GUEST Daniela Carati and Nico Macina September17 – October 24 2010 Carmen Einfinger and Gilberto Giovagnoli October 29 - December 5 2010 Douglas Henderson and Elisa Monaldi December 17 2010 – January 24 2011 San Francesco Museum - San Marino San Marino Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery Curated by Massimiliano Messieri Critical essays by Valerio Dehò, Martina Selva, Sara Ugolini, Francesca Buonfrate
Daniela Carati, Faccia a faccia con la Bellezza, 2010 - lamdaprint on plexiglas and forex cm 74 x 99
DANIELA CARATI Random Valerio DehĂ˛ The use of photography in Daniela Carati, an artist who was a painter when younger, proceeds in two different directions which nevertheless are made to coincide in the end. Daniela Carati is interested in the reality, and in the world around us, and she travels and photographs whatever strikes her most, but at the same time, progressively, the interest in what she sees melts with what she imagines. Since her series "Urban View" (2001) up to the recent "All All and All" there has been curiosity towards the act of knowing rather than towards the act of discovering almost casually, without a strongly structured project. But this is exactly what characterizes a work which knows how to bind the reportage - the common street reportage, and not the scoop news hunt - with the more strongly artistic idea of making reality and imagination "collaborate". This also includes the artist's choice of creating a series of electronic assemblages which still preserve the taste of the old photomontage. That is, underneath there is a technique which does not want to hide, but rather wants to underline the precise poetics of the creation of a different world, which is at the same time more beautiful and certainly ironic.
That is the reason why Daniela Carati's interest is aimed at, on one side, and maybe mainly, persons, people we meet by chance and see only once (generally). The part where she assembles comes afterwards, when she watches the photographs again and she adds ideas and consonances. One can tell that there is a latitude in the choice of the portrayed persons which underlines the generational fact, one need only recall the series "New Generation" (2003), although in time the research on faces and portraits has definitely moved on to places. A sense of attention for architecture characterizes these latest works, contrasts in which the intervention on the images creates rarefactions, disappearances rather than inadequate and slightly surreal crowds. Photography does not abandon memories, but in Daniela Carati's intentions it gives birth to other images of something that has to do with an amplification of the memory in a synchronic dimension. A new reality is born, though strongly anchored to the real life, to the artist's experiences, to that randomness which is part of the existence of those sliding doors we never control the mechanisms of. And this matter becomes important exactly for the lightness with which the persons enter and exit these characters, with which they inhabit them forever or for a few minutes, like in an endless and continuous game. By having chosen to illustrate the vintage side of the collage, although in the empire of Photoshop, Daniela Carati demonstrates that she has an expressive freedom which melts a classical use of photography that one had better keep in mind with what the technique can offer. Once again we are talking about photographs, elaborated by the artist in order to better condense her experience and then communicate it to
us, who watch the lives that flow onto different latitudes, from Germany to Argentina, and then concentrate in a vision of art as a union point, as a panopticum in which all the experiences and the visions converge.
Pigs on the wing Martina Selva In GUEST, Daniela Carati presents a serial installation of photographs on medium-size lambda print, belonging to a recent project called ALL ALL and ALL; nine snapshots, six of which unexhibited before, we are the guests of, for all the time we wish, during the journey undertaken by the photographer, a unique observer of the current society and of the human actions. We are immediately attracted by the urban atmospheres, which are more similar to us: we recognize the colours of the trees in autumn, the grey buildings, the pale sun in the sky… but if we look at these works more carefully and curiously, we notice the fundamental details which refer to the “real” work and to Daniela Carati’s poetics. They may look like pure snapshots, in the first place, but they actually are manipulations by means of which the artist – a spectator who is first ironic, then distressed – expresses her reflection upon the human nature. What Daniela Carati realizes actually is a re-elaboration of the reality which does not pass exclusively through the camera lens: just like in a movie post-production, the “filters” are represented especially by the cuts, the inserts and the photomontages. “In One Way or Another”, “And It Would Have Been Worth It After All”, “A King, a Beauty Queen, a Dancer, a Clown, a Mouse…” represent small crowds of persons in definitely urban
contexts. Either if we are looking at the tangled tracks of a train, at a large square or at a busy street, what prevails is the sense of loss of the human figures, isolated even when in a group, uncomfortable in a world which seems to lack a relation with the surrounding nature. The introduction of characters which do not belong to the photographed situation and the progressive turning white of the background increase this sensation of disorientation and seem to symbolize the growing loss of identity of the modern man. In this first phase it is interesting to notice how the artist gives the images titles taken from Charles Bukowskiâ€™s works, a writer who could not be harsher and more earthly. The division between body and soul that can be perceived in her first works becomes more intense in those after, which seem to open another moment for reflection. In this second phase there is an obvious rarefaction of the human being as opposed to the introduction of animals, sometimes protagonists, more often merely discreet and silent presences, but nonetheless significant. This passage is underlined, once again, by the choice of the titles, which this time are taken from the works of Oscar Wilde. These photographs, despite the fact that they have a symbolic language in common, show a different theme which monographically dominates each of them. In â€œFace to Face with Beautyâ€? the city stays in the background, while a little bit further a man and a monkey seem to look at each other through a crack and in the foreground an angel we only see the back of walks away.
As suggested literally, the scene reproduces a contraposition, that between light and shadow, between man and beast; this symmetry is broken by the angel on the left, that seems to be headed towards the “animal part”. We now pass from the confusion of the previous snapshots to the awareness of what mankind is losing – that is on one side its relation with nature and with its own origins (hereby represented by the monkey) and on the other side every contact with beauty (incarnated by the angel), its symbol par excellence; emblematically, in this face to face man finds himself in front of a reality which is slowly confirmed. A similar confrontation can be perceived in “Observing the Tide of Seasons”, where on a suggestive road with trees on the side the artist confronts the ages of man: in the distance the period of childhood and youth, and therefore of the game, the discovery, the movement, in the foreground adulthood, petrified and closed in itself, in the very foreground a bird (inserted) – a mute spectator; Daniela Carati seems to tell us that in a society in which everything has already been invented and obtained the sense of evolution gets lost; deprived of his innocence, of his simplicity and of the taste of creation, man loses vitality and dynamism. Nature, contemplated as the undeniable queen, is visibly and allegorically the protagonist of the artwork “Crowned as a Powerful King”, which offers us the more playful aspect of the artist’s reflection: a giant giraffe made of bricks dominates the scene, while further on a woman is wearing clothes which recall a zebra, and in the background the peace of a park, a stereotype of the place aimed at the recovery of harmony and relax. The shy and funny approaches of men to a nature which is actually accessible and free are
grouped in a unique image by the artist; by means of art and spirituality especially, man constantly searches to improve his own condition and to regain possession of that natural harmony which has been gradually destroyed by centuries of technological and scientific corruption. Animals are obviously the protagonists of the work “In a Dark Corner of My Mind”. The human being is also there but he is crouched, static, he gives us his back, although central he seems absent and we fancy he is thinking of something...the animals, on the contrary, are active, they are moving, the penguin on the right is actually looking at us! The dissociation man – nature is total here: although we guess that it is the penguins who were added with the photomontage, the result is exactly the opposite. A technical detail which allows an interesting interpretation of the work: the human being does nor seem to belong to the picture, he seems to be the intruder in a balanced corner on earth where the sea, the coast and the penguins instinctively belong to one another; similarly, in the real world, he seems destined to no longer be a part of that delicate ecosystem which is more and more damaged. The last two works, “Not Everybody Stares at the Air” and “The sun Rose to Run its Race” are clearly different; although created the same year, they seem to ideally take us towards a third phase in Daniela Carati’s project, that is towards the complete disappearance of man and animal, in favour of urban and natural landscapes. In “Not Everybody Stares at the Air” both man and animals are present but they visually disappear in front of the imperiousness of the literally timeless, futuristic and equally oblivious
construction. In â€œThe Sun Rose to Run its Raceâ€? the technique has also changed: the artist is now taking us to a pure snapshot, with no cuts and photomontages, in which the natural colour contrasts flatten the human figures against the background and the fountain in the foreground only lets us suppose that there are aquatic animals inside. From a visual and esthetic point of view the last two works appear a lot more essential, geometrical, almost aseptic, it is the horizontal and vertical lines which guide our glance; the human being gets lost in the vision and our eyes are filled with the white colour and with the composition of the scene. Metaphorically man is anyhow destined to disappear and the earth continues to run its race. Therefore, by means of a series of altered on purpose images Daniela Carati questions herself on the course the human being is giving to his own existence and on the unnatural and hierarchic relation between man and earth and she does this on a familiar ground, that is the city with its inhabitants, who actually are the spectators themselves. A central element of this series of photographs is certainly represented by the introduction of animals, which have always had a privileged role in the history of art. From the first graffiti in the caverns, in ancient Greece, passing through the medieval bestiaries, animals have often had a mainly representative function, symbolizing divinities, human vices and virtues; during the Renaissance there actually was a symbology which gave many animals in the paintings specific meanings. Daniela Carati makes this concept her own and takes it to the limit by transforming the animal
in a continuous and systematic allegory; animals are regularly introduced in the pictures with the purpose of representing the gradual alienation from all creation. A constant but never dramatic monition, which invites us to rediscover our instinctive, real and playful part. Daniela Carati, with a Dadaist spirit, by means of the photomontage and combination technique, gradually pushes us towards a real reflection upon the society and its becoming, presenting the image to us as a complex product, a perceptive aggregate, which is not exclusively based on the concept of resemblance. Despite the fact that most of the snapshots have been taken in some of the most famous cities and metropolises of the moment, like Barcelona, Leipzig, New York, the introduction of subjects taken from other contexts leads to a sort of abstraction from reality, releasing the photographs from time and space and giving each of them a poetics of its own. In the cinematographic language the art of composing and disposing is called editing; the artist does the same in the photographic field. Across the careful adjustments reality is altered, imagined and especially narrated; it is Daniela Carati who, now thoughtful and present, now playful and evocative, offers us â€“ her guests â€“ her special travel notes.
Nico Macina, Special Guest, 2010 - plotter print on canavas, cm 100 x 900
NICO MACINA The Photography and the Ghost Valerio DehĂ˛ The bonus element of this exhibition, "Special Guest" is an artwork in which the contemporary world collapses into the history of art. A light irony, some debunking parallel, but all in all Macina's site specific work recalls the hospitality and the waiting for who is coming to dinner, remaking a last supper transformed into a picnic. The plastic glasses, the plates made of the same magnificent material, the bottle of wine and the tablecloth set outside are hints of the history of art and of a familiar iconography, drained till the posteriorization of the image. But the title also evokes the expectation of a guest of honour, as may be the Saviour, somehow a star of a system of beliefs in which the entire contemporary world has fallen. Macina creates ambiguity, extensions of the meaning, that is ghosts. As a matter of fact the guest is invisible, as were rather invisible his friends that he portrayed in a series called "Between" (2006). Against the background of other tablecloths with geometric shapes, like the ones sold in the local markets, the out of focus images of young men with a suffused identity stand out. Above the images other finger prints, scratches, dirt in photographical terms - almost to seal a distance, an impossibility to see things well only for a technical reason, for an objective fact.
Previous works also belong to the immaterial category of the ghost - such as "CittĂ giocatolo" (Toy Town) - 2004, in which the black and white goes back to the origins of a photographical experiment which is history by now. Between the graffito and the off camera photo - once again we are playing with traces - Nico Macina has known how to give life to something that does not exist, maybe because it cannot exist. The black and white gives solemnity and nobility to the sign of the objects, it is almost as if the photography stepped aside in order to let in something which wants to stay out of the representation. Signs, traces, ghosts, precisely. Also, in â€œTra il verde e il seccoâ€? ("Between the Green and the Dead") - 2005, the colour renders images more narrative, up to the limit of too much, but everything recalls something that cannot be seen, traces take to a reality that the means announces without completely finishing it. In his entire work Macina uses evocations, as if he had seized the magic component of photography. In the age of electronics these artworks preserve a faith in the idea that what happens inside the camera is something which cannot be completely known and explained. There is always someone who has just left or who is still to arrive in these images. The ghosts move the objects but they never appear completely, otherwise their trick may be revealed, the frailty of seeming in exchange for being.
Whit a little help from my friends Martina Selva Nico Macina’s “Special Guest” is clearly a site specific artwork: as anticipated by the title, the work has been thought and created in relation to the event and to its future placement in the San Francesco Museum. The triptych is a contemporary revisitation of the last supper and it is a print on canvas fixed on a wooden frame. The subject, the dimensions and the materials ideally recall the medieval religious art, but this clearly contrasts with the medium the artist uses and with the unusual and innovative interpretation of the subject; the division of the artwork in three parts especially underlines the magnificence of the subject and enforces the relation with the surrounding environment; the triptych, as a matter of fact, is a typical composition of the sacred painting, mainly in the XIVth century. Christ’s last meal with the Apostles is a culminating event in the Gospels and it reveals itself, both in the history of art and in theology, in a space full of meanings: inside we find the sense of universal love and of sharing, but also the annunciation of Judas’ imminent betrayal, a presage of death. From the medieval art up to the contemporary art, the variety of painted, photographed and staged Cenacles is extremely vast, because despite the fact that this episode is taken from the
Holy Writ and therefore belongs to the so called sacred art, somehow it goes beyond it since it carries along universal and earthly concepts, like friendship and betrayal, feelings that belong to man and his fragilities; the Cenacle thus becomes a subject the artist chooses in order to express his own style, his own vision of the world and a place of visibility for accusations, scandals and diffusion of thought. This may be the reason why for centuries the Last Supper has been the protagonist of several reproductions and has become a territory of experimentation since it has turned into a classical icon, recognizable by everybody. Nico Macina cleverly resumes this artistic continuum and he interprets it in a definitely non conventional manner: there are no commensals in the picture, only the table (or better, only the tablecloth) set for the occasion. The artist chooses the temporality of the scene, he does not take a picture of what could happen “during” the supper, but of what comes before. He immortalizes the waiting. The camera inquires upon the preparation, the “backstage” of a scene which, we are certain, will change shortly thereafter, becoming animated; since we are talking about the Last Supper we already know the identity of the commensals and how the facts will develop, and that is why the image seems to become more solemn but also more grave, in the lead up to the imminent future. Since the human figures are missing, the objects gain extra meanings : the white tablecloth almost becomes a shroud, the thirteen settings are red, the typical colour of the “passion”, the bread and the wine are unaltered icons which maintain the relation with the tradition.
Particular attention is drawn by the use of plastic and generally by the choice of the modest and frugal scenery in which the “table” is set. Formally contrasting with the seriousness of the celebrated subject, Nico Macina settles the picture in a country context, with a mise en place which is typical of the picnic; once again the artist works on the temporal aspect, suggesting a setting which is surely current but is not defined and anyhow it indicates a transposition to the present. From a technical point of view the image is also coherent with the superficial sobriety of the scene : the photograph is essential, clear, with no light and shadow games, but with strong colour contrasts between the bright red and the white tablecloth. By means of the conceptual inquiry upon the object he deals with, Nico Macina stages the very “idea” of the Last Supper and what it may represent, and by contrast he creates a sort of contemporary icon. The references to the Cenacle are unequivocal: the front exposition of the table, the number of settings, the bread and wine, while the artist eliminates the most important element from the scene, that is the commensals; thus the references to the period of time, the attention for the expressivity of the subjects and for their identity also disappear, what remains is the essentiality of a laid table, an image which expects to be inhabited. George Kubler, an art historian, wrote in his work, “The Shape of Time”: “The elements that constitute the drawing of the historical time are the events and their intervals…in the historical time what draws our attention is the very dynamic tissue which fills the intervals and joints the existences”.
Once we have eliminated the superfluous elements, it is this very suspension of time which induces us to stop and reflect upon the meaning of this last meal: the sharing and the greetings before the sacrifice and the farewell. By using art as a symbolic language, the set table becomes a ritual which can take place at any time and in any space, even with the simplest crockery on a grass lawn; once we have removed the temporal connotations, the image turns into a sign and an allegory of the celebrated rite. Last, Nico Macina shrewdly and ironically calls his work Special Guest. The expression recalls the title of the exhibition but also the media world and especially the television language: the “special guest”, as a matter of fact, usually is the famous person, normally mentioned in the credits, featuring, even shortly, sitcoms or soap operas (TV serials). In a society like the one we live in, overwhelmed by the means of communication and entertainment, the subtle reference which links Christ to a modern TV star reveals a further interpretation key upon the excessive spectacularization we are submitted to, in spite of ourselves. Nowadays the private becomes more and more public, decency and vulgarity seem to have lost and confused their own borders, ending up quite often in a dangerous communion of sacred and profane. Leonardo Da Vinci, author of the most famous “Last Supper” of all times, said about his work: “I shall make a fiction, which will have great meanings”; among the many peculiarities of the painting, for example, there is the size of the characters as compared to the table – they are deliberately bigger in order to symbolically illustrate the power of their deeds and the
solemnity of the moment. Five centuries and countless reproductions after, the subject of the Cenacle manages to be as interesting; but, coherent with his time, Nico Macina finds the courage to remove, eliminate, disregard, in order to give value to the uniqueness and to the timelessness of the rite.
Carmen Einfinger, My head, 2009 â€“ acrylic on canavas, cm 96x236
CARMEN EINFINGER Expanded Painting Valerio Dehò It is difficult to simply confine the Anglo-American artist’s painting to the same technique since her work consists, on the contrary, in painting things and spaces which do not normally belong to art. More that this, her main purpose is that of taking colour, with its energy and its joyfulness, to distant places, just like in a mission of peace. Thus, both the Chinese students’ uniforms (“Wild Girls”, at the NY Arts Beijing Gallery, 2006-2007) and the dark clothes of the CEOs of important companies (“seeCEOseen”, presented at the Broadway Gallery in New York, 2007), instead of representing signs of being uniform and uniformed to the imposed standards, have been decorated with her signs and colours in several performances of the artist. For Carmen Einfinger it is important to carry this message to the world, to render individual what actually is only conformism. Her painting, therefore, is to be read in the light of this power attributed to painting – that of lighting the consciousness, of generating happiness, of bringing colour and life where these are denied or left aside. From a stylistic point of view, the memory of art goes back to the experiences of Matisse and of the Fauves, but with a limited aggressiveness and with a stronger mark. On the other side, the flat colour, almost volumeless, prevails, but the artist herself seems to be able to pass from
the representation to the abstraction depending on the occasions and the projects. As a matter of fact, she is not interested in the research for a particular and always recognizable style, but more in the idea, inspired by the historical avant-gardes, that art and life are two side of the same coin. She also presents an ethnic pattern, a quest which in abstraction reveals a rich and pleasant decoration effect. Carmen Einfinger then tries to take her actions, her artistic interventions, back to her own experiences around the world, in a successful attempt to bind together in and out, form and content, ability to paint and expansion of this practice to the less conventional objects and to places which are not considered as part of art.
Looking Inside Sara Ugolini In Carmen Einfingerâ€™s My Head a substance takes shape and develops horizontally, consolidating itself in curved and straight geometries, in indented surfaces and neat profiles. The piece has the impact of a tapestry, a textile handmade article the origins of which are in some extra-European culture. Carmen Einfinger seems to write down a mental flow, but at the same time My Head has something of an organic matter, laid out, unwrapped on a flat surface. Another piece of the exhibition supports this theory. It is called Inner Machine and on the whole it has a more visibly anthropomorphic aspect than the previous one. Up left a tridimensional shape cut in a sagittal section anticipates the operation of disclosure of the inside which materializes at the centre. The scene is in fact occupied by a head, two arms, and then creeks, canals, ravines, lobar shapes, the ventricles of the heart made with two tankcontainers, bundles of biceps muscles which are shaped as petals which bend. Of course we are in front of schematic morphologies, but the history of the anatomical illustrations, even before the history of art, is full of similar fantastic anatomies, which are functional more to the artistâ€™s inspiration than to the legibility of the body information. This does not mean that the artist intends to measure herself, programmatically, against a certain scientific or artistic imagination that has to do with the body. It is neither Vesalioâ€™s De Humani Corporis Fabrica
which she is inspired by, nor the pure anatomies of contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst. One may say, in fact, that with her works Carmen Einfinger rather gives shape to a deep perception and the artistic process turns into a reflective exercise, a practice of syntonization with the physiologic rhythms and the internal fluctuations. But in that looking inside another exhibited piece alludes to, beyond a penetration of the physical dimension, something else is also implicit: a demanding journey of spiritual knowledge, which belongs both to the techniques of listening to the body and to, less predictably, the dissection practice. It is not by mere chance that the dissections in the anatomical theatres and the title pages of the modern medical treatises bore, significantly, the Delphic motto know yourself, an exhortation to explore one’s own being, one’s own mental dimension in virtue of, and also beyond, what the open body reveals. It is also true that, if on the other side Carmen Einfinger’s abstract representations recall, particularly, Australia and Oceania’s colourful handmade articles, it is exactly in the Aboriginal art that one often finds “transparent” figures, which show their inner organs, as if they were X-ray scanned – and this becomes an autonomous style. Moreover, it is possible to establish an extra point of encounter with these artistic forms, because if the artist, in her performances, does not hesitate to transfer her abstract representations onto the faces and the clothes, for complex religious and ceremonial reasons the Aboriginal painting uses the body as one of its main supports. Among Carmen Einfinger’s abstract paintings there is one which is particularly striking – The Dream (2008). We know that the dream experience has a central role in psychoanalysis and
that its mechanisms are very similar to those of the creative process, but in other cultures â€“ and we go back to the Australian Aborigines â€“ the dream, or better, the Dreamtime, is a pregnant state, which has to do with the nature of the world. It indicates the permanent influence that mythical beings have on reality and a spiritual power, a state of connection with the ancestral past that the artistic practice chooses to describe. As happens in the ethnical art, Carmen Einfinger also comes across cosmogonical myths during her inner journey. These are universes inhabited by archetypical characters and functions, which condense the organic and the psychic, the past and the present, private memories and universal models. It is in this direction that we must interpret the exhibited pieces, both The King and Nurture. While the former alludes to a key-figure in all the legends about the origins, repository organ of a primordial order, the latter talks about an essential action once any vital process has started.
Gilberto Giovagnoli, Ferdinand Celine, 2010 â€“ colored pens on paper, cm 180 x110 - particular
GILBERTO GIOVAGNOLI Chaos and Thereabouts Valerio Dehò Giovagnoli’s work has become more and more defined through the years, and the artist is even treating himself with a series of half-conventional in the end, although not certainly hagiographic portraits. But we take appearance for granted and after all we are talking about proofs of affection, of memories, of notes which in the Sammarinese artist’s poetics signify appreciation or somehow affection for something which is far away, like a long distance adoption cleaned of its odours and sweat. The portraits are the more direct part of a series of tokens which have to do with the world of art. Not only with the literature that Giovagnoli is so fond of, above all Céline and Artaud, but also with the always variegated and naturally international world of art. In fact in the grand mixed techniques, always coloured ball point pens and different tapes, there is that swarming which is so appreciated in him, that mass of signs which overlap, almost “stealing” a spot on the scene from one another. The “plastic” covers but does not conceal, it amplifies and reveals the condition of his art. The artist is familiar with the excess and he practices it, after all Céline’s “talk”, with all its redundancies and onomatopoeias, its swear words, its falls and outbursts, has a visual form
that is complete and open. The giant goes arm in arm with the Lilliputian, the fragment with the whole, the patience with speed. Giovagnoli is critical and that is all, he does not like many things, just like others, but he dislikes them all together, not one by one. He writes and draws as if it were the same thing, he writes and scratches and digs and sketches a chaotic universe only a real outsider can inhabit. Trifles for a massacre, an almanac of mutations and curses, of wondering sexes and pure reason illogic. Everything oscillates like a banana tree under the tropical winds, but in criticizing our society Giovagnoli has the point of view of someone who stays outside, with no desire to be inside. O maybe not. He proves his desire to give his contribution to the world which belongs to us and he belongs to, because he knows there must be some kind of truth somewhere and the show must end, sooner or later, in order to never start all over again.
On the Palimpsests Sara Ugolini Gilberto Giovagnoli works on the surfaces. In this exhibition he presents a drawing of large dimensions and four sequences, each formed by several images grouped in an unique panel: the portraits of characters we could call “”damned” by nature, destiny, type of intellectual reflection or creative production; the portraits of contemporary artists, the series on Franz Kafka and Andy Warhol and the one dedicated to Céline, the writer. The large dimension paper is spread with abstract motifs, colourful geometries, scribbled figures in ball point pen and titles of works by Cesare Lombroso, father of the criminal anthropology: Genius and Madness, The Female Offender... The explicit allusions to Lombroso place the piece in an ambiguous position: on one side we are tempted to imagine it, by association of ideas, as one of the several “prison palimpsests” studied by the Turin scientist. As a matter of fact, the piece has the worn aspect of a patchwork made up of minutely embroidered old remnants of cloth, or of an old wall which has been carved for years by an anonymous prisoner. On the other side, Giovagnoli’s work, thanks to the hints to Lombroso, assumes a different value, more coherent with the original meaning of the word “palimpsest”. Not only because the Lombrosian titles rewrite the support, being added to a series of graphical interventions made previously, but because apparently more spontaneous, immediate and non-cultural signs are now overlapped by an erudite inscription, as cultured and
doctrinal was the content of the antique palimpsests. On the other side, the series of portraits accompanied by the indication of names by means of dotted initials is subtly disturbing. The physiognomies of Adriana Faranda, Robert Mapplethorpe, Michel Foucault alternate with the faces of Sylvie Lubamba and of the Unabomber. The observer may recognize some of the characters, but the diverse degree of fame of the portrayed characters, the variety of professions, makes it rather difficult to identify some sort of link between the subjects, some criterion of identification. Giovagnoli refuses the principle according to which in the nineteenth century the art galleries contained portraits of famous people, individuals immortalized for universally recognized credits in politics, sports or art, in order to “collect” characters according to a specific experience or a tendency which coincides with a certain “irregularity” of thought or of action. Again, one thinks of Cesare Lombroso’s positivist school, which collected piles of images of criminals and alienated people, characters who had in common a life on the edge. Scientists in the nineteenth century collected repertoires of human physiognomies, photographs and moulds with the intention of verifying the existence of a common physical feature, which was supposed to correspond to moral decay. We now know that this is an obsolete practice, largely proved wrong, but after all this is a prejudice we ourselves have in front of Giovagnoli’s portraits, a prejudice which leads us to investigate upon these faces in order to find a sign of interiority, in order to make sure that if an individual is evil or on the contrary an angel, his/ her face will reveal that. The artists’ portraits, in which names and surnames are written in full, making it easier to recognize them, are, first of all, a homage Giovagnoli brings to his most beloved colleagues.
This sequence of portraits allows us to discover several iconographic precedents: the incisions which accompanied the collections of artist biographies, Vasari’s Vite (Lives), for example, but also – if we want to bind high culture to popular culture, just as Giovagnoli likes – the idol trading cards books. And after all, a Lombrosian inference would neither be out of context, because the portraits newly show a shared vice, that is the obsession, the tangling with the images. A mania which as a matter of fact also belonged to Warhol and Kafka. With one difference, though, that while in the former this impulse is self-evident, in the latter – moved by an almost fetishistic interest in photographs and occasionally also a drawer – it is expressed with major discretion. And it is precisely the face, reproduced or live, which imposes itself as a privileged pole of attraction, both in Warhol and in Kafka: both disturbed in front of their own face, both fascinated by the others’ portrait. Moreover, the most attractive part of the physiognomic surfaces is represented by their being the fulcrum of a double movement, the same we carry out when analyzing the epidermis in search for the inner sphere and the one done by the face itself when turning to the outer world, because etymologically the face is related to the sight and to the look, therefore it is what is seen and at the same time, what it sees. Thus, while we stare at the subtle variations in the faces of Warhol, Kafka and Giovagnoli’s other subjects, they in turn glance at us, they look at us furtively or directly, with no hesitation at all. An opposite movement then starts to take place between the faces, which, as we said before, have a look which catches the other casting itself onto the outer world, and the portraiture as an artistic genre traditionally bound to the internal spaces, to the private spaces and to the
limited use. This dialectic between the inside and the outside which invests the portrait finally touches the theme of the exhibition as well: the Guest, that is, necessarily, the dynamics activated between the parts which are involved in the hospitality. Commenting upon Flaubert’s reinterpretation of the story of Saint Julian the Hospitaller, Shoshana Felman highlights an illuminating feature of the welcoming: “what is at stake in hospitality is not […] the simple gesture of inviting the outsider in – the welcoming of the outside inside – but, much more radically, the subversion of the very limit that distinguishes them from each other: the discovery that the outside is already within, but that what is within is, in effect, without – outside – itself”. As if to say that hospitality does not imply only the encounter with the characteristics the other reveals but the acknowledgement of the centrifugal motions which cross one’s own identity and individual creativity as well.