Federico Pagliarini

Galleria Emi Fontana

In his latest show, Federico Pagliarini, an artist whose recent work has involved interventions into various forms of mass media, presented a videotaped episode of a popular television program, Uomini e Donne (Men and women), hosted by a well-known Italian television personality. Ordinary people and their sexual partners appear on this show to discuss problems with their relationships before an audience whose members are encouraged to put in their own two cents. The “debates” that animate the program reveal a cross-section of contemporary obsessions.

Pagliarini applied to appear on this show with his fiancée, and his request was granted. He chose to discuss a nonexistent but perfectly credible problem: he presented himself as a young artist whose career was being jeopardized by his fiancée’s jealous feelings toward his dealer, an attractive woman to whom he dedicates much of his time. It was useless, Pagliarini explained to the audience, to try to convince the fiancee that this time was necessary for the promotion of his work. His real-life dealer, Emi Fontana, was also interviewed by telephone linkup, and she spoke in deliberately ambiguous terms about her feelings for all of the artists in the gallery, an attraction, she noted, that is experienced on a strictly professional level. The verisimilitude was extraordinary: the audience chimed in right on cue, taking heated sides in the domestic squabble.

The exhibition also documented Pagliarini’s methods of intervention into another form of mass media—the illustrated magazine. Again collaborating with his partner (both are talented storytellers), he prepared and sent correspondence to various magazines for advice on problems connected to the issues discussed in those publications. The couple thus asked the most widely circulated Italian Catholic weekly if two good Christians can marry outside the Catholic church (the answer: yes); writing to a pornographic monthly, they described various complicated sexual positions; and for a feminist magazine Pagliarini had another go at describing his frustrated career—this time, however, presenting his mother as the purported cause. The publications in which these exchanges appeared were displayed in the gallery.

In an effective representation of mass media “noise,” some of the missives were then transformed into songs that were sung by a chorus on the day of the opening. In this fashion, Pagliarini’s delightfully inventive narratives demonstrate that it is possible for us to use our own desires to playfully counter the media’s banality and seductive force.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.