Bologna, Italy

Sabrina Mezzaqui

Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Bologna

Repetitiveness is not a quality normally sought in art, but for Sabrina Mezzaqui, it is part of the challenge posed both by form and by content. With deliberate obsessiveness, she isolates “humble” gestures and executes them over and over again, almost to the point of automatism. In the subtle and ambiguous no-man’s-land between the image she has in mind and the seeming infinity of signs necessary to convey that image, her hand moves of its own accord, allowing unexpected ideas to emerge. It’s a bit like what happens during our daily routines, when we are showering or making coffee and ideas we have been tossing around in our heads suddenly come into focus. In the past, Mezzaqui’s repetitious activities have included clipping dozens of images of feet from newspapers, and arranging them “step by step” along the walls of a room; methodically folding paper into a chain on which she handwrites ideas about time; or painting on a hundred sheets of paper and a hundred envelopes and sending them to a gallery owner, without advance notice and without a word of explanation. One can’t help but see in her process the sort of repetition characteristic of the traditional areas of women’s creativity, such as knitting and embroidery. Mezzaqui, however, raises the iteration typical of craft to the level of art.

At Bologna’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna, in the “Spazio Aperto” dedicated to young artists, Mezzaqui created a sort of self-portrait through three different investigations of her own subjectivity. Punti di vista (Points of view; all works 1998) consisted of a patchwork of 336 postcards of Bologna, the city where the artist lives. She cut out all the windows, doors, and arches from the postcards and then covered one of the museum’s glass doors with them, so that the light from outside streamed in through the holes. Punti di vista created a metaphor for the lights and shadows that imbue the places where we grew up—the flashes of memory that constitute our subjective experience of place.

In contrast, Le mille gru (The thousand cranes) was a large installation that featured 999 tiny origami cranes pinned to a wall. The birds appeared to be flying out of the children’s book Il gran sole di Hiroshima (published in English as Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes), which lay open beneath them. The book tells the story of a little girl who, suffering from leukemia caused by the atomic bomb, begins making a thousand origami cranes so that the gods might heed her wish to be healed. The girl reaches her goal and, although she dies in the end, it was in that repetitive activity that she found the energy to prolong her life for the time the task required. Sabrina Mezzaqui carefully stops short of a thousand cranes, as if to prolong the passage from childhood to adulthood.

Finally, in Sabrine, a dozen or so typed pages hung on one of the gallery’s walls, presenting a written portrait of the artist, composed by several of her friends. This work might be seen as a companion piece to the assemblage of postcards: another repetition of the self surfacing in multiple views.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.