Truffle Shuffle

Eva Scharrer on “T1: The Pantagruel Syndrome”


Left: Takashi Murakami, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, and Maurizio Cattelan. Right: Artist Susan Philipsz and curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist.

“T1,” yet another large-scale international periodical exhibition, opened in Turin last week in conjunction with the ARTissima fair. Organized by two accomplished curators (Castello di Rivoli's Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Francesco Bonami from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago), staged at three museums and four additional venues, and involving ten “international correspondents” (consultants who offered suggestions to the curators) and seventy-five more-or-less young artists, the show provoked great expectations. Besides, foodies will know that it's truffle season, reason enough for a trip to Piedmont. Appropriately, the triennial’s inaugural theme, “The Pantagruel Syndrome,” was centered on the “consumption” of art: the constant hunt, the “swallowing” of large amounts on these weekend jaunts, and the hasty digestion of new works and new names.

As the venues were scattered, I joined a core of out-of-town visitors, jumped a shuttle, and started at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, where artists, curators, and other VIPs gathered for a quick, casual lunch. At the foundation I spotted a few interesting works—Jeppe Hein's lightning benches were fun and Ryan Gander's video installation was haunting—but there was still much to see elsewhere, so we hurried off. The next stop was the “Sala Settoria” at the Anatomia Patalogica dell'Université, where Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook was scheduled to deliver a lecture on death to eight corpses lying “in state.” One almost wants a palate cleanser between such experiences, as it can be difficult to move straight from, say, Takashi Murakami's anime-influenced sculptures to something of such a fundamentally dissimilar mood.

Left: Architect Massimiliano Fuksas, Turin mayor Sergio Chiamparino, and “T1” curator Francesco Bonami.
Right: Artist Mike Nelson at ARTissima.

In the pleasant company of The New Museum's Trevor Smith (a triennial correspondent) and his friend Arani Bose (working, by phone, on a breakthrough in stroke treatment and running his two galleries, in Chelsea and New Delhi), we crisscrossed the city, making it to three other venues before hiking the long way up to Rivoli at dusk. A dense fog turned the Castello into a stunning vision worthy of Caspar David Friedrich, and thus primed for contemplation, a small group made a pilgrimage to Chiesa di Santa Croce to hear Susan Philipsz's enchanting sound piece Stay With Me, 2005, a welcome respite from the day's clamor. But we couldn’t stay as long as we might have liked, as a magnificent dinner and the obligatory club after-party beckoned. Artist Markus Schinwald warned us at the door to the latter that it was “packed, loud, and steaming.” So of course, instead of turning around, we took his remaining drink tickets and forged our way inside.

Our Thursday was spent at the venues in Rivoli, and it was in this neighborhood’s spookily atmospheric buildings that I finally found hints of the promised Rabelaisian grotesquerie. Doris Salcedo's survey at the Castello itself is undeniably beautiful. The show centers on The Abyss, 2005, which gives the appearance of a heavy, eighteenth-century brick vault emerging from the white cube (itself carved out of the castle's original brick interior). Salcedo shipped the bricks, which perfectly match those of the building, from her hometown of Bogota to Turin. (Justifiably suspicious, though typically overzealous, customs officials destroyed the first shipment in its entirety.) This room within a room hovers just above the floor. Over time, the piece subtly develops an oppressive density—just like the fog outside. Other highlights up on the hill included Michael Rakowitz's smart installation Dull Roar, 2005, (recently on view at Lombard-Freid in New York), Christian Jankowski's 16mm Mystery, 2004, documentation of Javier Tellez's human catapult (recently fired over the US-Mexico border), amazing videos by Miguel Angel Rios and Carlos Amorales, and Ed Young's Bruce Gordon Found Object [concept], 2002-03. Gordon is a Cape Town-based bar owner, sold (as a work of art) in an auction in 2002. He appeared in person in Turin as Young’s contribution to the exhibition.

Left: Artist Ed Young with Bruce Gordon. Right: “T1” curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev with gallerist Arani Bose and the New Museum's Trevor Smith.

Dinner followed the opening of ARTissima at Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo's private residence—a beautiful city palazzo with an outstanding art collection and a subterranean swimming pool that one could peer at (through circular portholes) from the terrace above. It seemed like everyone was there: Hans-Ulrich Obrist flew in for the day; correspondents Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy, Raimundas Malasauskas, and Adam Szymczyk had just arrived from New York, Vilnius, and Basel, respectively; former Whitney and SF MoMA director David Ross showed up; and a just-married Pierre Bismuth was obviously happy on the arm of his beautiful wife Dessilava Dimova. Finally, Maurizio Cattelan, who I didn’t spot at the party, was at least represented by his Beuys-inspired La Rivoluzione Siamo Noi, 2000. Chatting with various correspondents over some Barolo (following the next day's roundtable discussion) netted some interesting proposals for countering biennial fatigue, ranging from a “centurannial” to be held in Turin every hundred years (as proposed by Ralph Rugoff of the CCA Wattis Institute) to a triennial in which the same seventy-five artists would be featured every time (suggested by Malasauskas).

By this point I still hadn't seen one key venue, the local galleries (which stayed open all night Saturday), and an entire art fair. But one can only swallow so much. By taking on its dilemma as its theme, even if obliquely, “T1” simultaneously fights against and flirts with the biennial form. Its shortcomings are thus due mostly to the consumers’ loss of focus when faced with such a spread. Though many well-known artists presented familiar works, “T1” still offered a range of discoveries, like Jesus “Bubu” Negron's work at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna. As often, many of the great moments happen off-site, like “Sold Out,” a smart show curated by Geoff Lowe, Jacqueline Riva, and Charlotte Laubard and presented in their apartment, and Susan Philipsz's stand-up a cappella rendition of “The Internationale” in a cramped local restaurant. “T1” left me feeling well fed, but already looking forward to a second helping.

Left: Curator Ilaria Bonacossa and Takashi Murakami. Right: Artist Pierre Bismuth and Dessilava Dimova.

Left: Artist Douglas Gordon with Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Right: Francesco Bonami with Maurizio Cattelan.

Left: “T1” correspondents Raimundas Malasauskas and Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy. Right: Artist Lawrence Weiner.

Left: Charlotte Laubard and artist Christian Jankowski. Right: “T1” Correspondent Francesco Manacorda with Trevor Smith.