Through Volta’s eyes
Video Sound Art presents the 12th edition seen through the eyes of Liceo Volta students.
A collection of texts, images and illustrations developed from the discussion with the artists and the curatorial staff in the spaces of the Teatro Carcano, the exhibition venue.
The activation of a continuous exchange between artists, curators and students stimulates a renewal in artistic practice and relaunches a real sharing of culture.
On the work Unisono by Oli Bonzanigo
Inside the courtyard, closing your eyes, you could have the feeling of being in a crowded square or a marketplace and this created a precise image in your imagination. Once you opened your eyes again, however, you could not make out any kind of crowd or the crowded square only the sound of it evoking an image that you are sure is there but is invisible.
The first impact with the work happened just as the artist was setting it up, allowing us even for a moment to witness this fundamental moment that the visitor is usually unaware of. It was really very interesting to understand how an initial idea can be completely transformed in the process of creation, as a result of unforeseen events, needs and discoveries, resulting in an initially unexpected work that is best suited to its location.
The opportunity to discuss with artist Oli Bonzanigo tickled my mind and there were many questions I wanted to ask her, but I had to limit myself. Her work Unisono was the one that intrigued me the most: from the materials we had been provided with, I had not been able to understand its relationship to the festival theme. During the meeting, the artist explained that his intention was to bring back the lightness of solid figures.
On the work Cosmic Generator by Mika Rottenberg
“Cosmic Generator” is a source of multiple points of reflection, triggering different possible reactions in the spectator: pleasure, ecstasy, curiosity, but also incomprehension, doubt, boredom; the fundamental role of contemporary art is to welcome the different sensations and propose new keys to interpretation to the work’s viewer, which can stimulate new thought processes.
How is it possible that inanimate entities are more facilitated than living beings? Why can a food can cross an ocean but a person cannot cross the border between two states? Why is one object treated with more care and interest than many individuals? These are some of the questions Mika Rottenberg hopes viewers will ask themselves after seeing her work, which deals with the lives of objects, but in comparison with the lives of humans.
On the work circulação by Daniel de Paula
The thoughts that go through a viewer’s mind when they see the work for the first time can be perceived by the concentrated gaze, the body that remains motionless in front of the screen, the questions they ask. All these elements make it possible to understand whether a person has decided to go deep or stay on the surface. De Paula succeeds not only in showing his own investigation, but also in inviting others to investigate what they think they know – of course, it is up to the viewer to decide whether to accept this invitation or not.
By showing dark sides of things that we see every day, for example telephones and their production, the artist managed to send a very strong message, which affected me, who had the opportunity both to talk to him and to display his work to the public during the exhibition, but also the viewers, who were often enchanted by the screens, alienated both by the foreign place they were in and by the power of what they saw and felt.
This work, from the very beginning, is the one that fascinated me the most. The meeting with the artist and the mediation with the public allowed me to experience the installation in a deeper way. My perception of the work over time changed because the assumptions changed. As the experience progressed, I realised that I came into contact with the work and the message it wants to convey. It was as if every day I was able to pick up on a new feature that connected me more to the installation.
Maria Vittoria Dimartino
Daniel de Paula with his work asks us to read the stories behind these objects and by reusing materials already used by companies criticises our capitalist society and states that in the world we already have everything we need and we have all the stories that objects can tell.
On the work Chain chain chain by MacGuffin
The work that impressed me the most at the Video Sound Art Festival was the exhibition of MacGuffin’s magazine, a very special independent Dutch magazine that focuses each issue on a different object. The object is seemingly ordinary, but infinitely enigmatic; the magazine explores and analyses all the different historical, political and cultural meanings and aspects they represent. The MacGuffin installation was, in my opinion, one of the most interesting, as it not only thoroughly examined an object in a comprehensive yet understandable way (unlike other contemporary art works), but also involved the audience by letting each visitor take home a small piece of the festival.
On the work L’ombra mia mi ha fatto paura by Letia Cariello (LETIA)
In the tent, in addition to the linear calendar, numerous signs are superimposed, some of them not very clear, so as not to leave visitors without any answers, I tried to interpret them with them
Some interpreted it as the golden section or others interpreted it as the representation of the Fibonacci sequence. Personally, I interpreted all those signs as a kind of interruption of the linearity of the calendar, thus representing the unexpected events that do not make time linear.
On the work Feeling Thing by Candoco Dance Company e Jo Bannon
In connection with this video, we asked some viewers to have a meditation experience in which we made them reflect on the use of an object and their own relationship with it. Initially, it was certainly intimidating to ask strangers to participate in such an experience, as some people refused and others did not remain serious. Despite this, it was in my opinion an excellent exercise that serves as an introduction to the very special video.
On the activity of mediation with the public
Mediation is a performative act, and in every action, substantial diversification is necessary; to enter into communication with the work, we must relate to it, finding analogies and points of detachment, to create a dialogue, constantly.
The first plane formed by the sphere and the three detached screens would represent the reality of the object in relation to human reality where objects have nothing relevant except for a function assigned by man; the second plane of the screen represents human reality that tries to take the object and take away the life that could be given to it through art and give it only a merely practical and utilitarian function. For this reason, the illustration would be connected to the main theme of this edition of the Festival dedicated to the life of objects and also to seeing a particular object with a vision that goes beyond the human reality limited to the function of that object, but to consider it as an entity in its own right with a transcendental importance to what is the primary intention with which the object was invented.
The object that becomes subject
The twelfth edition of Video Sound Art, a contemporary art festival that has been running in Milan since 2011 and is held in non-canonical venues, this year chose objects as its exhibition theme. The exhibition was held at the Carcano Theatre in Milan from 22 to 28 September, from 7pm to midnight. Through various works and artists in an itinerary in which the visitor is also called upon to be a protagonist, we paused to look at the objects carefully, to study them in their essence and to try to understand what they actually represent in modern society, when everything is now based on consumism.
Objects have been present in our lives since our birth. As children, in fact, we explored the world through them and even today we are continually surrounded by them. In order to fully understand their function, I think it is appropriate to start with the word ‘object’ itself, which comes from the Latin verb obicĕre meaning ‘to place in front of’ or ‘to oppose’. It is easily understood that the intrinsic function of an object is not to be used, but to be placed in front of us ‘subjects’ to be observed and studied and then, eventually, used. Therefore, in the twelfth edition of Video Sound Art, the contemporary art festival that has been active in Milan since 2011, which deals with exhibiting works in unusual places compared to common art galleries, has been concerned with thoroughly investigating the life of objects. This time, in fact, the exhibition was held at the Carcano Theatre in Milan, where the visitor, through a path guided by works and artists in which the visitor himself is also called upon to be an actor, was made fully aware of the objects, and then finally came to elevate the object to a subject.
The entrance to the exhibition is from the courtyard, where you can observe a large blue balloon, filled with helium and trapped in a fishing net, a work by Oli Bonzanigo. The work recalls Naum Gabo’s concept of “stereometric transparency”, in which there is an investigation into the transformation of solids into light forms, but in this case it was also linked to the sound of bar chatter, people at parties, events, etc., recorded directly by the artist. The title Unisono is therefore intended to recall the singularity of the balloon, in which one sees through, the net, and the individual voices, which together manage to create a very special sonority.
Afterwards, you descend into the basement, where the roots of our essence and of the objects are located. Through Daniel de Paula’s complex work Circulação, made with decomposable LED screens, the intention is to show the thread that connects all objects to the rock, to the raw material. The key to interpretation expands and even makes us reflect on the power dynamics within the political, social, economic and historical structures that shape these places to which we are continually attached. In fact, it wants to be a critique of the commodification of the landscape that makes us forget that we all derive from them, and the use of fulgurite, a fossil originated by lightning, once again recalls the intense connection between us and the earth.
Then, passing through the main hall, you take the stairs that will allow the ascent to the true nature of the objects. Before the stairs, in the low foyer, you can observe the sculptures by Caterina Morigi: Labirinti and Soli. They are closely linked to the idea of earth and rock, the place from which many objects come and from which we also come. In fact, the works are reminiscent of rock engravings on stone material, which are intended to emphasise the indissoluble bond between man and nature.
Once on the first floor, in the high foyer, you can observe two particular works by Letizia Cariello (LETIA): L’ombra mia mi ha fatto paura and Con te. The first is a sort of curtain on which a calendar is printed, in which the artist’s research is aimed at stitching together connections and relations between materials and spaces, because as she says, “we can only see time in matter”. The second work, on the other hand, consists of a projection on the wall of a field of green wheat moving in the wind, which leads the observer to a feeling of disorientation, not disturbing, but allowing him to temporarily detach himself from his body, ideally leading him to ‘swim’ within the wheat.
On the gallery of the theatre, at the highest point of the ascent, you can observe the video work Cosmic Generator by Mika Rottenberg, in which the artist wants to emphasise the irrelevance of objects in a capitalist and consumerist society, but also the contrast between the ease with which goods circulate, in opposition precisely to the paradoxical difficulty people have in travelling.
After this reflection, the descent begins, heading towards the stage, where the visitor, until now always an observer, is called upon to act on the objects. There are in fact eight stacks of posters from the Dutch magazine MacGuffin, which every six months releases a very detailed study on a particular object, from which it starts out and continues in an analysis of complex relationships with the object itself, to talk about ethical, social, etc. issues. In this case, the issue is called The Chain, the object in question is a chain, expressed in all its forms, from fashion to bicycle chains, to talk about the new slavery, constraint and resistance movements. The visitor is invited to pick up a poster of his or her choice from the eight stacks and take it home to extend this chain about the exhibition. Back in the low foyer of the theatre, you can also listen to the podcast released by Dutch curators, in a scene set in a pawnshop.
Now that the visitor has finally become an actor, understanding all the potentialities and functions of an object, he is invited to take the final step that will allow him to make the object a subject. In fact, each evening there is a public programme, a video or performance, that changes every evening and helps us to summarise and collect ideas before leaving the exhibition. The screening programme includes Feeling Thing by Jo Bannon, Fresh oranges into the ocean by Silvia Giordano and Pallae: Womanhood Story by Park Sohyun. Bannon’s work represents three different individuals who are in close contact with everyday objects, which are, however, made active participants and transformed into “subjects” of the action in a new human-object relationship. Silvia’s depicts three girls entering their adulthood through a metaphorical dialogue with oranges, in which the object becomes a ‘subject’ through dialogue. Finally, Sohyun shows five female dancers who transform the act of laundry into a new possibility of knowledge of objects and no longer as a boring action. On the opening day, there is a performance of taiko, traditional Japanese drums, by the Kotoji ensemble, in which the drum, as an instrument of communication, has great symbolic power and can be considered a ‘subject’. The performances are: How can you float without sinking? by Silvia Giordano and Drilling Down by Antonio Perticara, this year’s winner of the Open Call, a competition that aims to launch new artists through the presentation of performance works. In Silvia’s performance, the connection between Letizia Cariello’s works and the dance steps designed to represent the work itself is explained. In Drilling Down, on the other hand, you discover a second application of the drill that can be observed if, instead of pointing it at a wall, you point it at your own skull.
However, I would like to focus on the latter, as I had the opportunity to attend it. The exhibition deals with drilling from the earliest days of its appearance in the Neolithic period to the present day. This interesting journey ranges from the areas of primitive medicine, to the mystical beliefs of the Middle Ages, to the impact of psychedelic culture in the second half of the last century. The belief starts, in fact, from the scientific basis that the skull of new-born babies has a hole, the fontanelle, which, according to the belief, allows them to quickly learn information and have a full perception of themselves. Also according to the belief, the closing of this hole once the first year of life has passed would lead the adult individual into a less cognitive state, due to less blood flow to the brain. The resumption of full consciousness can, however, be achieved temporarily by placing oneself upside down or by taking drugs, but for a lasting resumption of the latter, a hole in the skull is necessary, which allows more space for the brain and thus better blood circulation. Perticara’s research is certainly not intended to support drilling, but, starting with the drill object, an invitation to question the concept of reality and fiction in contemporary society.
At this point, you have reached the end of the journey after becoming an actor and achieving awareness of the objects through the MacGuffin work, and after elevating the object to a subject through the public programme, you can reflect individually on the experience. Now, in fact, the visitor is enriched by a greater awareness of the world around him, which will lead him to a different world view. Personally, the festival has given me a new understanding of reality, with greater attention to observation and detail. It has also allowed me to re-evaluate contemporary art by making me fully appreciate objects and everything connected to them.
Ph. 1 Daniel de Paula, circulação, 2019, video-negotiation. Installation view, Video Sound Art XII edition, Teatro Carcano, Milan, 2022. Ph. Yesuqi Lin
Ph. 2 Silvia Giordano, How can you float without sinking?, site-specific performance, 2022. Ph. Alessandro Baldeschi
Ph. 3 MacGuffin, Chain chain chain, 8 wooden plinths, poster. Installation view, Video Sound Art XII edition, Teatro Carcano, Milan, 2022. Ph. Annalisa Lei
Ph 4. Mika Rottenberg, Cosmic Generator, 2017, single-channel video installation, sound, colour, 26’36”, dimensions variable © Mika Rottenberg, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, commissioned by Skulptur Projekte Münster. Installation view. Video Sound Art XII edition, Teatro Carcano, Milan, 2022. Ph. Teresa Fabbri
Ph. 5 Oli Bonzanigo, Unisono, complex installation, 2022. Installation view, Video Sound Art XII edition, Teatro Carcano, Milan, 2022. Ph. Yesuqi Lin
Ph. 6 Mika Rottenberg, Cosmic Generator, 2017, single-channel video installation, sound, colour, 26’36”, dimensions variable © Mika Rottenberg, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, commissioned by Skulptur Projekte Münster. Installation view. Video Sound Art XII edition, Teatro Carcano, Milan, 2022. Ph. Clelia Ricci