NON NON NON is Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi's first retrospective exhibition in Italy. The three sections of the show include seven films, a group of watercolors and drawings from the collection of works produced by the artists over the last forty years. While walking in the monumental nave of the Hangar Bicocca, Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi's installations initiate the viewer along a path of understanding the human condition through the analysis and deconstruction of the images presented.
Accompanying the experience is the very measured dialogue between artwork and space created by exhibition curators Andrea Lissoni and Chiara Bertola. The title NON NON NON refers to the text/manifesto in one of Ricci Lucchi's watercolors, in which, avoiding simplistic categorizations of their work, the artists emphasize their primal urge to reflect on the contemporary condition. It may seem like a contradiction, but it is precisely this perspective that drives Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi to collect, comprehend, catalog, re-photograph and manipulate hundreds of films left over from the first half of the 20th century. The films come from different European countries and are partly amateur — shot by European colonialists in Africa or the Far East, or by soldiers at the front during WWI — and partly professional, shot by the likes of Luca Comerio (1878-1940), the Italian documentary film pioneer. The "analytic camera," a device invented by the artists, can re-project, re-photograph and re-edit the delicate original frames transforming them into the matrices for their films. Analyzed individually, the single frames make up films that deploy experimental cinematic techniques: zooming in on specific parts of the frame, tinting the film, change the film's speed, etc. The present can begin to be understood through the analysis of this historical material.
Entering the Hangar Bicocca nave, a magmatic music background welcomes visitors and anticipates the stately March of Man installation, commissioned by Harald Szeemann for the Venice Biennale in 2001. Three large screens positioned on the ground one behind another mark the right nave, inviting visitors to walk through the stages of the march. The first film — made in 1895, with 32 frames (two seconds), and taken from chronophotography research by film pioneer Etienne-Jules Marey — shows a group of Africans marching in front of the camera on a background of a white sheet. The neutrality of the scientific shots seems to suggest the ingenuity of the film medium at the time that was already lost in the film on the second screen. Africa, 1910; partly repainted in acid yellow; a hunting scene and a banquet in which a group of Africans is forced to dress in Western styles. The film highlights the awareness of the camera in representing the power relations between colonists and colonized. The march ends in the 1960s. Immersed in intense fuchsia, the third film shows a tourist with sunglasses, proud, having his picture taken between two topless African women. The violence of the second film is trivialized by the stupid expression of the tourist who looks at us and looks at us again.
The exhibition's second section is in the Cube, a barrel-vaulted space with three giant screens outlined by elegant black frames, which serve to restore the films' pictorial dimension. Five different works alternate on the screens, each using a different number of projections and offering an experience that leaves the viewer breathless. The senselessness of war, colonialist logic and human violence on fellow humans are presented in the five films, not only in their most visible and cruel aspects but also in the small unimportant gestures that reveal how violence is part of the everyday lives of the dominators. Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi take great care with the images hidden among the fast paced frames, giving visual form to the concept of pietas: a new exercise in vision that these works inspire.
Leaving the Cube, a temporary pavilion at the opposite end of the left nave (conveniently left empty by the curators — a sort of decompression chamber) hosts a series of watercolors by Angela Ricci Lucchi and a screening of Carrousel de Jeux (2005). The film presents the couple's vast collection of early 20th century toys. Documenting the ability of ideology to inhabit the most insignificant objects, Carrousel de Jeux echoes the Shadow Play installation by Hans-Peter Feldmann located in the initial exhibition spaces of the Hangar. The series of watercolors by Ricci Lucchi represents the massive research and documentation that the couple carries out when preparing each film. Some watercolors serve as storyboards for the organization of the film material; others derive from images extracted from the film frames. The long roll containing the minute drawings inspired by Armenian stories told to Angela by Yervant's father is a precious testimonial.
NON NON NON is a powerful show that definitively places the work of Angela Ricci Lucchi and Yervant Gianikian among the cornerstones of contemporary art.
Yervant Giankikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi: NON NON NON
Via Eugenio Chiesa, 2, Milan
Through 10 June 2012