Massimo Bartolini

In this exhibition, Massimo Bartolini engaged the space through metaphor; conceiving of the art gallery as a jewel case—as a place where the artwork/treasure is enclosed and guarded—but with obvious irony. Stretching the metaphor, Bartolini entitled his show “Cofanetto” (Jewel casket). He took some 40,000 pearls from a costume jewelry supplier and exhibited them in the gallery. Rather than showing them all heaped up, he strung them together in an interminable line that ran along the corners of the space, the edges of the ceiling, the floor, the walls, around the windows—everywhere the edges of a surface could be delineated. Thus, Bartolini addressed the institutional function of the space through an act that overlaid pure topological information with an attribution of value, in a manner blunted by irony if not almost farcical.

To accompany the installation, which played on his invisibility, the artist appeared in two very brief video sequences in which he uttered two slogans about the necessity to overcome contradictions. In the first he said, “Dividetevi in due” (Divide yourselves in half), and the image showed a shrimp cut by a knife. In the other, a live turtle gave the instruction, “Chiudetevi in casa” (Lock yourselves in the house), which more fittingly referred to the exhibition, to the jewel casket/house where it was easy to seek refuge from the dangers of the world.

In short, Bartolini resorts to witticisms and visual puns to lead us through the devices he constructs for perceptual and logical displacement. He intervenes in spaces because the environmental dimension amplifies the effect of alienation that he is after. For other exhibitions, he has chosen to intervene inside living spaces, raising the floor so the furniture is partially submerged, or replacing the floor with a surface supported by springs so that furniture and people lose their balance. In this way, he reminds us that the strange resides in the real, and that imagination is just the flip side of deception.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.