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Issue 215

A Group Exhibition in Rome Imagines the Museum as Magazine

MACRO’s ‘Museum for Preventive Imagination: Editorial’ is an experiment with new exhibition formats

BY Barbara Casavecchia in EU Reviews , Reviews | 25 SEP 20

For ten days in mid-August, aerial banners emblazoned with slippery words in English and Italian – such as ‘spaccato/split’, ‘spruzzato/sprayed’ and ‘schiacciato/smashed’ – were seen flying over the Roman coastline by thousands of holiday makers, like apparitions. They formed an exhibition by Lawrence Weiner, titled ‘TRACCE/TRACES’, which paid homage to the late curator Germano Celant who, in 1970, edited Weiner’s eponymous artist’s book. Part of the ‘Supplement’ programme at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome (MACRO), under new artistic director Luca Lo Pinto, ‘TRACCE/TRACES’ not only testified to the endless possibilities provided by the reactivation of archives, art histories and collective memories, but proved the sky really could be the limit when it comes to experimenting with new formats.

The evocative power of the written word also plays a key role in the group show ‘Museum for Preventive Imagination: Editorial’, which marked the start of Lo Pinto’s tenure. Conceived as a transdisciplinary magazine – the features and layout of which will continue to evolve through 2022 – the exhibition only partially occupies the labyrinthine post-industrial galleries. Visitors are free to wander through these spaces discovering the works on display, surrounded by disorienting voids and gaps. Xavier Aballí’s paintings Suspended Time – 24 April 2020 and Suspended Time – 17 July 2020 (2020), specially commissioned works inspired by On Kawara ’s ‘Today’ series (1966–2014), silently record the interval between MACRO’s post-lockdown reopening and the original opening date, while Joanna Piotrowska’s series of black and white photographs documenting empty cages in abandoned zoos (‘Enclosure’, 2018–19), recalls the anguish of confinement.

Nora Turato
Nora Turato, The World Is Like a Cactus, It's Impossible to Sit Down, 2019, installation view, Museum for Contemporary Art Rome, Rome. Courtesy: the artist and Museum for Contemporary Art Rome, Rome; photograph: Roberto Apa

The main room on the ground floor is the closest visitors come to a traditional experience of display. This gallery presents large-scale installations such as Ann Veronica Janssens’s iridescent pool of glitter dust Untitled (Blue Glitter) (2015–ongoing) and an arresting slideshow of 1,000 archival images by photojournalist Marcello Sallustri, taken in postwar Rome and often illustrating the extreme poverty of the city’s outlying areas at the time. Also on display are Nora Turato’s wall text piece (The World Is like a Cactus, It’s Impossible to Sit Down, 2019) and Marcello Maloberti’s series of short poems scribbled on A4 paper in felt-tip pen, ‘Martellate’ (2020), of which my favourite is the irresistibly naïvely sensual Limonare (French Kissing).

Franco Mazzucchelli
Franco Mazzucchelli, Installazione, 1980–2020, installation view, Museum for Contemporary Art Rome, Rome. Courtesy: the artist, Chert Lüdde, Berlin, Museum for Contemporary Art Rome, Rome; photograph: Roberto Apa

In the courtyard, the inflatable red and white PVC structures of Franco Mazzucchelli’s Installazione (Installation, 1980–2020) stand apart but mitigate social distancing by encouraging visitors to inscribe them with their writings and doodles. Since the 1960s, Mazzucchelli’s art projects have served as spaces for unrestricted public interaction. Screening nearby is the extraordinary documentary Essere Donne (Being Women, 1964), by nonagenarian filmmaker Cecilia Mangini, about the hardship and injustices of female labour during Italy’s boom years, which was censored at the time of its release. Also notable is the inclusion of neorealist master Roberto Rossellini’s last film, Le Centre Georges Pompidou (1977), which documents the opening day of the revolutionary, cultural space in Paris by recording the voices of its audience.

Giovanna Silva
Giovanna Silva, Catabasi, 2020, installation view, Museum for Contemporary Art Rome, Rome. Courtesy: the artist and Museum for Contemporary Art Rome, Rome; photograph: Roberto Apa

One of the most auratically charged rooms – which is soon to host a new collection of works by young Italian artists – juxtaposes a pounding soundtrack, The Sounds of Rome (1991), by cult rave and techno musician Lory D, with Giovanna Silva’s Catabasi (2020). Titled after the Ancient Greek word to describe the descent into the underworld, Silva’s floor-to-ceiling photographic wallpaper collages together the artist’s images of MACRO’s inaccessible subterranean collection, which contains more than 1,000 works. To me, the room felt like a small act of magic, willing back to life the sleeping, crated artworks in museum storage. To be joined, hopefully before too long, by crowds of live bodies dancing in the dark.

‘Museum for Preventive Imagination – Editorial’ runs at Museum for Contemporary Art Rome, Rome, until 27 September 2020. 

Main Image: Lawrence Weiner, TRACCE / TRACES. Courtesy: the artist and Museum for Contemporary Art Rome, Rome; photograph: Claudia de Nicolò, Bianca Trevisani

Barbara Casavecchia is a contributing editor of frieze and a freelance writer and curator based in Milan, Italy.