Pesaro / Milan

Grazia Toderi

Galleria Franca Mancini / Galleria Giò Marconi

Views of the theater are a recurring theme in Grazia Toderi’s work, and her latest video projections investigate two historical examples and one current update, namely, the television spectacle, represented by the TV quiz show Rischiatutto (Risk Everything), which was extremely popular in Italy in the ’70s.

Shown in Pesaro, Orchestra, 2003, was dedicated to the town’s Gioacchino Rossini Opera House, while Il mondo privato (The Private World), 2003, was about the Teatro di Verzura in the nearby Villa Caprile. “Verzura” means “greenery” in Italian, and the theater is constructed out of hedges and trees—elements typical of eighteenth-century garden architecture—and carved into a verdant hillside. In both these videos, Toderi manipulates the images so that one forgets the connection with the projection source; they seem to surface directly from the wall, like paintings where the figures move, depending on the light. In The Private World, for instance, the image, turned upside down and duplicated, looks like a reflection in a mirror; the wall dematerializes, as if it were an imaginary window onto the outdoors. The passage from dawn to dusk is covered in a very brief time, yet the changing light registers the time of day, along with the movement and changing brightness of a star that creates a perspectival vanishing point. The feeling the video conveys is like the fold of an intimate, private embrace.

In Orchestra, however, the embrace is choral and public in nature. The five rows of box seats contain not spectators but orchestra musicians who play overtures from Rossini operas. The faces and movements of the musicians interweave with the sound, while the string instruments, projecting out from the balconies, seem to make a drawing of the notes, written on the imaginary musical staff suggested by the lines of the boxes. In the vault, the insertion of luminous white points, a motif that characterizes Toderi’s work, recalls the sky. Both videos evoke the history of painting: The reflecting light and colors in The Private World recall the brilliance of views painted by Canaletto, while Orchestra, dominated by brown tones and dense marks, seems closer to Goya’s black paintings.

Q, 2003, which was on view in Milan, depicts three booths from the Rischiatutto set with the contestants inside. The background has been cancelled out; the booths resemble space capsules suspended in a black sky. The contestants’ faces are hidden by halos of white light that flash on and off. One thinks of censorship but, at the same time, of the auras said to surround everyone. These figures alternate with the words QUOI? L'ÉTERNITÉ (What? Eternity), a citation from Marguerite Yourcenar. The contemporary theater of television expresses the aspiration to fortune that is so common today, while the rapid flux of questions, answers, countdowns, buzzers, and so on recalls the background noise of cities, but also something like an emergency room where equipment measuring patients’ vital signs makes intermittent beeps. The video is shot in black and white, as in the early days of television. In those days, just before the set went off, a luminous dot would appear on the screen. That’s what it looks like in Toderi’s video when the white light covering the contestant’s face at the center of the screen goes off.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.