Alessandro Di Pietro: Felix at Marsèlleria

Alessandro Di Pietro is among those Italian artist who, within an international context, are trying to affirm a shifted vision of the world. This idea came to me simply because works like Di Pietro’s may contribute to a sort of repolarization of the well established North European school, by offering an alternative perspective on ways to making art.

Last week, these thoughts were reaffirmed when I visited Marsèlleria in Milan. Alessandro Di Pietro has always been an experimental artist, and this exhibition is not exactly outside of his modus operandi. By adopting different materials and a very specific meta-narration, Di Pietro re-framed Marsèlleria’s exhibition space in Milan as a vacuum where a number of capsules are stored.

Felix is the last chapter of a four-episode series, developed by Alessandro Di Pietro since 2016 through an exhibition series corresponding to a prequel – Tomb Writer (solve et coagula) (Bergamo, 2016); the appearance of the protagonist – Downgrade Vampire (Milan, 2016); and the entry of his “psychological switch” or “ghost” – Towards Orion: stories from the backseat (Paris, 2017). Started during Di Pietro’s residency at the American Academy in Rome (where it was recently part of the exhibition The Tesseract) Felix is the chapter dedicated to the antagonist. As a base for his exhibitions, Di Pietro has made use of narrative structures: a structural framework underlying the order and manner in which a narrative is presented to the reader. As we can easily imagine, Di Pietro questioned the roles and the given qualities of all of these figures; and in this last chapter, the enemy is not the main character’s nemesis: rather he moves on a parallel channel, without being identified as a negative projection of the ‘good.’

 

Alessandro Di Pietro, Felix, Marsèlleria, Milano

Alessandro Di Pietro: Felix
Exhibition view at Marsèlleria, Milan
Ph. Sara Scanderebech

Alessandro Di Pietro, Felix, Marsèlleria, Milano

Alessandro Di Pietro: Felix
Exhibition view at Marsèlleria, Milan
Ph. Sara Scanderebech

 

As I mentioned, the exhibition space is made into a kind of vacuum where time and space have been completely eliminated. This reset allows the artist to work inside and outside the plot of his story with an unrealistic, deterritorialized approach. We are in Milan, where Felix emerged directly from its experience in Rome, at the American Academy – actually, a fragment from that show lies in the darkest spot of Marsèlleria’s gallery space – in a logic of “difference and repetition,” to use Gilles Deleuze’s words. This exhibition needs to be situated in continuity with the previous four episodes, as it follows a seamless simple grammatical structure, however, it introduces substantial differences.
In this case, Di Pietro works on the development of a “nameless” character, something attributable to the concept of monstrosity. The concept of namelessness is related to a sort of anti-normative process – something that denies, or at least questions, the classical way of producing knowledge through cataloguing and classification. Monsters, according to the scientist Isidore Geoffrey De Saint Hilaire, do not exist outside of the scientific system of their time, but have proven to be extremely long-lived, and also to be continually updating from a linguistic point of view, because they are defined as not yet studied nor classified physical entities.

 

Alessandro Di Pietro, Felix, Marsèlleria, Milano

Alessandro Di Pietro: Felix
Exhibition view at Marsèlleria, Milan
Ph. Sara Scanderebech

Alessandro Di Pietro, Felix, Marsèlleria, Milano

Alessandro Di Pietro: Felix
Exhibition view at Marsèlleria, Milan
Ph. Sara Scanderebech

 

Di Pietro’s stored capsules work in opposition to the logic of thermal energy storage, that allows excess thermal energy to be stored and used hours, days, or even months later. In this case, the energy seems to be dissipated into the space without a clear reason. The capsules, even though connected to the heating system, are totally autonomous.
The capsules, composed of two opposite poles, are partially covered with a lion skin, as in the marble group Hercules and Lichas by Antonio Canova. Canova’s sculpture re-enacts the myth of Hercules furens, an episode from Hercules’ life that contains a recall to another episode, when the Greek hero was only eighteen and killed a lion, and for the rest of his life he would carry its skin. We see Hercules struggling with Lichas with the Nemean Lion skin at his feet, as we see the repetition of past episodes in the 3D-printed lion skins that cover the capsules in Di Pietro’s saga. The skin is a connector in a timeless dimension, able to travel within the lines of the story. In spite of this element of unification, the capsules in the exhibition space are all different. They appear as battery packs made out of two poles that need to be activated in order to function. There are active capsules that give off heat, there are exhausted capsules and there are capsules ready to be used. All of these capsules seem to assume the role of temporary time storage but, unlike most other time capsules, these are not buried or hidden, but part of a rhizomatic system.

 

Alessandro Di Pietro, Felix, Marsèlleria, Milano

Alessandro Di Pietro: Felix
Exhibition view at Marsèlleria, Milan
Ph. Sara Scanderebech

 

As I said in the beginning, this exhibition is not a delimitated sign for something afar or missing (an idea, perhaps, or a narrative); rather, it is about a material presence, the one we are able to preserve. It is an open story that four chapters cannot enclose, a story that passes from the space to its visitors and is designated to travel through empty air without any handhold, because as stated in the text accompanying the exhibition: “Every day a new, subtle layer of history distanced me from the truth.”

Alessandro Di Pietro: Felix is at Marsèlleria permanent exhibition, Milano through May 4, 2018

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by Vincenzo Estremo
in Featured

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