Milan

Adrian Paci

Kaufmann Repetto

Adrian Paci’s exhibition “The People Are Missing” was orchestrated on two different registers: Immersive installations were constructed alongside a selection of photographs and videos of found materials. Four works presented a narrative that unfolded in four stages, one after another, in the gallery’s four rooms. One space had been transformed into a shower (Untitled, 2017). Water fell violently onto the floor and was immediately sucked into a drain hole. An old gas heater emitted a sinister noise. If a domestic bathroom is a private and reassuring place for tending to one’s body, this environment, on the contrary, felt entirely hostile. The gas, the water, the strange machine, and the noise all combined to convey a perceptible threat to the possibility of a naked, vulnerable body. In the adjacent room, the atmosphere changed. Visitors entered a luminous space occupied by a double staircase made of white wood; they were able to take a break on its steps—to sit down, talk, and enjoy a moment of tranquility, even while the uncanny din of the shower remained audible. The title of this installation—The people are missing, 2017, from which the show took its name—refers to the artist’s desire to reconstruct the agora, a public sphere for dialogue with people at its center. The two staircases faced each other, generating an encounter with the person sitting opposite. The following room once again enclosed and constricted the visitor. A photograph, Malgrado tutto (Despite Everything), 2017, depicted graffiti drawn by prisoners in a former Communist jail cell in Albania (the artist’s native country). The compositions seemed to emulate ancient cave paintings—one could almost make out a city, a bell tower, or a minaret, but could never truly know the imagination or ideas that were projected onto those bare walls. 

The show was constructed as a dialectic between the individual and the collective body— between freedom and control—which alternated from one space to another within the gallery. The shower and the cell were chambers of isolation, in which life and the body were reduced to essentials. On the stairs of Paci’s agora, people were able to recognize each other as part of a community. Interregnum, 2017, the fourth work, questioned the tragic exploitation of the collective body for political and ideological purposes. A video comprised a montage of film clips gleaned from national and state television archives, showing the official funerals of twentieth-century dictators and political leaders in Communist countries throughout Eastern Europe and Asia. Paci extracted sequences that embody the choreography and scenography of power, showing interminable rows of people marching through immense urban squares. The artist chose never to show the corpse of the deceased, highlighting instead the similarities between the movements of these masses and the consistent rhetoric of the regimes that dictate these behaviors and gestures, which remains the same even if the geography and historical moment change. People seem to advance without a destination, lost in the void of interregnum, repeating sterile rituals ad infinitum. Amidst this anonymity, Paci revealed the first hints of affliction, consternation, and the harsh awareness of history, as expressions passed over faces like the flash of a blade cutting through darkness, tracing individual emotion within the complex notion of body politic. Interregnum acts as a countermelody to The people are missing, bringing the essential question full circle: What type of collective body do we wish to build?

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.