Massimo Bartolini

Massimo Bartolini asked viewers to enter the first room of his recent show barefoot. The walls of this space were curved, and they reflected a blinding white light that made it impossible to locate points of reference. As a result, the senses—especially sight and touch—were disabled to the point that exploring the space became an adventure to be entered into only with great caution. It was difficult to avoid crashing into the facing wall of the space, which had become absolutely invisible, and yet the wall was so very near that some even used the odor of the white paint to find their bearings. Underlining the absence of any fixed spatial coordinates, the room also contained a luminous object that sent two shining arrows whirling in a circle at regular intervals.

The show was divided into two rooms, the second very dissimilar from the first—less spectacular but perhaps more effective. This space contained two photographic tondi, each depicting a rectangular shadow cast on an ordinary-looking meadow, and a piece entitled Pavimento a occhi chiusi (Blindfolded floor, 1997), which consisted of two bamboo blinds placed on the floor. The title of the latter work invited the viewer not so much to look, but to use his or her sense of touch, by walking barefoot, to “test” the floor which, was, indeed, “blinded.” A third, and complementary piece was hidden on the metal staircase leading to the gallery office: Bartolini had replaced a single step with one made of pink marble.

Bartolini’s work addresses the way in which we perceive our surroundings. This was true of the pieces that brought him public attention in Italy a few years ago, when he “sank” furniture into a soft floor, so that it appeared to be drowning. The artist calls attention to our habit of privileging one sense (usually sight) over the others. He suggests that it is sometimes necessary to completely rethink one’s approach: becoming lost in an overlit room, walking “blindfolded,” confronting a step that is unexpectedly different.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.