TURIN — Last night, we had to hustle to get tickets for the Artissima after party. It was a sad moment because some of us got the tickets and the others did not, it fractured the group (would it be another night at Liber, our local billiard parlor?). In fact, the presence of Artissima in Torino has changed the energy and rhythm in our home.
What I love most about living here is the time, endless amounts of time spent together, often doing nothing — which is difficult for me because I am so well trained to produce. Another thing I love about being an artist in Torino is the impossibility of being organized, which forces me to let go of my need to control everything. The wild unpredictability amplifies a certain chronic desire.
But with Artissima here, all of the conditions that I was hoping to describe in these journals have changed. Manuel can’t cook us our big pasta dinners because he is working the Art Editions booth, Elisa has not eaten, slept, or showered since we heard that Cripta 747 will replace White Columns at the fair. The pile of pasta dishes is high and unwashed (but that’s common). I’m also missing the Where is your God now? exhibition opening because I am at home writing about Artissima and I’m anxious to do a good job.
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Today was the grand opening of Artissima, Torino’s international contemporary art fair. I should be honest; I am morally opposed to art fairs. They exist only to facilitate the purchases of commercial artworks, thus supporting only a segment of the many art worlds that exist. And, I find that publicity surrounding art fairs often treat the fair as an important art event, instead of a cheap, fast, out-of-control way to consume art. So, in my posts I want to be careful about what I report on and curious about things I don’t know. I am someone who looks at artwork slowly and deeply. I do not have intentions to be comprehensive about the whole fair but to share what was meaningful or confusing.
First, on my way to the opening night of Artissima we ran into the lively Paratissima fair in the metro station. I was hoping that it was a classic anti-art fair project that would a) point out all the horrors of the art market or b) make visible the constructs of professionalism smothering the life of fragile or confused artwork. But in the end, they are simply another form of art fair that you pay to register for and compete to get into.
Next, I went directly to the Art Editions booth to see how Cripta 747 had decided to install their first-ever art fair (with two days notice and no funds for presentation). A friend offered some help by printing duo-tone serigraphs on B4-sized paper. The idea was to make as many as possible and to sell them inexpensively. When the idea was described to me, I had imagined that they would be wheat-pasting editions (guerilla-style) across the whole booth, but instead I was disappointed to see that the cheap editions were exhibited in a classic art-is-precious kind of a way. The rest of the booth confronts you in a strong way with with many living yellow lemons strewn across the floor combined with LCD projections of graphically precise images.
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I ran into an ex-boyfriend from Piemonte, Roberto Fassone, and he showed me an object on display in the fair that was created by his game SIBI (aka $B), an instructions generator. For this particular object, the instructions were given to a group of artists:
“The title of the work has to feature the name/surname of an historical character; your work has to be about sadness and darkness; you have to make a sculpture/writing; it has to be in slang; the writing has to be a question and has to be on a green surface.”
What was created was a record player with a spinning vinyl (sad songs and also dark black color) covered by a piece of copper (that will turn green) with the words “ASAP?” etched into it. The title is “J#27” for the rock stars who died at age 27 with the letter J (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jean Michel Basquiat). The game of SIBI is usually used for fun, in this occasion we wondered if it generated “art.” Roberto makes alot of intuitive artworks that comes to him quickly and he has the confidence and energy to execute them. The feeling of some of his films and music is a tension between a masculine and feminine energy, and rooted in an aroused physicality. The SIBI game does not have this same corporal feeling as the rest of his works, but the fact that the game has a potential for an engaged social interaction does carry his signature.
I arrived at Artissima wanting to spend some time in the Present Future section of the fair because the galleries would dedicate their whole space to one emerging artist chosen by an active group of curators. Also, two of my friends from the Whitney ISP program were on the curatorial committee and in my admiration for their intellect, I was curious to understand what/who they may have chosen. In the Present Future area of Artissima, 20 artists were invited by a curatorial team (Luigi Fassi, Erica Cooke, Fredi Fischli, Inti Guerrero, and Sarah Rifky) to show new works and their respective galleries would dedicate their whole space to the art. What initially struck me was that an artist *must* be represented by a gallery to be in this section, which all of the sudden seemed terribly limiting. Looking at all of the booths, I could not clearly understand an over-arching curatorial concept.
I encountered the works of Meris Angioletti from Scheicher/Lange gallery, who had a sound installation that featured the recorded voice of a French-speaking man reading a 19th C. text called Il Serpente that relates the development of language with the phases of the moon. The recording is very clean and the voice is mesmerizing because it sounds like he is a child playing a word game instead of a mature, professionally voice-trained adult, which he was. Another work, “Dis de trois vifo et de trois morts,” consisted of a 16mm film being projected onto a painted wall in a continuous loop. The footage was shot by the Italian artist in Brazil on a boat spinning around pseudo religious dance statues. I couldn’t understand how a new artwork in Italy about a Brazilian dance cult could ever be better than being in the dance cult. The gallerist said that the work was based on Macumba, a Brazilian religious cult of African origin that combines voodoo elements with singing chants and dancing. My feeling is that Macumba is a serious practice and I wanted to feel like the artist valued this spiritual culture, and was not just taking the phenomenon as a spectacle.
Ok, I am getting exhausted writing this and I was getting exhausted in the fair at about this moment as well. Artworks were starting to feel distant, cold, and sterile. Luckily, I ran into a fellow artist from Brooklyn, Rachel Foullon, who has work on display in the Present Future section of Artissima. I did not know Rachel before today but it was important for me to have a human connection to all of this in-flux of data. She explained a bit about her work, she researches the 16th century Old Dutch barns (or Holland Houses) in upstate New Yorkin order to think about a time when animals and humans shared a living space. Her latest body of work, called Clusters, has a palpable animal quality to them. I felt tempted to put my nose to the leather to smell the works, which is usually a good sign for me: someone who seeks an emotional and physical connection with a work. Still, I did get the sense that the works were self-contained in a formulaic, easy-to-sell-to-collectors kind of a way. But when you look closely, there is a nice tension between bondage/dependence and a forced physical, animal confrontation that I really liked.
I also discovered the work of Teresa Margolles and found the art incredibly powerful and difficult to digest quickly. “Clothes” (2006) was an installation of seventeen shirts from missing women laid on the floor of the gallery. They are horribly dirty and wrinkled in a manner that evokes the possibility that terrible things may have happened to those women. Another work, “127 Bodies” (2006), was an installation made of remnants of threads used after the autopsy to sew up bodies of persons who have suffered violent deaths. Each thread represents a body. The works are emotionally heavy and they seem difficult to sell, I was glad the Peter Kilchminn gallery decided to show these works.
I thought a work with dead stuffed birds by Vanessa Safavi titled “Each color is a gift for you” (2012) was really pretty, despite my best judgement. Normally, I am suspicious of beauty and parakeets make me think about expensive breeds that are sought after only because of the value of their looks. In the end, maybe my desire was manipulated.
The artfair itself is an ok fair. Compared to the Frieze (London) and FIAC (Paris), it is a digestible artfair with ok works and ok artists. What interests me more about this fair is the curatorial decision (Sarah Cosulich Canarutto and Francesca Bertolotti) to have exhibition spaces outside of the fair dedicated to independent art spaces. Tomorrow Artissima LIDO opens. Five nonprofit spaces from Lebanon, UK, France, the US, and Mexico have been invited to work in the medieval Quadrilatero Romano neighborhood in Torino. Located next to our apartment in Porta Palazzo where there is the daily open-air market and voices of new immigrants, the international projects will be held in Torino’s historic museums and institutions — it’s an invigorating idea.
Torino’s history is complex as it was the nation’s first capitol in 1861 after Italy’s contentious unification. I will be curious to see how international art spaces will comprehend how to exhibit contemporary art in historic spaces such as the National Archives, the Museum of Resistance, and the Church of Santissimo Sudario, where the Shroud of Turin is preserved. All of the five projects are within walking distance of each other and provides an opportunity for visitors and locals to be outside and walk in the city.
Artissima takes place in Turin, Italy, from November 9–11.