As mentioned before by the Director of the museum Valeria Livigni, this project which we have called Stanze (Rooms), is a project realised and curated by myself with the collaboration of Paolo Falcone and the curatorial staff of the museum, whom I would like to thank for the precious help.
The idea for Stanze was born from a reflection on the current identity not only of the Riso Museum but also of museums in general. The question is what to exhibit, how to exhibit it and why exhibit it. The collection is what provides the history, the memory of the museum; it reflects the history of past exhibitions, but the architecture of the museum also comes into play. This first Stanze project is based on two artists – like indeed Giovanni Anselmo and Jannis Kounellis – two artists of great intellect and experience who have works present in the collection. Mentally and in terms of planning we have organised this exhibition through a reflection on their work, yet it also becomes an appropriation, be it purely transitory, through the Stanze exhibition – lasting until November – which recreates not just a simple juxtaposition of the works of one period rather than another. Their works become a sort of mechanism that recreates something present, current. Rudi Fuchs, with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating several years ago on a project in Gorizia, used to speak of accumulations. He was one of the greatest museum directors in Europe and he reflected in a determined, significant and concrete way on the meaning of the exhibition, therefore no longer creating, for example, chronological exhibitions but rather working through the collection. In some of his exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum of which he was director, the artist intervened even by changing the position and order of the collection of the museum. This is no longer therefore a traditional exhibition housing the works of the artists temporarily, but it creates instead something different. The museum as a depository of works becomes an active organism.
The second floor hosting the exhibition here at the Palazzo Riso is particular, with a restoration that is pleasantly finished yet unfinished but that has an undeniable charm, and the interventions of the artists use it as a tool. Kounellis, by uniting two cycles of works created twenty years apart, formulates a new proposal by creating a dramaturgical, existential action; a one-act meaning precisely that what is presented is not a sculpture alongside another sculpture but an act, an action, something dynamic that makes the piece present and renews, accumulates even, the memory of a previous piece. So we find ourselves facing a set of hanging cupboards recalling the Sicilian Baroque, the Sicilian flying angels, laid out beneath which, like a sort of litany, a series of iron trestles supporting metal plates onto which are hung some dark coats. To me, it brings to mind a procession. These coats that have appeared for years in Kounellis’s artistic experience, are a prefiguration of something that has occurred; they are characters or rather ghosts with their own personal and dramatic weight.
In the same way, present from the Riso collection by Giovanni Anselmo is the work which in literature or in art history is known as funambolo (tightrope walker). Anselmo says that he became an artist during a visit to Stromboli – which would later become his favourite island – in August 1965. On that occasion while going down to the sea he realised that he had lost his shadow as if it had been absorbed by the starry sky, therefore by infinity. This experience set the symbolic direction of Anselmo’s work as a budding artist. Anselmo is, in the words of Rudi Fuchs, whom I mentioned earlier, one of the few artists that puts pure fantasy into play; that is to say that what we see is not at all representative or scenic but rather presenting something that has as much to do with energy and fantasy as it has with reality; electromagnetic reality concretely symbolised by an electromagnetic needle. The installation present in the exhibition has been created specifically for Stanze, that is in-house, as we used to say. The title by Anselmo Mentre la terra rallenta la luce focalizza… (As Earth Relents and Light Focuses…) is part of the piece and contrasts with the dryness of Kounellis’s Untitled. The two artists complement each other though the underlying line between the two is the same. Both are born in the period of Arte Povera and conceptually as well as physically they have always worked in the same direction and with great results.
Anselmo creates a “physicalization” with elements which are concrete, real, yet not realistic nor tied to the universe, to which Kounellis is set against with another type of energy, the fruit of a profoundly dramatic and anthropocentric vision; almost as if the artists had spoken beforehand. In reality it was a long-distance dialogue made possible by their great artistic experience. Two apparently opposite positions that nevertheless act upon the same line. The geographical metaphor of north and south coming together through these two installations expresses more than any words that the Stanze project is a project that concerns all museums because it is about the creation of a new device for a tout court exhibition.