Solo show of a comprehensive collection of works
Solo show of a comprehensive collection of works
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 or 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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]