Rä di Martino, Authentic News of Invisible Things (model for a dummy tank), 2014, wood, 6' 6 3/4“ × 14' 1 1/4” × 7' 8 1/2".

Rä di Martino, Authentic News of Invisible Things (model for a dummy tank), 2014, wood, 6' 6 3/4“ × 14' 1 1/4” × 7' 8 1/2".

Rä di Martino

Rä di Martino, Authentic News of Invisible Things (model for a dummy tank), 2014, wood, 6' 6 3/4“ × 14' 1 1/4” × 7' 8 1/2".

Rä di Martino’s recent solo exhibition “Authentic News of Invisible Things” was fueled by the artist’s investigation of the IVECO Defence Vehicles factory in Bolzano and her subsequent discovery of an archival photograph and film footage from London’s Imperial War Museum: Both are black-and-white, taken in Lille, France, in 1918, the day after the end of World War I. In them, a group of civilians can be seen gazing at a German dummy tank (a wooden fake used to trick enemies) abandoned in the street. The pictured men and women appear to have conflicting responses to this object, as though it were both familiar and foreign, frightening and enticing. In the dummy tank’s newfound context, it’s intended use was rendered moot—transformed into something like a prop or an oversize toy, it became a lackluster relic of the changing political paradigm. The scene likely subverted any sense of reality in its viewers, altering their conceptions of truth and invention.

As it happens, the film documentation was probably staged: After witnessing the community’s discovery of the dummy, it appears the filmmakers asked for a reenactment, based on the crowd’s unnatural movements and address of the camera—the result is a fabricated reality. It seems what drew di Martino to these found images was a desire to plumb the tangled temporality of their layered confusions of fiction and authenticity. A similar line of inquiry has in the past led the artist to document the ruins of abandoned Hollywood film sets in Tunisia and Morocco (“No More Stars,” 2010–13) and to depict individual universes charged with imaginative elements, as in the video shot at Hungarian architect Yona Friedman’s studio in Paris (If You See the Object, the Object Sees You, 2010, also on display at Museion, as part of curator Pierre Bal-Blanc’s exhibition “Soleil politique” (Political Sun), on view through January 11.

Di Martino examines the dummy tank in different contexts throughout the exhibition, which unfolds as a story in three acts, embodied variously by a large wooden sculpture installed outside the museum (Authentic News of Invisible Things [model for a dummy tank] [all works cited, 2014]), a two-channel video work shown on monitors (Authentic News of Invisible Things), and a photograph (Authentic News of Invisible Things [two kids]). The outdoor sculpture recasts the tank as a Minimalist structure, its profile re-created with woven strips of wood. The effect here is one of estrangement, with our experience of an object that was already a wooden simulacrum further attenuated by the artist’s ghostly sculptural interpretation. In the gallery, the first monitor features footage of the artist’s re-creation of the archival photograph in the form of a tableau vivant staged in Bolzano intercut with scenes from the historical film documentation. The reconstruction creates an invented yet eerily familiar temporal dimension. The second monitor plays documentation of the artist’s performance in which a real Italian tank driven by a member of the military plowed through Bolzano’s streets. The latter event didn’t involve fiction or actors (the tank was driven by military personnel); rather, it incited a sense of the past returning while simultaneously serving as a reminder of the ongoing warfare in nearby countries. Here, as in her recent documentary The Show MAS Go On, 2014 (featured at the most recent Venice International Film Festival), di Martino filters a historic event through the lens of her own subjectivity and places it in a cinematic theater of the absurd.

Paola Nicolin

Translated from Italian by Jamie Richards.