Florence, Citta Mnemonica, Galeria Xenos, Review
Citá Mnemonica // Firenze Pascal Ancel Bartholdi, Rodrigo César Ferreira, Anna Burel, Anna Capolupo, Yasmine Dainelli, William Howard, Rupert Jaeger, Yuri Pirondi, Jaime Valtierra, Ines Von Bonhorst, Andrea Lucchesi, Sebastiano Benegiamo, Marco Zamburru, Carmelo Cutuli, João Leitão, Laura Calloni, Jacopo Rachlik, Rebecca Filippi, Alberto Gori. The artists of Gattarossa and Magma collective have once more gathered to create a new perspective on a city we may think we know. The show combines time based, stills and installation works.
A special thanks also to Jacopo Rachlik who opened the gallery and offered advice and the use of materials without which this exhibition would not have been possible. His video work was shown at a later date.
Imparando da Firenze.
Four years ago, Rupert Jaeger went to new York and began his expedition into the warp. The places we see through the eye of the ‘invisible man’ form a kind of extra temporal series encompassing different cities including London and Barcelona where he had been in 2011. These are mobile yet weirdly static spaces, almost sterile and other worldly because of the fragmented effect of the animation process and the prise de vue. Rupert tells me of a need to be there again, thinking of Barcelona for example. Something seen once, a postcard on a wall. He wished to relive the moment, somehow to revisit the space as it was…or as it always will be in this particular memory. The man in a white anti radioactive suit had to construct a craft to transport his emotions from what we presume to be in the past to a time and place we experience as (of)now. But the paradox here resides in the envelop of this moment, a medium that prevents him from being there as he is in his present entirety. Rupert confirms and contradicts this condition by duplicating himself. He is here watching himself there watching an image that contains part of him further back. The image opens into a back stage, at once an illusion and an affirmation of a feeling related to the place it represents. This is a game of ricochet through the personal eras of a man analysing nostalgia in a strangely detached way. It is an ironic take on time travel. Besides, it addresses the notion of displacement, but not as a sociological comment as we would find in Gulliver’s travels by Swift or Candide by Voltaire. We are led into the image that connects a space remembered to a space where it is being remembered. The medium is the gap into which the experience of linking those layers is made possible. For Rupert, this process approximates a spiritual state. Space and time are interlaced through the passage from one context into another. Each time this operates, the connection is questioned until we grasp the foundation of this exploration, an emotional quest into separate dimensions all existing yet physically or more so biologically impossible to access. The suit may signify the possibility of contamination from one memory cell to another. It protects the wearer from the collective unconscious that could interfere with private memories. Teleportation, even metaphorical has its risks. We could talk of a filtering re animation practice which, as Rupert tells me, could go on for ever.
Florence Extract A.
The verb commuting is double edged. On one hand, Bill explains, it suggest a change, a journey everyone takes. In his view, this means the mind also changes as each journey is unique despite its repetitive nature. This also means he adds, we never return from it, since we are already different people as we reach the same point. On the other hand it is a mutation. “co- mutating”. This is reflected in the transformative process Bill puts the moving image of the Duomo through, a complex rendering; the multi layered progression of an image in a state of continuous virtual flux where each angle represents an environment that Bill amalgamates to the next, thus giving us a 360 degree rotation from a specific view of Florence integrating London views in one image. In order to arrive there, Bill had to make copy after copy, copies of other copies… He talks of a change between body and mind. Bill is an obsessive collector of flyers, newspapers, some go as far back as the 90s. With these he makes collages. one of the pillars of his practice. Meanwhile, he has been shooting from the centre of Florence to Xenos gallery, and over the bridge right up to via San Gallo, making a record of all the gaps and holes. He was inspired by Wolfgang Tillman “Munich”, a view of streets. He wanted to reconstruct the same angle from the top of the Duomo. But he wishes to make it into a kind of Impressionist tapestry, in and out of time, finding a way to use a particular software against itself. In doing so, Bill hopes to catch the missing corners and bring them to light, to bring what he feels is the real beauty of Florence to life. Commuting also describes a double existence in which the two sides are connected artificially. It means we become separate entities. We subsist by virtue of our alter ego, we no longer can tell which is alter, what is the recto or verso of ourself. Perhaps this is why collage comes in handy, to rebuild decaying links with a former self, with place and meaning.
The bust of Sophocles…a stylistic composite. It is deliberately obscured by heavy remnants of ink fresh from the press, one of seven. Bill worked from a sculpture in the Ufizzi he visited nine times. It was a copy made around 1200 AD of a bust made around 400 AD. Bill suggests that the original was probably a good likeness of the features of the playwright. Perhaps there were other copies in between and Bill’s is yet another which could contain an impression of the real man passed down from one interpretation to another, arriving at some sort of purer quality, devoid of imitation, derived from an emotional and intuitive connection. He travels backwards to the provenance of a character. His image is an example of a memory process in reverse, from light to dark. Bill brings a physical method into History and the digital process. João Leitão Retrato di Irena (video) Florence through the eyes of she who remembers everything, or she who can t forget anything. Joao points out that memory being the result of a process of selection, remembering everything means Irena becomes no one. The extra fast jumped up editing reflects Luis Borges ‘ repetitive texts, a continuous yet broken flow of words. Joao asked himself how to make a work based on the idea of memory in a city he did not know. This led him to build a library in which the circuit camera became a leitmotif, watching and erasing simultaneously.
Eight small prints above and below a central image of what initially appears as a poetic prism of a land approached in a storm. As we look closer however, a chaos of organs and anatomical parts reveal themselves, and berried within this, the profile of a woman, a sleeping beauty open to the gaze of merciless explorers. Anna went to the natural history museum and to the cemetery up on the hill above Florence. She took pictures of the photos of the faces of the dead…when still alive. Many showed the deceased as young people although the dates suggested they had passed over in old age. Those faces remained anonymous, some with names, others without, their tombstones eaten by the elements . She says some seemed to glow with a kind of beauty we attribute only to the portraits of the masters adorning the walls of museums and churches. In the small prints, we notice the same female face appearing again and again, her body containing or intermingled with images of the city.
Rodrigo César Ferreira
How do we keep the walls from caving in, like the nightmare scenario, walls closing in and no exit in sight? Rodrigo has propped pieces one by one in an open cavity where someone had forgotten to put a door….or perhaps not. There are no nails, no screws, no need of a drill or a hammer. It is about balance and logistics. But there, to suspend is added to suspension. It could give up any moment. Or we could use it as a book shelf eventually. No luck, the edifice has been caught in the tornado, someone got hit on the foot, escaping graver contusions. By chance, a photo of it existed and artists rebuild the piece meticulously and would continue to do so ad infinitum. This is what it is about.
Qui reposa….this piece was obtained from a Florentine cimetery artisan . Marco hanged it above the stairs leading to the basement where videos are now playing. But we are not necessarily aware of this, not immediately. These could be the stairs to the crypt where the remains of the man whose name is engraved here, have been laid to rest. Had I not known this place as a gallery, I would have believed this gravestone to have been placed there on the decaying wall in the early 20th century. There is no date of birth…a deliberate omission?… But the age of the man on the year of his death was seventy five. Some letters have been scratched out. It looks random. This makes the sign even more incidental, even absurd…but then tomb stones are absurd, like pillows and beds dumped on the earth covering a body that no longer makes sense, slowly returning to a chaos of pre biotic existence. The date of his death reassures us that life indeed had left him, that he was not buried alive. 13th of July 1913, just before the first world war. But the man described here does not exist. It is an ideal of a man inscribed in a stone whose weight is representative of an impossible perfection flattening all the details once present in the lines of the skin. A butterfly is balanced on the top edge as an antithesis to the stagnant power of the monument. It is as if the insect was still alive, having arrested itself for a fleeting moment, perhaps just before a last flight. They are born out of a chrysalis, seek a mate, make love and perish before the sun rises a fourth time. What would a man do given four days to live?…Somehow the frailty of this creature makes an ironic mokery of an unnatural effort to preserve the embellished memory of a being who will no longer be able to contradict it.
He stands looking up, from his nose, a kind of ectoplasmic cloud frozen in time. Somewhere in there the specter of Giacometti wanders, but there is also something like a materialization of lost pre Raphaelite figures on the edge of melt down.
Like an artery feeding the city, a white road cuts into the land from the foreground . Pylons create a second frame of reference. They are setting the limits of our vision as they perhaps do in our life, as uncertain urban passengers. They direct the gaze, they delineate the perspective, reconstructing a mental image of nature on the edge, decaying as the city grows uncontrollably.
Small paintings and drawings. Florence as we do not wish to remember it. Raw material and building tools. History wiped clean. bran new accommodation. Deconstruction of overwhelming beauty. (Animation) in collaboration with Simone Brillarelli. Cranes move in slow motion in grey light superimposed on marble texture, the main building material of ancient Florence. the sound is wary, creaking metallic repetitive.
Punti di Vista
A Pigeon’s memory of a street of Florence. Simple short poetic black and white animated drawing. Florence, as birds fly down.In one flash, a colour filmed shot of a puddle, pigeons landing and fleeing. I did see Them touch the heads of gods with their tentative feet. But here, only a fast glance at an unnamed strada, like tourists without iPhones.
Three images two of which are made on cement, a third on canvas. Sebastiano uses an archaic technic. We detect structures, perhaps classical. They rise uncertain in the mist. The atmosphere has the colour of the material used to imprint the impression. The memory is fading, yet it is also fixed in the physical mass of the medium that reflects another era, a culture we only encounter in books, a narrative which meaning is unrecognised by the passerby.
Four square prints are back lit.They are set in a mock up concrete block resting horizontally on the floor. It is a lyrical piece. We can feel a silence only encountered in secret spaces, far from the public eye. We are invited to evolve in those fragments of nature, far from the noises of the city; these are privileged sanctuaries only accessible to us through the agency of transparent representation. Laura has decided to bring the wall down, cut windows into it and let the light through. She went on a detective mission and asked the owners of those private gardens, some of them parks, to be granted the permission to enter and photograph their content. We surely will never tread where she has. Only the ghosts and the rich of Florence can enjoy this delight.
These works are part of a performance : Marlon plays Adolfa Musso Lina Lisa by Marlon Random. A brutal encounter is scratched into the plate, as if to extract the hidden pain of a misunderstanding, or more so the dismissal of an apparent understanding. The lines fight one another, they scream at each other, they rebel against harmony, they are bent and stretched to breaking point. This is how it is. Sometimes, there is no way to find a way out of the collapse. The connection disintegrates. The sounds come at you from where you least expect, they don’t have a source any more. There used to be a face where a blank stares at you. Then, instead of a hand shake , you get smashed up by some estranged interlocutor. You thought you knew him or her. He or she knows you better, they know how to hurt you, how to manipulate you. This is the beginning of a civilized war with no guns, no bullets, no weapons of mass destruction. Someone plays with your head. But Adolfa Musso has left a text behind her and signs on paper. Now we can reconstruct the tragi-comedy. The catharsis can grow out of the spectacle of the ill.
(Olio su Legno)
Two paintings In one, a solitary figure lies on the ground, in what feels like a thick fog as if seen by someone whose eyes are filled with tears. The vapours of nostalgia. Is this man dead or dying? Is he dreaming? is he suspended between doubt and desire? Has anyone else noticed him?…who is he?, is his identity relevant?… In a round painting, an unusual format although used in the Renaissance until the nineteenth century, two figures move away from the viewer. They seem to be floating, giving us the impression that they are no longer contained in matter. The atmosphere is almost more corporeal than they are, or in that world, all objects, live or inanimate, are traversed with molecules that are no longer subjected to the laws of this Earth. These figures symbolise the memory of a moment, their names are mingled with the words that attempt to describe them. In this world made of pigment and oil, Andrea relives a scene he has felt rather than seen, or if he has, it was experienced in different streets, different times, different lives, again and again, until a synthesis of light and shade burnt itself into his mind.
(Calligraphia e gumprint)
Prints of ‘Florence’. A map dating from 1943 superimposed on a contemporary map. Below seven prints depicting specific places located in the map samples.Yasmine extracts a sense of being in the city, a sense of particularity out of the generalisation pervasive to urban management, and its manifestation in the form of mapping, a flattening of human experience through the pretext of empowering observation, the bird eye view of inter migrating population. we walk the city, we feel its meanders, its reformed quarters, its extensions, its inspirations and expirations. Yasmin explores the map, digs into it, excavates, without imposing names, directions or functions. It is like a game where the flat pages of a book open into geometrical three dimensional shapes. The map turns into a place, the place instils a sense of space.
Prega per la Fine della mia Gioventù
(Mixed pianting techniques)
The urban landscape, the face of the artist as a boy, before the fall into the uniform comfort of the city. But there is a rebellion in the air. There is a painting, Alberto tells me it was the last he ever made. It was “counter academia”. He says it represents what he left behind, in his early youth. He adds it could also symbolise a new beginning. In fact, he has painted a circle around a point, used in alchemy as a symbol for the sun and gold. A candle lights the alcove in which he has placed these objects. It reminds me a bit of Christian Boltansky. We may feel we are gazing at an icon rather than a real person, because this installation encompasses a state, an inaccessible condition where the soul still homeless despite being anchored in a body, reminds itself of a purpose that escapes it as it remembers it. The dot in the round is a centre that only exists by virtue of the visible perimeter, yet because of it it is impossible to access it. Alberto admits having grown tired of ubiquitous technology. He longs for the tactile universe of childhood, as I think most of us do. This is a shrine but also an open space.
(Black and white Photographic prints)
Three images show different kinds of urban constructs in superposition.It is Florence, or is it another city ? London perhaps, as all modern cities resemble one another , one old, the other new, one somehow idealized and preserved, the other, rampant with totalitarian progress. They exchange places, both ghosts of a sick utopia, although ancient walls will always have more to say than fibre optics, silicone and plexiglass. We cannot explain why. Classicism however is also a commodity. The art of the renaissance for example is not kept safe because it is beautiful or inspiring but because it is a currency. Those buildings belong to the market, they are kept in a precarious equilibrium by fantom transactions in the higher spheres of the global economy. In each image, something sinister takes hold of the eye. There is a ufo about to land, there is a big machine gun about to fire, there is a city about to crumble in the white heat of a radioactive wind. A latent battlefield in the cradle of history.
Ines von Bonhorst
Leonardo’s ecce Homo redefined by urban cacophony. He is bathed in the colours of a sun set, or perhaps the opposite. He himself is Adam, made of red earth. He is naked and headless. His head is the context in which it is ensconced. The architecture that constitutes his environment cuts into him. It imprisons him. But despite this apparent handicap and perhaps as a result of this limitation, the man has grown extra legs. He is dancing in suspense, his new territory a diamond chiselled out of the blackness.
Ines Von Bonhorst and Yuri Pirondi
The Day by Yuri Pirondi Coming into the city. Aurora. the streets unravel, the pace accelerates. Somehow things have changed particularly in the last seven years. As many europeans, Yuri moved to London and visiting Florence in his country of origin reminds him how both cities have in a way moved on a similar path while a strange battle seems to move him within , a choice between lives, between cultures, between pasts even. He travels here, not only in his memory but the memory of history, of art. Many have also chosen Florence as a refuge while retaining and perpetuating their own cultural identity, traditions that permeate the new fabric of urbanity while it infiltrates them. He could also be a foreigner here, as he is in London. Perhaps he no longer recognises the surface of things, instead, he reads a different story. As we are led through the outskirt of Florence, a voice permeates the narrative with sadness but also with a kind of astonishment and anticipation. Yuri tells me he was inspired by Calvino’s “Invisible towns”. Perhaps certain cities contain many. in Calvino’s novel, it is suggested Venice is such a place, with many faces, the faces of different women. But not all cities are feminine. Yuri concentrates on Ponte del Indiano because it is a Frontier and a centre. It became so in the 1970s when a population of Chinese emigrants began to arrive in San Donnino. There was also the scandal of the incinerator. Many people died of poisoning caused by dioxin leakage. A Lion dances on the bridge, it is Vietnamese, and through him, we are transported not so much to Vietnam as to London where Yuri saw first it. It is a dance of life, self affirming and a defiance in the face of global homogeneity. The day is a battlefield where speed and violence intermingle with joy and multicoloured vision.
The Night by Ines von bonhorst For Ines, The night is divided in two parts. The character of the nymph emanating from the full face of the moon and the double face entity, at once a more mysterious and androgynous aspect inked to the dark side of the moon, although with no negative connotation. These are archetypes containing the history of our earthly satellite, la Luna. Each one of her phases is like a composition in which our ancestral relationship is played out. Ines responds to this mythology by embroidering her personal tapestry and recreating the atmosphere we humans have been seduced by over the ages. The nymph echoes the statues like a statue herself come to life in the light of the heavenly mirror. She has escaped the pedestal she has been fixed upon. She only appears at night like lucciole. We follow her path, through the arches, the colonnades, the bridges, the alleyways, all deserted, alien to the daily roamers, a parallel city, perhaps gliding, like the moon, in our astral memory. The other figure rises slowly, like a plant awaking to lunar gravity and the pulse of her silver glow, an undulating mercurial presence. It seems to grow from the stones of a city that like the kingdom in the story of Sleeping Beauty had sunk into a deep coma. Each face reflects a different myth. One is quiet and inverted, like a lake, high in the mountains of Peru. The other, tilts towards the solar power.It becomes the night sun and harks back to Etruscan masks. We can imagine this to be the embodiment of a tribal god invoking the spirits of the ocean.In this being, sun and moon unite in a moment of silent adoration.
Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
(Black and White film based prints)
Figures are composed within an architectural setting, they integrate the material of the structure. The human form demands geometrical solutions that in turn may repress its evolution in space. But these configurations emulate an understanding of a space already defined and re calculated, a spatial reconstruction designed to transport the imagination rather than the body. In the renaissance in particular, surface became the playground of perspectival virtuality masters such as Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, and Ucello, but there is a Romaneque humor there, that cuts through the seduction of the tromp l’ oeil. In one of the images, the figures are engulfed and dwarfed by the brutal machinery surrounding them, the darkness emanates from it and pours onto them like the deluge. In another, the Duomo is turned on its head, some wall details fail to match, but the characters float within this inverted monumentality like seraphim. In a third image, the cluster of figures seem to aspire to the heights of an inaccessible dome. There is no doubt these are contemporary individuals, yet their posture and the composition of the scene evoke disparate eras of art history, namely those encountered in Florence, in particular the Renaissance from its outset to its end although we can also detect Mannerism and Tenebrism including the art emerging from seventeenth century Netherlands. There is no direct reference however to any period in the development of art because the essence of these works resides in the very personal archetypes of the psyche. These are the initial findings of an ongoing research into the relationship of the soul with the city. Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014