texts by Gianluca e Massimiliano De Serio, Suad Omar Sheikh Esahaq, Andrea Del Boca, Luca Ciabarri, Gabriele Proglio
format: 16,5 x 22 cm
date of publication : 2019
€28,00The second book in the Ultralibri series, Stanze in a certain way narrates eight years in the creative evolution of the duo of artists and directors Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio, who recently presented SPACCAPIETRE, the only Italian title in competition in Venice Days at the Venice Film Festival 2020. The book offers an experience full of theatrical, poetic and cinematographic projects dedicated to the Somali lands and to the critique of Italy’s colonial past, linking old and new subjugations. The volume includes, among others, a contribution by Andrea Del Boca and historical essays by Luca Ciabarri and Gabriele Proglio. Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio were born in Turin in 1978. They have worked together since 1999 as visual artists, screenwriters and film directors. Over the years they have directed short films, documentaries and produced installations that have participated in the most important national and international film festivals and various exhibitions.
texts by Leonardo Bigazzi, Beatrice Merz, Nina Zimmer, Petrit Halilalj, Sala Ahmetaj
format: 23 x 27 cm
date of publication: May 2019
€35,00This catalogue is published on the occasion of the exhibition Petrit Halilaj. Shkrepëtima curated by Leonardo Bigazzi and held at Fondazione Merz from 29th October 2018 to 17th February 2019. “In recent years, Petrit Halilaj has succeeded in transforming his own biography and the recent history of his nation, Kosovo, into living matter for his works. Despite working with a public and collective dimension, his work often originates from a personal experience, and is usually the result of an intimate process shared with the people dearest to him. Using sculpture, video, performance and drawing, Halilaj has developed a deep reflection on the construction mechanisms of cultural identity, on the value of memory and on the role of art in the shaping of collective consciousness in contemporary society. Shkrepëtima is a project which also includes the solo exhibitions at the Paul Klee Zentrum in Bern and the performance that was held in the ruins of the former Runik Culture House, which for over thirty years had been the symbol of the cultural identity of its citizens. The whole community was involved in the project, through presentations, meetings and a workshop with elementary school students. The last stage of the entire project was the re-contextualisation in the form of sculptures and monumental installations, of the sets, costumes and props of the performance in the exhibition space of the Fondazione Merz in Turin. The images of the performance are shown in a single-channel video (Shkrepëtima, 2018) in which parts of the 4K filming of the performance alternate with those made by the artist in a more subjective manner with his Go-Pro inside the ruins of the House of Culture before the redevelopment. This kind of film, deliberately of an ‘amateurish’ style, is an integral part of Halilaj’s research process and constitutes today most of his video production. Each project generates dozens of hours of footage made by the artist, often for documentation purposes, and in most cases is not used in the production of a work. We might add that the title Shkrepëtima summarises the very essence of the artist’s vision. Art can be a ‘spark’ able to restart a process of reflection on our identity, and represents an opportunity to imagine alternative hypotheses where today’s politics and current economics have already clearly failed. The fate of Runik’s House of Culture remained uncertain, but following the performance the Ministry of Culture ordered the inclusion of the building in the list of property declared to be of national interest, guaranteeing its future restoration. In recent years, Halilaj’s work has therefore sought concrete solutions to real problems using not only the freedom, but also the economies of the art system. Everyone should have the right to have access to beauty, not just those who can afford to enter a museum or live in a Western city. Albeit in different contexts and on different scales, the processes recall the practice of socially engaged artists like Theaster Gates. By intervening directly on the processes of construction of the collective history of his community, and by bringing it closer to its origins, Halilaj proposes a universal reflection on the potential of art and its power to transform reality. But also on the fundamental role it can play in building a people’s historical awareness and in managing the responsibilities of memory, so that this be inclusive and therefore able to reject a nationalist rhetoric. Starting from the story of a small country seemingly far from us, Halilaj reminds us that only through a deep awareness of our past can we assume the correct responsibility to build the future.” (Leonardo Bigazzi)
with a text by Leonardo Bigazzi
format: 23 x 27 cm
date of publication: October 2018
€5,00This small publication has been printed on the occasion of the exhibition Shkrepëtima by Petrit Halilaj (29 October 2018 - 17 February 2019) held at Fondazione Merz. The Shkrepëtima project presented at the Fondazione Merz continues the artist’s investigation into the historical roots of Runik, the little Kosovar town in which he grew up, from its Neolithic origins to its recent past. The exhibition is the culminating and conclusive moment of the project, entirely produced by the Fondazione Merz. The first and fundamental chapter of the project was the performance held on 7 July 2018 in the ruins of the Runik Culture House, which for over thirty years had been the symbol of the cultural identity of its citizens. This show was followed by another, at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Berne, Switzerland (20 July - 19 August 2018). The exhibition presents a new series of sculptures and monumental installations that re-contextualise the settings, costumes and stage props of the performance inside the exhibition space. In the work of Halilaj the ruins of the Culture Centre take on a voice to recount history, becoming the expression of a precise will to remember the past in a context in which the desire for removal of memory is very strong. Through his dreamlike and visionary language, Halilaj has achieved a surprising balance between the weight of the history of these fragments and the physical lightness arising from their suspension. Inside the Fondazione Merz, a former 1930s industrial structure, the artist has reconstructed the proportions and volumes of Runik’s Cultural Centre using the wooden stage sets of the performance. Halilaj has managed to relate the two buildings and two very different realities, which certainly represent a point of reference for the communities that were born and grew around them. His intervention reminds us not only of the centrality of the places of memory in the construction of our identity, but also that their potential is not necessarily limited to a city or a nation, and can be expressed in various forms, generating a space of shared reflection.
format: 23 x 27 cm
date of publication: December 2016
€5,00This booklet is the ideal complement to the catalogue of the solo exhibition that the Fondazione Merz dedicated to the Egyptian artist Wael Shawky, winner of the first edition of the Mario Merz Prize, an international biennial award for art and music. The exhibition ran from 2 November 2016 to 5 February 2017. The book collects the images of the spectacular staging of the exhibition at the Fondazione’s spaces in Turin. The site-specific exhibition project, conceived by the artist himself, focuses on the Al Araba Al Madfuna film trilogy, presented for the first time in its entirety. Wael Shawky invites us to go through the physical elements that make up the film: stage architectures and sculptures, set in an artificial landscape of sand. The scenography thus produced, together with the projections, offers the possibility of an immersive experience between dream and reality, creating an original atmosphere that takes up the historical, literary and cinematographic references through which the artist has imagined his stories.
texts by Abdellah Karroum, Beatrice Merz and Mohamed Mustagab
format: 23 x 27 cm
date of publication: November 2016
€35,00This catalogue is published on the occasion of the exhibition Wael Shawky: Al Araba Al Madfuna curated by Abdellah Karroum and held at Fondazione Merz from 2nd November 2016 to 5th February 2017. “Shawky is an artist who embraces the exhibition space in a gesture of giving and sharing fragments of a world that is impossible to translate into controlled physical forms. […] Wael Shawky: Al Araba Al Madfuna invites the viewer to walk through elements of the films and their processes of production – architectural artefacts, sculptures, and drawings on animal skins – placed inside a built landscape of sand. The viewer moves in temporal reverse, beginning with the last film, Al Araba Al Madfuna III, in colour, followed by three-dimensional elements taken from the storyboard, and then, finally, Shawky’s older films in black and white. Al Araba Al Madfuna II is second and then, in the last, and most claustrophobic room, Al Araba Al Madfuna I. This film is accessible only after descending twenty metres of stairs at a steep forty-five degree angle, as if entering a mastaba installed in the underground rooms of the museum. This path refers to a conceptual approach of inverted route, from the surface to the underground, from the evident to the mysterious. The inverted narrative was inspired by the inverse and all-too-human process of digging up that which is underground in the hopes of discovering ancient treasures or our own memories. The last film – Al Araba Al Madfuna III – emphasises the fundamental relationship between the artwork’s place of production and the site of its display: a landscape of sand and stones is created in the exhibition space to recreate the ‘temple’ architecture housing the reenacted story. The viewer is confronted in this last film, the most complex of the series, with a technical montage and conceptual visual vocabulary. The scale of the projection renders the characters – human figures – larger than life, and the inversion of the image creates disorientation. […] Al Araba Al Madfuna continues Shawky’s interest in using existing stories and histories that are part of our culture as points of departure for exploring the production of historical narratives and their far-reaching effects, reading official histories and myths through and against one another. […] Wael Shawky’s work is based on historical narratives, sociological interpretations, and fictional writing, from which he constructs his way of looking at past myths alongside the present. The artist’s films interpret political and historical narratives using an original artistic vocabulary and storyboards that scenically convey the subjectivity of all supposedly objective media or official propaganda. The particular storyboards that prefigured Shawky’s Al Araba Al Madfuna films were inspired by a journey taken in the early 2000s, an exploration of Upper Egypt’s history and contemporary context, where myths live among daily encounters, through ethnographic immersion and scientific lens. […] Mohamed Mustagab’s parables from Dayrut al-Sharif (1983) are a main source for Wael Shawky’s Al Araba Al Madfuna. Each of the films retell his short stories, The J-B-R’s, The Offering, Horsemen Adore Perfumes, and Sunflowers respectively. […] Connecting mythological perspectives of metaphysical visions with realities of the physical, material world, the film series ruminates on the ritual of oral communal storytelling which, through repetition and re-telling, transforms tales into mythical histories that themselves become new readings of progress and change in society. The entire Al Araba Al Madfuna project was inspired by a journey, a place within history, and a personal experience of that place. The storyboards, drawings, sculptures, and films that emerged were made between Abydos, the place of the artist’s site of expedition, and the exhibition spaces and museums where the artwork is later made visible. His journey to Upper Egypt is marked and made of places and encounters, of archaeological sites, of the people who care for the memory of the past, the people who wait, the people who dig, and finally, of those who write. It is this latter category, embodied by the work of the Egyptian novelist Mustagab, that is the most influential for Shawky in this project. In a way, the artist looks at humankind’s experience of history as his own experience, of both accountability for some pressing issues in the world and watching as older values die or mutate into other forms of life.” (Abdellah Karroum)
texts by Olga Gambari, Michel Houellebecq, Michel Maffesoli, Beatrice Merz, Chantal Nava, Walter Siti and Monique Veaute
format: 14,5 x 21 cm
date of publication: November 2014
€30,00This catalogue is published on the occasion of the exhibition Todestriebe by MASBEDO (Nicolò Massazza and Iacopo Bedogni) held at Fondazione Merz from 3rd October 2014 to 11th January 2015. “The mantis waiting in the shadows is a still taken from the latest video by the Masbedo, entitled Todestriebe, which means death wish, a concept identified by Freud as an unavoidable aspect of the human unconscious, which aspires to the enjoyment rather than to one’s well-being. […] Todestriebe is also the title of the exhibition that Iacopo Bedogni and Nicolò Massazza are presenting at the Fondazione Merz, because it is an instinct that permeates every work in their exhibition project. Conflict, dramatic relationships, loneliness all appearing together in an atmosphere of aggression and passiveness. It seems that life itself is cannibal by definition, like a kind of mantis. The vision of all this is a real, deep, titanic lack of communication, a silence that comes like a glaciation and envelops the universe, with all its protagonists, organic or otherwise, including the gods and the space beyond the known world. The Masbedo speak of this vision by creating a sensible appearance dense with perceptions, forging a mythical and hallucinatory imagery, which speaks an ancestral language in which many elements have been absorbed. They stage universal stories forged into visual icons, with a hybrid language which, within the moving narrative, merges the styles of other artistic alphabets in a continuous creative and technological experimentation. […] The exhibition at the Fondazione Merz is a long journey that involves the city with several other initiatives. The observer enters and follows a story done in stages, which traces out the last twelve years of the artists' work and offers a debate on the issue of incommunicability as a characteristic aspect of the human condition. Historical works and other, new, ones explore breaking moulds and experiments in the light of what they call “technological humanism”: artistic research as a critical investigation of the anthropocentric dimension exasperated by postmodernism, in the context of new media. A theme that has been developed by the artists at the workshop conducted at the Holden School with a group of students including pupils from the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti, the results of which were presented at Artissima. The Fondazione is transformed into a place of apparitions, parables of contemporary mythology. The screens and projections are presented as entrances, as living narrative elements. The works in the exhibition investigate the idea of contemporary failure, an aphasic emptiness born of the impossibility of relationship and communication with oneself, first of all, and then with others and with society, but also with history and nature”. (Olga Gambari) This book reproduces the photographic documentation of the exhibition and it is enriched by texts by Olga Gambari, Michel Houellebecq, Michel Maffesoli, Beatrice Merz, Chantal Nava, Walter Siti, Monique Veaute.