Sunday, 26 November 2017

Venice Biennale: Artists in the space

These days some of my friends are visiting Viva Arte Viva, the 57th Art Biennale in Venice, that it closes in two days.
As they ask for suggestions on what must to be seen, I found my mind going back to last May when I visited the Biennale during the preview days.
My trip to Venice every two years for the Art Biennale became a kind of a ritual: a journey by train/plane, a group of professionals (Artists, Curators, Art Critics and a Gallerist mainly from London, Rome, Athens and Paris) sharing the same flat - rented by a lovely old lady from Venice - notes, catalogues, ferries, planning and a very deep immersion into the Arts from all over the world.

I found this Biennale complex as its meaning "of consisting of many different and connected parts".
In fact the curator Christine Macel offers a journey through nine chapters representing each one a Trans-Pavilion.
I noticed at first as the SPACE was there for the artists to be used as their workshop, studio, theatre, rehearsal room.
Within the Pavilion of Artists and Books, I think of Dawn Kasper: painter, photographer, performer and musician based in New York. She moved her "nomadic studio" - an experience she started back in 2008 when she couldn't afford the rent of a studio anymore - into the Sala Chini of the Central Pavilion at Giardini.
Something, in a way, so intimate as an artist studio, a place that is not generally open to everybody, became, for 7 months, a collective experience. Visitors had the chance to see the artist at work, to spend time in the space, to check every detail from drawings to musical instruments, from photographs to her little bed on the side, to exchange words (something I was really willing to do but, shamefully, I stopped myself).
The artist didn't mind to share her creative process with the visitors as part of her research. 
Not far from Dawn Kasper, again, a huge space transformed into an officina/artist workshop by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. Stepping inside the room makes you feel part of a collective mechanism: people at work producing and assembling the Green Light modules made from recycled and sustainable materials. During the artistic workshop refugees, asylum seekers, students and visitors are invited to partecipate to the actual construction of the lamps or to attend seminars, language courses and film screenings. The space offers here the opportunity to take part of a collaborative learning process in a continuous exchange where national and cultural barriers lose their meanings. The Green Light lamps are sold during the Biennale as part of a fundraising campaign benefiting two NGO's working with refugees.
"(...) Mass displacement and migration are core challenges in the world today, affecting millions of people around the globe. Green light displays a modest strategy for addressing the challenges and responsibilities arising from the current situation and shines a light on the value of collaborative work and thinking". O. Eliasson 
A different request of engagement, more spiritual one, it takes place in the center of Arsenale's main corridor where Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto invites people to enter his Um Sagrado Lugar (A Sacred place). I love and follow his work with great passion as I know it's always a multisensory experience. I didn't expect to see before my eyes such a powerful and huge structure of a Cupixawa, "a place of sociality, political meetings and spiritual ceremonies of the Huni Kuin", indigenous people from the state of Acre in the Amazonian forest.
photo by F.L.A.
Seriously, Neto took me into another dimension. I entered the tent without shoes and I was sitting in circle with other visitors, some members of the ancient tribe and the artist himself. We became part of a ceremony while the senses where all involved. I was keeping some pieces of bark (on the floor) in my hand in order to better connect with the spirit of the earth. This work was part of the Pavilion of Shamans.

At the beginning of Arsenale's path it became clear how crafts and textiles took over.
For the Pavilion of the Common, Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei use its space as a workroom/performance: The Mending Project (2009). Again an artist who is engaging with the public. Mingwei (or a volunteer) seats at a long table ready to repair - using colourful threads attached to the wall - the clothing brought by the visitors. Once the job is done, each garment is stacked on the table with the thread ends still attached.

Not too far David Medalla, an artist originally from Philippines, who lives in London since 1964, presents A Stitch in Time (1968), an embroidery project that became a creative act. The artist hung a large cloth on the wall and here the visitors are invited to stitch items directly on the fabric. 

After a while I found myself wondering if the Biennale should present most recent works by the selected artists or even projects conceived for this worldwide renowned exhibition. I think the Biennale should state the status of the Arts in this moment in time.

When I entered the France Pavilion I felt completely refreshed: the whole space was transformed into a musical experience. I have to admit music and sounds are my weak point so I might not be objective. The lines, the volumes, the instruments, the shapes, the cables, the movement, the atmosphere, the sounds of Studio Venezia created by Xavier Veilhan, together with Curators Christian Marclay and Lionel Bovier made me think "what a beautiful piece of art!". Again, when I saw the musicians rehearsing, I had witnessed an act of creation... a very privileged moment!
I don't know if it makes sense but somehow this Pavilion with its movement of shapes and volumes made me think of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari movie... in its brightest version, of course.


Saturday, 10 September 2016

Africa is not a country! Coffee time with Camilla Boemio

‘Agenda Setting’ (neon series) Africa is not a country! Filippo Peretti © 2016 courtesy Ola-Dele Kuku Projects and LMS Gallery Brussels
I first met Camilla Boemio back in 2013 at the Maldives Pavilion during the 55th Venice Biennale; she was Associate Curator.
I had the privilege to get an insight into the exhibition and artists’ work. I was completely fascinated by the Pavilion from different perspectives: the concept, the quality of artwork, the venue, the exhibition set up and the team’s openness especially towards visitors. Ms Boemio walked with me through the venue and I had the chance to be introduced to some of the artists. In that occasion I developed a big respect to the professional but also friendly way she takes her job.
It was with no surprise that I welcomed the news she was appointed Curator of the Nigerian Pavilion for this year Architecture Biennale in Venice, it seems to me just a quite obvious result of her professional career. This Pavilion, titled "Diminished Capacity", marks the very first presence of Nigeria at La Biennale di Venezia; Ms Boemio presented a site-specific exhibition by architect and artist Ola-Dele Kuku. Spazio Punch, a captivating industrial building, is hosting the exhibition.
Originally from Nigeria, Ola-Dele Kuku conducted his studies at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC) in Los Angeles and in Vico Morcote, Ticino, Switzerland.
Since the inception of his career, his private practice brings together architecture’s elements and concepts with a special interest in philosophy, theory, and composition. 
Quite recently I had a nice coffee time with Camilla Boemio. A great opportunity to exchange inspirations, visions, and talk about her most recent experience at Venice Biennale.
'Diminished Capacity' Barbara Rossi © 2016 courtesy Ola-Dele Kuku Projects
AM: I was very pleased to hear the presence of Nigeria at this year Architecture Biennale. This pavilion definitely breaks boundaries between architecture and art. Can you tell me how you met the architect/artist Ola-Dele Kuku and how this project came about?
CB: Beginning with Catherine David’s and Okwui Enwezor’s Documenta (in 1997 and 2002 respectively), the world of mega-exhibitions has announced a shift toward rethinking the limits of Euro-American internationalism, and granting greater sensitivity to global practices in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, South and East Asia, Africa, and Latin America. So it's a prior evolution for continents outside of Europe to be well represented at Venice Biennale.
The world is transformed through architecture, but also art should find more complex social contexts where inviting the public to explore unexpected places, discovering new routes in the city and its surroundings where art starts an unpublished public view.
Global world is in a trans-formation and the cultural world is creating several unedited connections. Increasingly, intellectual projects are parts of a bigger ecological, economic and technological system in which collaborations are a source of innovation.
It was born out of artistic interest and the ‘urge’ to speak about social architecture, to talk about difference in cultural and even aesthetic canons, why these differences are there and how we approach them. It’s quite easy to ‘dismiss’ a certain approach as naive, immature or wanting to play hardball with geopolitical issues, without really understanding what’s going on in that nation and why certain tendencies have developed and are there. Being that 'Reporting from the Front' either a political / activist approach incidentally, both very present in the Nigerian architecture scene and in my research; I was the perfect curator for this collaboration with architect and artist Ola-Dele Kuku.
In the last years I have curated several public art projects and I investigated architecture topics within museums and art galleries. My curatorial practice, broadened between art and architecture, is combining different approaches from developing structures to support either the work of others, forms of political imaginary, existing and fictional realities, to wider inquiries such as forms of commonality and discursive sites. The result of my research shows projects that merge together exhibitions, politics, fiction, display, public space, writing, and whatever else feels urgent at the time.
Being very attentive to most of these complex issues, I then developed several exhibitions, as "Cities", part of the preview of Festa dell’Architettura in Rome with the lectio magistralis of Paolo Soleri at Auditorium Parco della Musica, also showed at Torrance Art Museum in the South Bay of Los Angeles in 2011; as "Sensational Architecture" group show with two site-specific video installations of Mark Lewis and Spencer Tunick at Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, in 2012. I have also curated many others shows with: Michael Wolf, Gabriele Basilico, Catherine Opie, William E. Jones, Olaf Otto Becker and others; in which I have analyzed transformation of cities and landscapes topics.
'Diminished Capacity' Nigerian Pavilion photo – Barbara Rossi © 2016 courtesy Ola-Dele Kuku Projects
AM: As you wrote in the Curator’s note: “Conflict is one of the recurrent themes in the work of Ola-Dele Kuku. The architect–artist sees that as one of the driving mechanisms in our world, and as a tool to set change in motion”. In your opinion, in which way conflicts, external but also internal ones, pervade the work of Kuku?
CB: My curatorial approach seeks to examine how Ola Dele Kuku have not only focused on Nigerian history, but also simultaneously investigated the mobility’s conditions in relation to the actuality with innovative installation chosen to re-write the diminished capacity of a territory.
Conflict is one of the recurrent themes in the work of Ola-Dele Kuku. The architect-artist sees conflict as one of the driving mechanisms in our world, and as a tool to set change in motion. Conflict has played a crucial role since the dawn of creation. The diminished capacity is a part of the mechanism of a state of conflict. The existing hierarchy is at its zenith and is therefore about to fall. And although social media sometimes give the impression that our world is just a village, we are still increasingly concerned with what is happening outside our own front door. How our world will evolve is not still unclear, but there is no doubt that conflict stimulates change. It stands the existing order on its head and inspires innovation.
Throughout his practice, Ola-Dele Kuku (architect and artist) has consistently reshaped representation in a timely challenge. In this pavilion he is working with drawing, installation, and objects; he has revisited, in an unconventional approach, the mainstays of architectural representational methods - plan, elevation and, section - to inject unsettling slippages into their rigorous formalism.
The exhibition creates a stratification of tensions between methods, concepts and the materials used. It's an unexpected and site-specific use of the space Punch with contemporary art in which the curatorial concept is taking shape from an installation’s sentence: “Africa is not a country!”; in that conflict wants to prospect new methodologies.
"Diminished Capacity" Nigerian Pavilion photo – Barbara Rossi © 2016 courtesy Ola-Dele Kuku Projects
AM: How did you choose the title “Diminished Capacity” and why?
CB: When I have started to work at the curatorial concept, I have chosen several topics that I could annex in the title in a non-specific way; the idea was to develop a line between West Africa, Nigeria and global actuality, speaking for example about migrations, the mass-media use, the economical power of a nation in a diminished condition and people in a socio-political checkerboard.
‘Diminished Capacity’ was conceived as a reflection of the contemporary global phenomenon of ‘Socio-Cultural Conflicts’, with a specific focus on the role of ‘Information / Communication’ and the ‘Mass Media’.
The contemporary sociology of mass media communication reveals a consistent presentation of agendas rather than reports which are illustrated by selected interest in particularities, focus and oversight; as Ola-Dele Kuku observed.
A stronger source of inspiration for me - not forgetting the long intellectual switching with Ola-Dele Kuku - it was the masterwork "The Migration Series" by renowned African American 20th century artist Jacob Lawrence. A powerful visual epic, "The Migration Series" (1940–41) documents the historic movement of millions of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North more than a century ago.
The "Migration Series" has remained a cornerstone of the historical art and stimulating dialogue and reflection on global challenges in the 21st century. Jacob Lawrence's masterpiece was created over 70 years ago; it continues to resound powerfully with the global plight of migrants today.
The universal themes of struggle and freedom continue to strike a chord not only in our Nigerian Pavilion experience but also in the international experience of migration around the world.
The stronger idea of the title marked not so much a "geographical place" but an "emotional idea." It's an open-ended question to be explored and expanded. The exhibition encompasses a broad spectrum of media and approaches, demonstrating that "Diminished Capacity" is more of a shared sensibility than a consistent culture.
photo – Barbara Rossi © 2016 courtesy Ola-Dele Kuku projects
AM: From what I see, the space is just perfect: the artwork really relates to it and vice versa. I would you like to ask you to guide us throughout the exhibition as we were there with you.
CB: Ola Dele Kuku produces works in a variety of media, alternating between forms like the neon, and the rough interaction of materials, and research-based projects that delineate the broader art historical and cultural contexts in which ideas circulate. His concerns offer a bracing contrast from much contemporary artistic discourse, and yet they are urgently contemporary: he consistently revisits representations of issues, religious iconography, and the enduring beauty of folk art forms. Kuku's exhibitions are populated with images and objects of different sizes and materials; it’s his way to allow each work to resonate on numerous critical register.
The "Diminished Capacity" features a group of recent works that reveal the broad scope of Kuku's practice.
The impression one gets entering the space is to be in an immersive-inspired space where different shapes and materials of the objects-installations, the video projections, the drawings create an emotional state in a non-space context. In fact, not only formal but also the political and socio-economical abstractions that are partially responsible for a world in crisis are at issue here, but one wonders whether those discussions would be more influential if surrounded by works sharing discourse rather than appearance.
The ‘Agenda Setting’ (neon series) ‘Africa is not a country!’ and ‘Collective Representation’ – Article 1 (blue) are really powerful; both works manifest the "imaginative perspective" and "visionary knowledge" anticipated of all artworks by the curatorial statement, and the same can be said of the video work and the big wood objects in the central area of the space.
Such contrasts of color, form, and concept play an important role in Kuku's exhibitions, as they do fundamental perceptual oppositions like warm and cool, rough and smooth, and light and dark.
The video piece is among one of the strongest work — because video has become an "expediency" of many artists whose practice cannot be reduced to, or categorized by, its formal aspects.
'Diminished Capacity' Nigerian Pavilion photo – Barbara Rossi © 2016 courtesy Ola-Dele Kuku Projects
AM: What did you learn from this experience and which are your next steps?
CB: I'm developing several projects. In September I will participate to 'The Social', at 4th International Association for Visual Culture Biennial Conference to be held at Boston University.
My writing has appeared in various magazines, publications and catalogues; and I’m currently working on several books. It's very important for me to create a really intense and honest team, I realized that I get on well with people with whom there is no interruption between working hours and breaks practices.
'Diminished Capacity' Nigerian Pavilion team - from left: Ola-Dele Kuku, Fabrizio Monaldi, Camilla Boemio, Fabrizio Orsini
AM: Do you drink coffee? If yes, how do you like it?
CB: I love and drink a lot of American coffee. I really like sipping on my cup of coffee while I am working. I enjoy it black, no sugar.
Camilla Boemio, Fabrizio Orsini, Ola-Dele Kuku, Simone Spiga, Giorgio Staffolani, and Ali Mudassar, Zeb Amir, Syed Mazarulhassan, Zaman Hamid, Parvez Tariq of ACSIM - Associazione Centro Servizi Immigrati Marche
Beyond Luxury – Global Dialogue, May 26th,
Private Garden, Danish Pavilion,
Camilla Boemio in the middle

More information can be found here:

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Is "Utopia for sale?"

Just some images to remember a strong exhibition "Utopia for sale" curated by Hou Hanru at Maxxi in Rome. Opening event on 14th of February 2014.
Amie Siegel, "Lot 248", 2013, HD video (6mins). Courtesy of the artist and Simon Preston Gallery, NY
The show is an homage to American artist Allan Sekula who died few months previous the show. 
Artists: Bernd & Hilla Becher, Noël Burch, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Cao Fei, Libero De Cunzo, Adelita Husni-Bey, Li Liao, Pier Luigi Nervi, Allan Sekula, Amie Siegel. 

Amie Siegel, "Provenance", 2013, HD video (40mins). Courtesy of the artist and Simon Preston Gallery, NY
Li Liao, "Spring Breeze", 2011 (left). Digital video. Courtesy the artist.
"Consumption", 2011 (right). Uniform.
Courtesy Alan Lau Collection, Honk Kong
Cao Fei "Whose Utopia?", 2006. video (20mins) Courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space, Beijing

Cao Fei "Whose Utopia?", 2006. video (20mins) Courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space, Beijing
Gianni Berengo Gardin, 'Il porto di Genova'

Gianni Berengo Gardin, 'Una fabbrica a Genova'
Allan Sekula, 'The Forgotten Space ships'

Pier Luigi Nervi, La cartiera Burgo

Adelita Husni-Bey, immagine dal video 'Story of the heavens and our planet'

Friday, 20 February 2015

"Money Talks". César Baracca in Rome


Laboratorio in gallery: “Memoires - Archive / Works of Sala 1” presents "Money Talks" by César Baracca.
An archive preserves the past, its traces and memories lie within a repository of human knowledge it is also a dynamic place for critical engagement and creative invention. It also offers the ability to create new ideas and different interpretations in the multifaceted world of art.
This is what gallery Sala 1 intends to propose through this new project “Laboratorio: Memoires - Archive / Works of Sala 1”: a space in which to reflect and create alternative visions, researched through photographs, documents and texts. Under the supervision of Mary Angela Schroth (Director of Sala 1), an international team of young historians investigates, re-organizes, photographs and analyses the collection of the gallery, then re-interprets new ways of understanding some of the selected works.
The contemporary artists participating in the Laboratorio are: Edith Schloss, artist and American critic. Claudio Sperati who with original ideas, procures daily objects of all kinds. Susana Serpas Soriano, Italo-Salvadoran artist, who attended last PHOTOGRAPHY International Festival of Rome and the manifesto of art such as the Pavilion of Bangladesh for the 54th edition of the Venice Biennale.
Curated by Chiara Ducatelli, Ana González, Sonia Lozano, Catherine Morasco, Barbara De Maria, the project aims to make the public aware of the various works and documents that are part of the collection and archives of the gallery, and to promote the inclusion in the exhibition of new works for the collection, such as the work of Argentine artist César Baracca, who exhibits his work from February 20, 2015, in a show titled “Money Talks”, curated by Alessandra Migani and under the Institutional patronage of the Embassy of Argentina in Italy.

Throughout Baracca’s artworks, a series of mosaics made by credit cards pieces, there arises a question: “What happens when art becomes money and money becomes art?”. The inevitable answer is the skill with which Baracca meticulously cuts the credit cards to create works of color into a totally different artistic form. The cards, donated by people from all over the globe, are therefore helping to create what Baracca likes to call “A mosaic of cultures”.
The Laboratorio therefore hopes to offer not only to the team Sala 1, but also to the public, the opportunity to participate in an in-depth search of the results of forty years work of this independent space.

Born in Rosario (Argentina) in 1959, César Baracca studied Fine Arts at the National University of Rosario, where he later taught sculpture as an assistant professor during 1988 and 1989. Baracca is one of the co-founders of the artistic Argentinean groups La Vaca (1988) and RoZarte (1989), who achieved renown for being among the first groups emerging during Argentina’s nascent democracy. He has also contributed to the creation of more than 50 exhibitions, worked as part of the team on The Reichstag Project (1995) in Berlin created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and with artist Rob Miller, who he assisted in the production of murals for the Vermont/Santa Monica metro station in Los Angeles, (1997). Among his most important group exhibitions, were at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the National Museum of Fine Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the CCPE in Rosario, Argentina. For the last four years he has been invited to contribute work for the “RCA Secret” event, organized by the Royal College of Art, London. His solo exhibitions include Zizi Gallery in Mayfair (London), the MACRO in Rosario, Argentina, where three of his works have become part of the permanent collection.