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110. BACK TO THE LAND

The exhibition, open until February 4th 2017 at Studio la Città in Verona, is a project involving 7 international artists called to reflect on the role of contemporary art within the ecocriticism and the ecological problems of the Anthropocene Era.

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda a cura di ecologia

Back to the Land, installation view, Studio la Città, Verona, 2016. Photo credit: Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy Studio la Città, Verona


The Back to the Land project that Studio la Città is presenting in its rooms in Verona, is not simply an exhibition but a further step along a virtual path that for some time, at a global level, has singled out contemporary art as a tool for bringing to the fore ecological questions and for stimulating environmental ideas. This is a “visceral” mo- vement in which Italy has for some time been a protagonist, building on a heredity that, with such movements as Arte Povera, has since the 1960s created a basis for current artistic experiences.
We are obliged to take into account some important shows which, over the past two years, have highlighted these themes: first of all the programme of PAV, Turin, curated by Marco Scotini with the shows La Tenda Verde (Da- sGrüneZelt). Joseph Beuys e il concetto ampliato di ecologia; WILD ENERGIES: persone in movimento; ecologEAST. Arte e Natura al di là del Muro; and Earthrise. Visioni pre-ecologiche nell’arte italiana (1967-73). MAN in Nuoro, too, thanks to the sensibility of Lorenzo Giusti, has recently presented the work of Michel Blazy, Roman Signer, and Ettore Favini, while MART has organised the show Nature. Arte e Ecologia at the Galleria Civica, Trento.
In Turin again, and perhaps not by chance, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev decided to start with the show Organismi. Dall’Art Nouveau di ÉmileGallé alla Bioarchitettura; the Fondazione Merz has presented Mario Merz. La natura e l’equilibrio, while in Villa Panza di Biumo there has been organised a magnificent tribute to Meg Webster and Roxy Paine titled Natura Naturans.

The need to gain a distance from the frenetic rhythms of contemporary reality, of finding once again an equal relationship with the natural environment, and to expand ecological and eco-critical awareness, is certainly not a recent idea. Already on the cusp of the 1960s and 1970s in America the “Back to the Land” social movement gained a great number of supporters who promoted a rural lifestyle that was the antithesis of traditional society, ill and corrupt as it was seen to be.
Even earlier, Henry Thoreau and Hermann Hesse physically experienced nature, later publishing works that be- came genuine benchmarks. Again in America, over the past two centuries there has been established a literary tradition based on this theme, a tradition employed as a fundamental tool for the diffusion of an integrated evo- lutionary strategy with the aim of proposing an increased awareness of the man/nature interaction. Such authors as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin, George Parkis March, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson are just some of those who have sparked off an eco-critical debate, one that today is more than ever up-to-date and pressing.

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda a cura di ecologia1 back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda andreco arte ecologia back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda andreco arte ecologia

Back to the Land, installation view, Studio la Città, Verona, 2016. Photo credit: Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy Studio la Città, Verona


This great global ferment, stimulated by a situation of perpetual danger, and of which we have recently had a confirmation following the latest official warning by the UN about the level of greenhouse gas emissions, is a reaction against the Western anthropocentric tradition for which humanity, with its reason and personality, has been considered the only depository of moral law: the symptom of a malaise that for some time art has been trying to develop and which artists, as actors and interpreters, have approached in a creative and often non-scientific manner by exploiting the codes and languages that might narrate important problems in innovative and untraditional ways.
The Back to the Land show intends, through the work of seven young and internationally-known artists, to be a part of this extremely complex and delicate panorama. Even though neither aiming at being an overt condemnation nor being the occasion for trumpeting the nth sad list of ecological events and disasters, Back to the Land aims at reflecting on the importance of human gestures, on the sense of responsibility and power that the language of contemporary art can have in this context. Through different formal approaches, the seven artists invited show expressive methods and languages that are able, each in their own way, to recount a common attention to environmental questions and the problems of nature today.
At the heart of these reflections are the codes that art uses for inquiring, narrating, and presenting at a formal level works that derive from an analysis of wider themes and the even more pressing problems that involve all of us. A reflection of an ethical and moral nature is common to all the works in the show, in the hope that the message they convey is not exclusively perceived as a negative one. The poetical dimension of nature, the earth’s ancestral power, and the deep forces that unite us to it, must be what impels us to see art as an opportunity within a wider and more varied design, one in which the sacredness of a respectful relationship becomes a reality rather than a perpetual premonition. (A.L.)



> ANDRECO

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda andreco arte ecologia2

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda andreco

In order: Andreco, installation view of the works included in the show Back to the Land, Studio la Città, Verona, 2016; Melting and Falling, 2016, wall painting, site specific project on the external wall of the gallery. Photo credit: Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy Studio la Città, Verona.

An environmental engineer by training and an artist by vocation, Andreco fuses these two elements together in a work that is backed by a solid scientific basis. A continuous raising of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, climatic changes, exasperated overbuilding, the melting of glaciers: the “invasion” of humanity is for Andreco the main cause of environmental damage. For the show the artist has created a large-scale wall painting, part of the recent Climate 01 project proposed in Paris on the occasion of the COP2–Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015, and later in Bologna in 2016. A large totemic figure, inspired by natural material and its clear-cut, mineral but always unexpected aesthetic, is at the centre of the show. Thanks also to the presence of drawing, sculpture and painting, the artist’s intervention becomes a huge evocative presence that, in a dialogue with a second site-specific intervention realised on the outside of the building, accompanies the viewers along a journey of discovery and of analysis of current environmental problems. (Andrea Lerda)


> CRISTIAN CHIRONI

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda cristian chironi

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda cristian chironi cutter

In order: Cristian Chironi, exhibition view - selection of books which are part of the Cutter serie, 2010 - 2016; exhibition view (left), DATA (Farfalle d'italia), 2011-2012, paper, glue 3M Re-Mount, plexiglass, 3 elements, 60 x 60 cm each, detail, (right). Photo credit: Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy the artist and Studio la Città, Verona.

What Cristian Chironi presents, instead, is the final result of a refined process of “subtraction”. In the books that make up the Cutter series, realised from 2010 onwards, the artist has in fact cut from maps, herbals, and various books, portions of images related to the numerous species of flora and fauna whose existence is in danger or irremediably compromised. What I find extremely interesting in these works, apart from the attempt to underline a genuine problem, is his ability to give form to emptiness. We are faced with the formalisation of an absence, of the reconfiguration of the bases on which stand natural balances. This direct and “surgical” action is also emblematic of the constant interaction between humanity and nature. In the process of removal and recomposition, Chironi highlights just how much, at a practical level, happens every day in the real world where the discrepancy between the biosphere and the anthroposphere is increasingly marked and fragmented. (Andrea Lerda)


> NEHA CHOKSI

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda neha choksi Green Found

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda neha choksi Green Found video

Neha Choksi, Found Green, 2006, video, 13 min, courtesy Neha Choksi and Project88

Neha Choksi is taking part in the project with the video Found Green, 2006, a beautiful work that reflects on the phenomena of the uncontrolled and atrocious urbanisation of Mumbai, one of the most highly populated cities in the world. Here the present literally has razed the past to the ground, and on it there have been raised new neighbourhoods, houses, and hovels. There is now traffic where a park once was, and the same has happened for what were once open spaces, now taken over by markets. "Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay", we read on the map for the redevelopment of green city spaces planned for the twenty-year period of 1981-2001 in Mumbai’s “E” district. A plan that was never completed because it had to face the reality of a continually expanding megalopolis inside which no recreational areas can be permitted, far less any green areas. In Found Green, 2006, a nostalgic boy tours the alleys of the neighbourhood, interacting with presences that have by now disappeared or that never existed. During his walk, as though guided by a supernatural presence, he becomes the spokesman for a message that has all the feeling of a reproach. (Andrea Lerda)


> ANDREA NACCIARRITI

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda andrea nacciarriti

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda andrea nacciarriti navi vergogna

In order: Andrea Nacciarriti, Lottinge 1956, 2013, c-print on dibond, brown packing tape , 125 x 200 cm, photo credit Giovanni Ghiandoni, courtesy Franco Soffiantino Contemporary Art Productions; exhibition view at Studio la Città, Verona, 2016, photo credit Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy Franco Soffiantino Contemporary Art Productions; T102, 2013, driftwood, plastic glass, water, 60 x 50 x 100 cm, detail, photo credit Giovanni Ghiandoni, courtesy Franco Soffiantino Contemporary Art Productions

The work by Andrea Nacciarriti, instead, is centred on what Riccardo Bocca has called “ships of shame”. A murky and clandestine system for dumping dangerous, and so “inconvenient”, waste in the Mediterranean Sea, and which for decades has been dominated by political power, the Mafia, and helped by the indifference of the media. This is a phenomenon that Nacciarriti aims to analyse, quite apart from its ecological implications, by reflecting on the role of language and of a public opinion that, together with the media world, is all too often guilty of not looking attentively at what is happening in daily life. (Andrea Lerda)


> GIORGIA SEVERI

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda giorgia severi

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda giorgia severi video

In order: Giorgia Severi: (left) Restoring The World – CURA #1, 2013, wood, plaster, concrete, paraloid, 43 x 23 x 20 cm; (right) Restoring The World – WHAT REMAINS OF A FOREST, 2012, pigmental print on archival matte paper, 40 x 60 cm; ARSA, 2013, two channels video installation, 15 min, a film in collaboration with Daniele Pezzi and Giovanni Lami, photo credit Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy the artist.

As part of a research into the memory of landscape, which she has been conducting for some years by now, Giorgia Severi, instead, is presenting Restoring the World. The work was begun after the arson attack that, in July 2012, was aimed at the Ortazzo and Ortazzino nature parks, part of the Po Delta nature reserve, on the Lido di Dante in Ravenna. By meditating on the sense of responsibility that John Passmore discussed in his book Man’s responsibility for Nature, published in 1974, the artist has created a cogent work consisting of drawing, photography, video, and sculpture. A project that, in its complexity, becomes a shamanic rite, one of purification, but at the same time a genuine act of “restoration” that asks humanity to reconnect with the most ancestral forces of nature and its own culture. (Andrea Lerda)


> FRANCESCO SIMETI

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda francesco simeti

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda francesco simeti carta parati

Francesco Simeti, installation view. Photo credit: Michele Alberto Sereni, courtesy Francesca Minini, Milano

It is inevitable that man must cohabit with the surrounding environment. The inseparability of this relationship is the basis of a large section of the art of Francesco Simeti, from some time interested in the ambiguous and contradictory dynamics that exist between these two entities. Starting from some illustrations, mostly taken from the book Picturesque America, written in 1872 by William Cullen Bryant, Simeti has realised an environmental work in which the sublime fascination of the untamed landscape is mixed with figurative allusions to the “civilised” world. In the nature proposed by this artist, what predominates is grey, which we are by now surfeited with, and on which we “depend”. Here and there acidic-coloured clouds might lead us to think of something extremely dangerous, but at times the sky seems to be serene and the wan colours leave space for a hyper-coloured nature, one that is unexpectedly alive. A personal analysis that, despite everything, alludes to possible positive outcomes. (Andrea Lerda)


> JULIUS VON BISMARCK

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda julius von bismarck painting landscape

back to the land mostra studio la citt verona andrea lerda julius von bismarck

Julius von Bismarck, Landscape Painting (Desert), 2015 video HD, 23 min, courtesy the artist and Alexander Levy Gallery

And finally the work by Julius Von Bismarck which is perhaps the most provocative intervention of all. The video Painting Landscape (Desert) records an invasive action that damages the environment. The artist has physically intervened in some parts of the Mexican landscape and has “cancelled” them in the real sense of the word. Julius Von Bismarck asked some local people to paint plants, cactuses, and rocks white, in order then to bring them back to their original colouring with a second layer of paint.
This is an intervention at the limits of what is legitimate, arousing thoughts of a moral kind, and bringing to mind some of American Land Art’s environmental actions, which at the time were at the heart of a lively and controversial debate about their ethics. Andrea Lerda



BACK TO THE LAND
Andreco, Cristian Chironi, Neha Choksi, Andrea Nacciarriti, Giorgia Severi, Francesco Simeti, Julius Von Bismarck
curated by Andrea Lerda
with a contribute in the catalogue by Serenella Iovino, one of the most important voices of the International Ecocriticim and Professor of Comparative Literature at the Turin University
Studio la CIttà / Verona
Until February 4th 2017