Monday, 27 June 2011
Plesas has an opening at The Future Gallery in Berlin on Wednesday. Check it out.
“The last time I went to New York my hotel window was facing the Hudson. It would have been an amazing sight if, far away, off to the right bank, standing on its little Island, the Statue of Liberty wouldn’t have been there. There it was with its ghostly presence – nothing to do with its innocuous tourist reproductions. Luckily a dense mist fell on the river. Otherwise I would have closed the curtains. The statue is almost an unbearable sight for me, especially due to its movie depictions, such as the final one in the Planet of the Apes (1968) where the humans find the iconic monument’s head and other fragments on a beach, all signs of a self destructive, extinct civilization. The same symbolism is the Statue of Liberty’s broken head which appears on the poster of another cult science fiction movie 1997 Escape from New York (1981). The image of a broken monument is one of the strongest dystopic images existing, especially the anthropomorphic one. A monument, for better or for worse, embodies a collective ideal and utopian imagery. Sequences of the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s statues, as well as Ceausescu’s, just to name a couple of a long series, gave us testimony of a sudden power change, as well as a different self-representation of a society. Luckily, we don’t have to free ourselves from such an oppressive power (and it seems we are far away, but not far enough, from self-destruction) and we nourish a double feeling towards urban monuments, and their traditional embodiment of shared values both political and aesthetic. We are hyper-individualists and it is hardly possible for us to find unanimous agreement under a monuments shadow. Paradoxically, there’s a unifying moment where we debate on public art. They are ugly and/or questionable (therefore removable) even if they are signed by prestigious names. For example, lets refer to the monument to Pertini by Aldo Rossi and, most recently, L.O.V.E. by Maurizio Cattelan. Both monuments are installed in Milan, and both, quite remarkably, are in transit. The first one, after twenty two years of disputed presence close to Via Manzoni, is about to be moved, with not yet a specific destination, most likely to make space to a commercial activity. And only now, while a loose red and white tape surrounds its huge cubical frame, many people are fighting for it. The second one – intentionally controversial – should have been left in the middle of Piazza Affari from where it mocked the ambiguous exchange only for a month (i.e. until last October 24th). But it is still there while I write these thoughts, waiting to be assigned its final destination; while the artist, who is corroborated by Internet polls, wants to donate it to the city, only if it could stay in that very Piazza. Public art is a hot topic. It is also a thorny issue because of its intrinsic public nature: as a matter of fact, it’s one thing to look for art in galleries and museums (where it’s customary to discuss around the concept of anti-monumentality, or more precisely, a-monumentality, which is a quite vague notion attempting to represent our present time and its multidirectional desires), quite another to bump into art while walking on a public street. But they are somehow stimulating. They help us to understand that in our consumerist and perpetual present – where the preservation of memory and the planning of the future are both reduced to goods or marketing strategies- we still long for public art work that represents the society that produces and exhibits them. Amongst such projects experimented with in the last few years, there are two revealing trends. The first one is related to the transitory nature of the are, such as the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square in London: a long time empty plinth is now adorned with works commissioned to famous artists in rotation. This is a Solomonic choice which makes temporariness an effective trigger for/of public debate. The other trend is related to virtuality, which is masterly investigated by artist Angelo Plessas. After a dip dive in the Internet, which represents for Angelo a “real” environment such as a gallery (with the advantage of a disproportioned visibility), the artist presents a physical and tangible translation of some of his websites that have been realized in the last ten years; diverse works that we could define as poetic interactive animations, embellished with titles that emphasize the deep humanistic intention of the project. Each of those websites is already a monument, in the most contemporary sense, because it is a work of art that stands in a new public field, the Internet, without imposing meanings from above, but actually proposing itself as a recipient of diverse stances, even opposite ones. In order to make his reasoning even more layered, playing with the ambiguity between reality and virtuality, (which is nowadays typical of the life of millions of people, who not only shop online but also establish diverse relationships through the web), Angelo has created these “offline monuments”:MeLookingAtYou.com, DoubleFaced.com, ZigZagPhilosophy.com taken directly from the websites, becoming urban and three-dimensional. They are participatory and playful sculptures, as the “originals” from which they are derived. They are to be installed in the streets of Milan, in places that have been coherently chosen with Google Street View. The “offline monuments” are projects that have two levels of users (local and global) and usage (real and virtual) that often get interconnected and generate interesting questions on the nature of contemporary monument. Muddling it up even more, Angelo Plessas increases the exhibition structure with some signs that “advertise” the actual realization of those monuments, works of art where real and illusionary elements synchronize to form a new aesthetic dimension. Moreover, the only real monument physically present in the exhibition, “The Monument to An Online Persona”, is two-dimensional like an online icon. Plesas describes this as such: «I borrowed the “face” of this imaginary person I call Leo Sky which I devised as a board member of the Angelo Foundation – my imaginary foundation. The star “represents” that everybody with the internet now can become famous and a star. For example you create an interesting blog and you become famous in the most convenient way even if you are in the most remote place in the world. There are more connotations in this monument like the crown/mouth can be seen as the “www”, and that can be seen as representing the internet way of doing things which makes everybody a “king” of his castle. I also chose this because a star is the national symbol of Italy». Has Angelo realized that his star shaped Leo resembles the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty’s head? I really believe so, as he declares to be interested in exploring a new genre of monumentality, where the classic notions of time and space are questioned.” – Caroline Corbetta