Marcello Maloberti

Marcello Maloberti’s installations are veritable mise-en-scènes, meant to amplify specific emotions. References to theater are obvious; indeed, this Milan-based artist often casts his works the way a director casts a play, with gallery and museum spaces as his stages. This was also the case in the artist’s most recent performance piece in Rome. There were actors, a scene, and spectators. Access was limited to just a few people at a time, who were restricted to the area around the entrance to the large room. These artist-imposed restraints had a precise function: namely, to guarantee a certain distance between viewers and performance.

The capacious skylight in the principal gallery space illuminated a group of men and women of different ages, precisely arranged by the artist. There were about thirty-five people in all, tightly grouped one next to the other, creating a roundish knot from which emerged two men and a woman, all of them extremely tall. Nearby, another man lay on the floor, face down. A circle shape cut out of his shirt revealed his naked back.

This vivid image was accentuated by the sound of someone diving into water, repeated at regular intervals. The feeling evoked was akin to that of looking at a photograph; everything was immobile and enlarged. The loud, repeated noise of the dive, emanating from the center of the group, further amplified this feeling of suspension, which was further intensified by the impossibility of physically interacting with the silent performers. The audience could observe and sense the work’s emotional charge yet remained aware that it couldn’t participate.

It was never clear what force was holding together the group of performers or if they were looking at something within their configuration. But, observing the circular shape of the group, one noted a strange analogy with other similar shapes: the hole on the man’s T-shirt, the cutout piece of circular cloth lying next to him. One was left with the feeling that they were witnessing an event that Maloberti had succeeded in conveying with minimal means and practically no motion. Over the course of the two-hour performance one noted only minute movements by the men and women composing this human cluster. It was as if a memory tied to an episode in the past, hidden in some deep corner of the mind, had resurfaced in a flash. But it was presented in an expanded version, as if that instant had been stretched out for the entire duration of the performance.

There were varied resonances. The noise of the dive brought to mind a leap into the void or, more accurately, into a liquid and subsuming space. But it also evoked a passage into another dimension, suspended between life and death: something that lies behind us, like the cutout on the back of the prostrate man; something recondite that rationality tends to obscure.

Filippo Romeo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.