The body and bodies. Skin, bones, organs and sensations become channels of values. An investigation of how corporeality can catalyze reflections on the dynamics of desire, interiority and civil rights.
Disegni DS 8
Back To The Future BTTF 10
Present Future PF 5
Corridor Yellow 1
Corridor Purple 5
Corridor Pink B 26
Good morning, we welcome you to Artissima 2023! This is the audio guide project and you’re listening to track no.5, entitled Body Language: an investigation on how corporeality can catalyze reflections on the dynamics of desire, interiority and civil rights. Let’s start with some questions: what’s the meaning of a body in a work of art nowadays? How can we describe it in relationship with the digital accelerations that turn flesh into avatars, or language into tags? To answer, we can look towards the city of London, where at this precise moment the major exhibition on Marina Abramovic’ at the Royal Academy of Arts is literally sold out. The Serbian artist, who has tested the limits of her own physical and mental endurance in social, political and relational contexts for fifty years, is now more celebrated than ever. The project features some live re-enactments of some historical pieces, led by performers who genuinely rely on the so-called Abramovic’ Method. The COVID-19 pandemic now sounds like a distant echo, but art seems to crave for bodies, happenings, tangible expressions. Body Language is an audio tour that will make you discover the most physical soul of Artissima fair. We’re going to meet true pioneers who have re-written the codes of contemporary art with innovative, groundbreaking performances. We’ll meet proudy queer artists who consider their practices as social possibilities to change the future of non-standard bodies. We’ll meet creatives who come from distant areas of the modern world, trying to re-write histories and perspectives for all those who cannot speak loud. These audio guides have been developed for Artissima by Arteco’s mediators. This track has been curated by Daniele Licata. We are ready to go! Pause the player and go to Gregor Podnar gallery, located in the Disegni section, booth 8, to begin our visit. Press play once you have arrived. I’ll be waiting for you!
We are now in the Disegni - Drawings section, at the booth of Gregor Podnar, a gallery based in Vienna, to present the work of Robert Gabris. Robert Gabris is an excellent, meticulous artist, who trusts the social function of art and dedicates time and energy to every single line of his drawings. Born in former Czechoslovakia in 1986, currently based in Vienna, Gabris belongs to the Roma ethnic group, but does not define himself as a Roma artist. The focus of his practice is rather a critical discourse around the meaning of identity, about belonging to groups who are socially excluded. From his point of view, experimenting with various techniques is an act of resistance to predominant racisms. His drawings involve the use of coloured pencils and ink on paper. In his words, they are defined as ‘conceptual’, because their deconstruction of forms dismantles every imposed limit. Naked bodies meet birds, insects, flying creatures, in a sort of imaginary Eden presenting alternative concepts of sexuality. Sometimes lines become longer and shape cardboard masks, often installed and hanging on walls with an installation appeal. Occasionally Gabris himself wears and ties them to his own body, trying to mutate into a new creature, a butterfly striving to evolve. Ropes simulate bondage aesthetics, and design a frame of pain and pleasure. The artist’s conceptual works emerge in the fair’s space to claim those rights that still need to be recognized in society. If the human body can access infinite changes, then Gabris’s drawings are tools of change, a wardrobe of clothes we wear to tell about ourselves in continuously different ways. We have completed our first stage. Pause your player and head to BAR gallery, located in the Back to the Future section, pink B corridor, booth 6. Press play once you have arrived. I’ll be waiting for you!
We are now in the Back to the Future section, at the booth of BAR, a gallery located in Turin, to present the work of Lydia Silvestri. Born in 1929 in Chiuro, Sondrio, in the north of Italy, sculptor Lydia Silvestri was a disciple of Marino Marini. She passed away five years ago, in 2018, and her whole career – made of solo exhibitions and group shows around the world – has been reconsidered just in recent times. Silvestri’s sculptures are made of voluptuous materials, always wrapping on themselves. In a fluid, natural way, they shape bodies that stretch towards the outside, to reach other bodies and engage erotic acts. Pleasure and lust are also embodied by the materials she always carved and combined with freedom: bronze and wood, stone and marble, semigress and terracotta, but also compounds of inert and palatal resins (magma) and compounds of inert and epoxy resins (lapis). The artist was fascinated by female figures from the Bible, from mythology, from literature. A compendium of goddesses, saints, sinners and heroins who turn into sculptures, drawings and etchings; a unique universe choosing ambiguity as a main narrative tool. Lydia Silvestri once said: ‘The most beautiful compliment I received came from a little boy called Tommaso. He said: ‘Dad says you’re a witch, but it isn’t true. I swear, you’re magic!’ We have completed our second stage. Pause your player and head to Matèria gallery, located in the Present Future section, pink B corridor, booth 5. Press play once you have arrived. I’ll be waiting for you!
We are now in the Present Future section, at the booth of Matèria, a gallery based in Rome, to present the work of Bekhbaatar Enkhtur. Rome, February 2023. A long, slim, yellowish body is lying on the floor of contemporary art gallery Matèria. Perhaps it has fallen down, perhaps somebody hurt him with violence; perhaps he’s just taking a nap. It appeared in the exhibition spaces five days before the opening of Bekhbaatar Enkhtur’s first solo show in the gallery, and the Mongolian artist deliberately chose to sculpt it with perishable, smelly materials, asking visitors to fix that image in their own minds before it disappears forever. Born in 1994, Enkhtur embarked on this project to tell – first of all to himself – about a specific event in Mongolian history, related to the 26-meter statue of Janraisig, erected in 1913 in Ulanbaatar, the country’s capital city. It was a symbol of independence and political emancipation from China, but twenty-five years later, as part of broader, Stalinist purges of all Buddhist things, it was dismantled by Soviet troops. After this iconoclast act, it was rebuilt in 1996, with a new – let’s say – touristic appeal. Falling bodies that appear and disappear – over and over again. Enkhtur tells about Mongolia’s traditional symbols with ephemeral drawings and sculptures. They’re reminiscences of vague memories, they’re dragons and barking dogs; they’re anecdotes on aunts involved in shamanic rituals. If scent is what remains of history, in the artist’s practice that same scent will turn into a beeswax whiff, the intangible drawing of a land that still needs to be imagined. We have completed our third stage. Pause your player and head to Lia Rumma gallery, located in the pink A corridor, booth 2. Press play once you have arrived. I’ll be waiting for you!
We are now in the Main Section, in the booth of Lia Rumma, a gallery based in Naples and Milan, to present the work of Vanessa Beecroft. In the early Nineties Vanessa Beecroft trained in Genoa and then in Milan, where she attended the Academy of Brera. While developing her artistic research, Beecroft started dealing with personal suffering that she tried to elaborate by writing a journal, on which she wrote the lists of the foods she daily ate. In 1993 that diary, also known as Despair, would be exhibited in her first solo show in Milan, where she invited a selection of personal friends to wear her own clothes, wigs, and stand still inside of the gallery for hours and hours. That was the moment in which the myth of Vanessa Beecroft was born: when the artist – maybe unintentionally – presented her first, uncompromising tableau vivant, displaying generational pain and confusing the visitors, unable to behave in front of the performers. Beecroft’s female friends were asked to do nothing for hours: they’ve been acting lazy on the floor, staring into space, sometimes touching their hair or stretching their legs. In an era in which fashion magazines were only about statuesque bodies, celebrating seduction and fame, Vanessa Beecroft emerged with an alternative vision, that used glamour to expose human fragilities. After her debut, Beecroft became a worldwide acclaimed artist, and her performances have become ticking bomb mechanisms. The titles of her works are always her initial letters, VB, followed by progressive numbers that address the objectification of the female body. The artist is rarely on stage, she’d rather work as a hidden director, who selects her performers through Hollywood-like castings. More recently, her practice has been focusing on sculptures too: big heads, often in ceramic and plaster, inspired by the Italian tradition of female beauty in arts. At the same time, they remind us of all the VB projects, where the concepts of multitude and singularity always tend to blur. We have completed our fourth stage. Pause your player and head to Fonti gallery, located in the purple corridor, booth 5. Press play once you have arrived. I’ll be waiting for you!
We are now in the Monologue/Dialogue section, at the booth of Galleria Fonti, a gallery based in Naples, to present the work of Kiluanji Kia Henda. Kiluanji Kia Henda works with photography to describe Angola, his home country, in an extremely personal way. He was born in the city of Luanda in 1979, four years after the country’s independence from Portugal: such an event was followed by a bloody civil war that ended in 2002. As the artist confesses: ‘everybody used to talk about politics inside my house. At the time, my father was involved in various political movements and I remember that period with a mixture of fear and excitement’. In Kiluanji Kia Henda’s view, the artist’s mission is to process trauma, always with an ironic approach: as he says, it’s the only way to make people interested in tragedies. At Artissima, the artist presents two different photographic cycles. The first one, There are days I leave my heart at home, tells that the so-called Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union actually caused the deaths of many people far from the Western world. Henda pictures all the conflict’s traces that remain in objects, landscapes, architecture: with an extremely acute gaze, he tells about blood-splattered skin and wounded bodies without really showing them. The Blood Business Corporation portraits, on the other hand, are based on the juxtaposition between landscapes and subjects looking like mutants or aliens. Ambiguous identities that confuse the viewer: is it a fashion editorial set? Perhaps, as the artist says, it’s the narration of those people who project conflicts hidden in the dark. We don’t really know the faces of those who profits a war: what we eventually see are ‘remote control zombies’, wandering among pipings. We have completed our fifth stage. Pause your player and head to Daniel Benjamin gallery, located in the pink B corridor, booth 26. Press play once you have arrived. I’ll be waiting for you!
Step 01, Gregor Podnar, Robert Gabris
Step 02, BAR, Lydia Silvestri
Step 03, Matèria, Bekhbaatar Enkhtur
Step 04, Lia Rumma, Vanessa Beecroft
Step 05, Fonti, Kiluanji Kia Henda