The Stakeholder Art Museum (Sam) is a project for an institutional model of participatory democracy. From an idea of Federico Baronello it is conducted in synergy with Scrypta Blockchain and Collica & Partners gallery.

SAM White Paper


A series of photos – etchings – depicting typical Mediterranean botanical species, which are threatened by bacteria and parasites (red palm weevil and Xylella).

The botanical species are photographed from far above, a different point of view from the standard garden fruition, as if external agents looking at plants, threaten their existence, unveiling, at the same time, landscapes of the production chains, well suggesting an aesthetic towards modernity without any deceptive simulations from idealized “past” forms coming from some “traditional” idea of garden.

At the end, the series is just another reference to the history of photography suggested by the works exhibited at the show The Plural always outweighs the Singular at the Radicepura botanical park: in this case, the fantastic and fleeting gardens depicted by the surrealists’ daddy, Eugène Atget.

Diagram #3 (Drawing), 2018.

“…there are ten, twenty or a hundred Mediterranean seas.
Around the Mediterranean there are not two places that are the same. Sicily, rather than combines the fragments together, split in two the Mediterranean. North against South, East against West.” [Fernand Braudel The Mediterranean in the Ancient World, The Penguin Press, London 2001 (f.p.1998)]

Two diagrams, installed in the outdoor spaces of the Radicepura Foundation, used to catch “impressions” like a photo-camera. Thus, their outcomes arranged – installed – inside the Radicepura Foundation’s venue.
The diagrams represent four Mediterranean areas, North/South and East/West. They are thought to be relational devices that let visitors interact with the Radicepura spaces; also, they are a tribute to the XX Century photographic social tradition of the physiognomic investigation such as that of the great German photographer August Sander.

(from the exhibition The plural always outweighs the singular, Radicepura 2018)

Diagram #4 (Gazebo) is a composition of four pavilions placed on the gardens nearby the Glasshouse of the Radicepura botanical park. Each pavilion’s roof with a different primary color, together they recall the communication campaign and image of the Premier League: the most popular national league of the most popular sport in the world. A real Photo-Booth (reminiscent of Franco Vaccari’s Live Expositions), built to let Radicepura visitors dive in the colors of the globalization, although amplified by the Mediterranean summer light, and be part of a video catalogue (Story) of a multitude of self-portraits (Selfies).



Diagram #4 (Gazebo, Story), 2018. HD movie.

Diagram #5 (Garden) is a squared flowerbed, divided into four areas by two intersected metallic bars, that match with the glasshouse’s architecture, the congress hall of the Radicepura botanical park.
The garden aims to underpin the value expressed by the foundation as a symbolic and functional collector of an international community revolving around the Mediterranean, with a social portrait of Mario Faro – CEO of the Radicepura Foundation, and of his international relations. Relatives, friends, guests are all invited to suggest a plant example that can be representative of, on a subjective perspective, their own elective place. Plants become kind of a botanical “madeleine”. Displaced on the appointed area of the diagram, they create a Mediterranean garden made of simple forms and yet, while growing, rich and elaborated.
In the indoor spaces, paper sheets would have displayed as printed forms that describe each donator’s choice.
Unfortunately, the dynamics suggested did not succeed and the work remained unfinished, leaving the small olive tree donated by the Radicepura’s founder, Venerando, alone. That may be because relational aesthetics do not reach enough grasp in an environment such as that of a south Mediterranean country like Sicily, whose economy is actually dominated by relational capitalism dynamics? I’m not sure but, at the end, this is the “impression” produced by the installed device.


Documentation project of an art manifestation.

FICARRA CONTEMPORARY DIVAN, a program of art residencies and events in a small village located in front of the Aeolian archipelago and gate of the Nebrodi’s mountain natural park. Its aim to echo the best traditions of European and Western art institutions that have worked on specific areas in relation to international contexts.

I used my documentary work to question the landscape of and around Ficarra as an element of the political and cultural dimension. By processing images that can be highly evocative for a community that lives quite isolated in wintertime, given the weather conditions and the topography of the valleys of the Nebrodi chain, in Sicily.

Marking the geological forms of a region located at the meeting place of three continental plates allowed me to evoke a temporal and spatial dimension shared by both local people and artists, without interfering with the specificity of the artists’ works and realizing a communication-based project accessible to a wider audience.

Here in Ficarra, ordinary people are used to being involved with the “curiosities” of art and contemporary artists, and you often come across discussions and analysis, not at all intimidated, on the quality of the artworks and research. Similarly, it was fun to listen to people who, intrigued by the details of the images I showed them, tried to guess the location of a rock, a cliff, or even a volcanic landscape, revealing the centrality of this town inhabited by just one thousand souls in the context of a wider region.

In a nutshell, I wanted my work to question the dichotomy between the center and the periphery so important for balance, not only within the art system, but also within the political and economic worlds; I was trying to suggest the possibility that, although part of a small community, you can feel part of a larger one beyond the confines of any environmental boundaries.

Mineo (Homes for America), photo installation 2014. Inkjet prints on baryta paper mounted on plasterboard panels, variable dimensions.

One of the largest centers for asylum seekers in Europe is located in the former homes for the American soldiers stationed at Sigonella, which is itself the largest military base in the Mediterranean. The title (Homes for America) refers to the work published by Dan Graham on Arts Magazine, December 1966. Also, the documented landscape references the Townships photographed by David Goldblatt. Both references contain connotative meanings and suggestions that reflect on the meaning of citizenship in the era of globalization.


Installation view at the solo show ‘Indigenation’ at the Brodbeck Foundation, Catania 2016. 22 Inkjet prints mounted on plasterboard panels. 1 print, dimension cm.168×75; 8 prints, each×112; 1 print×112; 8 prints each×75; total size of the installation cm.250×960.

Naval Air Station Sigonella “The Hub of the Med” is a U.S. Navy installation in Sicily, Italy. It is located at some 40 km south of Mount Etna. Because of its location near the center of the Mediterranean Sea, NASSIG is the Navy’s second largest security command, second only to that located at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. In 2011, after the Navy considered ending its lease for family housing in Sicily, it had closed the Mineo housing area. Mineo housing area was leased by Pizzarotti & Co. to the Italian government as a housing center for asylum seekers, many of them refugees from the “Arab spring” revolts in Tunisia and other North African countries. It has since grown notorious in local media and among immigration advocates, who say the facility puts too many people in units, with little access to health care and little progress on their cases.

WELCOME “Benvenuti!” On behalf of the entire Housing staff, welcome to your new home! Our purpose is to provide you with adequate, safe, and secure living quarters, and to support you and your family while you reside in the Mineo Housing Complex. The Mineo Trouble Call Desk provides assistance to meet routine, urgent, and emergency breakdowns or repairs not deemed the responsibility of the resident in accordance with the lease. It is your responsibility to promptly report any maintenance issues which may cause structural damage to your unit or effect habitability […]

RESIDENT RESPONSIBILITIES Residents are required to keep the Housing staff informed of any changes in projected rotation date, home and mobile telephone numbers, or people other than immediate family living in your quarters. Preventive Maintenance Inspections (PMI) are a requirement according to the Lease and are not optional […] Be advised that you will be held financially liable for returning quarters to the original condition upon check-out […]

Guests are welcome to visit you and your family while you reside in the complex, but please ensure your guests comply with all Security regulations. You, as the sponsor, will be held accountable for the actions of your guests […] Maintain your household noise to a minimum, keep your yard and carport areas tidy and clean, and be respectful towards your neighbors […]

Housing inspectors make rounds within the complex on a daily basis. If, during these inspections, they notice that residents are not in compliance with any rules and regulations, they may issue either a “friendly reminder” or a “violation notice”.

VADEMECUM According to the Dublin Regulation (no. III 1. 604/13) you cannot decide freely in which Nation to request protection […] For the Regulation, a “citizen of a third country” is any person who is not a citizen of European Union or who is not a citizen of a State which doesn’t subscribe to the Regulation for doing an agreement with the Union […]

During the procedure to establish whether Italy is the competent country to examine the request for asylum, your status on the Italian territory is therefore that one of an asylum seeker […] The law establishes that you may seek the assistance of a lawyer. If you are unable to pay a lawyer, you may do a petition for receiving free legal assistance (sponsored by the Nation) […]

If they send you to CARA they will give you a nominal certificate (a paper where your personal data and your legal condition are reported). So, they will give you an appointment at the police office. The police will make you some photos and will take fingerprints (“foto segnalamento”). Later, they will give you an appointment to formalize your application […]

If you decide to benefit of the welcome procedures of the CARA, your stay here last the necessary time  to obtain the documents and, once you obtain your permit of stay, you must leave the Centre.

EUR_Libya, photographic series, Giclée prints on cotton paper on dibond panels, variable dimensions, 2010-12.

With his new photographic project, shown now for the very first time after two years in production, Federico Baronello analyzes the symbolic representation of power in its purest form, through architecture. The starting point for his research is the «Fascism embodied in stone» mentioned by the Italian historian Emilio Gentile: the ideology of power illustrated by the magnificent buildings of Italian rationalism spread between the two poles of new Fascist Rome, the Foro Italico and EUR.

EUR-3779, installation view at the group show 'The Materiality of a Dream' at the Brodbeck Foundation, Catania 2013.

Left: EUR-3779, installation view at the group show ‘The Materiality of a Dream’ at the Brodbeck Foundation, Catania 2013.

Already its title, EUR_Libya, points to the paradoxical sense of the work. The artist further suggests a metaphysical aspect: the architecture depicted appear as archeological monuments abandoned in the empty midday sun, reminiscent of the De Chirico’s Italian Piazza, but also of the Italian colonial landscapes in Africa.

EUR-3779, installation view.

EUR-3779, installation view.

Lost in time, a surreal landscape fixed in sunlight, monumental but empty, silent, found here in Italy, but it could be anywhere in the Mediterranean or even in Africa. Indeed, on closer observation, the architecture in the photographs of Federico Baronello is transformed through a surreal manoveur by the very transgressive nature of the artwork itself (i.e. the photo-montage).

EUR_3779 Headquarters of the Central Bank of Libya at the “Palace of Civilization and Work” designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto La Padula, Mario Romano, 1938-43.

Headquarters of the Central Bank of Libya at the “Palace of Civilization and Work” designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto La Padula, Mario Romano, 1938-43.×100.

A visual strategy inherited from the Dadaist who through the process of appropriation and de-contextualization developed the neo-avantgarde criticism during the ’60s and ’70s. However for Baronello the combination and overlapping of images and places, reminiscent of the strategy of visual artists such as Hans Haacke, without any direct bearing, does not embody the same ideological criticism. Baronello’s investigations are not a work about the real, as is the case of the German-American artist, but rather it is about the freedom of imagination, the utopia of the possible, inscribed by a minimal and discreet gesture.

As if Libya, or better North Africa, according to the definition of the ancient Greeks and then the Latins, might become Rome, and Rome in turn could really become the capital of a unified Mediterranean world. By inquiring into the meaning of Fascist architecture today, the artist questions the political and symbolic role of the institutions and of the cultural landscape in its broadest sense. In these photographs the ideological result of architecture undergoes a profound transformation, as if the original imperialist ideology had passed through the anthropophagous assimilation theorized by Brazilian modernist Oswald de Andrade, as the ultimate destiny of colonialism.

An economic post-colonialism, indeed. The names and logos of national companies that have long held trade and economic relations with Gaddafi’s Libya, appear as imprints on the surface of the «Fascism embodied in stone» photographed by Federico Baronello.

Anna Cestelli Guidi, presentation text for the solo show at the galleria collicaligreggi, Catania 2013.

Also, see the interview by Giuseppe Mendolia Calella (in Italian)

Diagram #2, 2010

Hundred flags waving against the Mafia Sunday, May 23 in Piazza Magione, symbolizing the different ethnic groups of the Primary Schools in Palermo.

“The new foreign communities, uprooted but present in the national territory, can be immune from the contagion of the mafia culture, if correctly supported, because they are too distant from the local custom of blackmail”. It is based on this conviction the performance produced by Palazzo Riso as part of the demonstrations commemorating the Capaci Bombing, the killing of Giuseppe Falcone, perhaps the most prominent prosecutor magistrate of the Antimafia Pool, in 1992.

“Data from Downtown Area”, the performance conceived by Federico Baronello will involve the high school students coming from all over the country to assist the speech of the anti-mafia magistrate Vittorio Teresi. Students are invited to wave flags of different colors, each representing in percentage the different ethnic groups present in the Primary Schools of Palermo’s downtown area. The work’s main concept is that the fight against the Mafia also comes from the integration of different cultures. “Mafia power is a violent device, based on peculiar historical premises that allow part of a community to take advantage of the other. This device can break down if (also cultural) circumstances that reproduce these models stop. I believe that the ever-increasing presence of foreigners in our society may be one of those essential discontinuity factors help stopping the reproduction of mafia culture “.

The results from the Primary Schools of Palermo’s downtown area survey are laid out on a fourth-dimensional chart consisting of 100 colored and waving flags, 28 of which are green for Islam (the regions from the Maghreb to Bangladesh), 13 red for EurAsia (from the Balkans to China ), 14 amaranth for the Indian regions (Sri Lanka and Mauritius), 10 yellow for the African-American communities and 35 blue for Europe.

NEMO_Beta, HD movie, 39′ 36”, 2009-10.

NEMO is the Italian development project of KM3NeT, an European research infrastructure aimed to build a gigantic Cherenkov telescope, basically a giant underwater antenna, to detect high-energy astrophysical neutrinos. The movie documents the experimental installation of a twelve arms tower at 3500 meters depth. Below the sea level dozens of this module will form a grid of 1 square km about 700 meters high.

Still from HD movie.

Publicity still

The KM3NeT will be the only submarine telescope to operate in the northern hemisphere and will be complementary to the American telescope installed under the ice of Antarctica. If implemented, it would become a centre of world-class research in the field of basic research as well as the largest station for monitoring the marine environment. The depths chosen by the Italian project for this telescope installation are part of a large area of the Ionian Sea located approximately 80 km from Portopalo, very close to the area where occurred the 1996 Christmas Eve wreck (see Portopalo).

NEMO_Beta is also the continuation of BdA, the exhibition contents made for the  Science Museum of Catania whose purpose was to illustrate the recent history of development in Sicily.

Vittoria, 720p HD movie, 16’25”, 2009. [w/t Takuji Kogo]

Vittoria is situated in the Province of Ragusa on Sicily. It is a center for cherry tomato production. Spread along a 100 km stretch of coast covered with sheet-plastic greenhouses.
Developments in industrial agriculture have made it possible to produce vegetables throughout the year. The most successful producers are able to ceaselessly cultivate high quality organic tomatoes and vegetables in large scale greenhouse complexes and distribute them all over Europe.
This industrialized system has enabled seasonal migrant tomato pickers from Tunisia to stay and work all year round. During the 1980’s and 90’s low-cost labour played an important part in the growth of the industry.
In between the many greenhouses are small brick buildings. These are homes to the migrant tomato pickers. They look like the stereotypical huts seen beside meadows in Sicily or found on the locations of spaghetti western films. But today they adorn satellite dishes.
However in recent years many of the Tunisian pickers have left the plantation huts and moved to apartments in the town. Some of them belong to the third generation of migrants. Some are involved in the recruitment of new laborers to the farms. They are often seen at the Ferry Port in Palermo welcoming new recruits and their families from Tunisia.
Today many migrant tomato pickers from the former eastern block countries have come for work at the plantations. These are mainly Romanians, but also some Poles, Albanians and Ukrainians. Many of which are no longer seen as illegal due to the expansion of the European Union*.
Regulations for working conditions on the plantations are often neglected. For example migrant workers usually work on 5 month seasonal contracts but stay on for another 3 months without pay, receiving unemployment benefit from the Italian government instead. Also the regulations on working hours are easily ignored since the pickers often live on site, making it possible to work day and night.
The black labour market has flourished due to the hard competition between the Tunisian and Romanian workers. This can be seen at the town square early each morning when migrant workers without contracts, standing in ethnic groups, wait to be picked up by farmers for day work.
Nearby there is a huge wholesale vegetable market which provides some of the best quality tomatoes in Europe. The area around Vittoria functions as one giant vegetable factory. Trailers and trucks owned by global distribution companies are continuously seen coming and going day and night.

*The Schengen Agreement was extended to include Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and has gradually been disassembling internal borders and checkpoints.

Portopalo, photographic installation, Durst Lambda prints on paper, variable dimensions, 2009.

Although it may seem paradoxical, “landscape” is a fundamental and recurrent theme of Modernism. So is it for those contemporary artists who through modernist models and structures once again put our way of seeing the landscape on the line. This practice clearly does not stop at the optical effect alone (or the “small pleasures”) but acts as a genuine investigative process. In this active exercise, the research (of documents and practices) overlaps with the taking apart and recomposition of the geographic and social space.

Portopalo. Installation view at the group show PPS - People and Landscape of Sicily at Palazzo Riso, Regional Museum of Contemporary Art, Palermo 2010.

Installation view at the group show PPS – People and Landscape of Sicily at Palazzo Riso, Regional Museum of Contemporary Art, Palermo 2010.

Jean François Lyotard discerned how in the dominant capitalist society, signs are immediately and totally transformed (and neutralized) in information. Breaking the traditional alliance or uniformity of purpose that bound art to Capital, some artists have taken the trouble to dismantle the information and restore the value and fullness of the signs.

For some years now, Federico Baronello’s work has efficaciously pursued this line. The works presented at the gianluca collica gallery of Catania show us a landscape; a very precise landscape, that of Portopalo and the southwestern Ionian Sea. In this landscape (presented through photographic prints and full-HD video) the information is profuse and different: the realization and the installation of sculpture groups along the Portopalo promenade, by the local parish priest Don Palacino, in memory of the 283 migrants drowned off Capo Passero in 1996 (with a religious-pop aesthetic, with obvious though surely unconscious references to Picasso as well as Ed and Nancy Kienholz); the probable installation again in the same waters off Portopalo, by the Institute of Nuclear physics, of an immensely powerful underwater telescope, a kind of antenna devised to reveal astrophysical neutrinos of the highest energy; the remains and markings of Islamic culture “etched” onto the seized fishing boats in the port of Portopalo.

In Baronello’s works, all these pieces of information reacquire the meanings of a story but above all are presented as signs of modernity: useful signs enabling us to understand also what we see.

Giovanni Iovane, presentation text for the solo show Portopalo at the gianluca collica gallery, Catania 2009.

Also, see Francesco Lucifora interview (in Italian)!



Silver Bars (in Brimstone), documentary movie, 16:9 SD 64’, 2007-08.

BdA, photographic series, Durst Lambda prints on metal paper on Dibond panels with aluminium frames and museum glass, each dimension cm. 115×76,5, 2008.

Building a Science Museum in a disused sulphur refinery in the old industrial area of Catania may be an opportunity for a journey into the modern history of eastern Sicily. Indeed, the sulphur mines exploitation, which started in the early nineteenth century, immediately linked Sicily to the industrialization process that was spreading from England in Europe and America.

BdA7793779888678340076479260861876386068786882784608474 Installation view from the exhibition DA QUI # 01.09, gianluca collica gallery, Catania 2009.

Installation view from the exhibition DA QUI # 01.09, gianluca collica gallery, Catania 2009.

BdA (Barre d’Argento – Silver Bars) is an acronym chosen to indicate two different works, which were intended to complete the exhibition contents of the  Science Museum of Catania, and which purpose was to illustrate the recent history of the development in Sicily. The title was inspired by a work of the American artist Lawrence Weiner, which was realized in Catania at the gianluca collica gallery, the statement Silver Bars Bathed in Brimstone.

The documentary movie Silver Bars (in Brimstone) and the photographic installation BdA7793… are far-reaching journeys telling a story that goes from the sulphur years to those of oil and developers, up until the technological district and the numerous scientific research programmes that have developed around the Department of Physics of Catania. A journey from the bowels of the world to the top of volcano. It’s a laborious ascension to the vastness of the sea and the sky, from Inferno to Paradise. Furthermore, the two BdA works both represent an attempt to reconcile the experimental fury of the art in 1900 with a – often unevenly – communicator function of the work of art.

The narration of Silver Bars (in Brimstone) links the protagonists’ testimonies (from miners, owners of the deposits, scientists) and the historians’ interviews, with extracts of Sicilian literature (Luigi Pirandello, Giovanni Verga, Enzo Di Bernardo, Melissa Panarello). Locations views from the Floristella mine to the Priolo petrochemical centre, from the commercial centre (designed by the Italian archistar Massimiliano Fucksas) to the nuclear accelerator at the university campus, alternate with film excerpts of Italian documentary masterpieces such as Surfarara by Vittorio De Seta, Col cuore fermo Sicilia by Gianfranco Mingozzi, Gela antica e nuova by Giuseppe Ferrara, or with archival footage of scientific experiments.

Eight (plus two) panels make the photographic installation; each one is the combination of two photographs. This combination of two creates a reciprocal relationship. On one hand, we have a dialectic regarding the subject contents of the photos. On the other, there are two portions of space that confront each other for the purely formal aspect of the composition. In each panel each photo, or portion of space, communicates with the other but also with those making the remaining seven panels. Each area represents also a place or a matter: cave, sea, sky or earth, air, water, fire, or sea, mountain/volcano, sun.

Landscape, thus, works as a narrative of a (hi)story. The structure of the photo installation, then, aims to replace specific formal, thus ideological, references of modernism.

[Federico Baronello, a written report to Helmut Friedel after the work’s acquisition by the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, München, Oct. 2009]


Lampedusa, photographic installation, Durst Lambda prints on paper on Dibonds panels, each dimension cm. 50×70, total dim. cm. 110×900, 2005.

How To Reach Lampedusa (with Takuji Kogo), Shockwave Flash Movie 7’50”, 1024×768 pixel, 2005-07.

Migration is a thing of all ages. Where Europeans once colonized various continents and emigrated en masse to other lands both in and beyond their own continent, movement from the opposite direction has now taken hold. Capital, goods and information circulate freely in the late-capitalist, globalized world economy. For people, however, mobility is arranged somewhat differently. Borders and territories are still the primary expression of national sovereignty, however multi ethnic populations may have become. For Europe – which permanently shifts between regulating, even attracting, and then repelling strangers – these are the outer borders, the so-called Schengenland regions […]

Installation view at the group show 'A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Fear and Terror' at the galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

Installation view at the group show ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Fear and Terror’ at the galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

Federico Baronello and Takuji Kogo indicate how, on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the reality of tourism runs hand in hand with that of asylum seekers, being repatriated or otherwise, without the two worlds ever touching […] Lampedusa is Italy’s most southern holiday resort-island. In recent years there has been a massive, non-stop stream of North-African refugees trying to illegally reach the island/Europe by boat. The CPTA (Centro di Permanenza Temporanea e Assitenza) is an expatriation centre close to the airport. It functions as an arrival hall for tourists, as well as a departure hall for repatriating rejected asylum seekers to Libya. Part of the island’s cemetery is reserved as a final resting place for refugees who do not survive the Mediterranean crossing. In their work both Kogo and Baronello resist the temptation of ideological criticism, looking instead for the best possible way to express the existing reality. All of the political messages which spring from this must be seen as inherent to the original material and the cultural situation. Their art is rather a testimony of a realistic, or ideological picture of the future.

Installation view at 'A Philosophical Enquiry into...' at the galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

Installation view at ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into…’ at the galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

This work shows the discrepancy between the idyll of Lampedusa as a holiday resort and the raw reality of the island as a final destination for the bodies of African boat refugees. By arranging alternating images of both, formerly “innocent” ideas of beach and sun, usually associated with easygoing fun, are given a wry undertone. The existence of another landscape (nameless crosses) urges the viewer to think things over. Therefore the island can also be seen as a prototype of an all but apolitical leisure industry. How To Reach Lampedusa indicates the transformation of Lampedusa from a fishermen’s island to a port of migration for refugees and tourists, the signs and the change in the landscape brought about by their transition. Images were recorded during a visit to the island in 2005.

Paul Willemsen text for the exhibition catalogue of ‘No Place – Like Home. Perspectives On Migration In Europe’, Argos Centre For Art & Media, Brussels 2008.

How To Reach Lampedusa (with Takuji Kogo) View of the video installation at the exhibition 'A Philosophical Enquiry into...', galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

How To Reach Lampedusa (with Takuji Kogo)
View of the video installation at the exhibition ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into…’, galleria gentili, Prato 2010.

According to Plato and Aristotle, philosophy came into being with Thauma. Usually this Greek word (and its verb, thaumazein) is translated as ‘wonder’, but it has various different meanings, and Plato himself made reference to them. Thauma is also speechless wonder, shock and also, finally, fear and terror. Philosophy started with wonder (the shock but also the fear), which is a pathos, and ends up being speechless, beyond words. Commenting on this initial fear-wonder of philosophy, Kierkegaard said that what was involved was an experience of ‘no-thing’: essentially an experience of nothingness. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) by Edmund Burke talks of the ‘beautiful’ and of the ‘sublime’. This important ‘physiological’ treatise (as Kant described it) also, indeed above all, ‘speaks’ of ‘fear’ and ‘terror’ as speechless wonder. Burke (and subsequently all the writers on aesthetics) offers us an artistic visualization of this experience (pathos) of fear. With the historic avant-garde movements and with modernism, which shifted the geography of art from the beautiful to the sublime, fear became a central aspect of artistic language. Fear (terror) became a linguistic element of artistic experience; an experience of nothingness. The 20th century and the contemporary age thus ‘adopted’ fear (and terror), both as structural elements of ‘practicing and thinking art’ and as a ‘reflection’ of a general psychological, social and political condition (general intellect). In another psychic-physiological treatise, ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920), Freud describes three types of ‘fear’: fright (Schreck), fear (Furcht) and anguish (Angst). If anguish constitutes a kind of protection and preparation in the face of danger, fear and fright describe a condition of ‘wonder’ in the presence or absence of the object that causes apprehension. In this case psychoanalysis is a parallel world to the philosophical and artistic one, in which fear is, in the final analysis, an experience of ‘no-thing’. From a social and political point of view, one only has to think of the various derivatives of the word ‘terror’, including ‘terrorism’. The aim of the exhibition Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of Fear and Terror is to show how fear is ‘an expressive form’ of the language of contemporary art (starting with modernism and modernity), and, at the same time, how this specific language engages with that of society nowadays, in which ‘fear’ and ‘terror’ (and their manipulations) are key aspect of our being in the world today.

Helmut Friedel and Giovanni Iovane, text for the group show A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Fear and Terror at galleria gentili, Prato 2010.