Marco Formento and Ivano Sossella

Studio Marconi 17

“The gallery . . . has the pleasure of informing you that in agreement with Marco Formento, one of his pieces will be on view for the entire season.” This message is repeated on each invitation, for every gallery that has hosted Formento’s work. (It would be misleading to say “shown” instead of “hosted,” since the exhibition of the work precedes the opening.) The project begins with the announcement and follows every aspect of the art system—the distribution of the work, its viewing, and its sale.

Without any subversive intention or pronounced ideological agenda, Formento and Sossella revive the legacy of Conceptualism and recoup the manic energy of Fluxus. But they do this without affectation and without resorting to quotation. Their work is a subtle operation of demarcation, which highlights some of the points of a system without the pretext of overthrowing it, indeed they monitor it dispassionately.

Sossella distributed two sheets. The first contains an old photo of a family of African-Americans with a caption that reads, “Friday in the city, Hinds country 1939”; the other bears the text “errata Friday, corrected to Saturday.” Formento’s handouts address a linguistic and mass-communications system that subsumes any other reality. The image of the San Francisco earthquake taken from a French newspapaer, with the caption “Scenes of apocalypse in San Francisco” translated literally into Italian, is isolated on a sheet of paper in a corner of the gallery. Like the newspaper work Supplemento, 1990, signed by both artists, this piece suggests a subtle and complex operation that traverses the entire system of art, leaving a void where normally one finds a physical form. Eschewing both pure quotation, and the phantasm or simulation here, another card is played, one that takes extreme measures to revive art’s adequacy with respect to contemporary experiences. Sossella has written that “the intention is to restore to the work its ability to speak—to function effectively in the world. . . . Not the invitation, the exhibition, nor any of the moments that pertain to the show will exhaust the work; Formento and Sossella’s practice encompasses the entire network of distribution that constitutes the art system.”

In the context of successive revivals: neo-Minimal, neo-Conceptual, et al., Formento and Sossella’s operation has emerged as one of the few interesting responses to the aggressive spread of the post-Modern condition. Theirs is a rigorous reflection—an exercise in discipline that maps out new territory and suggests new paths of action—to which it would be improper to add the much-abused prefix “neo.”

Alessandra Mammì

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.