February 21, 2018).

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Simone Monsi capitolo finale artista instagram tramonti fotografie antropocene andrea lerda federica di carlo arcobaleno platform green3

Like Mops on the Beach, 2016, silk, steel, iron, acrylic paint, 71x68x106 cm, 70x106x57 cm. Courtesy the artist and UNA gallery, Piacenza. Photo © t-space studio

131. REBIRTHING

 

Daniele Giunta, Alberta Pellacani and Silvano Tessarollo are the protagonists of the exhibition Rebirthing, an intense journey through some of the most intimate, elusive and intangible places of existence. Until April 28th 2018 at La Giarina gallery in Verona.

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Daniele Giunta, Build life, 2018, exhibition view. Courtesy La Giarina, Verona

“Tell me when I'm gonna live again / Tell me when I'm gonna breathe you in”. So sang Skillet, a Memphis rock band, in 2006. And the title of the song was, in fact, Rebirthing, the same as has been given to the show at the Galleria La Giarina. To be reborn, to discover the art of breathing, the voice of silence, the hidden side of things. It is experiencing the world, to be continuously traversed by it. To affirm a practice that goes well beyond the well-known saying of Descartes: “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am): and that is “I feel, therefore I am”. It is to hold that the human condition is not only spiritual is also corporeal. Because the body is a profusion of what is tangible; it is written in the movement of things and mixes all its senses with them. We cannot make a sharp division between subject and object, inside and out. We do not look from outside but from within. It is true: it is sight (above all today) that projects man onto the world, but it puts him in contact only with its surface. It allows him to recognise things, but not to know them, to interpret and experience them. Sight needs all the senses in order to be fully employed. In his Roman Elegies, Goethe wrote, “I see with eyes that feel, I feel with hands that see”. What should we call this sensorial exceeding or encroachment? Ocular palpation or the haptic eye? Deep down, we touch with our eyes as the blind see with their hands.


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In order: Alberta Pellacani, Silvano Tessarollo, installation views. Courtesy La Giarina, Verona


And yet the interventions of the three artists invited to take part in Rebirthing (Alberta Pellacani, Carpi, 1964; Silvano Tessarollo, Bassano del Grappa, 1956; Daniele Giunta, Lago Maggiore, 1981) testify to a kind of exploratory longing, a need for a yearning immersion in the material of the world. With his Palinsesti (“palimpsests” of Mantua and Venice) Pellacani seems to revisit the history of cities to create a visionary geography made from fake substances, echoes, volumes of air. By employing a kind of mirroring surface he “films” the world that surrounds him, and he makes it dissolve and recompose, as in a daydream. His is a view that knows the measure of what is unfinished, or rather of what is indefinite, of what is timeless, iridescent, metaphorical (as in Changing) or at the limits of visibility (as in certain sketchy drawings that are perceptible only in the dark). Tessarollo’s undertaking, instead, gives the idea of a return to pure naturalness, like the one wished for by Lévi-Strauss or by the writings of Pasolini. His aim is to make us become aware of the secret architecture beneath such elements as trees, branches, fields of wheat. He is interested in the discovery, presentation, and insurrection of the magical and wonderful value of living material, such as earth, wax, or straw. To the point of creating a large-scale canvas (Sine sole sileo, 2017) on the surface of which he has scattered peat dust as though it were a metaphorical sowing, one able to unite the earth and sky, depth and height.

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TESSAROLLO 7

In order: Palinsesto Urbano NY II 04, 2018, digital print, 62,5x86,5 cm each; Silvano Tessarollo, Sine Sole Sileo, 2017, earth and mud on paper, wooden frame, 210x300 cm. Courtesy La Giarina, Verona


And lastly, Giunta arrives at the point of abandoning everything (whether natural or artificial): he even moved to Verbana where the world is almost no longer the world but a place in which to lose oneself, “an infinite space” which needs “another kind of attention” (as the artist himself has said). There “art becomes a kind of experimental condition in which life itself is experimented” (J. Cage). There one is receptive to all the facts of life: to the passing of time, to building a house, to lighting a fire, to the undertaking of apiculture (as Giunta shows us in his video Build from Flowers, 2017). What counts is the very mystery of being (and existing), the building of creation, the temple of the world.

It is obvious that the gallery, more than being a simple exhibition space, becomes a dimension of experience, art, work, love. Without letting themselves go with ideological declarations or in arguments about ecology, these artists aim to make us hear, know, and savour the knowledge-taste of a creative existence. Theirs is an initiation journey to the origins of things. It is an immersion in their secrets, a “rebirthing”, a rebirth and dwelling in them.

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Daniele Giunta, Arnia Warré esagonale, 2018; Build from flowers, 2017, still from video, 19'38''. Courtesy La Giarina, Verona


REBIRTHING
Daniele Giunta, Alberta pellacani, Silvano Tessarollo
Curated by Luigi Meneghelli
La Giarina, Verona
Until 28.04.18

130. THOMAS DE FALCO

Reconnecting Natures

The Triennale Design Museum has recently presented Nature, a solo exhibition of Thomas de Falco’s work curated by Lara Cherubini. Specially for this event, the artist exhibited an extensive and complete selection of his works for the very first time. They range from two-dimensional tapestry and sculptural tapestry to textile sculpture and textile sculpture on canvas.

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Thomas De Falco, Nature, Triennale Design Museum, Milano 2017. Courtesy the artist and Triennale Design Museum.


Educated at Castello Sforzesco High School for Applied Art in Milan (Scuola Superiore d’Arte Applicata del Castello Sforzesco di Milano), De Falco’s sculptural experimentation is based around a very peculiar and extremely personal textile technique called “wrapping” that involves enveloping a core of textile material with even more textile material to create shapes that are reminiscent of tree roots. This technique allows nature, which lies at the very foundations of the artist’s research and experimentation, to be transformed into textile sculptural forms skilfully woven by De Falco.

The artist’s very close ties with nature De Falco displayed his personal notebooks in which the artist has sewn leaves taken from trees onto paper to create textures carefully studied at specific points to allow movement and, hence, the process by which the leaves themselves are transformed. By first taking hold of something natural and then transforming it into a woven thread, the artist intervenes in the evolving dynamics of nature, “freezing” and “imprisoning” matter inside a sculptural block.

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ThomasdeFalco artista Nature Triennale Milano art exhibition platformgreen

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Thomas De Falco, Nature, Triennale Design Museum, Milano 2017. Courtesy the artist and Triennale Design Museum.


The attitude of De Falco's artistic practice, aimed at creating connections at different levels, is part of a very particular historical period. With the start of the new century, globalization began to account for its damage within all areas of society. It must also be said that today globalization has not been able to break down the many walls that feed injustice and inequality, generating rather new and growing opportunities for division. All this happens in the digital age, in a hyper-connected present and apparently free from obstacles to dialogue, within which we can not fail to notice the more or less latent tendency, in some cases quite evident, to build barriers.

It is therefore evident the constant increase of divisions, physical or not, within a present made of political, social and economic tensions.
Let’z simply think to the cement barriers we are increasingly hearing about, or directly dealing with, the ones used to protect urban centers from unpredictable terrorist attacks. Perhaps the latest version, the pocket version, of other more imposing and expensive barriers. It is the case of the famous “big wall” with Mexico announced and promised by the newly elected President of the United States of America, Donald Tramp, who is expected to be built on the border between the two states during his presidency. Nothing new since there is one already since 1990.

Within this historical context, in which the idea of limitation is very timely (even that of non-return that has been applied to the relationship between man and nature), artistic practices such as that of Thomas de Falco emphasize attitudes that run in the opposite direction. The same performances that the artist creates show a need for a relationship that is expressed in the tension generated by the use of textile materials that tend to "tie", "sew" or "mend" relationships and connections on the brink of fracture.
(A.L.)

 

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ThomasDeFalco Nature exhibition Triennale Milano tree 2017 platformgreen

Thomas De Falco, Nature, Triennale Design Museum, Milano 2017. Courtesy the artist and Triennale Design Museum.


At the official opening of the exhibition, De Falco made a special performance and textile installation entitled Intricacy, specially designed to interact with the spaces of the Milan Triennial. As in Paul Léautaud’s book called Le Petit Ami published in 1903, which looks at the subject of mothers as “absent queens”, De Falco appears to envisage the figure of a mother, in all its most miscellaneous renditions, in the sculptural forms of a large mother-tree constructed out of over 500 metres in length of textile material.
The performers, who are initially isolated and motionless with their eyes shut tight, move from their original positions to form a “gigantic consoling embrace”, which metaphorically refers to the social tragedies which, alas, are now becoming a rather familiar everyday spectacle.
An embrace from which the subjects seem to draw strength and is rather like (or at least replaces) the embrace of an “absent mother”, who, in the form of “mother nature”, is now threatening mankind.
The gigantic wrapping roots extend out from the bodies wedged inside the sculptural block and expand through the surrounding space, linking hands, feet and hair to the exhibition space’s architectural structure.
Although the textile material is the main “physical” part of the installation, performance is the real heart and soul of the project. It is the means the artist uses to “give life and voice to matter”.

ThomasDeFalco Intricacy Performance Triennale Milano nature tree 2017

Thomas De Falco, Intricacy, Triennale Design Museum, Milano 2017. Courtesy the artist and Triennale Design Museum.

129. CLIMATE 04 - SEA LEVEL RISE

Art and science in support of Venice

Text by Andrea Lerda

A wall painting, 6 meters high and 100 meters long, to tell the risks of climate change and talk about the phenomenon of water rising in Venice. It's called Climate 04 Sea Level Rise and is a project between art and science of the visual artist Andreco, inaugurated on October 27th at Fondamenta Santa Lucia.

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Climate 04 Sea Level RIse, Venezia, 2017. Courtesy Andreco

In an article published in the Corriere della Sera on February 1, 1975, “Il vuoto di potere” (The power void), and then collected in his Scritti corsari, Pasolini writes: “In the early 1970s, thanks to air pollution and, in the country, pollution of water (the crystal-blue rivers and clear canals), the fireflies began to disappear. The phenomenon was lightning-quick and striking. After a few years, there were no more fireflies”(1).
Pasolini uses the disappearance of the fireflies as a metaphor to speak, rather than yell, of the radical transformation of a wicked society, of uncontrolled technical and economic progress, of unscrupulous capitalism, of the economic boom that in a short time destabilized the balance of a country that for many centuries had been a traditional agricultural society. A radical transformation that destroyed landscapes and cityscapes, caused pollution and ecological devastation, cultural and anthropological decadence, the upsurge of mass culture, the standardization of lifestyles, and the death of the fireflies, those delicate “blazes of innocence”(2) that represented the fragility of natural balance, marred by irrationality and the blindness of human cynicism.
After the lesson of Henry David Thoreau, who already in the mid-nineteenth century feels in the air that something irreparable is happening, that of Pasolini is certainly one of the main voices able to reap the legacy of recent American ecocriticism and to awaken in Italy a ecological sensitivity dormant.


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Climate 04 Sea Level RIse, Venezia, 2017. Courtesy Andreco


As well as for America, where the historical experience of Land Art has helped to stimulate the debate around ecological issues, even in Italy the years between the Sixties and Seventies have seen protagonists a whole series of experiences developed around the concept of less is more. In the Manifesto dell’Arte Povera (Manifesto of Arte Povera), published in Flash Art in 1967 by Germano Celant, the main theorist of the movement, he reveals the presence of a new attitude “directed at locating the real meaning of the emergent human sense of living. An identification of human-nature, which no longer has the theological, medieval sense of narrator-narratum, but a pragmatic intent of liberation, of non-addition of objects to our ideas of the world, as we see it today”.
In Turin, Mario Merz worked on the organic structures of the vegetal world, on the intersection of primary and natural forces with contemporary objects. In 1967, Pino Pascali proposes a material authentication and “behavioral sensism” with 2 metri cubi di terra (2 cubic meters of earth) and 1 metro cubo di terra (1 cubic meter of earth), a synecdoche of the natural world. Over all, Giuseppe Penone that gives form to the intimate, authentic, and sublime experience linking humans and nature while in Lombardy Giuliano Mauri reflects on the concept of environment and participation, dialoguing with the landscape by realizing site-specific works in nature and Ugo La Pietra analyzes the meaning of living in the city, invoking the need for a greater awareness to balance humans and nature. And last but not least Piero Gilardi, artist and political activist, creates his first “natural carpets” in 1965 and Joseph Beuys who chosed Italy to realize the battle in Difesa della natura.

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Climate 04 Sea Level RIse, Venezia, 2017. Courtesy Andreco


This short and certainly incomplete overview is a pretext to reflect on what was the context within which were placed a series of seeds that with time have sprouted giving life to the important research of young artists today, who have been able to bring ahead of that line of research interested to environmental and ecological issues.
The most interesting, which was certainly able to understand this heritage is Andreco, an environmental engineer lent to art, who has been conducting research on the consequences of the anthropic impact within the natural context for several years.

Platform Green has already presented its work in the news number 85, in which it is possible to read some of its main projects and the way in which its artistic practice takes shape.
Here we want to give attention to the last work realized by the artist during the fourth stage of the itinerant project in progress CLIMATE.
The project started in Paris in November 2015 during the Cop 21, the UN conference about Climatic Changes, and subsequently continued in Bologna and Bari.
Climate consists in the realization of various site specific interventions, including installations in the urban space, mural paintings and talks which aim to create a connection between science and art, a dialogue that translates into works inspired by the latest scientific researches on the causes and the effects of climatic changes.
Andreco’s aim for this project is to underline the weaknesses of the territory where his interventions will take place. While in Bari the main theme was the accelerating desertification caused by the rising temperatures, in Venice the artist’s focus is the sea level rise.
The Climate 04-Sea Level Rise project chosed Venice as a symbol, the city being of one of the most exposed to this kind of risk and potentially destined to be submerged, according to the majority of present forecasts.
This step takes inspiration from some international researches led by IPPC, Delta Committee, WGBU and from articles published by the professor Rahmstorf and the researchers of the CNR-ISMAR about the effects of the sea rising in Venice lagoon.
The project includes three different interventions, specifically conceived and developed for the city of Venice: a big wall painting, an installation and a talk (who took place in October) which analysed the climate change under a scientific and artistic point of view.
The mural was be done along the shores of Canal Grande in Fondamenta Santa Lucia, and it represents an artistic translation of the studies about sea level rise and extreme waves, according to the scientific evidence and estimates provided by research centres involved in the project.
Another thought about the lagoon ecosystem is represented by the sice specific installation that host some autochthonous plants underlining the environmental benefits of coastal plants as well as their contribution both in the adaptation and mitigation of climatic changes and in protecting Venice.

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The project was born thanks to the profitable collaboration among various public and private subjects, such as m.a.c.lab-Ca’ Foscari, University IUAV of Venice, CNR-ISMAR, Studio La Città, One Contemporary Art, ASLC progetti per l’arte, Regione Veneto, Grandi Stazioni, De Castelli,Spring Color and Platform Green.

(1) Pier Paolo Pasolini, Il vuoto del potere, in “Corriere della Sera”, I° febbraio 1975, Milano.
(2) Georges Didi-Huberman, Come le lucciole. Una politica delle sopravvivenze, Bollati Boringhieri, p. 16.
(3) Germano Celant, Il manifesto dell’Arte Povera, da “Flash Art” n°5, del 1967; p.36

128. HERMAN DE VRIES

THE RETURN OF BEAUTY

Dutch artist Herman de Vries (1931) is a cardinal figure in twentieth-century European art whose importance is gradually garnering international attention. The exhibition at Cortesi Gallery in London, brings together a series of highly significant examples of his work, to retrace the key stages in his creative career.

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Installation view, “herman de vries. the return of beauty”, curated by Francesca Pola, Cortesi Gallery London, 19 September-18 November 2017. Courtesy: Cortesi Gallery Photo: Luke A. Walker


From the time of his early involvement in the international movement ZERO, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, de vries has always pursued the idea of simplicity and economy in his expressive, compositional, and working methods, in an attempt to recreate the basic mechanisms of life within the artistic process. Over the decades, his oeuvre has shown an extraordinarily rich penchant for invention and for experimentation with different materials and languages; art, science and philosophy are constantly interwoven and tied to the world around us. The aim of this exhibition is to convey this conceptual complexity, but also the sensory impact of de vries’ work, which is always a one-of-a-kind experience of extraordinary physical and mental intensity.
The show sets off with a number of works from his “random objectivation” series of the early 1970s: basic geometric configurations and white monochromes, influenced by Zen Buddhism and Taoism, and conceived as an antidote to the subjectivity and emotion of the previous Informel trends in Europe.

In the mid-1970s, de vries began to concentrate on natural materials, processes and phenomena, presenting them as primary physical realities of human existence: ever since, he has collected, arranged, singled out and displayed fragments of nature and culture, calling attention to both the oneness and the diversity of the world around us. The exhibition therefore includes works made from organic materials such as earth from various parts of the globe, leaves, flowers, and plant matter of various origin, stones, ash, wood, and charcoal. The hub from which de vries’ work springs is the biotope he has developed at his home base in Eschenau, Germany, and during his travels around the world. Earth, in particular, as a physical expression of different places, is also a symbolic element used by de vries; it becomes an echo of different cultures, and a natural pigment that reflects the basic, primary chromatic gradations of the world. Juxtaposed with these works made from natural elements are pieces in which language itself – both visual and conventional – serves as the key material of the work, constructed by singling out and repeating an individual semantic unit or word. The choice of these words is not purely random, but rather prompts reflection on our being-in-the-world: the terms that appear in these pieces, such as “endless”, “this”, “happy”, and above all ‘change’, are all keys to understanding the essence of de vries’ work, which is grounded in a fundamental dialectic between determinacy and indeterminacy, construction and destruction, compositional patterns and freedom of expression, though this conflict is always resolved in the crucial moment of the unique, never-to-be-repeated experience.

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Installation view, “herman de vries. the return of beauty”, curated by Francesca Pola, Cortesi Gallery London, 19 September-18 November 2017. Courtesy: Cortesi Gallery Photo: Luke A. Walker


Himself a biologist and natural scientist, de vries believes that nature’s processes and phenomena cannot be translated and explained in merely rational terms: all of his work moves towards a suspended, poetic transposition of the meaning of life, focusing on the complex relationships between nature and culture,and how these two components of our lives influence each other.
The work that lends its title to the show, The return of beauty (2003), is made up of a collection of human-made artefacts that, as unused fragments that have ceased to serve any function, once again become part of the natural process: it is an invitation to rediscover the “return of beauty” in their basic essence, as traces of life poised between nature and artifice.
One of the most engaging parts of the show is the installation rosa damascena. Realized on site, it is the compelling poetic and sensory impression created by the colour, but above all, the fragrance of dozens of small rose buds, arranged to form a circle at the centre of the exhibition; each visitor who walks around it comes away with a different personal experience of enormous mental and physical power. The multisensory nature of the show, in which the encounter with de vries’ work unfolds on more than one plane of perception (visual, olfactory and conceptual) points to the exceptional vitality of this artist’s work.

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Installation view, “herman de vries. the return of beauty”, curated by Francesca Pola, Cortesi Gallery London, 19 September-18 November 2017. Courtesy: Cortesi Gallery Photo: Luke A. Walker


HERMAN DE VRIES / The return of beauty
Curated by Francesca Pola
Cortesi Gallery, London
Until November 18, 2017

127. IN THE DEPTH OF IDENTITY

ON HUMAN IDENTITY

text by Andrea Lerda

It is very diffcult to define, but how many times have we been tempted into thinking about the concept of “identity”? How many circumstances have there been when the question of identity has imposed itself as the protagonist of such a thorny yet delicate debate?
“Identity” is certainly one of the most widely used terms in the elds of psychology, sociology, medicine, and anthropology, but also in the elds of politics, journalism, and television. We find it is the protagonist in the world of advertising, the press, fashion, and in the digital world too.

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Bepi Ghiotti
, Mio caro Richard, 2017, a walk dedicated to Richard Long, BW video HD, noises, 16:9, 03’49, courtesy the artist and Studio la Città - Verona


The word is always on the tip of our tongue when we speak of Europe, when we argue about gender differences, and each time we try to lay claim to one position rather than another. The need to deal with identity, one’s own and that of others, is born from the inevitable confrontation with otherness or, rather, with all the “othernesses” that differ from the authentic and primordial “substance”(1) that makes up each one of us. The result is a short circuit of meanings, interactions, divergent positions and interpretative possibilities that perhaps derive from the same questions that Paul Gauguin posed himself in 1897, with his memorable work Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

So the concept of identity goes hand in hand with the unknown and with the concept of otherness, from the comparison of which are generated ever new occasions for developing the “form” of such a “substance”. In classical philosophy the so-called law of identity excludes even the tiniest element of otherness from substance. Identity seems to belong to something evidently internal that must not be contaminated in any way by the outside. This position can be summed up by the formula A = A e A non-A, as outlined by Francesco Remotti(2). This is a point of view that evidently could not be definitive, given that it does not seem in any way possible to sustain the existence of two distinct and stagnant dimensions, one internal and the other external, immune from reciprocal interaction. It seems to have been Hegel, at the beginning of the 19th century, who reanalysed this position and reformulated it in a second axiom in which the two A’s, instead of excluding each other, accept interaction and exist thanks to a reciprocal attraction. The one melds with the other, according to the A and non-A formula (once again by F. R.), and so the internal entity and the external one are no longer immobile things but are substances in constant change, the boundaries of which seem to transform themselves into uctuating membranes to be passed through rather than walls that must be met: “Unity comes to an agreement with multiplicity: it cannot be separated from it” (3).

At this point the problem of identity seems to have been overcome, even cancelled, since the world and existence itself are in constant change and development; however, in this sense the debate seems to have flared up again over the course of the twentieth century. If, at the beginning of the century, for the German psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (1902-1994) identity referred to something internal, situated in the deepest psychic structure of an individual, for the sociologist Philip Gleason identity, instead, was a construction, an artefact that was sparked off by the interaction between the individual and society and, therefore, “Something attributed from without that changes according to the circumstances”(4).

in the depth of identity studio la citt christian fogarolli andrea lerda exhibition verona

in the depth of identity christian fogarolli studio la citt a cura di andrea lerda exhibition verona

Christian Fogarolli, Amoral, 2015; Remember, Repeat, Rework 6, (sx) (sx) Original photo of victim of amnesi (dx) Archive photo from Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam
2016, 38 x 33 cm each. Photo Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy the artist and Studio la Città – Verona


In the present day, one in which globalisation, digital culture, and the great influence exerted by the world of images all have a central role, identity seems more a reflection of the outside world than an uncontaminated internal entity. The ontological concept of identity, that for which it maintains its own autonomy, independently from external events and the human will, seems to be questioned. By now it seems confirmed that identity, besides its biological and mental components, is a social and cultural product, and that a renewed interest in it is aroused during periods of crisis. Today’s cultural impoverishment, created by the increasingly intrusive presence of the internet galaxy, can be considered as a moment that has reached a critical point. The most recent society has, in this sense, a particularly strong role to play: today we are most often led to consider identity as a “place for gathering together”, a secure roof to take refuge under. Through its commercial, economic, and political puppets, together with the rhetoric of advertising and the mass media, contemporary society’s power presents itself as being able to generate identity and to lead to an increase of “himself”, “herself” or “us”. If people manage to follow these in a correct way, then very probably they will be able to gain a pass for entering their own existence. Furthermore, the possibilities the social media offer for bringing forth an identity that is different from the one that actually belongs to us (just think of the profiles offered on such platforms as Facebook and Instagram, to mention only the two most widespread) go hand in hand with this particular dynamic’s characteristics of inconsistency and vulnerability, just as with the curious opportunity for generating infinitely new and different versions of it. e new formula that describes contemporary identity, and that here I am proposing in a completely arbitrary manner, might be formulated like this: A + non-A ∞, in which the physical dimension (with the infinite particles that make it up) and the indefinable spiritual one are summed together and change according to the infinite external variables that constantly and ever more strongly arrive from today’s expanded society. On the other hand, we find ourselves in the face of what Zygmunt Bauman has described as “liquid modernity”(5), one characterised by an endless universal interactivity, within which we can trace and generate just as many liquid identities. They are, perhaps, without any apparent real meaning; perhaps they are so ethereal and hyperliquid as to make us believe that there no longer exists a genuine concept of identity. In fact this very paradox seems to be at the origin of a need to rediscover a more intimate and authentic comparison with the ontological and primordial part of identity with a capital “I”.

in the depth of identity studio la citt a cura di andrea lerda exhibition verona2

in the depth of identity studio la citt tamara janes andrea lerda exhibition verona boccanera giorgia lucchi

In order: In the depth of identity, Christian Fogarolli, Bepi Ghiotti, Tamara Janes, Francisco Muñoz, curated by Andrea Lerda, photo Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy Studio la Città – Verona; Tamara Janes, Poor Image, 2016, inkjet print framed (sx); Still Loading “Tamara Janes”
, 2016, smartphone screenshot, digital print on flag fabric, 1 x 45 m, copyright Tamara Janes, courtesy Boccanera Gallery,photo Michele Alberto Sereni.


By proposing the art of four artists who in various ways show an interest in dealing with this theme, In the depth of identity highlights this inexhaustible need to measure ourselves against the topos of identity, by underlining its qualities of changeability, inconsistency, and precariousness.
Trough an art that makes use of various disciplines, Christian fogarolli analyses the subject of mental illness, and therefore of otherness, by leading us to think about the hidden and elusive side of psychiatric pathology (Amoral). The viewers are invited to mirror themselves within an occult world and to consider the human obsession of wanting to understand identities that do not conform to a model of normality. At the same time, in the photos of the series Remember, Repeat, Rework, he lingers on photos of patients suffering from memory loss, and he associates these with images of Indonesian sculptures the historical traces of which have been lost, as a possible parallel with contemporary society’s loss of identity.
Francisco Muñoz Perez, instead, undertakes a partly inverse process: by starting from some images found in Vogue magazine that photograph a chilly and standard beauty – as both a symptom and remnant of a decadent modernity – he undertakes critical thinking about the homologising power of the advertising market, together with that of the fashion and “beauty” industry in general, that is exerted on the collective imagination. By looking back to an aesthetic aspect of Mexican culture, the artist has decided to introduce an element of non conformity by reformulating the ideal of beauty, opening out its boundaries and encouraging the alteration of its rules (Piedras aparentes) or by covering various objects with a new plastic skin; in this way their new look alludes to utensils from a distant past (Jardin de cenizas). The art of Tamara Janes, instead, looks at the new potentialities offered by the tools of the digital era: through them our identity seems to have become a simple low-definition image, one that floats about in such huge archives as Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and so on (Poor Image). The artist typed her own name on the Google Image research engine and, before this could effectively upload the photos corresponding to her name, she made a snapshot consisting of an infinite number of coloured rectangular cells (Still Loading “Tamara Janes”). Here is the last frontier of our identity. And so, Mio caro Richard, what do you want me to do today with this unstable terrain, a synonym for a society without certainties and reference points? is is the question that Bepi Ghiotti poses in his video. An introspective walk that aims at interrogating himself, his own being as an artist but, ultimately, that of human beings in general.

in the depth of identity studio la citt francisco munoz andrea lerda exhibition verona1

in the depth of identity studio la citt francisco munoz andrea lerda exhibition verona

Francisco Muñoz Perez, Piedras aparentes Vol. III; Piedras aparentes / Xipe Tótec, 2016, carbon pigment print on cotton paper, 46,5 x 36,5 x 4 cm with frame; Ashes garden, 2016, malte, vasi, contenitori in plastica assemblati e dipinti con finitura effetto pietra, different dimensions, courtesy the artist and Studio la Città - Verona

IN THE DEPTH OF IDENTITY
Christian Fogarolli, Bepi Ghiotti, Tamara Janes, Francisco Muñoz
curated by Andrea Lerda
Studio la Città, Verona
Until November 18, 2017

1 Term used by Francesco Remotti in: L’ossessione identitaria, Editori Laterza, Bari 2010, p.26.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid. p.28.
4 Gleason Philip 1983: Identifying Identity: A Semantic History, “Journal of American History”, LXIX, 4, p. 918.
5 Bauman Zygmunt, Intervista sull’identità, a cura di Benedetto Vecchi, Editori Laterza, Bari 2003, p. 87.