Costa Vece

FOR HIS FIRST SOLO SHOW IN ITALY, Swiss artist Costa Vece filled the gallery's two adjoining rooms with a single military rent, which one penetrated on entering from the street and exited directly into the building's interior courtyard. The installation was entitled Bomb No. 5, 2000, and all the materials jammed into the tent alluded to the danger of an imminent explosion. Cans, crates, and all kinds of military paraphernalia evoked wartime scenarios, while small monitors transmitted images of countdowns and other visual signals. The video images repeated cyclically—a continuous extension in time of the threatened event—in a chaotic simultaneity of visual impulses, including intermittent lights and sounds made disturbing by their repetition. The entire installation then concluded with the calming view of the interior courtyard, where viewers terminated their brief journey.

The video images were taken from Hollywood war films, for the artist is interested not in constructing a realistic environment, but rather in adopting devices that can be employed to create an effect, a sensation akin to the suspense and expectation of violent acts. Vece worked to similar effect in Videolounge, 1998, a piece exhibited at the last Venice Biennale, where, inside a space constructed out of cardboard boxes, through numerous monitors and, again, media images, one experienced the explosions at which this Turin show only hinted. Vece's work seems to operate in terms of a comparison with reality, which it imitates through spectacle, like a mirror image. Though the large tent and the sham devices that filled it could be seen as enlarged toys, almost like the dream of a megalomaniacal boy, the actual truth of war found there an unexpectedly significant representation.

Indeed, if there is anything that has become removed from the realm of real experience, Vece seems to imply, it is precisely the act of making war. It's been replaced by computer operations that can barely be differentiated from simulations, and it is no accident that the term “war game” has come to designate, without distinction, both the technological play of adolescents and real warlike exercises—a situation that allowed Baudrillard to state that the Gulf War did not take place.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.