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.
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)!
The first group of sculptures made in 2002 by Don Palacino. The statue of St. Paul inside the bow from a vessel seized to the people smugglers. At the foot of the saint, imploring hands of the refugees, the shipwrecked, the victims of Guernica.
The inscription / prayer emphasizes the ethical spirit of the operation: “O God of the universe, do make our seas won’t be never again navigated by seafarers (would they be Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Saracens and pirates of all ages) who will load men in chains, without a home and without dignity. On the contrary, do make these seas be crossed by ships with free men and harbingers of civilization and peace. Amen.”
One of the smugglers’ seized vessels.
Decorations on the sides, together with the text engraved and painted on the inner walls of the hull, are the perfect aesthetic counterpoint to the sculptures of the parish priest of Portopalo.
…they show how contemporary visual arts, which are represented in these examples of aesthetics, from Pop to Graffiti, has spread well beyond global metropolitan centres.
Inside the hulls…
The hold destined to the conservation of the fish becomes valuable space for the transport of human load.
On the promenade of Portopalo a statue of the Madonna with her gaze turned towards the small fishing village…
The symbolic fence of Portopalo…
Monuments are erected along the boundaries of the town, on the waterfront…
and in the suburbs…
A presence also in the very centre of the town, in the frescoes adorning the church where every sunday the community unites…
Paintings were made by an AIDS patient looked after by Don Palacino.
The oasis of San Corrado, also intended by Don Palacino as a shelter for the refugees (actually somewhat improvised and lacking the necessary medical equipment)…
Of course, with a supplement of new sculptures glorifying the saints, especially St. Francesco d’Assisi, the patron saint of ecology!
May Allah protect all of us!