The abandoned Casa Bossi [Bossi House], in Novara, was originally an apartment building. Monumental and out-of-scale with the city's urban fabric, it is slightly out of line with the street and rotated to fully benefit from the sunlight. Built by Alessandro Antonelli 50 metres away from the Basilica of San Gaudenzio, the building is one of the products of Novara's late 19th century renaissance, and serves as counterpoint to the dome that towers over the city. Much like the dome, Casa Bossi was built in a "technical" Neoclassical style with big, thick walls and pushed to the limits of static feasibility.
Inside, it spreads over 5,000 square metres, through seven floors accessed via staircases big and small — four in total: one grand staircase, one for servants, one for tenants, and one for service — situated in blocks set around two central courtyards. The apartments differ greatly, from the more austere to the sumptuous, sometimes elegantly frescoed and complete with fireplaces, patios and terraces. All enjoy sweeping views of the valley and the nearby dome of San Gaudenzio.
Abandoned for more than thirty years — its decaying rooms with flaking plaster and crumbling walls open onto the corridors, stripped of all but the rarest metal object and left to rot like a carcass —, Casa Bossi is today the setting of an artistic intervention by Gian Maria Tosatti. The intervention was commissioned by the Comitato d'Amore per Casa Bossi [Committee of Love for Casa Bossi], which works to further for the building's refurbishment and use as a cultural centre, and curated by Alessandro Facente and Julia Draganovic.
Tosatti is an artist with origins in the theatre world, and his work is always inspired by the remarkable locations he manages to find. To these, he applies his imagination, turning them into eloquent stage-sets. This organic process starts with the spaces, their past and present, and the stories and memories they harbour. His interventions are strongly constructed and calculated but hard to perceive as the product of the human hand. One such example can be found in his current installation at Milan's Galleria Bianconi, where Tosatti transformed a basement into the remains of an apartment after a fire.
The same happens, but more so, in Casa Bossi, where the artist's intrusion is almost indistinguishable from the pre-existing reality. Here, Tosatti explores the bands of light entering through the windows, introducing barely perceptible pervasive changes: the slightest movement of a pile of dust, some broken glass, dry leaves or a graffiti-covered wall to which a handful of moths is stuck. A slowly dripping tap and an old telephone that sometimes emits a soft noise give the impression that the house retains a remnant of life and form the work's soundtrack, faint but amplified by the empty building.
The few remains, objects from the house's previous life, have not been removed but simply repositioned: an old cast-iron radiator sits in the centre of an empty room, an old iron bed, a leftover from who knows what past life, has been covered with a worn, white sheet as if it had been waiting for someone for quite some time. With its negligible intrusion, the play of chiaroscuro and the dust — shining when crossing the light and creating multiple nuances in the shadows —, the work is subtle to the limits of opportunism. The artist seems to have worked by absence. Despite this, the Tetralogia della polvere [Tetralogy of dust] is paradoxically monumental.
Tosatti's actions do not regenerate their surroundings nor do they reveal anything specific. Rather, they add meaning, depth and intensity to them; they accentuate the archaeological aspect and ruin that surrounds them, transforming the building into an inner space, one of memory, and turning visitors into witnesses. Amplifying the sense of time, the result of Tosatti's intervention is extremely melancholic, but also theatrically engaging.