Urs Fischer

Fondazione Nicola Trussardi

The Istituto dei Ciechi, the Institute of the Blind, is smack in the center of Milan. It was here that Swiss artist Urs Fischer chose to set his first solo exhibition in Italy (under the aegis of Fondazione Trussardi). The two grand spaces in the central portion of the nineteenth-century building—a large vaulted hall, which was on this occasion divided into two sections by the inclusion of a slightly raised platform area, and a former chapel with an apse—was an ideal setting for his two large installations Jet Set Lady, 2005, and House of Bread, 2004, and one small sculpture suspended in space, Untitled, 2000. The site enveloped the three pieces in an atmosphere somewhere between that of a church and a concert hall.

Jet Set Lady, which filled the entrance to the first space, was created for the occasion. A gigantic iron tree with beams instead of branches, it has a welded pillar for a trunk and an iron plinth for roots. Scattered in orderly fashion on the floor around this fantastic plant were numerous framed digital prints of paintings and drawings, some computer-manipulated. The impression was that of a tree that had emerged almost magically from the depths of the earth—a metal oak laden not with acorns but with images, for these were not only on the floor but also distributed amid its “foliage,” from the base to the top. Fischer’s tree creates myriad suggestions, fantasies described by the drawings in its branches.

Untitled, the hanging sculpture located at the center of the room and marking the surrounding space, is a decidedly less imposing but no less effective vision of a reimagining of the vegetable kingdom. It is a fanciful intersection between two kinds of fruit: an apple and a pear, fastened together by two screws. Different species encounter each other and generate a surreal hybrid, suspended at eye level by a transparent nylon thread. As with Jet Set Lady, Fischer’s imagination transforms something real into pure fantasy, something belonging to another dimension that seems impossible to reach out and touch.

House of Bread, a small shed with a door and a sloping roof, was installed in the former chapel and rested on a carpet covered with bread crumbs. While this rudimentary structure at first seems to be made of pieces of something like wood, it is in fact built out of long loaves of bread. One thinks of fairy tales—Hansel and Gretel and Tom Thumb come to mind—although there could be many other references as well. But one small detail removes this construction from the realm of pure imagination: A family of parakeets perched on the roof continually transform Fischer’s fairy tale by munching away at the house so that it deteriorated during the course of the exhibition. Here we were reminded of the material reality behind a pure fantasy.

Filippo Romeo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.