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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 resistance or adherence to a sociopolitical context. He is particularly interested in the possible relationships between literature and visual art, transposing poetic compositions or narratives into environmental installations, video and performance.


The exhibition of Riccardo Giacconi’s work at FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, entitled The Variational Status, is composed of two distinct installations. The first one, of the same name as the exhibition, was coproduced with two institutions based in Italy: 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 brochures) 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 which encompasses animation, suggestion, revolt and orality.


The installation is based on the “Espiritado”, a character from the Colombian marionette tradition, probably inspired by the murder of a police officer during a village festival. The “Espiritado” also brings to mind the story of Augusto Masetti, the soldier who, in 1911 in Bologna, in an act of insubordination against Italy’s colonial war in Libya, shot his commander. Both of these characters share the particularity of total amnesia with regard to their acts of revolt, executed in a state of trance or sleepwalking. In Masetti’s case, the circumstances turned him into a symbol of the anarchist movement across the globe, with his defenders staging demonstrations for his cause; in the case of the “Espiritado”, it became a comical personality trait of a marionette. 


Conceived as the deconstruction of a puppet show, this installation consists of an automatized marionette, a plastic curtain that works as a storyboard, and a series of posters inspired by the Colombian puppet show, El Diablo en el pozo, (The Devil in the Well) made using a typographical printing machine from the 19th century in Cali.

By gathering together archive documents, oral witness accounts and theatre scripts, Riccardo Giacconi preserves the real and fictional vicissitudes of the two characters in order to reevaluate the status of these documents, which have no stable or certifiable basis, yet are able to exist solely in the form of “variations”.


As for the second installation, produced specifically for the exhibition at FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, it looks back over the history of Alberto Camerini, the Italian singer-composer born in 1951, who was extremely popular in the 1980s. Through the figure of this eccentric artist, a whole slice of recent Italian history is evoked in this work, in particular through the use of objects and audio and video excerpts. The installation reviews his career, his influences, his references, as well as the anecdotes that tell of his success and decline, his interest in art history and theatre and his activism in league with the radical Left in Milan during the 1970’s. The character created by Alberto Camerini, which made him famous, was a sort of electronic Harlequin, with which he evoked the Italian theatre tradition of Commedia dell'Arte (of which he was a great connoisseur). By combining it with the political energy of European punk and the global impact of the emerging field of robotics, Rock ‘n’ roll Robot, written in 1981, is still his most famous song.


The installation created for 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 “riflusso” (reflux) of the ideologies in Italy in the 1980s, by presenting the former phenomenon in echo with the latter. 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 to rub – according to Walter Benjamin’s terminology – the history of Italy in the 1980s “the wrong way.” Through his figure, we can grasp the overlapping between the advent of information technology, the diffusion of the notion of postmodernism, and the so-called ideological “reflux”. Whereas in Italy, most “politically engaged” singers of the 60s and 70s were given recognition posthumously, and their “hagiographies” extensively detailed, Alberto Camerini has always remained too particular a figure to be inserted into a populist discourse. Always ill at ease on televised talk-shows, too marginal even for today’s “80s revivals”, never even entirely corresponding to the category of “singer”, this man should instead be considered as one of the precursors of electronic music in Italy. 


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 original essays by Andrea Cavalletti, Riccardo Giacconi, Frans-Willem Korsten, Andrea Morbio, and an interview of 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 the sculptor Franco Citterio, the Compagnia Marionettistica Carlo Colla & Figli (Milan), Carteles La Linterna Edigraphos (Cali), Herlyng Ferla, Carolina Valencia and Paola Villani.


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