Marcello Maloberti

More than works of art, Marcello Maloberti makes devices that stimulate public interaction, resulting in an event that is something like a party or fair. This exhibition, “Tagadà,” which incorporated a number of elements Maloberti had previously used in a long and complex performance in 2006 at a psychiatric hospital outside Milan, was named for an amusement-park ride in which riders sit in a large bowl that spins around and jolts them about—presumably, the artist wanted to shake his viewers up in the same exhilarating way. At the entrance to the gallery, the viewer encountered first a young man with a moustache, wearing a dress made from silver fabric, and then his double, a young woman dressed in the same manner, with two plastic sticks strapped to her waist. Both walked around the gallery as living sculptures. Three other performers did the same, each holding a large wooden tray with a wooden leg that could stand on the floor and support it. A pile of shoe boxes lay in one corner of the room. These boxes, equipped with colored ropes, were meant to be worn by gallery visitors over their shoulders like backpacks, and on each of them the artist had glued the photograph of an animal, taken from a ’70s magazine. Other images taken from present-day magazines—portraits of movie stars, athletes, and political figures—were placed on the floor in another part of the gallery. Above the steps from the entrance down to the exhibition space, Maloberti placed a platform with Op drawings in black and white. In front of this was a vividly colored revolving target.

Three large-scale sculptural elements, pairs of wooden panels leaning against each other two by two to form a series of upside-down Vs, led the way further into the gallery. Viewers traversed them, passing by colored neon lights, luminous street signs, a collage of cut-out photos, and pieces of fabric. A nine-year-old boy, wearing a sort of spacesuit and a helmet covered with shells, crossed the space of these small galleries on a toy motorbike.

At the back of the gallery, which is L-shaped with a long corridor leading to a large hall-like space, a video showed the artist using a pickax to destroy a large ceramic tiger. In the video’s second part, the same footage is shown in reverse and accelerated, giving it a cartoon-like air—a fitting summation of the general tone of the show. A fifty-nine-foot-long “canvas” extended over almost the entire long wall of the corridor; primarily made out of tablecloths, it finished off with, of all things, an Italian flag. Back at the entrance to the gallery, a statue of a tiger—identical to the one destroyed in the video—emphasized the show’s playful spirit: In its mouth it held a piece of wood carved with Bartleby’s famous phrase, “Preferirei di no” (“I would prefer not to”)—the high-flown motto of all depressives, transformed here into a parody of itself.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.