Fabio Mauri

Studio Bocchi

Over the past fifty years, Fabio Mauri has confronted racism from a truly original perspective in a complex series of paintings, sculptures, performances, environments, installations, and theoretical writings. Through an analysis of fascism and the racial laws that led, in the late 1930s, to the deportation of thousands of Jews from Italian cities to Nazi concentration camps, racism is experienced, witnessed, and interpreted by the artist on various levels.

On one level, this work is autobiographical: it reflects an adolescence and consciousness marked by events both tragic and absurd. From this perspective, Mauri continues to ask questions about and suggest possible answers to what occurred and continues to occur in many forms. On the other hand, Mauri presents a semantic and conceptual investigation into the ethics and esthetics of difference, into the attribution and distribution of “potential driving forces of death and disaster.”

This exhibition, significantly entitled “Ariana” (Aryan), could be thought of as the flip side of what is perhaps Mauri’s most famous performance/installation, “Ebrea” (Jewish, 1971, shown at the 1993 Venice Biennale), in which a series of apparently common objects each bore a label onto which the word “Jewish” was written, next to the name of the object in question. The tragic memory of this installation breaks through the oppressively intimate and “reassuring” space of the gallery, which is inundated with objects from Italy’s two-decade-long fascist reign. Among the most striking objects were a dumbwaiter, a pair of skis, a heater, a gramophone, a suitcase, a piece of gymnastic equipment, a mat, a radio, and a hatbox. Each of the aforementioned objects bore the insc.ription “Aryan.” “Aryan gallery” was written on the entry door, while a panel or piece of glass was inscribed with the same word. This term is shown to be arbitrary, even if historically it denotes an ideology that once prevailed. That is, the artist is investigating the substantial permanence of social divisions into categories, even if the nature of these categories changes. “Aryan” inevitably still connotes a broader set of negative issues, just as historically rooted as its primary meaning: the notion of belonging, of race, and all the inevitably evil consequences that accompany these kinds of classifications.

Mario Codognato

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.