Critical Texts Contemporary Art

Snake oil salesmen (and saleswomen)

Is poetry of any use? There are those who measure necessity solely on basic needs, and, in the short time we are allowed, accumulate an inordinate amount of objects of no use. There are those who prophesy that we will all die without them, but this has not yet been disproved. And there are those who try, but need a ball of thread not to get lost in the labyrinth of verses. But the Minotaur is always lurking there, and it is called “narrative reason”: where is the history of poetry? It is called school—years spent studying poetry only to abandon it for good. It is called procrastination—always finding an easy verse to quote when necessary, with no need for a book at home. And yet...

Yet, in the difficult moments of life, there is nothing like poetry to inspire us to brave, desperate, passionate action. Or to resistance. It is no coincidence that, besides music, which has always accompanied armies to the front, our other ally in the absurdity of armies has always been poetry. Poetry is not a candid object; it is, rather, an incandescent, pyromaniacal one. Poetry inflames, disrupts, and also comforts. Prayers are poems, too. Verses are amulets that can protect as well as cast curses. They are cigarettes that burn the skin, and poets are the sorcerers who roll them.

Which is why Costantini’s portraits are permanently shrouded in smoke. The men and women authors he has selected are connected with each other, linked by a material vapour that suggests they belong in the lineage of wizards and witches. These faces, made impervious to time by the clear line that makes their forms a synthesis, also compose the emotional and literary atlas of the artist, who gives us his Decalogue, his personal ball of thread to guide us through the thick forest of poetry without getting lost. This combination of lines and words, which implies the concrete absence of the subject portrayed, composes an autobiographical mosaic of the artist, as well as a viaticum for the viewer or reader, an antidote, an exorcism through visual poetry. Or a lucid vision—in Burroughs’s words, “until the bare lies shine through.”

Elettra Stamboulis

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True Detective / Across the Line

Catalog "Across the line", artist Nerosunero (Mario Sughi)
Published by GIUDA edizioni, 2014

“I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law.”
Rustin Cohle in True Detective, The Long Bright Dark,

Season 1, Episode 1

Crossing the line between what appears and what is – this is one of the most burning narrative nubs of the multi-award-winning True Detective, the most highly acclaimed TV series of recent years. It elicits a curious reaction from a public that appears to cultivate self-referential certainties and that is accustomed to prejudice, never having been taught to experiment or to seek out sources. And yet a public that has been powerfully attracted to this blend of artistic photography, Nietzschean dialogues and sequence shots as long as those of Soviet times. Here too, in this contradictory cycle, we find the burden of our inability to accept the contemporary. We live in the information age, stunned and misinformed. Sweetened and spiked by a facebook scroll page. Pizzolatto, the writer who created the HBO series, looked out over the landscape of Louisiana, the frontier land which is also his own and where time really does appear in different dimensions, and decided to turn it into a narrative metaphor.

It is not so much a background, where complex events are played


out in different times, as a real space that inspires the story. It is its constant allusion, its misshapen mirror. A place that contradicts the obviousness of the reality portrayed by background chatter. It is “the truth is out there” of X Files, but without the aliens.

Nerosunero (aka Mario Sughi) does not live in Louisiana, but he appears to emerge from the same need to remove the veil from the Maja of the landscape and of the setting. Starting with his technique, which, without leave of appeal, banishes the material potential of the graven original. If reality is representation and a dream-world musing presence, the sacredness of the fetish has no reason to exist outside of its own intangible sense. His apparent painting plays on our perceptions, commandeering our astonishment (who’d have thought what a computer can do, as if it had a mind of its own, a disabled intelligence that we bring to life), just as it plays on hysterical disbelief (Oh my god! Really? Digital painting from portraits?). Ever since the 1960s, art brought this process into the mainstream, provoking cries from the doomsayers, and yet still today, in the universally accepted perception, it still manages to provoke the same reactions as it did in Beuys’s day.

Deforming details (a lamppost standing on a zebra crossing, shadows that defy the laws of physics, legless benches suspended in the air), these are the paradoxes of a context in which the body sees itself from outside of itself. It is just one thing among many, the only suspended object of a vague intellect, an entity made of pixels smiling at Schopenhauer, confirming his presence in a post-cybernetic world. The body, therefore, caught in a space that agitates it and makes it disconcerting.

It is the context that teaches the artist’s representation its narrative lesson, but it is only in the relationship between subject and object, and between landscapes that quote others that have learnt the lessons of colour from Puvis de Chavannes, from post-impressionism and Gauguin. We can all train our retina to recognise an apparently consolatory world of the imagination in what we contemplate. It might be in some trendy café, concealing its own uncanniness for the shrewd, pampered eye.

Morandi’s bottles may for example be concealed in some Internet


café, thus becoming popular rather than metaphysical. A kind of synaesthesia takes us back to the rancid smell shared in places devoid of relationships, other than with corroded objects, in an elsewhere that nobody really knows how to reach. In a choice between narrative knowledge and some improbable deductive, paradigmatic form of understanding, as Jerome Bruner would put it, Sughi chooses the former. In structuring concentrated sequences that focus on a single concentrated experience, the proto-hermetic mechanism that inevitably binds title to work (an authentic negation of the omnivorous Untitled) is undoubtedly one of these techniques, as we see, for example, in #814 Ahhhhhhhh!

It is true that narrative needs a sequence, necessarily putting things in order, even when pointing to the disorder of reality: the killing of the young Algerian in Camus’ The Stranger, clearly with no rational or logical link to what has gone before, and remaining this way until the end, is the narrative heart of the novel. The facts in this order show that there is no order and coincidence in the chaos of the world. For this is narrative. Painting does not contemplate this, and that is one thing. But the intentional numbering of the paintings gives an ordered sequence to a corpus of phenomena that acquire a narrative aspect.

The true detective can but train the retina and give paradox back its name, for it is the fastest tortoise. To each instant corresponds a precise clue. 

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Arrivals and Departures – Mediterranean

Published in catalog, Giuda edizioni, Ravenna (2012)

A man has to be born somewhere!

Ivo Andrić 


Metamorphosis often appears as a metaphor that has remained latent for a whole lifetime and is suddenly understood in visual terms1: the metaphoric process that leads to transformation passes decisively from the visual in the context of mythological tradition, precisely in order to render rationally comprehensible something that might otherwise remain relegated to the exclusive sphere of faith. In the metaphoric process, which leads to a change that translates this latency into matter, a deep idea of crisis is implicit; the unease perceived in the transformation may be condensed into anguish, pain of loss or, more sentimentally and profitably, into nostalgia. But the mythological argument, and substantially also the artistic one, feeds on transformation and metamorphosis.

And the very notion of Europe, from which we draw to define boundaries, transitory and presumed identities, and which constitutes an imaginary embankment against otherness, has its roots in a metamorphic voyage: young Europa abducted by Zeus in the form of a white bull. A voyage whose starting point was the coast of modern Lebanon. Young Europa, unaware of the long line of abducted voyaging women who would follow her, bore in her name the etymology of “broad face, broad gaze”, which is what we who are sick in vision feed on. And it is precisely from this concept of broad gaze that our curatorial voyage set out on this arbitrary mapping of the metamorphic visions of the artists invited. But let’s begin at the beginning. From that Europa who lingered with her handmaidens to play on the shores of Tyre. There’s a great deal of irony in the mythological construction of the arché, of the narration of the first cause: the same that drives the works of many of the selected artists. A light and disenchanted irony, a play of unexplored references and queries which seeks the way to finding names and combinations that are new but feed on a nostalgia without ID card.

Precise perception of the transeunt, of the temporary and sandy consistency of the glance, of one’s own glance, which draws on the visions of others but at the same time remains forever anchored to one’s own retina, is one of the codes binding works which are evidently marked by differences and resistances to the narration of a glance that is unique and included in one’s point of view. Yet in working with a visual grammar that employs many shared references it is possible that the metamorphic process of artistic creation might lead to assonant solutions. 

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Nilbar Güreş

Published in catalog Arrivi e Partenze_Mediterrano, GIUDA edizioni (2012)

Unknown sports are the ones practised by women to survive the daily erosion of possibilities, the infinite obstacles that a deeply male chauvinist society has produced over the millennia. 

The ironic and at times comic verve is vivid and unequivocal. For modern Goddesses Kali of the thousand arms, a fitness workout is not understood as the process of mortifying the body to which many submit in order to approach ideal models of plasticized femininity: rather it is the Olympic ability to conjugate identities, expectations, commitments and roles day after day. Unknown Sports, like many other works by this Turkish artist, needs no special subtitles. It speaks an iconic language that is immediate, although stylistically beyond criticism. Public exhibition, accentuated theatricality, soap opera excess (it’s the same story ladies, but told by more protagonists) creates a tableau vivant in which everyday femininity is posing, real and tangible. The unknown space evoked in the title, and which becomes public, extended, surreal, is the stone guest which takes the role of ripped away drape that inevitably displays something normally intended to be concealed behind the curtain. 

We should not be deceived by Güreş’ versatility in employing photography, drawing, video and collage. The point of view is focalised, concentrated, and the poetics coherent. The propulsive centre of her multiform work – which has taken her in a short time to a qualitatively significant presence at international level – is the deconstruction of commonplaces, of stereotypes and of the codified maps that define political, cultural and gender-related identities. From her performance interventions, in which she takes direct actions, to her drawing, the vulnerability of social masks is the imaginary centre of this artist’s research. Through “the grammar of irony and of involuntary comicality,” writes Başak Şenova, she underscores “the brutality of life.” In this scrutinizing from a wilfully narrow keyhole there is neither moralism nor preconception. Rather a tragic farce in which it is always possible to fall into the whirlpool of the comic, understood in the Pirandello sense as “awareness of the contrary”, which is to say as contrast between appearance and reality. The appearance and the embalmed codification transmitted to us of the female image in the world of Islamic and in particular Turkish tradition, is completely overturned here, making us part of a femininity which belongs to us inasmuch as we are women who are revealed in their shared condition of subordination, but at the same time of Olympic athletes of destiny. 

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Published in catalog Arrivi e Partenze_Mediterrano, GIUDA edizioni (2012)

Numerous artistic activities, hard to label under any one category, are attributable to the pseudonym Ganzeer. He produces and edits a highly popular online magazine, does graffiti, is a designer and creates fonts and many other things which he refuses to give up just to find himself “trapped by a category”, as he himself has often declared. 

After coming to the attention of the public at large for his graffiti on the walls of Cairo during the days of the revolution, Ganzeer has actually never stopped. Everything interests him, from fanzines to digital art, 

and in common with many others like himself worldwide he is equally good at all of them. 

Arrested and then released for having drawn a tank aiming at a man on a bicycle carrying bread, he belongs to a generation of Egyptian artists who see no separation between political and artistic action. “People forget,” 

he stated when he was arrested, “that the streets are people. 

They think the streets are a sort of entity controlled by the official government. I feel it’s important to remind citizens that the streets are actually their own property”.

A very clear principle lies at the heart of Ganzeer’s work: there is no public art, Street Art, without a message. And this conviction goes so deep that he does not sign his own street works. The preparatory figure created for the catalogue, to be subsequently reinterpreted and exhibited on a main thoroughfare in Ancona, is in this sense explicit: a turbaned man visibly subjected to fatigue, almost resigned, with a look of atavistic weariness and a T-shirt referring to global culture, is carrying a weight or is a modern caryatid. The writing in Italian plays on the ambivalence of the site where the image will be displayed, a highly frequented underpass. 

Bridges are built by immigrants, a subjugated and docile workforce. 

But it also harks back to the rhetoric of international cooperation where this phrase is enunciated with persuasive and oratorical facility, and then its meaning disappears when international diplomacy and foreign policies of the various countries take action and decide. 

All works by Ganzeer and other graffitists can be viewed by following 

the map he created, this map is of interest not only to tourists and spectators, because you can also see the opinions and comments of passers-by who tweet their impressions of what they have seen.

For Arrivals and Departures in Ancona he will be doing a wall in the city, adding to the open air “collection” that includes works by Blu, Paper Resistance, Ericailcane and many others.

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Borjana Mrdja

Published in catalog Arrivi e Partenze_Mediterrano, GIUDA edizioni (2012)

Mrdja is a Bosnian artist who already has exhibitions and projects to her credit in various parts of the world, from Berlin to New York and Milan.

She mainly uses photography to document an artistic oeuvre created through close contact with the public and the relationship with her own body. The theme of boundary and identitary limit supplies one of the most profitable sources of her work. 

Body is boundary and boundary becomes body: this is the point made by The Border, in which the wound on the artist’s hand is compared with the frontiers of Bosnia in 2010. Borders as unstable as those of a wound as it gradually changes form, diminishes and follows the passage of time. Hers is a kind of “counter-cartography”, as Claudia Zanfi puts it, which identifies the body as unique boundary, or which perhaps sees the ambiguity of physical confinement reflected in the ambiguity of corporeal limit: a boundary continually under discussion, brought into play, redrawn, with real or invisible barriers, by hands that take no account of the scars. Human geography becomes an actual map reflected on a body, her own. The state of exception, as Agamben defines it, becomes the subject represented by this work, which draws its greatest force from synthesis and from the simultaneous possibility of rising to the perfect symbolic form of the Bosnian situation. 

In Artists at Work, part of the INTRADA/modes of speech project curated by Karin Rolle, the encounter between the Bosnian artist and the Germans with whom she collaborated led to the creation of the light box on show here in Ancona: a photograph in which the human figures have been cut out. So the light shines from their silhouettes, indicating how in the artist’s vision the exclusion of identitary elements – in this case artists from different countries – may be a positive point of departure. 

What remains and defines the creative action of the individuals is the landscape, which unites the bodies without concern about their background. The artist is born and acts in sociological and cultural space that reflects a light in which the artist acts and becomes somehow shadow.

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Clio Casadei

Published in Catalog Arrivi e Partenze_Mediterrano, GIUDA edizioni (2012)

You in space are the parameter, the maximum limit, 

the end of my stroke

Clio Casadei began her artistic activity with drawing, subsequently going on to installation as a tool that better marks the fugacity of the artistic intervention, and converting this artistic phase into an audiobook, a narrative and expository form that unites these two cores. 

You in space are the parameter, the maximum limit, the end of my stroke consists of 112 pages and an 11 minute soundtrack where the artist herself is curator and narrator. It is a work that deals with the fugacity of immanence and weaves a curatorial dialogue with the spectator. 

Can the act of exhibiting be understood not as the object exhibited but as the communication thereof? Setting out from this question the artist decided to act solely within the space of time given by the occasion and to subsequently destroy all traces of that passage. The audiobook is the narrative testimony of this itinerary which comprises 5 works: 

Della distanza nella definizione (On Distance into Defining) 2008-2010, La storia è degli uomini (History Belongs to Humankind) 2008, La mia affezione, la mia eclissi (My Affection, My Eclipse) 2009, Prendi il mio tempo (Take My Time) 2008, Trilogia (Trilogy), ongoing works created on various occasions and in various places. 

The narrative journey starts out from a project linked to Istanbul, 

a city with which many of the invited artists are somehow connected, confirming that the capital of modern Turkey is an ineluctable centre of artistic practice in the Mediterranean. Observing the luminous form of the Turkish metropolis from a satellite its profound mutation can be recorded, not perceptible from the town plan, which is daily disregarded, but marked by the vertiginous increase of luminescence which from space shows just how much new humanity the city is accommodating every day. Also in the artist’s subsequent interventions the pulsating centre is narration, grasping the dizzying thrust of the story to transfer it into an act, which must necessarily disappear to pursue time. 

In History Belongs to Humankind this element is underscored by a cartography that does not mark the spatial limit of places but traces the movements of people, their migration. The vexation of the ineluctable erosion of time running by is also evident in Take My Time, where the generous gift stated in the title is none other than a declaration of defeat.  

The exhibitory act is conceived as a still life: one that indicates a point in the creative process but does not grasp the unfolding thereof. 

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Almudena Lobera

Published in Catalog Arrivi e Partenze_Mediterrano, GIUDA edizioni (2012)

Manual de la imagen mental

Lugar Entre

This versatile and in certain ways virtuoso artist’s favoured field of inquiry is the relationship between representation and reality, mirror and hypothetically real object, madness and its squint-eyed, perturbing glance. 

The work of this very young artist fits perfectly into the age-old line running through Hispanic culture from Calderόn de La Barca and Gόngora, right down to Maria Zambrano’s reflections on time. 

With candour and lightness, and without ever renouncing a refined and impeccable aesthetic, she succeeds in tackling typically philosophical themes. Her production however sits firmly in the international visual grammar which, besides the specific cultural range, feeds on the questions posed by Walter Benjamin: in the age of reproducibility of the art work it is necessary to establish a dialectical relationship with artistic creation. 

All Lobera’s works turn around these thematic hubs: from the performance/event PORTADORES. La imagen en el campo ampliado del cuerpo – created with Isabel Martínez Abascal, a tattoo artist from the other side of the Atlantic – to Procedencia desconocida, a conceptual map and installation which constitutes a visual reflection on different methods of representation among “normal” people and those considered mentally ill, especially psychotics and schizophrenics. 

Strongly influenced by surrealism, and Man Ray in particular, Lobera carries out her own re-creation of a visual almanac in Manual de la imagen mental, a series presented in Ancona, which dialogues with spectators by inviting them to execute a positive and ironic action, which is to say create their own mental image by means of a series of drawn gestures. This classificatory and normative obsession obviously clashes with the spirit powerfully oppositive to the sense of fetish: as if it were possible to touch with the hand, manipulate and assign the mental image. 

The theme of the place of images returns in Lugar Entre, but with different methods: drawing, photography, installation. 

The artist decontextualizes objects belonging to different moments of communication, the subject in this case being digital photography. Dissolution of the object is sustained by its decomposition in three moments, from the dialogue it establishes with the spectator: the female subject is seen from behind (and there is a clear pictorial citation in this choice) and is looked at from the camera viewfinder that also observes 

the spectator, in a play of mirrors further underscored by the glass.

Lobera, an artist who widely employs drawing as well as installation and performance, won the Premio Generación 2012 - Proyectos de Arte Caja Madrid.

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Alban Muja

Publishing in catalog Arrivi e Partenze_Mediterrano, GIUDA edizioni (2012)

With irony Alban Muja pursues the infinite possibility of naming as a creative and autonomous act, an indisputable artistic form granted to all of us. 

In the multiple and transitory identitary drift that has overturned part of eastern Europe (and to which the remaining geography too is not insensible) the theme of names has become a disturbing and sometimes barbaric leitmotif, but it can also find an ironic lightness, a positive value, when observed with this young artist’s melancholic gaze.

In Tonys the camera immortalizes, in a snapshot that recalls traditional festivals or official occasions, a group of children born in 1999 whose parents named them “Tonyblair” in honour of the former British prime minister who vigorously backed independence for Kosovo and is considered a hero by Albanians in this part of the world. Palestina and Tibet also come out of the same inquiry: a young woman and man from Pristina who tell why they bear the names of foreign countries. Naming, says a son, is a sort of primary creative act, and in these deviations from tradition Muja seems to catch a glimpse of change: what prevails in these choices is a break with the tradition of naming children after deceased relatives; but there is also the search for history within history, for a hidden omen/nomen which sometimes plays nasty tricks. How does it feel to be an Albanian from Kosovo with the name of a nation that doesn’t exist? Official geography plays nasty tricks, and the fragile and precariously balanced identity of Kosovo seems, in the interpretation of Muja, to be a refraction of the Palestinian situation. In Blue Wall Red Door the name confuses places and orientation: the inhabitants use other systems, since in recent years the street names have changed continually and can no longer be an anchor for reaching one’s destination. 

Growing up in an artistic space subsequent to the international acclaim achieved by artists such as Anri Sala and Marina Abramovic, Muja shares the same concern about ethical impact and political reflection in the high sense of art, coupled with a new weapon, indubitably painless, which is irony. Also evident is concentration on the private, individual aspect of inquiry: micro-stories that forcefully emanate the international political dialectic, but at the same time they are tiny grains and not a beach. 

His works have appeared in public spaces in Vienna and Berlin and numerous galleries in the countries of former Yugoslavia.

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Dionysus in Iraq

Catalogo "Daily Iraq"
LibriAparte, 2009

 Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor is regarded as one of the leading travel writers. For the British Army, however, he also coordinated the Cretan resistance against the Nazis in 1944. In this role, he had a rather daring – but ultimately successful – idea. He organized the capture of the Reich Commander, General Kreipe, using Greek resistance fighters dressed as Germans. The prisoner was kept hidden in a cave, where one day the Englishman watched him as, lost in reverie, he gazed at the snow-covered slopes of Mount Ida and began to murmur an ode by Horace, “Vides ut alta stet nive Candidum Soracte”. The future British baronet impulsively continued the Latin poem by memory. The astonished Nazi general replied, “Ach so, Herr Major” and then added, “We have both drunk at the same fountains”.

Fermor recounted this episode to the Italian journalist and writer Paolo Rumiz sixty years later, pondering the fact that today the inestimable Iraqi heritage has been devastated. 

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