Giulia Piscitelli

A protocol, in Italy, is a register in which documents and data of every type are transcribed, usually related to a subject or company under review. It serves to identify and describe a person or a thing—characteristic elements, peculiarities, and relevant factors. It is a sort of cataloguing that, if conducted correctly, can take on an appearance of certainty. The same cannot be said of the exhibition “Protocollo” (Protocol), compiled by Giulia Piscitelli. Here, data are catalogued and exhibited in the gallery—suggesting autobiographical references that are nevertheless difficult to trace back to any definite, unified subject. Piscitelli implies many different truths, despite the citation of apparently objective factors such as illness, psychological elements, and material objects. Each of her apparently objective elements gives rise to an infinite series of possible visions, offered up for the viewer’s scrutiny beneath powerful neon lights.

Our apprehension of this data is gradual. The artist decided to place the most hermetic works, those that seem inscrutably personal and idiosyncratic, in the first room of the gallery. Thus she implied that one could detect psychological factors through signs made on two small sheets of graph paper, both titled Quando inseguo la mia ombra (When I Follow My Shadow, all works 2009)—works created by tracing the shadow of her own hand. The pencil mark spans the sheet but is uneven; it traces torturous paths, spins around and around itself, at first appears rapid and nervous, then becomes calmer, full, and dense. It is as if within a few minutes, the various emotions and thoughts that passed through her mind were charted. In a large tapestry on the wall, Tornado (Il formidabile destriero di Zorro) (Tornado, [Zorro’s Extraordinary Steed]), Piscitelli has created an image that brings to mind the tail of a horse, rendered by selectively bleaching the black fabric. In this case, the artist works via subtraction—as if excavating the image. The drawing is a kind of phantasm that reemerges from the unconscious.

In the second room of the gallery, the artist’s thoughts and obsessions took the form of images rather than traces. Within a photographed mass of hair, a sneer seemed to emerge, as if it were possible to glimpse a human presence behind the tangle—someone who might be familiar to the artist, as the title of the work (Non ti reconoscevo per un pelo [I Didn’t Recognize You by a Hair]) suggests. Specters of the imagination became increasingly vivid in the video projected on the wall, Plessimetro (Pleximeter), a black-and-white depiction of human silhouettes in movement. The accompanying sound recalls that of a ball bounced repeatedly on the floor—a noise that bears no relation to the action of the figures visible in the video. These are evanescent, indistinct presences, due to the grainy image and the fact that Piscitelli has deliberately blurred their faces. On the opposite side of the wall was Sunshine, a gigantic scan of a Polaroid depicting the head of a woman seen from the back. Her face is turned away but one can intuit an interior drama—the sparseness of the woman’s hair is evidence of illness, exposed without modesty in order to put in place the final piece of an extremely personal protocol.

Filippo Romeo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.