Luca Rossi’s project, conceived for the Italian Pavilion 2021, consists in leaving the pavilion empty, exactly as it is now. LIKE NOW. An “emptiness” that can only be imagined and not visited in a conventional way. At the same time, 10 satellite projects, created around the world, aim to tackle and resolve this vacuum.
2021 Italian Pavilion and 10 satellite projects
In these quarantine I have tried to imagine the 2021 Italian Pavilion. “The thing that can be said today, the thing I can say, is simply to leave the pavilion empty”, exactly as it is now. The Italian Pavilion 2021 can already be visited now.
A few days ago the press office of the Venice Biennale wrote to me pointing out that the curator and details of the Italian Pavilion 2021 had not yet been defined and therefore he asked me for an explanation of my project. In other words, the Venice Biennale claims the words “pavilion, Italy, 2021”. I am absolutely not interested in circumventing the Biennale and making people believe that my pavilion is the official one. I am interested in being able to name a place, indicate an empty space. Facing that void in the awareness that people don’t need to express themselves, they do it too much; instead we have to provide them with interstices of solitude and silence to finally say something true (Gilles Deleuze). We must therefore face this “void” and I thought of doing it by reviewing and rewriting 10 projects created by “Luca Rossi Lab” between 2009 and 2019.
Contemporary art can become a gym and a laboratory to train and experience “our ability to see”. The Coronavirus emergency forces us to a remarkable fitness test and only our ability to see can save us. That is: reviewing and re-evaluating our needs, being ready for change and crisis, being able to solve change and crisis.
The work occurs in a house in Italy but could take place in any house in the world. The sunlight, when it encounters a place, determines pictures of light in continuous movement. It is a question of accepting and supporting a completely empty wall, waiting for the work to manifest itself in the daytime and in a different way according to the seasons. The work is already present in your home, you just need to train “new eyes” to see and appreciate it.
A few meters before the ticket office of the Cistercian Abbey of Sénanque, in the South of France, I moved the visiting hours that were placed over an empty display case, and I began to photograph the display case obsessively. Mass tourism, of what can be considered a “religious Walt Disney”, has started to slow down and rub its eyes. Once back home I noticed, looking at the photographic documentation of the display case, that in reality the display case was not empty and presented a landscape attributable to the Shinto religion and a very small Tao made by chance from the dust. In a place that seemed to suffocate any religious sense, I tried to carry out a positive attack aimed at reconstructing the meaning and sense of that place.
By purchasing a PDF document (which in this case is free) it is possible to find a very small statue inside the Biennale Gardens. The statue represents a young child who is about to jump with his legs and arms cut off, and a deep groove at the height of the vocal cords. The visitor is invited to load the sculpture with stones and other materials in what can be considered a sort of stoning (“Rajm” in Arabic). The exponential growth of content and information, of which we are all producers and consumers, paradoxically brings a suffocation and a fundamental anesthetization. Contemporary society pushes us to “communicate” in order to exist (“I post therefore I am”) but this freedom of expression corresponds to a subtle dictatorship that corresponds to talking, and venting ourselves, in a room with 100 other people at the same time and who think basically alike (e che la pensano già come noi). A dictatorship disguised as great freedom.
The visitor is invited to visit a special place in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines where a former air raid shelter, dating back to the Second World War, has now become a wellness center for a hotel. Arriving in this place, people are invited to read a piece that makes them reflect on how Western culture has managed to achieve what can be considered the “best world ever existed on earth”. Not the best possible world but certainly the best world that humanity has ever known. Also this is a moment of reflection and decompression in such a significant place where local culture, western and eastern world seem to meet.
Inside the MAAT Museum in Lisbon, the garbage cans look like a three-dimensional version of the famous black square of Malevich. Near a bin in particular there is a red indicator light that flashes intermittently. While the bin engulfs the visitors’ waste, the indicator light seems to underline the disposal function represented by the bin itself. What are we throwing away? Malevic’s black picture seems to engulf our scraps, which we consider the zero degree of a work of art. This is the opposite action compared to the publication of content on social media: a sort of pollution that risks suffocating and anesthetizing us. The project aims to reflect on the essence of “artistic doing” as a critical ability to make differences between things.
A project realized for the first time in 2013 is proposed here on a large scale. IMG3733 (made of wood and measuring 11 by 2 meters) represents the consequential and arbitrary title that the mobile phone gives to millions of videos made every day all over the world. Following the title, it is possible to get to a selection of videos that are increasing daily and which represents a form of resistance to the Internet algorithm that would like us to feed ourselves only with “things we like”. The work, immobile and defined, actually changes every day becoming the exclusive gateway for a multitude of micro universes in continuous expansion. The mobility-immobility of the work restores the sense of our time and reflects a sense of instability and fluidity in balance between reality and digital dimension.
During the summer of 2021, as happened in late July 2018, a group of 7800 Africans will wander in the woods of Trentino and carry out a collective prayer in which elements of the voodoo religion and other western cultures are integrated. The action is communicated locally only through social networks and people to verify the truthfulness of the facts are invited to search for the group of people directly in the woods of Trentino. In other words, indignation and a thirst for truth must be willing to turn into concrete actions. The project brings attention to the large migratory flows triggered by political and climatic instabilities and the need to recover a stronger relationship with one’s origins and with one’s spirituality.
In the summer of 2018, a large yellow container appeared outside the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Scotland in Edinburgh. The container contained 7800 Amazon parcels that corresponded to as many works of art. In this way it seems to almost saturate the possibility of “like”, since anyone, out of 7800 contents, will be able to find “what they like most”. The work demonstrates how today the problem is not to create yet another content, yet another work of art but to develop a critical and virtuous system to order the contents that are already produced and consumed abnormally. The container exemplifies what happens in fairs, biennials and exhibitions of Contemporary Art where hundreds of works are found in very little space. As it also happens in the world of information, where we are all producers and consumers, this overload of contents brings a sense of suffocation and a fundamental anesthetization. Nothing more happens and affects us deeply and so art becomes, as Nietzsche had already warned, only an occasion for temporary excitement.
The project was carried out on the diffused photos of the ICA exhibition space in Milan before the exhibition space was open to the public. This shows how today, and since several years, the work of art has retained an ambivalent nature of which it is necessary to become aware. The project incorporates a selection of different interventions including the typical red sculptures made with the fingertips of the left hand. In these works Apple’s tactile mouse becomes a sort of extension of the surface of our “cave”. These sculptures live only in their documentation while the use of fingertips preserves, at the same time, a primitive flavor and a strong relevance to the contemporary era.
This clandestine project, carried out within the Prada Foundation in Venice, consists of large black radiators / air conditioners that accompany and intersperse the official exhibitions of the foundation. These big black monoliths are there, they are photographed by thousands of visitors, but in reality we do not see them, exactly as they were “off screens”. These black screens are reminiscent of the interstices of solitude and silence that Gilles Deleuze talks about when he says that we don’t need to express ourselves but we need moments of reflection and decompression to finally say something true. The visitor can place his mobile phone on the grate of the air conditioners and record videos that capture the interior of these monoliths as if he wanted to investigate their mystery and their truth. The videos, which seem to document a dystopian reality, will be kept on visitors’ mobile phones as an integral part of the project.