5 Feb 2023

Video Review – Before We Vanish

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Where and when

5February 2023

Museo Novecento

Ingresso libero fino a esaurimento posti

Third appointment with the video review conceived by Beatrice Bulgari for In Between Art Film, curated by Paola Ugolini, for the cinema room of the Museo Novecento. Before We Vanish, this is the title of the review scheduled from 12 April to 4 July 2019.

It is part of the Substainable Thinking project, in collaboration with the Ferragamo Foundation and the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and wants to show the work of ten international artists (Masbedo, Janis Rafa, Oliver Ressler, Salvatore Arancio, Shadi Harouni, Sigalit Landau, Elena Mazzi and Sara Tirelli, José Guerrero with Antonio Blanco, Rä di Martino) and their relationship with the plant and animal world.

Nature, understood both as a generating force, spiritually connected with human life and as a simulacrum of a distressing present, is the guiding thread of the project. With their works these artists invite us to reflect on our existence. The world we live in is in grave danger, the ecosystem is seriously threatened by a systematic and unethical exploitation of its resources. The problem is global and it is a political problem rather than a technical or scientific one and artists, like modern Cassandre, are warning us.

The work of Janis Rafa (Athens, 1984) investigates the condition of mortality, mourning and melancholy in relation to the natural world. His narratives are often located on the fringes of urban reality, in inhospitable and sinister places. The cryptic but universal nature of these cinematic worlds always begins with a certain amount of rather unsettling realism because it has very little in common with its usual representation. Janis Rafa’s is a slippery reality that takes us to a dimension suspended between dream and earthly sensuality in which the dead and the living, human beings and non-humans coexist with a certain unexpected harmony. In the video Winter Came Early (2015) the violent impact of a car shakes an almond tree vigorously for ten seconds, causing the leaves to fall prematurely. The action is captured by a high-speed 2000fps camera. The work is a lucid metaphor of the brutal intervention of man on nature and at the same time of the transience of life.

Oliver Ressler (Knittelfeld, 1970) in the video Leave it in the ground (2013) shows us how climate change is no longer a phenomenon to be imagined as a dark future threat but as a tragic event already in progress. Its harmful consequences are the progressive desertification of arable areas, greater drought, less frequent but more violent and harmful rainfall, lower crop yields, a set of factors that are exacerbating social conflicts and from which many populations are already suffering. . Climate change has increased poverty and violence, mass migration, social crises and civil wars that have become wars among the poor. Unfortunately, the strong powers, despite clear warnings of the many environmental disasters that have occurred in recent years, have not yet implemented a serious strategy to reduce the use of fossil fuels which are the main cause of global warming. It is as if a sort of fossil fuel-based fundamentalism is dominating our planet which, if it does not know how to stop in time, will be overwhelmed. Leave it in the ground describes the climate crisis not as a technical or scientific problem but primarily as a political problem

The Israeli artist Sigalit Landau (Jerusalem, 1969) in his works stages narratives that document, presuppose or prefigure an action. What the artist wants to create, with a multimedia approach, is a poetic world capable of creating “new emotional realities” that can have a direct impact on life with its deep and often painful contradictions. The desolate beauty of the waters of the Dead Sea, a salt lake that bathes Israel, the West Bank and Jordan whose shores are 400 meters below sea level, has been his place in his heart for fifteen years, because “… I believe this is the a place where truth and spirituality become almost tangible realities .. “. In the video Salt Lake (2011) a pair of work boots covered with salt from the frozen Dead Sea slowly sink to the frozen surface of a Central European lake, an image of desolate loneliness, poignant and powerful in its tragic simplicity that it shows us all the suffering and pain of uprooting, of the weight of memory and history. This is probably one of the most interesting aspects of contemporary Israeli art, knowing how to mix tradition and innovation in the creation of works imbued with a collective historical memory that invites reflection, while never falling into the banal obviousness of quotationism.

The aesthetic charm linked to the past scientific classification systems used by zoology and botany scholars is the central theme of the video by Salvatore Arancio (Catania, 1974) Birds (2012) that the artist shot in super 8 inside the Museum of Zoology of Bologna. The work shows us the extraordinary ornithological collection of Italian specimens brought together by the collectors Zaifagnin and Bertocchi in the first half of the 1900s. The visual disorientation dear to this artist is used here to emphasize the sinister and mysterious nature of each single shot and the stuffed animals tell a world that has been crystallized in the motionless absoluteness of death. Commercial logging is depriving many animal species of their natural habitat and putting them at risk of extinction, and these images of immobile birds could be a sad foreshadowing of a future without birds in the sky.

Elena Mazzi (Reggio Emilia, 1984) in her work she investigates the relationship between man and the environment that surrounds him, in which she lives and with which he confronts every day. An almost anthropological artistic research to analyze an identity that is both personal and collective at the same time. The relationship with a specific territory of which she must have direct experience and not mediated or distorted by the means of communication is important for this artist.

Sara Tirelli (Gorizia, 1979) is an artist and filmmaker whose work lies along the border between art and cinema. In his research, the cinematographic experience is understood as a sensory and cognitive process and his works investigate the relationship between perception, media and culture. In A Fragmented world (2016), Mazzi and Tirelli propose a visualization of the theory of fractures of the physicist Bruno Giorgini. The interaction between art and science always produces interesting results, as can be seen by looking at this complex and visually fascinating work, which uses the paradigm of fracture dynamics concerning the morphogenesis and morpho-dynamics of the volcanic landscape of Etna. The stratification of the Sicilian volcano in fact continuously changes its conformation due to the numerous eruptions. The initial shots show us the power of nature; they are superimposed images of some areas of Etna taken at different times. Some have been produced in past years for purely scientific purposes to evaluate the morphological variations of the volcanic structure, while others were made by the authors of the video. This way of overlapping the images illustrates the cycle of transformation that this barren and discontinuous territory has undergone. In the video, a jogger suddenly enters the scene running on volcanic soil. This human presence – incongruous and unsettling – and the speed with which the runner moves on the uneven ground, give a different texture to the landscape making it much more concrete, and contemporary to us.

José Guerrero (Granada, 1979) and Antonio Blanco (Jerez de la Frontera, 1979) are two Spanish artists, respectively visual artist and composer, who met while residing at the Real Academia de España in Rome, at the turn of 2015 and 2016 and who, following the residency, decided to make this four-handed video project. José, who works mainly with photography, made his first video in the capital with the sound commentary of Antonio, a musical composer, who became passionate about the idea that Rome, the Urbs Aeterna, could leave a trace in the narration of his music. The video is an unconventional journey through Rome, postcard places have been avoided to avoid the weight of too cumbersome aesthetic stereotypes, preferring to show the capital of places and secondary elements, less known, but no less fascinating, such as the ancient Aurelio aqueduct and the water of the Tiber which becomes the protagonist of the video. Roma 3 Variazioni (2016) is a trilogy that presents a perfect dialogue between images and music and shows us a different Rome, far from its convulsive urban reality, an almost bucolic Rome through a path that becomes a metaphor for life.

Iranian artist Shadi Harouni (Hamedan, 1985) shot the video The Lightest of stones in a stone quarry in Kurdistan where a group of men, confined to that inhospitable place due to their political ideas, discuss ISIS, of ancient legends populated by dragons and mythological heroes, of art and of American sexy divas like Jenifer Lopez. The artist, always turned on his back, digs the earth with his bare hands to extract some stones, while the men continue to chat among themselves between the serious and the facetious, also wondering about the meaning of the tiring and illogical physical action that the girl is performing.

Rä di Martino (Rome, 1975) in the video Poor Poor Jerry (2018) uses the language of animation drawing on that collective and easily shared imagination that has formed over the years through cinema, television and music. The artist stages a real “animated desolation” subverting the usual lightness of pop language, thus revealing its emptiness, to accompany us in the unexpected introspective process of a cartoon character. Jerry, the famous protagonist of the American cartoons Tom & Jerry, appears tired, aged and alone, wanders sad and thoughtful in an inhospitable, desert and uninhabited landscape, perhaps a foreshadowing of a desolate post-atomic natural scenery. The soundtrack that is the background to his tired wandering is composed of fragments of dialogues and fragments of amorous and romantic songs taken from some famous films and easily recognizable by the general public. The video undermines our wealth of memories and emotions related to entertainment both because it shows us a figure that we usually associate with positive emotions in a moment of profound personal crisis, and because it confronts us with the desolation of the landscape far from the pleasantness of that typical of cartoons.

MASBEDO (Nicolò Massazza, Milan 1973, Iacopo Bedogni, Sarzana 1970) in the video Le Voeu (2014) they frame a female hand of stone lying in the bottom of a transparent vase full of water. Surrounded by the violet tentacles of the jellyfish that swim around it, it seems to be begging for help. Another male hand reaches her and holds her tightly despite the stinging jellyfish that burn her skin. Maybe only the power of love can save us? Love understood as an act of rebellion against destiny, against an already written ending, love as courage, as the ability to welcome others, even those who are different, love as the ability to sacrifice a part of ourselves for salvation of the other.

Designed by Beatrice Bulgari for In Between Art Film
curated by Paola Ugolini

The exhibition is part of the Substainable Thinking project, in collaboration with the Ferragamo Foundation and the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. The project is made possible thanks to the support of Intesa Sanpaolo.

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