The exhibition presents works that have joined Museion’s collection in the last years, as acquisitions, donations or long-term loans. They all tie in with the research themes pursued by the museum, such as the new directions in sculpture, and the exhibition brings to light the fact that traditional artistic categories no longer always exist separately from one another.
LANGUAGE IN ART
The Language in Art section encloses artworks that belong to trends that are very different one from the other, in which written language plays a specific role. Language in Art introduces an aspect of hybrid forms between art and writing, between image and text, between the drawn line and writing, it constitutes a representative manifestation of modern and contemporary art. The section sees conceptual positions such as the ones by VALIE EXPORT, Maurizio Nannucci and Haroon Mirza. The nucleus includes also narrative and political art forms or artworks that work with advertising principles. An important role is given by visual and concrete poetry, as much as by artworks of the Fluxus Movement, part of Museion’s collection thanks to the long term loan of the collection "Archivio di Nuova Scrittura".
More than meets the eye is a large installation made up of a blue and a red version of the same text. The vibrantly glowing red and blue color spaces generate between them a mixed purple zone. Like almost all of Nannucci’s texts, this one also consists of a (tautological) statement about the work itself, pointing out the optical effect produced by the neon light.
Nanni Balestrini, poet, artist and writer, has had a profound influence on the development of Italian art and literature over the last 50 years. An attentive observer of the social situation, he creates novels, artist books and a multitude of visual poems. In these poems, newspaper clippings (images, letters and text) have been applied to a white background: new, unexpected meanings spring from these fragmented combinations that reflect the political and cultural climate of an era. These works, which are viewed as seminal pieces of the visual poetry genre, also reveal a central practice in Balestrini's oeuvre: collage.
ARBEIT MACHT KAPITAL (“Work produces capital” or “Work Power Capital”) is written in “K font” using fluorescent tubes. The name of this font pays homage to Franz Kafka and his character K, the protagonist of the unfinished novel The Castle (1926). This version of the work is a mockup of the original, sized according to the neon tubes used. The three words in the neon sign can be interpreted in different ways, depending on whether they are read singly, together, or as a sentence. The phrase, ARBEIT MACHT KAPITAL, which on one hand evokes the spectre of the concentration camps, comprises terms which are also in recurrent use in modern democracies.
In Automation is Dead the LED message, a clear reference to the artist Jenny Holzer, has been modified to generate a sound that accompanies another source of rhythm generated by the interference of an energy saving light bulb and a transistor radio. The message on the display indicates the death of the system designed to control the machines that perform human work.
The light work group has played a significant role in the Museion collection since the major exhibition dedicated to Group N and Group Zero (ENNE&ZERO motus etc.) in 1996. The light works that have been added since have repeatedly highlighted the group’s installation-based, and consequently hybrid nature that was evident right from the start in many works by Günther Uecker, Otto Piene, Heinz Mack, and Alberto Biasi to name just some of the representatives of the two artistic groups.
Piene’s “light ballet” - Lichtballet (Licht kugel), cannot be labelled as a sculpture in a traditional sense as it is an installation that possesses movement and an intrinsic time span—a characteristic it shares with video.
Spiral Betty by Rosemarie Trockel is a light work, but its title is also a play on words with an ironic reference to Robert Smithson’s gigantic Land Art work, Spiral Jetty (1970), and its form that implicitly refers to the female body.
Cerith Wyn Evans’ installation featuring a lamp that pulsates in Morse, entitled Goodnight Eileen from ‘Here to Go’ by Terry Wilson/ Brion Gysin (1982) is a truly splendid light work that thematises the codification of language and our habits of perception.
Philippe Parreno works with a variety of different media: with film, sculpture, performance, drawing, text, and with the exhibition itself as a medium. Marquee is one of a group of works resembling a projecting roof with lights like those sometimes found above entryways. This form of sculpture is integrated into real architecture, where it marks the transition into a fundamentally different perceptual space. There are also ironic connotations here of the glamourous sheen enjoyed by certain ideas about art.
M’illumino d’immenso: the words of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s famous poem of 1917 have been translated into rhythm and light. The seven movements of the green laser reflect the phonetics of the text, namely the linguistic sounds created when the poem is read out loud. The vertical line rises in four movements then contracts before expanding horizontally in three echoing motions. The precise clarity of the green beam of light created by the laser is a physical representation of Ungaretti’s stark brevity.
After Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Gordon Matta Clark and Dan Graham who started working with video, a second generation of artists like Bill Viola continues making experiments and brings the medium to a higher level of selfawareness. Contemporary artists like Mario Garcia Torres and Deimantas Narkevicius work in a sort of narrative way with video, Sonia Leimer and Stefano Cagol deal with the concept of border, while Allora & Calzadilla and Francesco Jodice have a more socio-political approach. On the other hand Francesco Vezzoli’s art practice consists in a kind of deconstruction of TV and cinematografic forms of expression.
The video draws on the imagery of Western films to tackle the issue of territory in geographical, cultural, and physical terms. The camera slowly pans over a landscape reminiscent of Western movies, until it encounters an all-female orchestra playing the famous soundtrack composed by Elmer Bernstein for the film The Magnificent Seven (1960) by John Sturges. The landscape in question is actually war-torn Georgia, on the dividing line between Europe and Asia, and the artist reveals the paradox: although geographically situated well to the east of the legendary Wild West, Georgia is often used as a location for this kind of film – all men, horses, and new frontiers to conquer.
Tea 1391, commissioned by dOCUMENTA (13), is a documentary film that is part of the artist’s project on the One Hotel in Kabul (Afghanistan), where the Italian artist Alighiero Boetti lived and worked from 1971 to 1977. Thirty years after Boetti left the One Hotel, and after the historical events that occurred in Afghanistan, Garcia Torres returned to the hotel in 2010. The video is about this experience, about what had changed in the meantime, and about how the artist, many years later, found himself in the dual role of both guest and host.
The title of the video references the work of Aimé Fernand David Césaire Un homme qui crie n’est pas un ours qui danse (1939). In the video, landscapes of the Mississippi Delta alternate with shots of the inside of a house in New Orleans damaged by Hurricane Katrina (2005). The silence of the sleepy river and sinister house interior is broken by the deafening rhythm of drumsticks beating on window blinds, and the noise and flashes of light this creates gives the whole video a feeling of urgency. A tribute to New Orleans, the video reflects on the natural disaster and its human and economic fallout.
An Embroidered Trilogy is a project by Francesco Vezzoli consisting of three videos that were produced between 1997 and 1999, in which the artist cast himself as the inert embroiderer who remains indifferent to the emotive melodramas performed around him by famous divas. As Francesco Vezzoli told himself: "If I must find a definition for myself, I’d like to be a director-embroiderer. Furthermore, everything has already been done in the history of cinema, and embroidery serves to pull together the threads of what has already been done, to tie together different images and personalities and given them a new form."
Cagol tackles sociopolitical issues, leaving each viewer free to make his or her own interpretation of the work based on personal experiences. The video explores the ambiguities, dualities, and dark side of our daily lives, taking a very simple, direct approach. The video focuses on the contrast between a landscape of ice and snow versus elements such as air, fire, light, and water. The artist ventured beyond the Arctic Circle to Kirkenes in the Barents region of Norway, which shares a border with Finland and Russia. Here, the artist created a series of actions exploring the notion of border.
The photographic section of the Museion collection touches different themes and artistic movements and at the same time it is a documentation of various approaches of contemporary photography. The range goes from the photographic documentation of the performances by Austrian artists like Günter Brus, Otto Muehl and Rudolf Schwarzkogler realized in the 60s and 70s to substantially conceptual artists like Vincenzo Agnetti, Heinz Gappmayr, Dan Graham, Gordon Matta-Clark. For some artists, like for example Roni Horn, photography is a medium to show changing human identities and different perspectives of the same sites and landscapes. Artists like Nan Goldin and Wolfgang Tillmans involve the viewer in their private lives while Joan Jonas, Vera Comploj and Zanele Muholy deal with the representation of the human body and the gender problem. The works of Zanele Muholi and Santu Mofokeng are examples of the Museion collection opening toward extraeuropean artistic positions.
Shifting between drawing, sculpture and photography, Roni Horn has always explored the themes of identity and difference, and the ungraspable nature of things and events. These themes focus on humankind and its inevitable state of being “in the making”, as well as on the way places change. The series of photographs taken in Iceland, where the artist has chosen to live, is a good example of the latter. Roni Horn considers Iceland a verb and not an object, on account of the incessant changes its landscapes are subject to: never finished and always in the making.
Vera Comploj combines her work as a fashion photographer with a personal study of issues related to identity, genetics, and physical changes. In her projects she engages with photographic work of the late 1970s and the 1980s by artists that explored the representation of the body and gender issues. The photograph here come from a series entitled In Between. Comploj started working on this project in 2009, soon after arriving in New York. The photographs take us into the world of America’s drag queens, captured during the transition from man to woman, day to night, ordinary life to stage.
From the Forbidden Zone was created for the exhibition "New Entries", which was on display at Museion between 2009 and 2010. Young artists were invited to deal with the collection of the museum. Michael Fliri chose a work from American artist Eleanor Antin, who had occupied herself with the transformation phenomenon during the 1970s. Subsequently, Fliri conceived a performance, in the course of which he disguised himself as an ape-like creature. The depicted photograph originates from that performance.
Nan Goldin’s images offer a direct insight into the intimate experiences of her friends, family and lovers in both public and private places. These include prostitutes, transvestites, drug addicts and dropouts, all of whom are portrayed through the perspective of a very personal relationship. Behind the scenes in her photos is an America at grips with Aids, sex, luxury, misery, lust and innocence.
Installation art is the practice that best represents the attempt to cast the viewer in an active role, subverting the notion of aesthetic autonomy that was championed by modernism: works very often manifest a clear intention to move beyond the confines of art and connect with life, society, politics. Installations, it can be said, are basically the opposite of the “artwork as object”: they do not “represent” a story or an object, but rather “present” it directly, with the aim of eliciting a critical response. The idea of an active viewer, who moves through and/or around works, who experiences them for their duration, also implies a viewer willing to play a more active role socially and politically.
From Here to There is a video installation shot by a Jack Russell Terrier called Stanley. Jana Sterbak edits the images filmed by the camera attached to the dog’s head as it frolics in the snow and rustles through the undergrowth along the banks of the river St. Lawrence in Montreal and the “Calli” in Venice. The viewer has to rely on Stanley’s natural curiosity to get a look at these locations, and in the six excerpts the human eye merges with that of the animal. Jana Sterbak’s work explores issues regarding human perception and the relationships between man and the animal kingdom, nature and technology.
Dischi di Dei is an installation of 93 record albums hanging from the ceiling by nylon threads, together with 93 album covers tacked up in a line on the wall. The albums deliberately represent a cross-section of wide-ranging music genres, although the artist also took their covers into consideration in making his selection. With a fine drill bit, Arienti traced the outlines of the images on the album covers hole for hole onto the album inside, so that the albums became like duplications or variations on the cover images.
The installation is a clear reference to the Second World War period. The voice we can hear in the room is that of the artist, saying “Come my little Neapolitans [...] sway, sway”. The work refers to the period in which the allied forces came to Naples, and the music is the dance-hall genre that was popular at the time. The swing that the onlooker is invited to sit on evokes a sort of oscillation from one side to the other of the space, which is half red and half blue, referencing the American flag. It is a “physical memory”, a tangible reminiscence of the Americans arriving in Naples in ’43. Just as the soldiers brought their music and culture, so the artist Vito Acconci, invited to the Modern Art Agency in Naples in 1977, brought American art to Italy. Outside the room visitors will see records of the first presentation of the work.
Stonewall III was one of the first pieces that incorporated broken glass. Bonvicini did it shortly after the riots during G8 summit at Genoa, which was gated off to the public: "I was also thinking about Cady Noland’s gates and public architecture with its accessibility and its monumentality as a State-related power symbol. I wanted to show that even if you have a gate in front of you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something with it or something to change in."
THE "NEW LANGUAGES" OF SCULPTURE
In her famous article, Sculpture in the Expanded Field, published at the end of the 1970s, Rosalind Krauss noted that, “within the situation of postmodernism, practice is not defined in relation to a given medium - sculpture - but rather in relation to the logical operations on a set of cultural terms, for which, any medium - photography, books, lines on walls, mirrors or sculpture itself - might be used. Thus the field provides both for an expanded but finite set of related positions for a given artist to occupy and explore, and for an organization of work that is not dictated by the conditions of a particular medium.” In fact, when we use terms such as “new sculpture languages” or “new plastic languages” at Museion, we do so in the knowledge that this involves accepting the contemporary challenge of displaying the heterogeneity and pliable nature of today’s art categories to the public.
In her series of sculptures titled The Prison of Santo Stefano (2011–14), Rossella Biscotti explores one of Italy’s most famous historical prisons in works consisting of lead imprints. Rossella Biscotti’s works seek to reactivate history by exploring personal and collective memories and become an opportunity to question not only how we look at the past, but also how we deal with the present.
The title of the project We the People comes from the first three words of the United States Constitution of 1787, and the work consists in the artist’s colossal, long-term undertaking of reproducing a life-size replica of the Statue of Liberty. In this case the ready-made used by the artist consists of hundreds of pieces of copper crafted using the same technique as the original.
Jukebox II consists of a console, 3 CD changers holding 192 CDs, an amplifier, and four speakers. Starting with the prime meridian in Greenwich, the artist divided the circumference of the earth into eight segments of 45° each. The eight lines of longitude pass through a number of seaside towns and villages in Brazil, New Orleans, Alaska, Fiji, Japan, Bangladesh and Yemen. Dean had sound recordings made in each of these places starting punctually at noon on the last day of the year 1999 and lasting for 24 hours. Exhibition visitors can choose from 192 CDS available in the jukebox, each of which contains 60 audio clips of outdoor noises recorded in parallel in the eight different regions of the world. The sound of the selected place can be combined with a specific time of day, giving the user listening to these heterogeneous space-time pieces diverse impressions that interrupt the homogeneity and linear progression of his own experience of time. Jukebox II can be thought of as a temporal sound kaleidoscope.
Klara Lidén creates architectural interventions and installations that exploit existing structures and materials such as cardboard, posters, sheet metal, drywall, and carpet scraps. With the rebellious spirit of an activist, the artist rethinks the places we traverse and inhabit, applying a very physical approach: here, for example, sculptures made of bits of tarmac created an unusual, eerie landscape which forged a relationship between the internal and external dimensions, forcing visitors to rethink and reappropriate public space in a new way.
This groups brings together works that are based on a performative action, like the series of photographs by Rossella Biscotti (Everything is Somehow Related to Everything Else, yet the Whole Is Terrifyingly Unstable, 2008) or Vlad Nanca (Commemora, 2009) or Teresa Margolles’s video installation (¿Cuanto puede soportar una ciudad? /Quanto può sopportare una città? / Wieviel kann eine Stadt aushalten?, 2010–11). Albeit in different ways, all of these works use an action to reinterpret, commemorate, or question a recent event or simply to stimulate a reflection on the passage of time.
Vlad Nanca sees his works as a response to the changes wrought in Romanian society by the anti-Communist revolution of 1989. The photo series Commemora, which consists of four photographs and a scarf, uses the metaphor of knitting, which involves the interweaving of different threads, to allude to the missing links and the inequalities within the social fabric. Nanca challenges viewers to come to terms with unrelated stories and reminiscences, uncertain pasts and future expectations, in order to weave them into a single common thread.
Teresa Margolles’s works examine the causes and consequences of death in her native area, near the city of Juárez in Mexico, which is plagued with drug-related crime, poverty, and political crises. This project involved performances in Bolzano and Kassel, where the show was presented, and in Juárez itself. The performers wore black T-shirts printed with “How much can a city take?” and “How much pain can a city stand?” in three languages. The provocative questions on the T-shirts were the message that the artist wanted taken around the cities by her collaborators, as she calls those who take part in her actions, given that they become an integral part of her statement. The three cities in question have had very different experiences of violence and suffering, but nonetheless, these elements are something they all have in common.
Aui Oi, which means “up and down” in South Tyrolean German dialect. Designed for the Renon cable car in Bolzano and presented at the Transart Festival, it won first prize. The visitors experienced an auditory journey in the cable car cabins. The sound was produced locally and transferred via a webstream into the cabins so it could be experienced by the passengers. An adaptation of the audio piece was created for Museion and set up inside the lif ts that take visitors up and down to the various floors, thus changing the way these functional spaces were experienced by users.
In The King of Solana Beach, Antin experimented with another persona, constructing an idealized version of herself as a man. With a fake beard, velvet cape, lace shirt, leather boots and a floppy hat, Eleanor Antin wandered round a small town north of San Diego conversing with some of its inhabitants – pensioners, students and sporty types – who before the fateful encounter with her were entirely unaware they were living in a tiny kingdom, governed by this diminutive figure. Antin’s performance was recorded in a series of eight black and white photographs and a text.
The definition of the newer artists’ books that Museion works with generally follows one proposed by Michael Glasmeier: Newer artists’ books are conceived here as independent pieces, an artwork that takes the form of a book. This is something other than a catalogue that documents an exhibition or a group of works and which usually contains texts written by critics. Like the multiple, the artist’s book represents a democratic perspective: It strives to combine artistic quality or intensity with affordability and wide distribution. Artistic quality is possible because the focus of these works is not on their unique craftsmanship, but on a concept instead that is intended for mass reproduction from the outset.
The artist book consists of a total of twenty sheets - 10 by Andre and 10 by Mendieta. On each sheet, Andre has drawn 12 squares in the same arrangement: the consistent use here of the motif of stones (“Pietre”) on the different sheets only displays slight differences from the manual version. The 10 sheets by Mendieta (“Foglie”), which alternate with those of Andre, each feature 3 to 6 tree leaves in symmetrical arrangements. What emerges in this artist’s book is a dialogue between an illustrative aesthetic (Andre) and a photographic aesthetic (Mendieta), between inorganic and organic material, between geometric and non-geometric arrangement. In this artist’s book created jointly with Ana Mendieta, Carl Andre’s minimalist aesthetic enters into a dialogue with his partner’s fundamentally strongly existential artistic approach.
In 1973–74, Nannucci led a photographic investigation of the various shades of green that occur in nature. The portfolio and the corresponding artist’s book from 1977, in which sixty photos of sixty different plants on seven pages are pictured, is one of the most influential and therefore most frequently exhibited artists’ books of those years. Every photo has a name attributed to it describing a specific shade of green, from “verde galactites tomentosa” to “verde ophiopogon jaburan” and from “verde sedum compressum” to “verde matthiola incana” and “verde vitis vinifera.”
This is the second volume of Kippenberger's trilogy Hotel-Hotel, Hotel-Hotel-Hotel and No Drawing No Cry. The book, published in 1995, consist of collections of drawings Kippenberger made on stationary from hotels around the world. Kippenberger made hundreds of drawings on hotel stationery, a body of work that comes across as a kind of travel diary.
LITTLE MUSEION "CUBO GARUTTI"
At the beginning of the year 2000, the Council of Italian Culture of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano entrusted the creation of an artwork for the Don Bosco neighbourhood of the town to the artist, Alberto Garutti. The artistic management of this work was handed over, upon completion, to Museion in 2004.The artist conceived an architectonic structure for a public square surrounded by apartments in council housing blocks. From a formal point of view, Garutti’s sculpture mirrors the characteristics of the surrounding buildings by re-interpreting them. The aim of the construction is to offer a space for exhibiting, on a rotation basis, works from the museum’s collection, thus approaching and involving the local audience. The small Garutti Museum is effectively a detached wing of Museion, destined to intensify dialogue with the population.
For the project Hotel Cubo the Little Museion – Museion’s outlying venue in the Don Bosco neighbourhood – was transformed into a genuine miniature hotel. Until June 2014 visitors could spend a night in this very special accommodation. The “package” on offer includes an audio guide to explore the Don Bosco neighbourhood the morning after spending a night there. Egger’s invite is clear: this is an opportunity to take a fresh look at an area of Bolzano that many are unfamiliar with, yet that is packed with history and life.
Paolo Riolzi, in his project “Vetrinette” aimed to create a photographic world of our collective identity via old-fashioned display cabinets, bearing the best china, photographs, souvenirs and memories of a lifetime.The project travelled through various cities before reaching Bolzano. On exhibition were 1:1 scale photographs of the six display cabinets that were involved in this multi-phase project. Previously the cabinets had been on display, as part of the project, in the Little Museion Cubo Garutti in the Don Bosco area of the city.
The “Camera Cubica” project came about with the idea of reviving the ancient, all but forgotten technique of pinhole photography. Degiorgis employed the very structure of the Cubo Garutti venue as a photographic device: a camera obscura situated in a public area. For a number of weeks, the artist invited local people to take pictures using the Cube/camera and take part in this magical process. The resulting images portray the neighbourhood, its architecture, the urban scenario and its inhabitants.
Transparency and movement are the sculptural effects that characterise the Museion building arising from the contrast between the weighty, closed metal shell of the side walls and the funnel-shaped, transparent glass façades. When the sun goes down a sophisticated system closes the slats on the two façades and activates the 36 video projectors distributed on the different floors of the building, transforming the glass surface into an exhibition space. There are two media façades, which can operate simultaneously or alternately, depending on the artistic project in question. On both sides there is the opportunity to amplify the scope of this art using sound: the benches positioned on both entrances to the museum function as speakers connected to each façade.The media façade is challenging for the artists it hosts with their screenings of videos, photos and animations selected to forge a dialogue with Museion’s architectural structure and the urban landscape.
The video Physical Examination was presented on Museion’s Media Façade in 2014. The video explores the process of transition from pure matter to sculptural form. The video is based on the contrast between the angular, rigid shape of the wooden structure and the sinuous, constantly changing forms of the snakes. Sound is also part of the narrative: issuing from the matter itself is a combination of edited audio tracks and the noise made by the snakes slithering over the material.
The title of this video sounds enigmatic but is really more of a tautology. In the video the artist is standing on a moving platform, gradually rotating towards the light. We wait for his face to come into view, but the light that should ideally reveal his identity ends up dazzling us and preventing us from seeing anything. The viewer is thus unwittingly subjected to a subtle irony regarding the figure of the artist.
The video was conceived for the Media Façade of Museion.
Collecting for Tomorrow. New works at MuseionMUSEION
MUSEION - Archivio di Nuova Scrittura Collection
MUSEION - Enea Righi Collection
MUSEION - Lodovico Rocca Collection
MUSEION - Stiftung Südtiroler Sparkasse Collection
MUSEION - Autonomous Province of Bozen/Bolzano - Südtirol/Alto Adige Collection