Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo

The exhibition project

The Italian Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia presents vice versa, an ideal journey through Italian art of today, an itinerary that tells of identities, history and landscapes – real and imaginary – exploring the complexity and layers that characterize the country's artistic vicissitudes.

The Italian Pavilion, realized by the Directorate-General for the Landscape, Fine Arts, Architecture and Contemporary Art of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, through the Architectural and Contemporary Art Services is curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, who describes the exhibition as, "A portrait of recent art, read as an atlas of themes and attitudes in dialogue with the historical legacy and current affairs, with both a local and international dimension. A cross-dialogue of correspondences, derivations and differences between acclaimed maestros and artists of later generations. An unusual topography, that permits a reevaluation of some basic trajectories in recent Italian art, a vice versa 1 retracing of forgotten paths, the healing of cultural amnesia and gives new visibility to solitary authors."

The creative motive and conceptual determination which support the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities intervention at the Biennale di Venezia, with the promotion of the Italian Pavilion – claims commissioner Maddalena Ragni – contribute to building a platform of comparison no longer solely on the themes of conservation, enhancement and promotion, to which the Ministry traditionally is obliged to respond, but also the new and decisive question of fruition. It offers opportunities for reflection that foster debate on contemporary art and supports current critical positions and readings, in continuity with the premises of the International Art Exhibition, in all its complexity.

The exhibition is divided into seven spaces – six rooms and a garden – that each house the work of two artists, who are brought together on the basis of the affinity of their respective poetics and common interests in themes, ideas and practices.

Following a concept theorized by Giorgio Agamben in Categorie italiane. Studi di Poetica (1996), in which he argues that in order to interpret Italian culture, it is necessary to identify a "series of polarized conjugate concepts" that are able to describe its fundamental characteristics, the curator has chosen seven binomials, around which he structured the project: body/history, view/place, sound/silence, perspective/surface, familiar/strange, system/fragment and tragedy/comedy.

The return to the centrality of theme in history, lived and returned through the filter of one's own body and personal biography are present in the work of Francesco Arena and Fabio Mauri; the importance of the relationship between gaze and perception of the landscape, as places of memory and collective space characterize the work of Luigi Ghirri and Luca Vitone; the relationship between sound and silence, which explore of the scope of sensible excess, characterize the research of Massimo Bartolini and Fracesca Grilli; while the connection between perspective and surface, illusion and artifice where the artwork remains poised between real and represented space is found in Giulio Paolini and Marco Tirelli's works. The relationship between the collective imagination, popular culture and personal biography – summed up in the binomial familiar/strange – is confronted by Flavio Favelli and Marcello Maloberti; the relationship between system and fragment that introduces reflections on archives and the obsession with classification, lists and collection, is highlighted in the works of Gianfranco Baruchello and Elisabetta Benassi; finally with the relevance of classical dualism between tragedy and comedy, inserted into contemporary reality unites the work of Piero Golia and Sislej Xhafa.

In a dialogue between artist and artist, room and room, the exhibition presents works that have mostly been created specifically for the occasion – twelve out of fourteen – and is proposed as a platform for reflection on the characteristics and contradictions of Italian culture, returning that vital complexity to our recent art which is created out of intuitions and contradictions in which the game of vice versa is one of its fundamental elements, thus asserting the status of originality and international importance that it deserves.

The catalog

The catalogue is published in both Italian and English by Mousse and includes a reflection on the exhibition's structure, signed by curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, and pieces dedicated to each artist, complete with technical specifications and information on their research. The publication is enriched by seven essays dedicated to each of the thematic dialogues, written by Marco Belpoliti, Stefano Catucci, Stefano Chiodi, Andrea Cortellessa, Gabriele Guercio, Riccardo Venturi e Elena Volpato.

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