Grazia Toderi, Mirabilia Urbis, 2012, two-channel video, sound, continuous loop. Installation view.

Grazia Toderi, Mirabilia Urbis, 2012, two-channel video, sound, continuous loop. Installation view.

Grazia Toderi

MAXXI - Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo

Grazia Toderi, Mirabilia Urbis, 2012, two-channel video, sound, continuous loop. Installation view.

Mapping earth and sky from airborne viewpoints, Grazia Toderi challenges both gravity and the horizon, calling into question the facts
of objective reality and representing, in a theater of wonders, the relationship between the human world and the universe, between terrestrial geometry and that of the firmament. In the five video pieces in this show, which cover more than ten years of work, Toderi utilizes computer-animated aerial photographs of Rome to reveal a city dense with luminous energy, an astonishing living organism that breathes and emits pulsating signals. The vestiges of the city’s millennial history catch fire with minuscule points of light that trace the perimeters of buildings and piazzas and illuminate domes, shining like stars. The sites of the city’s political, social, and artistic history become the terrain on which polis and poetry meet.

In Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, the metropolis of Andria has streets that follow the orbits of the planets, and its buildings repeat the order of the constellations and positions of the brightest stars, in a faithful reflection between earth and sky. In similar fashion, in Toderi’s Mirabilia Urbis, 2001, the historic sites and ancient monuments of Rome (the Colosseum, the Campidoglio, Piazza San Pietro, and Castel Sant’Angelo, among others) become celestial maps and geometries—a sort of fantastical, metaphysical cartography. The oculus of the Pantheon pulsates like an exploding nova; the Big Dipper is inscribed on the Quirinal Palace and its gardens. Streets and piazzas vibrate with the intensity of a distant nebula, curving like constellations, and the bluish-green tone of the images amplifies the effect of the starlit nighttime sky. The slow movement of rotation and the approaching/distancing of the images are accompanied by a powerful background sound, indistinct, with low frequencies and variable intensities: a sort of galactic white noise that seems to originate from the depths of the universe.

A double-screen projection, also titled Mirabilia Urbis, 2012, reveals rotating images of Roman panoramas inscribed in two circles, like the spheres in a map of the Earth. The urban horizon rotates like the celestial vault, recalling as well the continuous, slow rhythms and mutations of a city that grows and expands. Inner perception, too, exists in continuous mutation, as the work slides into the indistinct terrain between reality and dream that gives it an intense psychological charge. The double orbit of the visions responds not only to the divergent perceptions of our two eyes, which apparently only see the same image, but also to the duality we experience between wakefulness and sleep. The city sometimes disappears into a cosmic dust, a reddish fog in which buildings or monuments are no longer recognizable; it becomes indistinct, luminous magma, lit up with tracks of stars and incandescent flows. Rotating on the horizon line, the city overturns and the data of reality slides away over the tilted crest that leads to another, inner world where microcosm and macrocosm merge.

In Rosso (Red), 2007, Toderi has also inscribed an oval over a rectangular image of the city, to accentuate the double vision of whole and detail, foreground and background. In- and outside the perimeter of the central vision, barely perceptible flashes, sudden incandescent deflagrations, appear. With an ad infinitum and at times vertiginous effect, expanding and then speeding up the pace of our perception, Toderi seems to suspend time, almost annulling it, and she inscribes the history of the city in an eternal moment.

Ida Panicelli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.