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Solo show of a comprehensive collection of works

invitation card

invitation card

 

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.

INDIGENATION-4650

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 dim.cm.75×112; 1 print dim.cm.168×112; 8 prints each dim.cm.50×75; 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.

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.

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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.

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.

Portopalo.
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)!

Footnote

Footnote

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.

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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.