Alice Cattaneo

Galleria Suzy Shammah

What was so striking about Alice Cattaneo’s first solo exhibition in Italy was her unusual ability to get surprising results with very simple means. The first room in the gallery contained a sculpture composed of sheets of gray cardboard, colored cubes used to teach elementary math, and thin sticks of wood, the sort that hobbyists use in constructing their model airplanes and sailboats, all held together with fragments of duct tape. This ephemeral “plastic complex,” somewhat reminiscent of those Constructivist reliefs located in space in the most unexpected manner, was striking for its skillful alternation of solids and voids, with cardboard rectangles and slender sticks rising upward from the floor. The work took on whatever configuration the surrounding space allowed, and it could have been a fragment of an infinite proliferation that, from a distance, might resemble the skyline of an imaginary city.

The installation that climbed the walls in the last room of the gallery was even more surprising. Composed solely of the same little wooden struts, connected to each other and to the walls by adhesive tape, the work in this case made the space seem as if it had been taken over by some aerial skeleton, both impalpable and flexible. Its linear structure, where the “directional lines” (it is difficult to avoid Futurist terminology) proved to be studded by small cutouts of duct tape, the connective element for the entire work, imbued the space with the energy of a tangle of signs, at once solidified and dynamic. Both installation pieces, from 2005, are untitled.

The middle room of the gallery housed a series of works that illustrate the other side of Cattaneo’s activity, which apparently is not expressed only through in situ installations. These are videos created with exemplary simplicity, using a fixed camera, of very short duration, with cleverly constructed micronarratives, full of charm and irony. The longest of these pieces—just one minute fifty seconds—was The Singer, 2004, a performance by a small figure made of blue cardboard, who appears on a white stage (a human hand holds a fabric square that rises to reveal the diminutive protagonist). The effect of movement is given by the extremely effective film language employed. The other videos, even briefer in duration—all untitled and all from 2005—record encounters between things, images, and signs that create minimal, almost nonexistent, but still somehow significant events, such as the contact of two capers on a plate followed by the sound of a kiss, or the shadow of a hand that touches the shadow of a leaf, or the destruction of an ice cream spoon amid the rocks along a sea coast.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.