Concerted tale

Under the artistic direction of Emanuele Guidi, AR/GE Kunst’s new exhibition proposes a concerted tale in order to refocus the attention on what institution, art and community may mean today.

A good way to describe the exhibition at the AR/GE Kunst in Bolzano, which opened in September under the new artistic direction of Emanuele Guidi, might be the assertion made by Stephen Willats in the 1960s: “The artwork having a dynamic, interactive social function”.
AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano
Top: Prologue II . Photo S.T.I.F.F. Above: Lorenzo Sandoval and S.T.I.F.F., Mutant Matters , AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano. Photo S.T.I.F.F.
This social function is the concept that best marries the works on display to a curatorial idea that takes a stance from the very first with its title: “Prologue Part One”. This prologue is a not overly metaphorical exhortation to read a concerted tale conveyed via forms, pictures and words in order to illustrate practices and memories that will refocus the attention on what institution, art and community are or may mean today.
AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano
Lorenzo Sandoval and S.T.I.F.F., Mutant Matters , AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano. Photo S.T.I.F.F.
It is Stephen Willatz who gives us the first key to “References, Paperclips and Cha Cha Cha”, the title of the exhibition and a homage to Are You good Enough for the Cha Cha Cha , an artist’s book by Willats published in 1982. Dismembered and rearranged for the occasion, it is the result of work devoted to the memorable Cha Cha Club in London where the post-punk culture revamped its notion of “community”, pitting the “social function” of music and freedom of expression against the free-trade policies adopted by the Tory government, which had begin to dismantle the old welfare state. The Cha Cha Club was a pocket of resistance to Margaret Thatcher and her famous claim “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women.”
AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano
Lorenzo Sandoval and S.T.I.F.F., Mutant Matters , AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano. Photo S.T.I.F.F.
No longer seeing the reality from a single standpoint but delivering the opportunity to build it, each according to their own sense of belonging, is the lead followed by this lengthy project expressed via Willats but that is echoed in the other works, starting with Mutant Matters , by the architects’ collective S.T.I.F.F. in collaboration with the curator and artist Lorenzo Sandoval . This self-sufficient module adapts to the physical dimension of its space, here a place of exhibition and therefore of sharing, dedicated to interaction and the exchange of knowledge. It is a basic chair model that is assembled with others to change its original use and become a bookcase containing a selection of books resurrected from the AR/GE Kunst archives; or it can be turned into an agora for debates, a platform for a performance, a place of reflection, which is what happened with the presentation of Gareth Kennedy’s Folk Fiction
AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano
Prologue II . Photo Annelie Bortolotti
The concept of “self-constructing” reality refers to the decision to participate in the creation of a social identity based on democratic principles, a process that the American intellectual Gene Sharp has been exploring in his books for more than 20 years and that the artists Curandi Katz (Valentina Curandi and Nathaniel Katz) picked up on to present a bound version of 28 translations of his most famous book: From Dictatorship to Democracy. Circulated worldwide on the Internet, From Dictatorship to Democracy has been used to disseminate non-violent resistance practices by many protest movements – from the former Yugoslavia to the Egypt of the Arab Spring.
AR/GE Kunst
Lorenzo Sandoval and S.T.I.F.F., Mutant Matters , AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano. Photo S.T.I.F.F.
The Pacifist Library Action #5: Dispersal is the title adopted by the artists to circulate and share not only the book’s contents but also the copyleft manner employed to circulate it. A photocopier allows visitors to take a selection of books from the Gallery’s archives and take them home, complete with some of Gene Sharp’s book on the back of every page. On the one side of the room, Willats’ book is deconstructed to provide a horizontal reading of an experience that is symptomatic of all his artistic research and, on the other, a mechanical process allows the books to be broken up and recomposed to share practices and provide an awareness that will impact on reality.
AR/GE Kunst
Lorenzo Sandoval and S.T.I.F.F., Mutant Matters , AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano. Photo S.T.I.F.F.

If democracy cannot be separated from collectivity, this project makes it inevitable to think that both words have found several positions with regard to a historical event. The last (but not least) work in the exhibition is a video by Hope Tucker inspired by events linked to the Nazi Resistance during the German occupation of Norway. The video simply tells the story of the paperclip invented by the designer Johan Vaaler.  It was never recognised as a real design object but performed a social function in that particular historical context. As we are informed by the text running superimposed on the black background of the monitor, it was worn as a sign of recognition by dissidents, quickly developing the function of a symbol of belonging and immediately creating a sense of community.

It is not hard to imagine that certain strategies of sharing and participation have also been proposed in current times, as demonstrated by the chain of events all over the world. “There is no such thing as society.” said Thatcher, “There are individual men and women.” But not all men and women agree.

AR/GE Kunst, Bolzano
Left: Stephen Willats, Inside the night , 1982. Photo Annelie Bortolotti. Right: Curandi Katz, Pacifist Library Action 5. Dispersal . Photo S.T.I.F.F.

Until 31 October 2013
Prologue – Part One: References, Paperclips and the Cha Cha Cha
ar/ge kunst Galerie Museum
via Museo 29, Bolzano

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