On Thursday, i did a tour of Artissima, the contemporary art fair in Turin. One of the objectives of the fair this year was to be 'affordable'. "We are not interested in having artworks that costs 10 million euros. We want to enable young people and those who have a passion for art but a limited budget to become collectors," explained to La Stampa Andrea Bellini, the Director of the Turin art fair. I didn't ask for any price so i'll take his word for it. I did notice a fair amount of young and i must say rather exciting artists in the booths.
Well, that was a pretty inappropriate introduction because i'm actually going to focus on a photographer who gained fame in the '70s and '80s for her documentation of the internal war of the Mafia in Sicily at its bloodiest, and its devastating impact on the rest of the society.
In 1974, when the mafia moved from organised crime to heroin trafficking, mafiosi became more brutal. They murdered anyone who would stand in the way of their business, from the chief of police to family rivals. By 1981, there was one killing every three day. Sometimes many more.
At the time, the Cosa Nostra was identifiable. It had faces one could photograph and associate with crimes. Today, mafia is much less visible. Battaglia's pictures, because of the corruption, silence, violence and suffering they laid bare, played a crucial role in the anti-mafia campaign. They show anti-mafia Judge Cesare Terranova shot in his car, corpses of mobsters abandoned by the road, tears of the wives and mothers when they discover the scene of the crime, arrests of a mafia boss, teenagers pretending to be though guys with attitude and guns.
Some of her photos were even used as evidence of corruption against Giulio Andreotti, a man whose authority in Italian politics was so powerful he was known as Divo Giulio, "divine Julius" an epithet of Julius Caesar. In 1993, when prosecutors in Palermo indicted the ex-prime minister, the police searched Battaglia's archives and discovered two 1979 photographs of Andreotti with an important Mafioso he had denied knowing. These pictures were the only physical evidence of the politician's connections to the Sicilian Mafia. Battaglia's life, after she retired from photography, is as awe-inspiring as her images: she's a photoreporter known for taking risks but also an editor and environmental writer and politician.
The Cardi Black Box gallery in Milan brought the work of Battaglia to Artissima, along with two other photographers of tragedy: Enrique Metinides and former Swiss police lieutenant Arnold Odermatt who during almost 50 years recorded car accidents.
Wikipedia has a list of webpages where you can find more photos of Battaglia.
I'm just back from the Piemonte Share Festival, one of the few events showcasing media art here in Italy. Pity I won't be able to attend the conferences that will be running every day until Sunday as i'll be visiting Artissima tomorrow (yeah!) and then i'm off to Graz for a jury.
The exhibition takes place at the Natural Science Museum, a seventeenth-century building which used to be the main hospital of the center of Turin. Although i like the museum a lot i must say that the atmosphere of the show was pretty gloomy. The exhibition rooms are below the ground and the lighting is spectacularly bad. Still, there's some very good pieces that need to be seen. I found Ralf Baecker's Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space) particularly intriguing.
Seen from afar, Calculating Space looks like a sculpture made of toothpicks. It's made of sticks, strings and little plumbs. This fragility and transparency give a physical presence as much as they hide the logic and functioning of the machine. Its units operate like a very basic artifical neural network.
Through its strict geometric and otherwise very filigree construction, the observer is able to track the whole processing logic from every viewpoint around the machine. This disclosure of the machines core is enforced by an uncommon distribution of its constructing elements: a nine angled architectural body forms a torus. In contrast to an ordinary alignment of a hidden logic and an outer user facing display its geometric basis is turned inside-out. The core of the machine, with all its computing elements, is shifted outwards on the surface, while the "display" which indicates the results of the tasks is displaced into the center of the system. Even though the tasks and their logic runs directly in front of the viewers eyes and even if one is long sinking into the interaction of the elements which is accompanied by a polyphonic but steady and reassuring buzz, it is not possible to follow the succession of the single conditions of the machine. (...) The results of the computations are sent inwards -into its own center- they are not intended for the viewer.
And of course i took a few pictures of the exhibtion.
Last year, at the occasion of a retrospective of his worked titled Heavyweight Champion, Martin Kersels declared: "I think about my size a lot, moving through the world being tall and overweight. I sometimes feel like I'm out of sync with the culture. I use that feeling in my work, but I don't want it to be finger-pointing -- like everyone's so mean to me or, you know, fat people have feelings too."
Kersels took his plumpness for an absurd and dramatic ride to the gallery Guido Costa Projects in Turin. He squeezed himself into the pants of acrobatic, charismatic, muscle-tastic and 60-something Iggy Pop and re-invented his life as a teenage fans-magnet who trashes the stage and duets with the greatest rockers. The result is both endearing and even more rock 'n' roll than Iggy himself.
It's Sunday, lazy day, so you won't mind if i simply copy and paste the press blurb, will you? This alluring Fat Iggy wriggles lithely in the blazing furnace of stardom, revealing ingredients and cooking times and reconciling us with the algid beauty of these timeless and faultless human beings. At the centre of the exhibition is the diamond, whose purity and preciousness is born of simple commonplace elements, made unique by both the passage of time and their long journey down into the bowels of the Earth. Symbolically, this creative process is antipodal to the destiny of so many stars, whose decline is a reverse life of that of the diamond: they are transformed from almost superhuman into ordinary beings, from Gods into people.
In Fat Iggy, the imposing (larger than life from any angle) Martin Kersels grinds the myths and stereotypes of stardom into a fine powder.
I can't think of a more appropriate gallery than Guido Costa Projects to show Fat Iggy, First because they probably have the most refreshing programme of exhibitions in town but also because it looks like everything but your typical white wall gallery. The space is located at the back of a courtyard, paint of a colour impossible to describe is peeling from the walls, it's never warm in there, nor is it ever brightly lit. I always miss the performances because they would never invite me to the openings (but have i ever asked to be?)... how could i say that? Guido Costa Projects is my type of gallery and each time they open a new exhibition i don't ask questions, i just go.
Images from the show.
Fat Iggy is on view at at Guido Costa Projects until July 15, 2009.
The Triennale in Milan is showing Diritto Rovescio, an exhibition on knitting, embroidery and all those (mostly) feminine crafts that are now so much in favour. I've seen quite a few exhibitions on that very theme over the past few years and this one is definitely not the best but it has merits. The best asset of the show for me was that it made me discover young Italian artists who approach knitting in a truly interesting and personal way.
Generally speaking, the works exhibited are very good, you just can't help but wonder what it is exactly that brings them together apart from the use of thread, wool and needles.
The press blurb sells the exhibition as follows: Diritto Rovescio proposes a reflection on the textile Loom as metaphorical structure of the thought and the company, and at the same time as individual participation and the creative process ,through installations of international artists, design objects and a permanent workshop opened to the audience.
Diritto Rovescio features a bit of everything: the darlings of the blogosphere (Patricia Waller and her circus of ever-suffering animals), the brainy (Daina Taimina's crocheted models of hyperbolic space), the activists (Cat Mazza (microRevolt)), the designers (the Campana brothers, Tom Dixon, Marcel Wanders, Tokujin and Patricia Urquiola), and many more.
Below is a quick selection which doesn't necessarily reflect my preferences. I couldn't find any information about several of the artworks online and the Triennale team being everything but blogger-friendly i had to give up my quest at some point (damn! sometimes i dream of being a 'normal' journalist, you see what i mean?):
Freddie Robins' Skin - A Good Thing To Live In is a man-size pink overall that fits the human body as if it represented an alternative to and a second skin. "I find the medium of knitted textiles a powerful tool for expression and communication because of the cultural preconceptions surrounding the area. It is a "friendly" medium which can be used to engage your audience with a subject which might otherwise cause them to turn away," explained the artist. In the past, she has indeed worked on topics such as the homes of female killers or the houses where they committed their crimes, and even garments for disabled or mutilated people
A video documented Harush Shlomo's woven aluminium catamaran speeding around the lagoon of Venice for the opening of the 2005 art biennial. The boat was made in open weave aluminum and, seen from afar, looked like a miracle that wouldn't sink. During the performance, a transparent plastic coating prevented the boat from taking water in.
Claudia Losi, showed the result of two of the "collective embroidering" events she organizes. For one of them, she had six elderly women sit down and turn into delicate embroidery the answer to the question "What is the thing that you fear the most?"
Anila Rubiku's The 16 Ways was inspired by Pietro Aretino and Confucius' concept of Chinese box. The series of textile boxes gradually open to reveal very intimate tableaux. The boxes were produced together with a group of nuns in Tel Aviv which must have led to rather awkward moments.
Stephanie Syjuco's Counterfeit Crochet handbags. The artist created a website inviting crocheters to join her in hand-counterfeiting designer handbags. Participants choose a design that they covet, work off of low-resolution jpgs, downloadable PDF instructions and start knitting. With The Counterfeit Crochet Project (Critique of a Political Economy), the artist draws parallels with contemporary manufacturing and distribution channels, in particular the idea of "outsourcing" labor. All along however, participants are encouraged to take liberties with the handbag, changing colors, adding materials to suit their needs and tastes.
I make it my duty not to be impressed by what designers do, it was very easy to ignore the room dedicated to knitting inspired design. However, i couldn't help but admire Christien Meindertsma - Flocks Pouf just as much as i've been admiring pretty much anything she's been doing since she graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven.
On view until March 29 at the Triennale in Milan.
Related stories: PIG 05049, a conversation with Christien Meindertsma, Pricked: Extreme Embroidery, Subversive knitting, Interview with Cat Mazza (microRevolt), 24c3: The history of guerilla knitting, Book Review: KnitKnit: Profiles + Projects from Knitting's New Wave, Delirious knitting show at Craft Council, Gales and Gasps, Cruel Crochet, etc.
Milan is probably one of the worst European cities i know art-wise. Milan doesn't do risky, innovative exhibitions the way its smaller neighbour Turin does, for example. Milan is many things but it's not a place that breathes, thrives or banks on art, at least not the thought-provoking, cutting-edge one. This of course doesn't mean that there aren't fantastic galleries in Milan.
Galleria Patricia Armocida, for example, is pretty unique in the Milan panorama (and no, i don't think there's anything similar in Turin but please do let me know if i'm wrong). On Thursday, i went to there to visit the solo exhibition of artist Ericailcane whom i had discovered a year ago in Florence.
Famous for his work as a street artist, Ericailcane shows with this exhibition the full palette of his talents: drawings, prints, engravings, a video, and a site-specific installation. Each artwork is satirical, delicate and very evocative.
The title of the exhibit, 'Civil War', expresses the undeniable state of crisis which characterizes our society. It's the internal war we wage upon each other, everyone against everyone. Divided, separated, diffident to the point of inevitably clashing. After the conflict, all that remains is smoke, desolation, and ruins, but also a peaceful silence.
Previously at the gallery Patricia Armocida: Os Gemeos in Milan.
I'm sad to read that the The Fondazione Sandretto Rebaudengo which remarkable programme of exhibitions i've regularly covered in these pages has had to postpone the opening of Le Ali di Dio (The Wings of God), the first Italian exhibition dedicated to Adel Abdessemed.
Pressures and complaints about the video installation entitled Don't Trust Me, which documents the practices of butchers in the Mexican countryside, prevented the art space to open the exhibition according to the original plans.
Six television screens show video images of six tethered animals - a sheep, a pig, an ox, a horse, a goat and a doe - being killed by workers with a sledgehammer. When the show opened at a San Francisco gallery last year it was shut down within four days after Abdessemed and gallery staff received death threats from activists describing the installation as ''animal snuff videos''. These videos were shot in a Mexican slaughterhouse where animals are raised in order to be turned to meat and eaten.
Art curator Francesco Bonami reacted: "Contemporary art that talks about violence doesn't impose violence upon us but asks anyone who has decided to cross the threshold of the exhibition space to reflect on violence and its various nuances, from the ones of the animal world to the ones of human beings. The art of Algerian artist of Berber origin Adel Abdessemed does not try to provoke, it simply talks about responsibility and violence of life.'
The images of the videos are taken out of context and that's probably and very understandably what disturbs protesters but i believe that The Fondazione Rebaudengo would have shown the videos in the most delicate and informed way. I'm quite sure i would not have the guts to watch the videos (i can't even stand the sigh of a piece of meat in my bf's plate) but it pains me to see that an artist is being censored for documenting an action that takes place almost all over the world every single day so that people can enjoy their burger, their 'prosciutto crudo' or their 'albese'....
Adel Abdessemed - The Wings of God was due to run at the FSRR from Wednesday until May 18.