Milan

  Marzia Migliora, L’ideazione di un sistema resistente è atto creativo (The Design of a Resistant System Is a Creative Act), 2016, charcoal briquettes. Installation view. Photo: PEPEfotografia.

Marzia Migliora, L’ideazione di un sistema resistente è atto creativo (The Design of a Resistant System Is a Creative Act), 2016, charcoal briquettes. Installation view. Photo: PEPEfotografia.

Marzia Migliora

  Marzia Migliora, L’ideazione di un sistema resistente è atto creativo (The Design of a Resistant System Is a Creative Act), 2016, charcoal briquettes. Installation view. Photo: PEPEfotografia.

In this highly political show, “Forza lavoro” (Work Force), Marzia Migliora examined the transitional moment of a dying architectural structure, the Palazzo del Lavoro in Turin, designed by Pier Luigi Nervi in 1959 for the Esposizione Internazionale del Lavoro (International Labor Exhibition) organized by Giò Ponti for Expo ’61. A majestic environment and a masterpiece of engineering, it is now in a state of total ruin following years of neglect that culminated in a devastating fire in August 2015. The building’s decay is rendered even more excruciating by its imminent conversion into a luxury shopping mall—disturbing evidence of the loss of the country’s cultural impetus and the failures of an inept political class, incapable of honoring and safeguarding even the most significant traces of its recent past.

Over the three floors of the gallery, the artist articulated various aspects of her research on the building in different media. On the ground floor, an installation composed of charcoal briquettes, L’ideazione di un sistema resistente è atto creativo (The Design of a Resistant System Is a Creative Act; all works 2016), delineated on the floor, at a one-to-one scale, the structure of the building’s ceiling ribs and the distribution of the lines of force through its reinforced concrete. Bringing the imposing ceiling down to ground level, like a fallen giant, the work also seems to mentally trace the foundations upon which the future can be rebuilt. On the second floor were five photographs, “In the Country of Last Things,” which Migliora created using pinhole cameras she assembled from scrap materials found in the building; these devices were exhibited alongside the photos. The images, shot from a low viewpoint, always with the same horizon line, show spaces cluttered with discarded materials. A soft, foggy light enters from large, partially worn-out windows, and the neglected interiors, not completely in focus, seem suspended in a hazy aura, as if blown away by time. Alongside these were seven framed monochromes made from dust and metalworking scraps—some including residue from the 2015 fire—kneaded to form a granular, dark, opaque material. The subtle dust that we breathe in the air, the volatile compounds that pollute our cities, in these works become palpable and visible, alarming in their perilousness. Heirs to Alberto Burri’s combustions or Jannis Kounellis’s charcoal works, these detritus pieces declare the end of the modernist utopia and the abandonment of the promise of industrial progress, replaced by a production system that, today, must come to terms with the problem of sustainability.

On the third floor, viewers encountered a video titled Vita activa. Pier Luigi Nervi, Palazzo del Lavoro, Turin, 1961–2016, which emphasizes the pure beauty of Nervi’s architecture, the majestic columns and nimble ceiling ribs, in contrast to the rubble on the ground, placing the classicism of the modern in a heightened visual and psychological tension with the devastation of the modern. In this work, conjoining critical thought, social analysis, and a restrained, articulated artistic language that owes much to the example of Alfredo Jaar, the artist reflects on the reality of this building, now suspended between life and death, a metaphor for our own time. A keen aesthetic sensibility allows Migliora to grasp the poetry of the fragment, the beauty of humble things and their symbolic potential. A phenomenal sound track, created by the musician Francesco Dillon, vibrates in a crescendo of strident sounds, a staccato symphony for an industrial cathedral in a state of ruin: concrete struck by pipes, debris lashed by ropes, scraps of glass dragged along in nets, broken tiles stepped upon. And finally the sound of a cello, playing the notes of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, grows softer, its funereal tone accompanying the melancholy of this place in transition.

Ida Panicelli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.