Gió Marconi

“Solaris,” named for the planet in Stanisław Lem’s homonymous 1961 novel, was a show that, while respecting the specificity of the individual works displayed, also revealed symbolic relationships between them—connecting, for instance, the melancholy of Rosa Barba’s 16-mm film Let Me See It, 2009; the desolate scenes of David Maljkovic’s collages on a Sheetrock construction, Lost Memories from These Days, 2006–2008; the fractal geometries of Philippe Decrauzat’s painting installation Fear the eye become the tone, 2008; and the multiple identities of Ryan Trecartin as seen in his video I-Be Area, 2007. Fittingly, the ten artists (four of them showing their work in Italy for the first time) were united by their reflections on the still-underexplored expressive potential of collage. The exhibition was punctuated by four collages on paper by Haris Epaminonda, almost functioning as reference points offered up by the curator, Cecilia Alemani, to help orient visitors within the gallery’s labyrinth and to remind them that collage was the topic under discussion here, even when, unlike Epaminonda, the artists availed themselves of means beyond traditional paper and glue.

In many of the works Alemani has chosen, collage is more a mental category than a material practice, one that can express the absolutely contemporary need to bring into contact different spatiotemporal dimensions. Lisa Oppenheim rephotographed a series of sunsets taken by American soldiers in Iraq, holding them up against the ones she experiences in New York. In the video piece Moonlight Serenade, 2009, Maria Antelman uses images of the surface of the moon, untouched by man’s footsteps. Like Andrei Tarkovsky’s cinematographic adaptation of Solaris (1972)—which can also, of course, be considered a single large collage of images in motion—this exhibition was characterized by a play of continuous references between past and future. It is no accident that the subject of Epaminonda’s works is a team of scientists plumbing the depths of the earth, as if they were looking for new worlds. Croatian artist Maljkovic, on the other hand, juxtaposes images that suggest utopian design—such as rationalist architecture, factories, and organized labor—with the failure of that very utopia, now signified by desolate and distressing scenes.

Appropriating stylistic features that pertain to the “last avant-gardes,” from modernist architecture to Op art, from psychedelia to documentary cinema, the artists in the show, all more or less in their thirties, explore imaginary worlds and essay daring encounters and combinations of signs that in turn generate new languages, often changing the meaning of the original elements. This method is exemplified by Decrauzat, who superimposes fractal geometries in tondos that stand out against a background wall painting made of shapes repeated according to a mathematical principle. The mixes of images printed on linen by Australian artist David Noonan are also meant to be understood as collage; they appear like visual Frankensteins made of memories, sometimes nightmares. In contrast, Kerstin Brätsch’s interventions create a babel of pictorial techniques, a summary of early-twentieth-century avant-garde visual strategies; here, suspended from the ceiling on transparent Mylar, they seemed more like ghosts of painting than the real thing.

Marco Tagliafierro

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.