In Milan, Franz Kafka wears Prada

The three unfinished novels of the Prague writer become a journey through art, cinema and music at Fondazione Prada.

The music of Tangerine Dream is playing in the three rooms of the Cisterna. Sunk into the comfortable and colorful inflatable seats, the audience listens to the German electronic space/cosmic band's record dedicated to Franz Kafka's Castle in 2013, Franz Kafka: The Castle - one of the last records of the founder Edgar Froese. Pervading, alienating, psychedelic, this is the most singular experience of “K”, the three Kafkaesque artworks that Fondazione Prada, together with curator Udo Kittelman, has brought to Milan - an artwork for each chapter of the “trilogy of human solitude” of the Prague writer.

The second element of the trilogy is Orson Welles’ majestic black and white film The Trial (1962), which, according to Kittelman, is "the American director's second best film"; the cinematic reduction reinterprets some of the novel's ideas in an extreme way by using a direct and powerful cinematographic language. At one point, the protagonist played by Anthony Perkins, who is looking for an answer on the inscrutable accusation made against him, even interrogates a big computer.

Orson Welles, Il Processo

Kafka, who passed away at 40, did not finish any of his three novels. For America, which focuses on the ups and downs of Karl Rossmann, an immigrant seeking hope and happiness in the new world, it seems like he had a happy ending in mind, despite the protagonist's constant disappointments over the course of the story. Rossmann is convinced that he's reached a land of opportunity, but instead he is faced with a dehumanizing social machine. German artist Martin Kippenberger, who died in '97, dreamt the ending of the novel after hearing the story second-hand from a friend - “tonight I dreamt of America and there was a happy ending“, reported Udo Kittlemann. And that dream turned into The Happy End of Franz Kafka's Amerika, the installation on view at the ground floor of Podium. In the last chapter of America, Karl Rossmann takes a train with the intention of applying for a job at the “biggest theatre in the world”.

Martin Kippenberger, The Happy End of Franz Kafka's Amerika

Kippenberger's installation is located on the perimeter of a soccer field, a metaphor for the competition, where they intend to conduct mass interviews, and therefore crowded with chairs and tables, and guarded by turrets that could house an armed guard or the referee of a tennis match. "A circus in town" according to the artist, who imagines "tables and chairs set up for job interviews outside the circus tent". The public is asked to imagine those interviews. The artwork of Kippenberger has never been the same in its various installations over the years. Depending on the place, he changed the furniture, for reasons of taste or necessities. For the first time in our country, the artist chose design pieces ranging from the 1950s to the "crazy" 1980s, as Kittelman calls them. The curator emphasizes how Kafka and his legacy are perhaps more understandable to us than they were to his contemporaries. And the selection of furniture used for Happy End, where there are pieces that will not disappoint the lovers of Italian design, will certainly appeal to the public that will arrive in Milan for the Salone.

Although the Welles Process can also be watched on YouTube and the Tangerine Dream album can be easily streamed online, it's worth spending a few hours at Fondazione Prada to enjoy the experience as a whole. While you're there, you could also take a look at the ceramics or at Liu Ye's paintings.

Fondazione Prada, Milano
Largo Isarco 2, Milan
Open until:
July 27

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