Mario Airò

GAM - Galleria

Mario Airò partially modified the floor plan of the Galleria d'Arte Moderna to accommodate this show, which was divided into two complementary spaces. Two doors, placed side by side, connected to an entrance atrium where Welcome III, 2001, a Plexiglas model of a lighthouse, emitted a rotating red laser beam, the function of which was to unify, theoretically, the two spaces.

To the right was La stanza dove Marsilio sognava di dormire (The room where Marsilio dreamed of sleeping), 2001, where Airò had exposed the large window (usually concealed) that runs along the entire right side of the room and overlooks the museum garden, thereby flooding the room with light. Here, a mattress and sheets were placed amid eleven circular Plexiglas columns supporting a large slab of the same material. On the slab, where it met each column, a sequence of concentric circles had been painted, and these intersected to form patterns. This work referred to the Neoplatonic philosopher Marsilio Ficino, who once wrote of an ideal bedroom whose materials and colors would refer to the elements of the universe in such a way as to infuse the sleeper with the same harmony that governs the celestial spheres, thereby having a beneficent effect on one's daily activities here symbolized by the presence of Vero da fotocopia (Real as a photocopy), 1995, a double wooden desk, an exact copy of one created by architect Louis Kahn for the Exeter library and the only work by Airò not made expressly for this occasion.

The theories of philosophy, astrology, and magic proposed by Renaissance thinkers such as Ficino can be seen as steps on the path to science, from its origins in myth to the full maturity of contemporary discoveries. Thus Airò's second room led the viewer back to the modern reality of space exploration. Along the sides of a large dosed-off room built in this second space, images were projected onto the floor—two large photographs, one of the surface of Mars and the other of Jupiter's moons. The portion of the floor where they were projected was covered with sand, which gave the images an impression of slight three-dimensionality and the hyper-definition typical of digital images. But an image of a Venusian landscape projected onto the back wall of the room-within-a-room was a digital reconstruction to which the artist had added three imaginary satellites—for him, the equivalent of Ficino's planets, symbols of the perfect harmony of different elements.

The interior of this second room could be perceived only through an aquarium placed at the center of the wall that closed the space off from the main room. This was Una stanza per il cornpositore Danilo Cherni (A room for composer Danilo Cherni), 1997-2001. At the show's opening, Cherni, a musician friend of the artist, performed electronic music; this was taped and for the rest of the exhibition was played at established intervals. The music evoked the monophonic melodies to which Ficino had dedicated himself in his search for expressions that would contain the structure of the universe. But while the exhibition assigned its solar portion, in full light, to this idea of a universe of unified meaning, as in Renaissance culture, the contemporary world, by contrast, was dropped into a suggestive, sonorous penumbra. In a system of inverted cross-references between classical cultures and our om, the composer's room showed us to be isolated, separate from the ordinary world, like the environment in which the poet operates, in the grip of the divine madness of which Plato spoke.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated Italian by Marguerite Shore.