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102. MEG WEBSTER

ARTIST – ECOLOGIST – POETESS – OF NATURE

Paula Cooper Gallery in New York has recently presented a solo show by the great American artist, which perhaps personifies the most utopian and involved way of interpreting the dialogue between art and nature after the 1960s.

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Meg Webster, 
Stick Structure, 2016, various branches, twigs, and flowering plants, 182.8 x 487.6 cm, installation views at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York 2016. Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

“Meg Webster began her artistic career in the 1980s by combining various schools: Land Art (she was Micheal Heizer’s assistant), minimalism and the object sculpture of that period.
An experience she shared with other artists, especially her fellow-traveller Robert Gober. Webster’s sensitività towards nature has led her to create two kinds of work: pieces that comunicate through basic forms, natural materials and a totemic, almost ritualistic quality, which evoke the connection between all the elements of the cosmos, or rather operations, in which nature becoms part of the social dynamic.”*

The artist's work finds inspiration in the intrinsic beauty of natural materials. Using metal, glass and organic elements like salt, soil, twigs and moss, the artist creates large-scale installations and precise structures. Also highly influenced by Minimalist artists like Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Robert Morris, Webster draws on their rigorous formal vocabulary to create simple, geometric forms that directly and perceptually engage the body and its senses.
In Volume for Lying Flat, Webster structures peat and green moss to create a human-sized bed. Familiar associations of pleasure, fertility and slumber, coincide with the sight and scent of fresh, damp moss. Volume for Lying Flat is an alive work that requires light, water and constante care and attention.

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In order: Meg Webster, installation views at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York 2016; Volume for Lying Flat, 2016, peat moss, green moss, soil, 55.9 x 149.9 x 207 cm; Mother Mound Salt, 2016, salt, approximately 106.6 x 289.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

For Stick Structure, Webster’s collects branches, twigs and flowering plants that converge to form an enclosed circle. The ephemeral installation draws from various local gardens, with shrubbery gathered recently enough to bear florae of the current season. As visitors walk through, they are enveloped by the scents and textures of their surroundings.
Nine thousand pounds of coarse salt form a smooth 4-foot swell entitled Mother Mound Salt. A monument to the earth and its bounty, the work evokes the curve of the earth or the tumescent bend of a pregnant belly. Its primal form and grand scale belie its delicate materiality of millions of individual crystals.
First created for Webster’s recent show at Villa Panza, “Natura Naturans,” Solar Grow Room is an ecosystem sustained by solar panels installed on the gallery exterior. Bathed in pink light, raised planters are cultivated with moss, grass, flowers and other vegetation. A lifelong environmentalist, Webster draws awareness to nature as an ever-evolving force, as well as mankind’s careless destruction of the earth’s resources and energies.

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Meg Webster, Solar Grow Room, 2016, 4 raised wooden planters with grass, flowers and other vegetation, off-grid solar powered electrical system, grow lights, mylar covered walls, each planter: 106.8 x 127 x 127 cm in room 13'10" x 21' 6" x 21' 6". Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

“However, the relationship between art and nature did not only develop in useum or, more provocatively, far away from them. An important influence on Meg Webster’s work was the manipulation of the urban park, on the lines of the very early project that Alan Sonfist created in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1965, and the one executed in 1982 by Agnes Denes, who seeded a large area in Manhattan that had been left empty (but was later repossessed) by speculators, to create a token wheat field. Within this context we can appreciate the work of Webster, whose main characteristic is a powerful relationship with the environment, created not only through the sense of sight, but also those of touch and smell, as well as the sensations deriving from the viewer’s walking or moving through the living organisms she presents us with. These also include minerals whose structure possesses its own intelligence, which the artist evokes”*: a garden.

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“Nature becomes part of us and the fundamental instinct of our common origin is regained. The sky, sea and trees are all a consciuous part of a greater being that generates us. The life of nature is like our life: birth, blossoming, fruit, sunset and expectation. It is our history and that of our deepest and innermost being”
(Giuseppe Panza di Biumo)


*Angela Vettese, La terra e la cura, in Meg Webster. Opere – Works 1982-2015, Silvana Editoriale, 2015. Catalogue of the exhibition at Villa Panza, Varese (12.06.2015 – 20.02.2016), curated by Angela Vettese and Anna Bernardini

101. THOUGHTS ON ECOCRITICISM

A TALK WITH LORENZO GIUSTI. DIRECTOR OF THE MAN MUSEUM IN NUORO 

After the news number 100, Platform Green makes a new start with some ecocritical reflections, with an interview to Lorenzo Giusti, Director of the Man Museum in Nuoro.

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Roman Signer, Films and Installations, installation view at MAN, Nuoro 2016, photo Confinivisivi


Elisabetta Villani
Among other things, I like to think of your Green Platform* as a source of inspiration for Platform Green.
Those were particular years, in a climate of growing interest in ideas linked to ecology. From that moment your art has continued by developing a certain critical sensitivity about ecological thinking.
Lorenzo Giusti
I am proud to think that an exhibition of mine could have inspired an editorial project. Green Platform, when it began in 2008 and 2009, was greatly influenced by the cultural and political debate of the time: we were reinterpreting the ideas of Gregory Bateson (Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 1972, Mind and Nature, 1980), and of Felix Guattari in his The Three Ecologies, 1991; Nordhaus and Shellenberger had just published their essay Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, 2007, and there was even a certain political aim to put ecology at the heart of its agenda: just think of Obama’s first presidential campaign. It was the tail-end of a period of worry about the health of the planet, but also of enthusiasm for the possibilities of an economic and social revolution based on sustainable criteria. Today the climate is different.

EV
All the processes linked to ecological questions have shown themselves to be slow because they do not offer an immediate and tangible profit; in terms of ecology and sustainability thoughts are for the future, for a collective interest. How do you explain this, perhaps only apparent, slowness in reacting?
LG
The economic crisis has put contingent questions on our plate and has put a brake on a certain impetus. From a philosophical point of view this has led to the recuperation of more materialistic and neo-realistic criteria, at the cost of a systematic overview. The sensation is that there is a certain inclination to associate the idea of ecological thought, something that is systematic by its very nature, to that of a certain period, late post-modernity, which was on its way. I think this is a mistake. I believe that a systematic perspective is fundamental for progress. The challenge is to develop this thought – the multiple points of view Bateson speaks of – in relation to the changes in the world, and not to return to old models.

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Green Platform. Arte Ecologia Sostenibilità, installation view of the exhibition at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina in Florence, 24.04 - 19.07.2009


EV
And this was the start of your intention to devote a whole year of MAN’s programming to a thought as delicate and important as that of ecology.
LG
Exactly. It started from the reflection I have spoken to you about and my wish to tackle once more such an ample and magmatic material as that of ecology, without the rhetoric that has recently accompanied it and before it falls on hard times, in order to recount, through the works of various artists, the different directions ecological thought has taken. With Michel Blazy we find a more orgiastic yet deeply ecological approach; thoughts that are not anthropocentric by someone who analyses the world, not in an evolutionary way, but as a continuous transformation and regeneration. Ettore Favini, instead, in the show curated by Chiara Vecchiarelli at MAN and at Villa Croce, deals with another problem. His project is based on a collection of materials donated to a circumscribed territory, to its ecosystem, that the artist describes as a whole and not as a simple sum of its parts. This is ecological thought in its more relational aspect.

EV
So then, the work of art within a triple ecological vision with the aim of a new ecosophy for the production of individual and collective subjectivity.
LG
The project seems to treasure the ecologist motto “Think globally and act locally”, a phrase which I am deeply attached to. It is essential that we act within the territory in order to spark off a sociability that can be the driving force for creative elements. We must not manage sociability or creativity but, rather, continuously foster and activate them. After the show by Ettore Favini we will be hosting in the project room a project by Ibon Aranberri whose work is centred on an inquiry into the nature/culture relationship. In this case it is actually Bateson’s thought that acts as a frame (mind and nature) for it: to work inside a context and to verify the dynamics of its processes. This will not be the final part of the series: we are already working on a fourth appointment and then there will also be others. It is important for me that the series remain open-ended.

EV
In fact it is evident how your orientation lies at the heart of other projects from the past; there comes to mind the show by Fulton and Hoepfner.
LG
The project with Fulton and Hoepfner started from thoughts about the crisis of which we have spoken. By working with two artists from different generations I wanted to show how a certain sensitivity is still alive and kicking. The show evoked a return to the primordial, to the thoughts of Thoreau in Walking, 1863, and to the aspect of untamed nature: to start again from man, from his origins, from an empathic, even romantic, relationship with nature. In this sense, Canto di Strada really was for me the opportunity for starting again from a reasoning that had been interrupted.

EV
Do you think that art really has an active role in this aim? Or might its languages and codes be a limit to conveying messages that are clear and understandable by everyone?
LG
I do not believe that there exists an ecological art in itself, nor a sustainable art either. Art is language, and so is that art that, in some form, touches on ecological questions: nature, landscape, cohabitation, development, and creative and productive processes. Of course, art can favour the development of critical thought and, in this sense, it can in some way change things. At times great processes for change can be sparked off by a tiny and apparently insignificant flap of the wings. Art is that first flap.

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In order: Roman Signer, Films and Installations, installation view at MAN, Nuoro 2016, photo Confinivisivi; last image: Ettore Favini, Arrivederci, MAN, Nuoro 2016, installation view


EV
In general, how does the exchange between you and the artists, between your own research and their poetics, come about? In the sense of how you choose the artists.
LG
I usually take three things into account: the work in itself; its raison d’être for being presented in a certain context; and if the proposal contains something new, which simply means going to check that something has not already been done in a certain form or in recent times.

EV
In terms of its geographical location, where does MAN’s poetics fit in?
LG
Perhaps it is to be found in its relationship between the city centre and the outskirts. Luckily, today it is not necessary to be physically in the centre to have an effect. Sardinia also enjoys a favourable condition: it is distant from other centres but, in a certain sense, it is a centre in itself. The phrase “Sardinia is like a continent” is not just a slogan but effectively expresses the condition of this territory. We, as a museum, have the task of building bridges. It is obvious that one of the ways for doing this is to create production and exchange networks, as we did for the show by Roman Signer. Another way is to allow the artists to experience and know this context, something we almost always do for every show that involves living artists.

EV
A final question... Christo recently made his most recent work in Italy, his The Floating Piers on Lake Iseo, bringing back to prominence a lively debate: the one about the relationship between ethics, aesthetics, and nature. What do you think of this kind of intervention?
LG
Christo’s work is always on the cusp between the ephemeral and the monumental. And this is a real oxymoron. In other words, he represents a great contradiction. The work on Lake Iseo is perhaps even more contradictory than others. I find this contradiction interesting, while what I do not like are the communications that often backup Christo’s large-scale operations, mainly based on numbers and size. Some time ago, together with Elena Volpato, I curated a show about animation, Passo a due. There are artists who love to underline the sheer number of drawings they have had to make for realising a work. This kind of fact holds no interest for me: it is not numbers that confer value on a work, nor the quantity or the size.

EV
In any case, do you think that art operations of this kind can positively reawaken interest in Land Art or do they risk confusing its real meaning?
LG
The question of Land Art is complex. Often we use this definition to cover artists who are very different from each other. A work such as Spiral Jetty by Smithson (1970), even though being monumental, has an extraordinary lightness; the fact that cyclically water covers it and that then it re-emerges makes it alive, makes it breathe. It is a path over which you can walk, whose profile is confused with the landscape, and the perspective of which coincides with that of the land. This is quite different from the excavations by Heizer. We are dealing with two quite different approaches. Heizer makes a rudimental, virulent gesture. Smithson feels nature, perceives its pulsations, and supplies a unique tool for capturing the beauty of the relationships that link everything together.


*Green Platform - Arte Ecologia Sostenibilita', a project curated by Lorenzo Giusti and Valentina Gensini, Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - CCCS in Florence, 24.04 – 19.07.2009 

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Hamish Fulton / Michael Hoepfner, Canto di strada, Installation view of the exhibition at Man, Nuoro 2015

100. MARIO MERZ

LA NATURA E’ L’EQUILIBRIO

A few years since the last exhibition entirely devoted to Mario Merz, the Turin based foundation presents a special selection of works in the wounderful exhibition titled “La natura è l’equilibrio”. The perfect project to celebrate the news number 100 of Platform Green.

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Mario Merz, Senza titolo (Disegni di Sydney), 1979, mixed media on paper (14 sheets), 64 x 51,6 cm; 64 x 51,6 cm; 76 x 55,8 cm 

In the Merz Foundation is currently visible a poetic path of works and words that are deeply linked together through a common thread: “a way of seeing, from our rational world towards the pre-rational genesis of life”, as Mario Merz wrote reflecting upon “respect for our planetary vegetation that gives life to us and to itself”.
Hence a “thematic trail”, if we may ever define and canne nature as a theme. For the artist never neglected nature, as he constantly posed the question: could the foundamental elements build a complex evolutional sequence that will eventuallt outrun us? It is ultimate wish, to take a closer look at the basic laws that run the universe, since to inhabit the earth means to observe and take part in its evolution.
An exhibition project that speaks of balance in connection with the figure of the spiral, as well as of mathematics and time, numeric and productive proliferation, seeds and signs: it’s a landscape made of forms, figures and words, in the effort to reorganize the binomial culture-nature.
"La natura è l’equilibrio" affirms the importance and centrality of a debate on this subject, since long time argued by Italian and international artists.

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In order: installation view of the exhibition, Spostamenti della terra e della luna su un asse, 2003,metal structure, glass, stone, neon, faggots, clamps, ø 600 cm; ø 500 cm; ø 300 cm, Courtesy Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paulo, photo Clovis França/Chris Knack, São Paulo; Un albero occupa soprattutto tempo, due alberi occupano il medesimo tempo ma uno spazio maggiore, 1976, earth, neon, variable dimensions, photo Andrea Guermani


“Balance and imbalance are a part of me, and I need them to live and feel that I exist. If I am too balanced I feel boring, and life lies between boredom and sentiment.
Mathematics helps model a line to a spiral such that they exist in in the same way both rigorous and fanciful.”

“A tree takes up mainly time.
Two trees occupy the same time and a greater space.
A forest occupies the same time and a greater space.
Space is time that can be eaten.
The time of the fall of a fruit is proportional to the largeness that it has taken in time to grow.
In their moments of reproduction animals are independent of animals of other species.
Numbers reproducing are independent of numbers of other classes. Numbers gather strenght of proliferation from units that are distinct but connected like animals.”

“The end of the seed, and of the flower that composes it is the thought of philosophy: the end of itself.
At the disposal of the storm run seeds and flowers, with dry leaves scattered by the passed season.
They are led in one direction, notwithstanding sudden changes, in the air, by the spring storm.
Every one, every seed, every flower racing lonely through the air full of lonely others.
How much sociality of nature, and how unitary, lies in those which together face the history of the afternoon as it draws to a close.
Seeds and flowers when they are still symbols, history of the past. Memory, but when they are in the storm, they are transported, their substance becomes ours, we fly through them and are run through by the the flowers and the seeds, running through themselves, they run through us and we run down the great stormy road of analysis, of the wind, and of the individual as though apparently torn away from his symbolic calm.
The wind carrying him compels him to be a seed, the single flower, the lonely one that travels through the air full of lonely travellers.
The needle of a lonely fall at the summit of the earth. “

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In ordine: Mario Merz, Untitled, 1973, felt pen, ink, pencil, 44 x 62 cm, colleziona privata; Foresta con video sul sentiero, 1995, metal structure, glass, porphyry, branches, monitor; La natura è l'equilibrio della spirale, 1976, mixed media on canvas and snail, 228 x 541 cm


“An igloo is just that: an igloo. A fusion of many languages and many thoughts, of geometric, arithmetic and geographical observations. Man has many faces; he can be a farmer, or a sailor. Igloos also adapt each time they change position, even geographically. By moving objects around, they become self-differentiating.
Some baroque staircases are designed to make ostentation simple as you walk up them, the steps on a ship do not produce the same effect, yes they are both staircases. The igloo gives an interpretation of a place, it avoids the mechanical need for a rapport with a location and inasmuch becomes more visionary. In fact it chooses its visionariness and in so doing loses its wish to be useful. It is poetry that acquires a certain scent of visionariness.”

“The tree that grows with hundreds of branches represents the miracle of spontaneity; balance therefore is a conceptual act. Faggots are also irritating objects, like as though the forest had come into the house; from here we experience the imbalance of the house that loses scurity, and the loss of any willing balance in order to return to mental balance.”

"The architecture resting on the bottom of the small fountain in the park has a spiral design and is immersed in water with a double spiral running internally and externally.
The spiral construction supports a crystal shape below the water surface.
I imagine a quantity of vegetation in the fountain’s small system, with aquatic leaves resting in their element, which is the still water of the plain.
The immersion in water is manifested in a small portion of a spiral architectural idea that has an innate exuberance, bringing to mind an aquatic vegetation that can be born and grow around its metal coils.
The construction itself immersed in water becomes an emblematic figure of plant, freed as it is under the water from its official context of serving as a table for guests.
It is a way of looking from our rational world towards the pre-rational genesis of life.
The spiral panel is immersed in the silence of the pool of water, and the leaves represent an organic infinity.
Perhaps in using the emergence of plant life to indicate the innermost and the outermost point of a spiral, we are symbolising a respect for our planetary vegetation that enables life for us and for itself.”

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In ordine: Mario Merz. Seme nel vento, mixed media on canvas mounted on wood, 175x250 cm; Pigna grande, oil on canvas, pinecone, 280x250 cm, detail


MARIO MERZ (1925-2003)

Mario Merz was born on 1st January 1925 in Milan and moved with his family to Turin as a child. During the Second World War, he abandoned his university studies in medicine and played an active part in the struggle against the Fascists. Arrested in 1945 whilst distributing of handbills, he began painting in jail, drawing the beard of a cell companion in infinite spirals. Following the liberation, encouraged by the critic, Luciano Pistoi, Merz decided to dedicate himself entirely to painting. His first one-man show took place in 1954 at the Galleria La Bussola in Turin, and presented some expressionist-style oils on canvas.
By the middle of the 1960s, Merz’ research had developed and evolved towards an artistic experimentation that led him to produce “volumetric paintings” (Mila Pistoi): canvas constructions enveloping objets trouvés, organic or industrial materials, whose appearance in the work contributed to place the artist amongst the protagonists of Arte Povera. Everyday objects – hampers, pots, raincoats –, organic items – woodpiles, beeswax, clay –, technical materials – metal washers and mesh, glass, neon –, quotations (including non-literary ones), manifested themselves as hitherto neglected energies in art which Merz liberated in a “sum of interior projections on the objects”, translating them sometimes “directly into the objects” (Germano Celant), reinterpreting them in repositioning them within new panorama of forms and pronouncements.
The igloo (1969) and the table (1973) appeared: one “forms an ideal organic [...], at one world and small house” that the artist presented as inhabitable, an absolute space that was not modelled but a “half-glove placed on the ground”; the other “the first thing [...] for the determination of space”, “a piece of raised ground, like a rock in the landscape”. Igloo and table are, despite the primary and archetypal structures, both aesthetic and socio-political declarations in their representation of the definitive move beyond the picture.
1970 saw the start of the numbered Fibonacci series, a progression in which each number is the sum of the two before (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21...). Merz interpreted the numerical sequence – identified by the Pisan mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci in 1202 – as the emblem of the dynamics associated with the growth processes in the organic world, placing the number in neon on his own works, from the preview of the Fibonacci Santa Giulia, hung in the kitchen of his Turin home (1968), to the Suite buried along no. 1 tram line in Strasbourg (1994), and from the above-mentioned proliferating tables of John Weber to the fibrillation of the igloos at the Zurich Kunsthaus (1985), and on to the Salpêtrière in Paris (1987) and the co-penetration of tables and igloos (at the Capc, Bordeaux, 1987, and the Stedelijk, Amsterdam, 1994).
The recurrence of given forms which all lead back to the spiral, such as the triangle, cone, vortex, and visualised artistically, inferable or discerned in an infinite series of mostly organic elements such as snails, branches, leaves, pine cones, horns, is connected to the same series of Fibonacci, a numeric transcription of a figure which, starting from zero, expands infinitely in a spiral development.
The major exhibitions of the 1980s (Palazzo delle Esposizioni di San Marino, 1983 and Guggenheim in New York, 1989) were characterised by a pictorial practice that took on increasing significance, becoming “long and fast”, a natural habitat for wild, “prehistoric” animals such as the rhinoceros, crocodile, tiger, bison, owl, all of which were also bearers of a clear primacy.
The animal portraits are “religious but also organic symbols” flanked and assembled on the previously identified forms (the igloo and table, and their transfer to canvas) and on the objects (neon, bottles, raincoats, newspapers, snails, Merz the “shaman’s” tree), with a proliferating, spiral cadence marked by the Fibonacci series. But they are also subject to a process of metamorphosis (technically effected by abolishing frame and priming, and by allowing the paint to soak into the canvas, “so that it is primed by the paint, rather than merely constituting a support”), which causes paws to emerge from the painted canvas so that it can become the animal it portrays.
This intense period, during which the artist also published a sizeable sylloge of writings (Ich will Sofort ein Buch machen/Voglio fare subito un libro, Sauerländer, Aarau-Frankfurt and Hopefulmonster, Florence), was followed by a phase characterised by a return to the essential nature of matter and line (one-man show at the Fundaçâo de Serralves, Porto, 1999).
Considerable importance was given to drawing which became the protagonist of a series of large installations. The artist exhibited at the Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nîmes (2000) and for the first time in Latin America with a one-man show at the Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires (2002). He took part in Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972 (2001), the first anthological exhibition on Arte Povera in the United Kingdom, organised by the Tate Modern in London and the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis. The 6th November 2002 saw the inauguration of the permanent installation, Igloo fontana, for the railway bypass in the city of Turin. Amongst the many honours received were an Honorary Degree from the Dams in Bologna (2001) and the Praemium Imperiale of the Japan Art Association (2003).
The artist died at dawn on 9th November 2003 in Milan.

Among the personal exhibitions set up after his death, remarkable is the retrospective organized by Fondazione Merz, Galleria d'Arte Moderna and Castello di Rivoli, in Turin (2005); the thematic show Drawings at Kunstmuseum Winterthur and Fondazione Merz (2007); Pageantry of painting at Fondazione Merz (2010); What Is to Be Done? At Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, and Bildmuseet, Umeå (2011-12); Mario Merz Arnulf Rainer. Tiefe weite (Fragmente) at Arnulf Rainer Museum, Baden (2013); Pace Gallery, London (2014); Mario Merz. Città Irreale, Galleria dell’Accademia, Venezia (2015), Mario Merz: numbers are prehistoric, Museum of Cycladic Art di Atene (2015) and Marisa e Mario Merz at MACRO, Rome (2016).

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Mario Merz, L’acqua, fa e protegge, disfa ma spinge fa crescere le piantagioni immense della bellissima Ninfea Cornea Speciosa, 1989, metal structure, glass, waterlilies, Ø 505 cm, photo Andrea Guermani

99. VITO NESTA

organic sinuosity that calls to mind oriental atmospheres

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Vito Nesta, Vegetable Collection, courtesy the designer

The sophisticated mind of a designer meets the beauty and the simplicity of nature, creating two projects full of poetry and aesthetic appeal.
The first one is titled Vegetable Collection: it’s a furniture serie make using oak wood and designed for Cadriano.
The legs of tables and supports call to mind the soft shake of a young tree trunk, which is imperfect and beautiful at the same time. It is designed in a very simply and fascinating way having a strong and recognizable nature.
Vegetable Collection is able to remember the important experiences of Art Nouveau; the sinuosity interact in this project with more clear and defined shapes.

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Vito Nesta, Vegetable Collection, courtesy the designer

We can still find the natural elements proposed again in the Masami serie, a more “decorative” project with the aim to reinterpret the functionality of wallpaper, transforming it in a kind of lush vegetation able to bring into home the more intimate and less known Japan.
An enchanted and suggestive territory calling to mind an ancient, mystical and romantic civilization.
The elegant gestures of Japanese everyday life are set, as if they were precious memories, in this exotic green that seems to protect them, hidden by leaves and vegetation.

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Vito Nesta, Masami, courtesy the designer

98. SILVANO TESSAROLLO

NOTHING COMES FROM NOTHING

The exhibition at Michela Rizzo Gallery in Venice, with the participation of the great Dutch master Herman de Vries. Until the 16 of July.

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Silvano Tessarollo, Non sono il burattino del cielo, 2015, courtesy the artist and Galleria Michela Rizzo, Venezia.


On the religiosity of the earth
by Andrea Lerda

Fear, anxiousness, upsets and the difficulty of finding a purpose for the origin of things that are carried out on earth. Described by Lucretius in De Rerum Natura, these questions are the reason why the Greek poet began to compose the poem in the first century B.C. In the first part of the text Lucretius openly argues that things cannot be created from nothing, and that once born, cannot return to nothing since “nothing that seems to perish, destroys itself absolutely”(1).
The two fundamental items of the discourse are: at first the fact that already by the first century A.D. he recognized the existence of an opinion that would later be identified as anthropocentrism: that nothing is born from nothing. This is a clearly secular position that at the center of everything placed the active role and thus the responsibility of man in relation to nature and the evolutionary process of the earth. There is no divine intent or supernatural guide in the world, we are not given hope for a world beyond this one.
The second point is something that we can read between the lines, the capacity of nature to regenerate each time from itself, since “nothing returns to nothing”(2). The call to the role of the human is direct, that is both an act of kindness or of destruction regarding those that surround it.
Sustaining the lack of chance in natural phenomenon, Lucretius announces that they are directly connected with the manifestations of human existence, affirming their fragility and that their position is subject to rules of behavior of which, through a reading that takes place today, man has the power of action.

The fundamental principle described by Lucretius, according to which ‘nothing comes from nothing’, can be a point of departure for the analysis of the work of Silvano Tessarollo, which the Michela Rizzo Gallery presents for the second time in her gallery space in Venice. This is complemented by an intervention from the great Dutch master Herman de Vries (who returns to the lagoon after having represented Holland at the last Art Biennale).
Paralleling to Lucretius, the point of view of Tessarollo is likewise laical. His research is characterized by a definite cosmic spirituality but it remains anchored to the reality. Similar to the poet, the artist is moved by a strong desire to find responses to the “nature of things”.
Tessarollo has always been inspired by the need to reach the heart of the question, to understand the reasons for which something happens and the nature of the material that surrounds us, raising themes such as transience, life and death.
With the exhibition Nulla nasce dal Nulla, the artist executes something like a ‘return to order’, taking a step back, proceeding towards the origins, walking upon a path that has already been trod. The use of materials such as soil, grass, water and other natural materials has already been used by the artist in the past. These materials are now utilized to bring the artist towards new formal and aesthetic results that are evidently more refined, within a journey that will begin more delicate and spiritual, with the intention to reach the “religion of the earth”(3).

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Silvano Tessarollo herman de vries mostra nulla nasce dal nulla galleria michela rizzo andrea lerda a cura di venezia

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In order: Exhibition views at Galleria Michela Rizzo, 2016. In the foreground: Herman de Vries, Burned III, 2014-2015; Silvano Tessarollo, Ci sono giorni di vento, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Michela Rizzo, Venezia.


Silvano Tessarollo in this way completes an act of ‘auto consecration’, a true devotion with an approach that is similar to a monk concentrated on his prayer.
Lo specchio del cielo (2016) is probably the “Terminus a quo” of this project that shows in Venice an entire body of new works. It is an effort inspired by the work of Giuseppe Penone in 1970, with Rovesciare i propri occhi and is balanced by an extremely interesting aesthetic formalism, declaring the clear ties between man and nature, calling each of us to a sense of responsibility and reminding us of the importance of an authentic contact with the world we inhabit.
The materials that Silvano Tessarollo uses hold inside them the collective memory of the world, our memory, our culture, our traditions, our past and our future. The land is an occasion to think and to reflect; and give us the echoes from western and eastern spiritual traditions.

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The devotion in the approach of the artist with this element, so disinclined to assume defined and clear forms, recalls the fanatic care of the perfection of a Zen garden, typical of Japanese culture. As happens in these micro worlds, in the work of Tessarollo here exhibited, we can assist to the birth of utopian landscapes on minimal surfaces, that evoke the organic sinuosity of the Nature. The laical role of the artist who puts himself at the beginning of the genesys as a God able to shape the soil.
Tessarollo cultivates his desire for perfection as an “attempt to arrive at the spiritual in the admiration for mystery, beyond the confines of every kind of materialism or spiritualism”(4).

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Silvano Tessarollo mostra nulla nasce dal nulla galleria michela rizzo andrea lerda a cura di venezia14

In order: Silvano Tessarollo, exhibition views at Galleria Michela Rizzo, 2016; Terra senz'acqua, 2015; Preghiera, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Michela Rizzo, Venezia.

The clumps of land that Tessarollo redesigns with devotion and patience, in imitation of Nature; strips of land modelled as undulating rapids, contain in themselves all the strength, power and glory of the cosmos upon which we walk (Il suono dei passi, 2015).
What can we say about works such as Se l’acqua non trova radici (2016) in which the artist applied mould and soil on paper, arranging it in a way that the rain would leave its patterns upon it? Or as Pocia (2015) in which the artist returned to the fertility of the earth with interventions that inserted the vegetable element inside them, perhaps as an action of redemption regarding the many wrongs that have been inflicted upon it. These are not casual references, the artist has used them from the beginning in the titles of his works: Terra senza rumori, Terra senza acqua, Raccogli quel che semini.
A warning? A prophesy? A premonition for a dimension pure and free from every dangerous interaction? Without making polemic references to an eco-critical dimension, Silvano Tessarollo seems to want to launch stronger messages, raising indispensable questions, opening doors to multiple solutions at the same time. The artist appears as a “method to make us meet ourselves, making us participants in the vital profundity, in order to provoke through this aesthetic experience that draws us directly to the primary reality, still not polarised or fragmented in the conscience, an experience that develops beyond time, finding in itself the beginning and its end in the present”(5).

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Silvano Tessarollo, Inizio del giorno, 2015 (left); Lo specchio del cielo, 2016 (right). Courtesy the artist and Galleria Michela Rizzo, Venezia.


The other protagonist in this exhibition is the great Dutch master Herman de Vries, an artist that knows the importance of the link with the earth, that from the end of the sixties, he has collected and archived with great care in his personal archive and museum.
All of us remember the work From Earth: Everywhere, presented at the Dutch Pavilion at the Venetian Biennale 2015.
As in Silvano Tessarollo, Herman de Vries’ work has also been concerned with existence, impermanence, transformation and the transience of things. He is also significantly influenced by Zen philosophy and we can affirm without fear that the Dutch artists’ approach to nature is as intimate, sacred and authentic as can be. In the exhibition Nulla nasce dal nulla, Herman de Vries exhibits the work burned III (2014-2015) consisting in three pieces of a carbonised Robinia tree trunk. It is an emblematic work of the approach that the artist has with an element so replete of symbolic meaning and references.
The tree and the forest are central figures for his artistic practice: sanctuaries, sacred dimensions that allow us to observe nature in its authentic form. Sites where Herman de Vries emerges himself each day, like a mantra that becomes a lifestyle to develop his religious respect. The desire is to underline the importance that we do not lose an intimate and attentive relationship with the natural world, something that the culture and civilisation of the west seems to have forgotten.
The carbonised tree trunk is shown as an altarpiece, where kneel. A figure that, despite everything is still alive, can trigger in our soul the same desire for reconciliation and gratitude that the artist feels each time he relates himself to nature.

The work of Silvano Tessarollo and Herman de Vries is the homage by the artists, without the intent to denounce, to make propaganda, to cause a fuss over the crisis of the environment, to shout a cry of desperation for a planet at the point of collapse, but rather to be still, to remain in silence, to observe and listen.
In both the central desire is to contribute to the process of awareness in respect to the comprehension of the world and of that which can happen inevitably through a constant dialogue between Man and Nature. In this sense the exhibition Nulla nasce dal nulla represents a moment of communion and respect for the cosmos, an act of reconciliation, a call to discover, with the aim of establishing a new harmony with the natural elements and with the Earth.


(1) Lucrezio, De Rerum Natura, italian translation, curated by Olimpio Cescatti, Garzanti editore, 1975
(2) Ibidem
(3) Duccio Demetrio, La religiosità della terra. Una fede civile per la cura del mondo, Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2013
(4) Ibidem
(5) Enzo Bargiacchi, Forma senza forma, text in the catalogue of the exhibition, Galleria Civica, Modena, 22 May – 11 July 1982, p.16.

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Silvano Tessarollo mostra nulla nasce dal nulla galleria michela rizzo andrea lerda a cura di venezia10

In order: Silvano Tessarollo, exhibition view at Galleria Michela Rizzo, 2016; La materia delle cose, 2016, detail; Non trovo le parole per esprimere il mio dolore, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Michela Rizzo, Venezia.


SILVANO TESSAROLLO / NOTHING COMES FROM NOTHING
With the participation of Herman de Vries
Curated by Andrea Lerda
Galleria Michela Rizzo, Venezia
Untile 16 July 2016

97. FILIPPO ARMELLIN

THE BLANK INTERIORS / THE EXHIBITION AT THE FLAT, MILANO

filippo armellin mostra The Blank Interiors the flat massimo carasi milano platform green


The Blank Interiors is a photographic series of locations set up in a studio.
In order to create this collection of images, different models of herbs, plants, trees and stones on painted backdrops have been put into scene. These sculptured and then set up models have been created with paper and metal; then they've been painted with acrylic colors and pigments. Likewise, lands and backdrops have been appropriately sculptured and set up. They are artificially natural spaces, arisen from a sense of depletion of what can be transposed into pictures. When every single place has already been depicted, there's nothing left to do but take a snap-shot of what that place means.
These compositions, whose purposefully vertical orientation recalls the iconography typical of sacred paintings, guide our gaze through natural, overcrowded and almost impenetrable scenic designs. An overabundance of deliberately multiplied and excessive elements paradoxically leads to a sensation of loss and emptiness. The instinct of conservation turns this way into the research of a convergence point, and forces us to ponder on the concepts of nature, reality and fiction.

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The soul theatre
by Davide Arini


The Blank Interiors are brilliant, intricately detailed images. They are very natural environments, yet when we look at them, our eyes move fast, leaving a confused mind to follow. Something does not make sense and we experience a vague feeling of discomfort. Why? Because in these works one never sees a horizon, and we lose ourselves in the vanishing point. The latter fades into the context, escaping its role as a visual guide, thereby disturbing our inner being. The vanishing point is the visual equivalent of the truth. The search for this point is a physical expression of the need to know. As people, we are fleeting and ephemeral entities – victims of circumstance, of accidental events that are without a sequel. In the long run, this condition creates a vacuum within us. This is why we need answers and milestones, including visual ones. The Blank Interiors force us to look for an answer and make us think about why we cannot find it. They offer us a view of environments that are not only rich in detail, but also very simple: a metaphor for a multiplicity that is not so much that of a varied and changing the world, but rather, that of the measure of our interiority. We could almost say that they are the visual representation of the theater of our soul. A snapshot of shades of emotions and thoughts that make up the becoming of our person. It is worth mentioning that the word “theatre” signifies not only the physical place where the action plays out, but also the action itself. Thus, The Blank Interiors exist as both a place for the soul, and as the act that the soul exercises to go beyond itself in order to find the answer that is destined to escape it.

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For all images: Filippo Armellin, The Blank Interior, courtesy the artist and The Flat, Massimo Carasi, Milano

PROPOSAL #12 ELISABETTA VILLANI

PAESAGGIO SARDO STRAORDINARIO

elisabetta villani photographer sardegna fotogragia paesaggio sardo1


This photographic project, away from the intention to be a documentary work , has been made to describe a partial view of a famous Sardinian landscape in the south west of the island, drawing attention to its ordinary feature, with its nature and its contradictions. The process of knowledge of Elisabetta Villani, paid attention to those particular accumulation or red muds, which textures are the result of the processing waste of heavy metal (zinc and lead) and other not reclaimed waste.
The most photographed place in the south western Sardinia, is the one in which people recognize themselves.
An extra-ordinary issue, that lives between the paradox and the contradiction: fascinating and dangerous source of contamination and pollution for the territory.
The first reclamation works have already begun and related to the coverage of tailings, to prevent leakage into the atmosphere, with a special plastic surface on which is cast into the earth to grow native plants.
The problem of land reclamation for the red muds is still suspended because it would erase that aspect and that "attractive colour " that makes it extraordinary infact.

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The sparkling and the dark color of the mountain, the life experience of the miner Mario and his wife Laura, defined the way of my work and the different possible interpretations.
The work consist in a series of single images as a a story of a standing place apparently motionless.
The sequence of images follows a methodical route, leaving the real identity of the landscape; almost a thematic itinerary in the sign of landscape that evolves as a common and shared resource.
As a synthesis of individual memories, the value of each image, becomes the public representation of these places and of the tale of this site.

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elisabetta villani photographer sardegna fotogragia paesaggio sardo

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For all images, courtesy Elisabetta Villani. 
The project was born with the participation of the artist Fabio Marullo.
This news was published in the context of spontaneous reports that come to Platform Green. For more information about the sending process of your project or work, please, go to the "Contacts" or “About” area.

96. WELL PROVEN CHAIR

WASTE THAT INSPIRES DESIGN

Marjan van Aubel James Shaw designer well proven chair platform green green design 1

Marjan van Aubel James Shaw designer well proven chair platform green green design2


Understanding that processing wood from planks to products incurs 50% to 80% of timber wastage during normal manufacture, Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw looked at ways of incorporating waste shavings into design using bio-resin. A curious chemical reaction occurs when it is mixed with the shavings, expanding it into a foamed structure. By adding colour dye and varied-sized shavings from different workshop machines, a colourful, lightweight and mouldable material was created, reinforced by the fibres in the hardwood shavings.
The porridge-like mixture of resin and shavings are applied to the underside of the chair shell by hand, building up the material wherever extra strength is required. The mixture then foams explosively to create its own exuberant form, anchored by the simple turned legs of American ash.

Marjan van Aubel James Shaw designer well proven chair platform green green design3

Marjan van Aubel James Shaw designer well proven chair platform green green design4

Marjan van Aubel James Shaw designer well proven chair platform green green design6


All the elements of the Well Proven Chair serie don't disguise their materiality and construction; on the contrary, it's a kind of exhibitionistic display of the ugly made beautiful.
But the vaguely geological texture is as much a subtle critique of the cheap chipboard backsides of, say, IKEA's mass-produced wares as it is an expression of the chairs' very essence.

Marjan van Aubel James Shaw designer well proven chair platform green green design


For all images: Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw, Well Proven Chair, courtesy the designers

95. PIERPAOLO CAMPANINI

THE EXHIBITION AT KAUFMANN REPETTO IN MILANO

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Pierpaolo Campanini’s practice, which is inherently sceptical against the painting as a tool for mere representation, since ever try to avoid this criticality through a “referential” approach towards reality.
Each subject identified is a reference that is firmly anchored to reality, reread and reinvented, passing through an experience of sculptural nature.
Before assuming the pictorial forms that we see, the scenes painted by the artist need to pass through a sublimation process that is able to redefine the form of the painted topic and to find a new spatial density.
The relationship with the subject represented, which is not fluid by nature, not only is not hidden but become an opportunity through which to address new issues, new aesthetic and formal opportunities, openly declaring a strong attraction towards a sculptural idea inherited from the lecture by Graham Sutherland.

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pierpaolo campanini artista platform green mostra kauffman repetto milano


The subjects of the latest series of Campanini’s oil paintings are comprised mainly of plants, bushes and shrubbery, which inhabit the garden of the artist’s home and studio.
Where does the need to present an entire serie of works dedicated to this natural subject comes from?
Within these vegetal forms the artists perceives a special density, a vribrant shape, a charismatic space full of tensions that needs to be molded and depicted.
Campanini feels and sees these subjects as if they were stars; bright points which are opaque at the same time; hard metals but also livid cartilages.
Campanini’s deep and stratified paintings often fade in and of ground, creating moments of marked incompleteness and transitional gestures. The canvases are thus left to linger, suspended between representation and transfiguration. As an unexpected light invades the subjects, hardening each curvaceous fold of the organic against the vapid negative spaces in some works or the constructed geometrical supports in others, light and shadows blend generating a multitude of of colors. These colors navigate an expansive palette, imbued with an extremity and exaggeration by the human eye.
Campanini’s new body of work seems to predominantly arise from a reflection upon sight over the other senses. Here the hunger of the modern, Western man, is a “quest for a bright light that never ceases, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow”*.
Pierpaolo Campanini’s research explores the inherent limits and possibilities of painting, flourishing in these fundamental dichotomies. It is impossible to portray light without tracing, simultaneously, a depiction of shadows.

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For all images: Pierpaolo Campanini, exhibition view at Kaufmann Repetto Gallery in Milano, 2016
*Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Libro d’ombra, in Opere, Bompiani, Milano, 2002. First original edition published in 1933.

PIERPAOLO CAMPANINI
Kaufmann Repetto Gallery, Milan
Until 28 May 2016

94. ANA MENDIETA

THE EXHIBITION AT GALLERIA RAFFAELLA CORTESE IN MILANO

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Galleria Raffaella Cortese hosts the second solo show of Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta.
The exhibition at Raffaella Cortese focuses on works Mendieta created while in Rome, in particular on ink, watercolour and pencil drawings some of which were studies for sculptures. The exhibition also features the book of lithographs Duetto Pietre Foglie, also realized during her Roman residency, and a precious notebook from 1981 with some preparatory studies.
In a brief yet prolific career Mendieta experimented with various media, from performance to film, from photography to drawing and sculpture. Her artistic practice investigated the close relationship between Art and Nature, which Mendieta accomplished by merging her physical body or its imprint with the earth. In many performative films in fact, the body becomes the means by which the artist blends with Nature, in a kind of spiritual and visceral ritual that assumes a symbolic value of rebirth. As the artist repeatedly said, ‘culture is the memory of history’ and it is in this sense that the body is not just a witness, but also the vehicle of collective memory.

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Since her relationship with the artist Carl Andre, a Minimalist aesthetic and preoccupation with issues of scale, materials, presentation, and environment are the common items of the aritst. In this sense, It is very important to remember the influence of Andre’s work in Ana Mendieta’s practice and life. At the same time it is essential to keep in mind that if both artists used natural materials, Mendieta’s approach was very different and more ephemeral.
An artistic resarch in which organic materials, their shape and the intimate connection with the human body reveals a very close connection with nature, earth and culture.
Everybody remember the serie “volcano” made between 1978 and 1980, representing her body in dialogue with nature or the “earth body works” that were an inventive series of variations on her silhouette, created in media ranging from the elemental earth, fire, and water to natural materials such as grass, flowers, moss and snow.
An intimate dialogue that we can find in the serie of drawings presented at Galleria Raffaella Cortese, that confirm the interest and the attention of Ana Mendieta in emotional and sensual aspects of nature.

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For all images, Ana Mendieta, installation view of the exhibition at Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan, 2016.


ANA MENDIETA
Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan
Until 11 May 2016