The Biennale's Italian Pavilion will show us "how we must become": here's what it will look like

Presented this morning at the Ministry of Culture the Italian Pavilion of the 59th Venice Biennale. Eugenio Viola and Gian Maria Tosatti will create "History of the Night and Fate of Comets," an "immersive" project that will show everyone "how we must become."

The Italian Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale was presented this morning at the Ministry of Culture in Rome. The pavilion, curated by Eugenio Viola, will feature only one artist, Gian Maria Tosatti, and will be titled History of the Night and Fate of Comets. “An evocative and complex title,” curator Viola called it, “that refers to a situation related to our uncertain and metapandemic present. Scientifically it is proven that there is a correlation between epidemic and progress. In light of the current scenarios, in developing our project we wondered how art could reflect on these uncertain scenarios, how it could relate to sustainable ecologies.”

These questions, Viola explained, inform Stories of the Night and Fate of Comets, a theatrical work that begins with a muted prologue and develops into two acts punctuated by the project’s name. This will be an immersive project that is also structurally very important, which is why adequate resources were needed: in fact, the Italian Pavilion will cost more than two million euros, 600,000 of which will be funded by the Ministry of Culture’s Directorate General for Contemporary Creativity, while 1,450,000 will come from sponsors and donors. Sanlorenzo and Valentino are the two main sponsors, joined by Xiaomi, and again Folio and Ital Stage as main technical sponsors, and Bonotto, Laterlite, Marcegaglia, Fondazione Morra, and Mosaico Studio as technical sponsors. Among the various donors and those who have supported the project are Gianfranco D’Amato, Bareva Foundation, Dedar, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Giuseppe Iannaccone, Francesca Lavazza, Palazzo Bentivoglio, Spada Partners, Margherita Barberis Canonico, LCA Studio Legale, Galleria Lia Rumma.

The project will reveal itself to visitors “in a Rossinian crescendo, with a final epiphany,” Viola explained. The story of the night traces a part of the history of Italy, namely the rise and fall of the Italian industrial dream from the economic boom (the “Italian miracle” as it was called at the time) to the fall of recent years. The first part, which is very conceptual, will prepare for the final vision, that of the fate of comets, which heralds a palingenic and cathartic vision that will, however, also propose a purposeful look at the present. “We believe that optimism in these times should be an ethical necessity, a moral obligation,” Viola said. The path will be supported by literary referents as typical of Tosatti’s work, from Andrea Zanzotto (the “slavish progress”) to Ermanno Rea’s The Divestment, passing also through Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah. “We do not intend to take a firm position on what we are going to present,” Viola specified, “I personally believe that a work, a project, a pavilion is successful if once the viewing experience is over, the visitor leaves with more questions than when they arrived.” As for the artist, with whom Viola has been collaborating for years, the curator explained, “I consider Gian Maria’s work unique in the Italian and international art scene. His background in some ways is eccentric: he began by confronting the domains of art and dwelling (the original sin of theater has irreducibly shaped and molded the work we are going to present), in the last twenty years he has built a coherent body of work that dialogues dialectically with contemporary coeval experiences but at the same time reaffirms the reasons for a research that is once again irreducibly Italian.” The curator concluded by calling his Italian Pavilion “ambitious, difficult, visionary,” deeming it a project “that unites Gian Maria Tosatti’s work with a series of different stimuli while challenging the avant-garde tradition of Gesammtkunstwerk.”

“On Feb. 1, 1975,” said Gian Maria Tosatti, “Pier Paolo Pasolini in Corriere della Sera wrote an editorial in which he lamented that while our state was getting lost behind its constant struggles, its petty power and bureaucracy, we did not notice that fireflies were disappearing. The disappearance of fireflies for Pasolini meant a very dangerous and irreversible change in the relationship between man and nature. 1975 was a long time ago and I wasn’t even born, we were worrying about minutiae and meanwhile the world was sinking, and after all these years we are still engaged in these minutiae of the human ... and then Russia, America, Ukraine ... we’re always there talking about the usual crap (like war). We never move: that’s the battle, the war we’ve lost: we’re not evolving. Pasolini said ’I would give the whole Montedison for one firefly.’ When I was working last year on the Russian border, a militarized border (I was also arrested), I would stay many hours a day on a river that forms the border between Russia and Estonia, and I would watch the birds go from one side to the other, and while we had all the restrictions in the world, there were these animals that with maximum freedom could go wherever we wanted, and I felt strongly inferior to them, and I realized that we have lost freedom. The story of the night of our pavilion has to end with an image that shows not a way out, but an evolution: you don’t go out from behind cowardly, but you face the problems and overcome them. This is what our pavilion is about: what we have not been able to become until now, and what we should find the courage to become.”

According to Tosatti, “the task of art is to make us feel in our veins the burning of an unbearable condition that demands our change. Tragedy for me is the founding act of modern art, based on a mechanism that is that of catharsis.” It will not be, he wanted to explain, a moralistic Italian pavilion: “Catharsis is not moralizing: it is coming out of tragedy with the blood burning in our veins and saying that we cannot continue to be for one more minute what we have been until now. Man must be able to change all the time. We have challenges right now and we cannot respond with answers that are already old. We have to wake up in the present. Otherwise we die.”

“The choice of Eugenio Viola and Gian Maria Tosatti (and consequently the choice on a single author),” said Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, “has built a project linked to very big topical issues, questions that the pandemic poses to us every day in a more urgent way than when we were asked until some time ago. We believe it is a work in tune with the international exhibition, another proof that Italy in many areas manages to be ahead.”

“It is an initiative we believe in very much,” emphasizes Onofrio Cutaia, MiC’s director general of Contemporary Creativity. “We proceeded to the identification of a trio on which the minister then made the final decision for Eugenio Viola and Gian Maria Tosatti: our directorate general is very dynamic, it has the know-how for this activity, we identified ten Italian curators with international experience, therefore of great value, and simply we then verified what were the best conditions to arrive at the identification of the final project. Certainly it played a lot into the fact that we would have wanted to focus on no more than two or three artists, and certainly we would have also very favorably identified a project that then really proposed one. It is a project that is immersive in nature: when we read, also comparing it with all the proposals that came to us, this project we were very surprised. Starting with the title: we were very struck by the idea of this path that Eugenio imagined and that Gian Maria will concretize in the work that we will see.”

In the photo: Gian Maria Tosatti

The Biennale's Italian Pavilion will show us
The Biennale's Italian Pavilion will show us "how we must become": here's what it will look like

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