Paolo Canevari

Fondazione Volume!

Volume! is a new exhibition space founded and run by the collector Franco Nucci—a rare example of a nonprofit private initiative in Rome. The idea is simply to allow the invited artists to freely transform the interior spaces and the material composition of the building’s walls, ceilings, and floors. Site and work inevitably enter into a state of symbiosis, or else of conflict, calling into question the white cube and traditional hierarchies of use. But for his work Mama, 2000, Paolo Canevari decided to leave the space intact and unaltered. Everything was left in its raw state, the walls peeling, the floor bumpy and uneven. The viewer followed a path through what resembled a construction site the day before work begins, in search of something that would materialize, as it turned out, only at the entrance to the last of the spaces on the way. Here, wedged frontally between two walls, preventing entry into the next room, was a large rubber inner tube—one of this artist’s favorite materials.

With an object as humble as the automotive inner tube, Canevari has managed to construct and codify a personal language sufficiently ambiguous to be adapted to a wide variety of situations and needs. Even in his first solo show, ten years ago, the potential creative energy of something so formless and insignificant was developed in a full-bodied way, showing a demiurgic dexterity that fully exploited the range of references and enigmas, questions and answers, that the manipulation and distribution of such a material can offer. Here at Volume! the constriction of the inner tube between two walls distorted its circularity, constructing a shape—or rather a shadow, given the opacity of the material—reminiscent of the female genitalia. This association was further confirmed by what one glimpsed inside the cavity: a nude actor attached to the wall of the room with an umbilical cord of black rubber—this time, a bicycle inner tube. Silent and indifferent, he sometimes remained immobile, sometimes roamed around the space with movements impeded by the cord. Out of Volume!’s empty and ominous atmosphere, a representation of maternity emerged. The mystery of creation and the exhibition context became a metaphor for the mystery of life. The scale and perspective of the installation invited the viewer to observe this allegory of origins as if looking into a mirror and seeing his or her own image in that distant state, but charged with meaning.

Mario Codognato

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.