For reasons that no one has ever managed to explain and as far as I can recall, much of my childhood was spent drawing silvery skies on headed writing paper.
Only skies, embroidered with clouds, flowers, dogs, cats, goldfish, hearts, biscuits, mummies and daddies with floundering arms and dangling legs, ready to fall and split their heads open at any moment. Although I gained great satisfaction from these visions, everyone argued that things do not float in the air like helium balloons and felt obliged to grab a black marker, seize my maladroit scribbles by the ankles and anchor them firmly to grass, wings, branches, reins or nests. Aghast, I would knit my brows and shake my head. Then, one day, my father informed me in no uncertain terms that seeing himself dangling like that gave him giddy spells and that he would much prefer to spend the rest of his life on terra firma. Even stars fall, he decreed. So convincing did his reasoning seem that I was left with no alternative but to agree. So, little by little, my aerial worlds started plunging to the ground with dull thuds and opened up to the appearance of uncertain and wobbly horizons.
The concept that things do not float in the air but climb like ivy via numerous anchor points is firmly established in the mind of Céline Condorelli, an artist/architect/designer from London who has, for some years now, been applying herself painstakingly and ceaselessly to a highly original and complex exploration that goes by the name of “Support Structure”. This magical formula is not easily translated into Italian, partly thanks to its successful phonic content with a very English sound and meaning. We could, perhaps, say “strutture di sostegno” or “strutture di supporto” or “di rinforzo” – meaning architraves, walls, scaffolding, floors, safety stairs, pedestals, plinths, columns, soundtracks, registers and catalogue files but also the many forms of arbitration and mediation, humanitarian aid, teamwork, political alliances, friendship, psychoanalysis, or the devices adopted to set up the complex production and participatory machine that sustains an art exhibition, for instance. Basically, everything that lies behind, above and beneath, that comes before and after, and that is hidden in the shadows or invisible.
Céline Condorelli is a very resourceful and enthusiastic young woman who gazes wide-eyed at the world front and back, dissecting it with clear-cut and exploratory incisions. Her staring, jet-black eyes convey the sure expression of a Japanese sword and give none of her thoughts away. When people ask which terrain her work is rooted in, she shrugs her shoulders and replies that she is not particularly fond of pigeonholes and labels. She cites the Bauhaus, Russian Constructivism, Neo-plasticism and conceptual and relational art as too Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, Bruno Munari and Michelangelo Pistoletto. These references may not overflow but they certainly ooze out of the exhibition focusing on her recent production and on in the Shed of the HangarBicocca until next spring. The title “bau bau” alludes with ill-concealed irony to both the German etymology of the word “bau” (meaning “construction” but also “under construction”) and the Italian onomatopoeic interpretation of the sound emitted by dogs (corresponding to woof woof in English and wan wan in Japanese). “A dog Barking at the Moon”, says Condorelli with an air of amusement.
You can count the bones in this exhibition, there is nothing to sink your teeth in. The score is a spare, dry and highly sophisticated prose that mostly shuns illustration. Screens, curtains, seats, stairs, posters, electric signs, mirrors, lamps and door stops. Relational structures for listening, reading, comparison, aggregation, rest, reflection (“Structure for…” appears in the title of many works, just as many works are dedicated “to…”). The shadow of poetic dearth they seem to cast however conceals a bestiary of fantastic presences. As the artist suggests, the image of a golden jellyfish with musical movements embraces the work The Bottom Line (to Kathrin Böhm) (2014): a light softly draped curtain made of gilded matte vacillates gracefully to transform the exhibition space into a dappled surface of sun and shadow, day and night. The vision of a sleepy African elephant appears peacefully on the speakers of Structure for Listening (2012), while a softly slithering, banana/tomato coloured caterpillar adds effect to the red bolted display cases of Support Structure (Red) (2012-2014): an archive packed with historic documentation on the textile and rubber industries, on which a huge adulterated image of an Egyptian cotton field (White Gold of Egypt, 2012) opens like a theatre curtain.
The excited voices of the puppets in Siamo venuti per dire di No (2013) echo and bounce back and forth in the exhibition. This beautiful and colourful video installation plucks at the most heartfelt strings of Elio Vittorini’s Conversazioni in Sicilia and they resound in the plots of the Carolingian trilogy which inspires all Sicilian puppet tradition: “Where are you? Where are you? It’s too dark”, shouts a fearful Silvestro to a soldier. “Buuuuu Silence! Buuuuuu” responds the unruly puppet audience.
Not far away, artificial light falls intermittently on a quite fascinating work for the surrounding context that brings together the artist and the workers of the Pirelli Technological Hub in Settimo Torinese, who share an interest in tyre production. Nerofumo (2014) is a disjointed and disaggregated work coiled up in an installation of floppy and wrinkly tyres laid over an iron structure like snake skins left to dry in the sun. They then meander their way along the exhibition route in the form of tracks, prints and lumps of rubber, looking like fallen black meteors.
There is no groping in this obscurity but all is shrouded and the appearance of Spatial Composition 11 (to John Tilbury) (2014) conveys a sense of the unreal. Heads tilt left and right searching for the right angle, while the eyes glide hesitantly through the folds of a thick blanket padded with concrete and felt, beneath which the shapeless image of a mysterious objet is harboured and ferments. The key to the enigma of this absolutely fascinating work seems to lie in a 60-year-old photograph – in which the unknown object is revealed in the interiors of the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz as part of the “Neoplastic Room” project by Polish painter Władysław Strzemiński – or beneath the thin, crinkled paper skin of baubau (to James Langdon) (2014), on which figures concealed behind an ambiguous legal status appear like light tattoos faded by passing time.
Suspended from the ceiling like an incandescent star, a lamp made of coloured neon tubes (Functional Configurations, 2008) casts its blades of light all around, heralding a flood of photons and a diverse tonal range. Night turns into day. A prolonged applause of light bulbs hanging on the cadenced pauses of an interrupted thought (I refuse–to be coerced… etcetera, 2014) reverberates full height on the walls, until its impetus is exhausted in the pages of a book that speaks of friendship and loyalty (The Company She Keeps, 2014). Blotches of sunshine speckle the shiny heart-shaped leaves of the philodendrons (the “friend of the trees”) that cover the hexagonal sculpture À Bras Le Corps – with Philodendron (to Amalia Pica) (2014), while a stepladder planted in the laminated beech plywood of two ER Royal Mail office desks (The Double and The Half (to Avery Gordon), 2014) lifts both gaze and spirit, levelling them with the view of a recently stretched sky anchored to a large window that the artist has stuck in the side of the museum (part of the work Alterations To Existing Conditions (to Simon Popper), 2014). This starched blue sky ends up, albeit off stage, becoming one of the pillars of this exhibition, on the alabaster tracks of which glistening moths move silently backwards and forwards, at sunrise and at sunset, first stars and red moons, as if driven by invisible silver fans.
© all rights reserved
until 10 May 2015
Céline Condorelli bau bau
Curated by Andrea Lissoni