David Lamelas


The installation that David Lamelas set up in the gallery played deliberately on the discrepancy between what is seen and what is signified. A large structure of wood stakes supported a wall that seemed on the verge of collapse. In reality—and this was immediately apparent—it was a fake wall, resting upon and jutting out from a real wall, and its precarious position enlivened the entire space.

Two drawings tied the installation to purely formal investigations: a large sheet of paper showed a similar installation, and another, smaller sheet contained a study of intersecting, diagonal lines. These drawings neutralized one’s feeling of vague unease upon initially viewing the looming installation. However, a second glance revealed the supporting stakes to be the same as those used to shore up damaged buildings; indeed, identical stakes are still found in Naples (many years after the earthquake there), where numerous damaged houses remain unrepaired.

In many Italian cities similar temporary adjustments have now become part of the urban landscape, and they speak of the state of social decay in which we live. In this sense, Lamelas’ intervention presented a relationship between interior and exterior spaces. The work mitigated the romantic/ esthetic pathos of “disturbing” environmental art and presented it in direct relation to an external spatiality that is neither neutral nor categorical, but is, rather, socially oriented. The formal exercise functioned as an alienating device, diverting attention from itself and directing it toward the socioeconomic context, emphasizing its urgency as well as the empty ambition of many “urban” esthetic operations.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.