frac champagne-ardenne
fonds régional d'art contemporain
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riccardo giacconi / the variational status

riccardo giacconi / the variational status

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Curators : Emanuele Guidi & Antoine Marchand


Riccardo Giacconi belongs to that generation of Italian artists, now thirty-somethings, who, after years of retreat and virtual amnesia, have appropriated Italy’s history. It is, however, a history free of nostalgia, revisited not through an archival aesthetic, but rather, like memory or documents, as a system for reinterpreting the present. Giacconi’s research is focused on language and narration as forms of adherence or resistance to a socio-political context. He is particularly interested in the possible relationships between literature and visual arts, transposing poetic compositions or narratives into environmental installations, video and performance.


Giacconi’s exhibition at FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, entitled The Variational Status, is composed of two different installations. The first, bearing the same name as the exhibition, has been co-produced with two Italian institutions: ar/ge kunst, in Bolzano (exhibition in winter 2016), and Centrale Fies, in Dro (performance in July 2017). In this project, Riccardo Giacconi interrogates the relationships between a variety of narrative forms (marionettes, street storytellers, flyers and anarchist pamphlets) and a series of acts of pre-political revolt, which took place between Italy and South America. Springing from Riccardo Giacconi’s interest in tradition as an “act of transmission”, The Variational Status evokes a narrative constellation encompassing animation, suggestion, orality and revolt.


The installation is based on the “espiritado”, a character from the Colombian tradition of puppetry, probably inspired by the murder of a police officer during a village celebration. The “espiritado” also brings to mind the episode of soldier Augusto Masetti, who in 1911 in Bologna shot at his commander in an act of insubordination against the Italian colonial war in Libya. The two figures share the total amnesia of their act of revolt, carried out in a trance or a state of somnambulism. While in Masetti’s case this circumstance turned him into a symbol of the anarchist movement around the world, which stepped in to take his defence, in the case of the “espiritado”, it became a comic element of a puppet character.


Conceived as a deconstructed puppet show, the installation consists of an automatized marionette (constructed in collaboration with the historical Compagnia Marionettistica Carlo Colla & Figli), a plastic curtain that operates as a storyboard, and a series of posters of a Colombian puppet show, El Diablo en el pozo, (The Devil in the Well) printed using a 19th-century letterpress machine in Cali.


Working on archive documents, oral testimonies and theatre scripts, Riccardo Giacconi intertwines the real and fictitious vicissitudes of the two characters in order to question the status of those documents, which are not based on stable and certified supports, but rather which may exist solely in the form of “variations”.


Ekphrasis (2017), the second installation, has been produced specifically for the exhibition at FRAC Champagne-Ardenne. It looks back at the story of singer-songwriter Alberto Camerini (b. 1951), who was extremely popular in the 1980’s Italy. Through the figure of this eccentric artist, a slice of recent Italian history is evoked, via objects and video excerpts. The installation revisits his career, his influences, his references, as well as anecdotes about his rapid success and decline, his interest in art history and puppet theatre and his activism radical Left movements in Milano during the 1970’s. The character created by Alberto Camerini, which made him famous, was a sort of electronic Harlequin, referencing the Italian theatre tradition of the Commedia dell'Arte (of which he was a great connoisseur) and combining it with the political energy of the European punk and the global impact of the emerging field of robotics. Rock ‘n’ roll Robot, written in 1981, is to this day his most famous song.


The installation created for the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne attempts to explore the hypothesis of a possible resonance, both formal and allegorical, between the artistic career of the singer, and the so-called “riflusso” (reflux), a general resignation to the private sphere and a concomitant political and social disengagement that characterized the transition from the 70s to the 80s in Italy. The artistic trajectory of Alberto Camerini is indeed altogether singular in the cultural landscape of Italy in the second half of the 20th century. Studying it may help – according to Walter Benjamin’s terminology – to brush the recent Italian history “against the grain.”


The exhibition is accompanied by a publication dedicated to the project, The Variational Status, co-published by FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, ar/ge kunst in Bolzano and Humboldt Books in Berlin (with new essays by Andrea Cavalletti, Frans-Willem Korsten, Riccardo Giacconi and Andrea Morbio, and a conversation with the artist conducted by Emanuele Guidi and Antoine Marchand).


Riccardo Giacconi (born in 1985 in San Severino Marche, Italia) has studied fine arts at the University IUAV of Venezia, at UWE in Bristol and at New York University. His work has been exhibited in various institutions, such as WUK Kunsthalle Exnergasse in Vienna (Austria) in 2016, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Torino (Italy) in 2015, Tranzitdisplay in Prague (Czech Republic) in 2014, the Résonance section of the Lyon Biennale in 2011 and MAXXI in Roma (Italy) in 2008. He was artist-in-residence at Centre international d'art et du paysage de Vassivière (France) in 2016, at MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art in Roma (Italy) and at La Box in Bourges (France) in 2013, and at Lugar a dudas in Cali (Colombia) in 2012.

He presented his films at several festivals, including the International Film Festival in Rotterdam (2016), the New York Film Festival (2015), the Rome Film Festival (2013), the Torino Film Festival (2011) and the FID in Marseille, where he won the Grand Prix of the international competition in 2015. In 2007 he co-founded the collective Blauer Hase, with which he curates the periodical publication ‘Paesaggio’ and the ‘Helicotrema’ festival.


The installation The Variational Status has been realized in collaboration with sculptor Franco Citterio, Compagnia Marionettistica Carlo Colla & Figli (Milan), Carteles La Linterna Edigraphos (Cali), Herlyng Ferla, Paola Villani, Gonario Denti, Franco Maritato, Ruggero Mameli and Progetto MUSE (Sardegna, Italy).


Collaboration about concept and production: Carolina Valencia


Exhibition coproduced with ar/ge kunst, Bolzano and CentraleFies, Dro.


Acknowledgements: Musée Saint-Remi, Reims, Manège, Scène Nationale, Reims, Champagne Sanger - Avize Viti Campus, Alberto Camerini, Anna Destefanis et Danila Domizi.