Basement in Lisbon! with Athena Papadopoulos

and proudly presents

Athena Papadopoulos
Holy Toledo, Takotsubo!

From May until August 2019, CURA. has been invited to take over the Kunsthalle Lissabon: its spaces, the exhibition programme as well as its entrance plaque, in an identity exchange and appropriation project. On this occasion, CURA. presents the continuation of its ongoing program at BASEMENT ROMA with a project on doubling as well as otherness.
The new space will open on May 14th with Holy Toledo, Takotsubo!, the first institutional solo exhibition in Portugal by the Canadian London-based artist Athena Papadopoulos.

Holy Toledo, Takotsubo! is a wordplay that refers to the cathartic, fear-induced and physical sorrow that psycho-emotional journeys can provoke. The title echoes the idea of ‘loving something to death:’ being so overly attached to something or someone to the point of becoming physically heartbroken. Takotsubo syndrome refers to a medical condition resulting from traumatic emotional distress—a break-up or the loss of a loved one—and weakens the heart, causing the person an unbearable chest pain.

In this exhibition, Papadopoulos focuses on the subjectivity-forming processes and allegorical encapsulations that incubate within a series of floating garments-turned-sculptures. Ghostly figures welcome the visitors into a spectral environment; a scenographic space where the artworks themselves become spectres of a play that mimics relational, psychological, and social dynamics, all imbricated and bound up with the artist’s personal experience.

These spectral figures seem to converse with one another while inviting the artist and viewers to participate in an introspective dialogue: they look to us to look into ourselves, to tell them who and what they are and where they came from. The eerie presence of these kinds of ‘energies’—which remain on earth haunting it as much as haunting personal souls—here are cartoonified with spindley gauze and wrapped protrusions in a living and tangible installation.

These sculptural paintings are comprised of repurposed bridal gowns imbued with the personal memories of those who have parted with them. The artist has surgically reconfigured them by transplanting elements of detritus – precious and toxic paraphernalia that act both as infection and cure – onto and into these bodies. Like a person suffering from Takotsubo needing to be rushed to hospital, Papadopoulos occupies the position of the surgeon, incising wounds and opening cavities, both treating and exacerbating the dis(eased) bodies at hand.

Equally, Papadopoulos performatively transforms herself into a fashion stylist, dressing the body, and finally assumes the role of a bird, scavenging for elements to add to the nest-like structures puncturing these surfaces. It is as if Papadopoulos performs these analogue roles to transcend her own experiences, bringing to life these unhinged characters acting out our ghosts. The titles of the works are taken from a list of extinct exotic birds and fused with the cartoonish birds typical of mainstream pop culture. In this context, the birds provide a vehicle to explore the more intricate manifestations of societal gender conventions as they come to operate within language: the use of metonyms and terms of endearment for women; the frequent characterisation of Disney birds as cute but dim-witted, annoying or embroiled in evil intrigues.

To accompany this series of works, Papadopoulos has collaborated with HP Parmely to create a whimsical yet haunting sonic composition entitled “Funeral for a Friend,” acting as a cinematic soundtrack bringing to life the characters of this show.

República Portuguesa
Coleção Maria e Armando Cabral

All Images courtesy the artist and Emalin, London
Photo: Bruno Lopes



Francesco Arena, Paolo Canevari, Patrizio Di Massimo, Daniele Milvio, Andrea Sala, Francesco Simeti, Nico Vascellari

Curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin

“Gone to explore my father’s kingdom, day after day I’m moving away from the city and the news that get to me are getting rarer. Though leaving light-hearted – far more than I am now! – I was concerned about being able to communicate, during my trip, with my dear ones, and among the knights of my escort I chose the best seven, to serve me as messengers.”

Through breaking into the mythical imagination described by Dino Buzzati in the story by the same name, seven messengers offer the spectator a magic land, a mysterious kingdom, a polyphonic stream of past, present and future experiences.

Seven Italian artists – Francesco Arena, Paolo Canevari, Patrizio Di Massimo, Daniele Milvio, Andrea Sala, Francesco Simeti, Nico Vascellari – embody the seven characters of a story/exhibition embedded in the narrative cracks of the original story.

 (Dino Buzzati, I sette messaggeri, in La boutique del mistero, Mondadori, 1942)

Via privata Rezia, 2 – Milan

Marselleria, Milan
Photo: Sara Scanderebech


“If art still exists, it is where we least expect to find it.”
(Robert Musil)

A cycle of interventions by Rome-based Italian and international artists, aimed at creating a temporary collection of site-specific works, mainly new productions, will take in the Settembrini venues – the bar, bistro and restaurant traditionally open to international collaborations and paying close attention to the contamination between food, wine and other practices.

The project, which takes place over the months, aims thus at offering a new dimension to the work of art and its audience, redesigning the layout of the Settembrini venues. Une promesse de bonheur, which reverses the relationship between artist and visitor, “between uninterested spectator and interested artist” (Giorgio Agamben, L’uomo senza contenuto [The Man Without Content]). On the partnership model established between artists and places of various kinds, which over time have become landmarks and meeting places for the international art community, Settembrini, with the artistic direction of CURA., starts a new challenge and commitment for the support of contemporary art.

Untitled (2016)

Gabriele De Santis offers several keys to his door. His work, neo-pop conceptual, brings him to surf between mainstream, romance, short circuits of meaning, language processing, compositions of letters, words and figurative elements, with a certain satisfaction from the banal, as if to emphasize the obviousness of everyday life or the elementariness of the messages that are constantly offered us in complex and elaborate ways. The neo-pop component of Gabriele’s work is instead focused on ease of access and an immediate understanding of the work of art.

Arriving in a semi-hidden alley in a metropolis (what metropolis?), in one of those sequences where of course it’s raining, the story is coming to an end and the two main characters are about to engage in a long, passionate kiss. And a lighted sign is flashing because the rain gets to the live wires: an enigma, a rebus: rain, rain, rain, rainBOW.”

The fumes of Chinese take-away fried food, fashion bloggers sitting at Starbucks with their Macs, cafeterias with colored eco-leather seats, Gloria Gaynor’s voice resonating, caressing the friendly local venue: “You’re just too good to be true / Can’t take my eyes off of you.” A collective dwelling, where all find their place in a more or less frenzied way.

An espresso or an Americano?

Cities that were born in the middle of nowhere, and which are magnificent and pompous. “Las Vegas is to the Strip what Rome is to the Piazza,” “The casinos and lounges in Las Vegas are ornamental and monumental and open to strollers.” A comparison resulting from the unrealistic 1977 project by Robert Venturi and John Rauch, who wanted to restore Rome following the aesthetics of the American capital of gambling.

And then multiculturalism, panem et circenses, monumental size, kitsch, neon lights and smog. And realize day by day, with surprise, that ultimately they are as welcoming as our living rooms.

#02 NICO
Tombola! (2017)

Nico Vascellari superstitiously has chosen Friday the 13th, 2017, for his Tombola!, during which the players are invited to trying their hand throughout the evening. The artist, who orchestrated the action with the help of an exceptional auctioneer, intervenes on the central wall of the club to each extracted number.

The interventions of Nico Vascellari, known to be unsettling, disruptive and often disturbing, turn themselves into an accommodating parlor game, bringing the art community and some extemporary adventurers together, literally invited to get in the game, whose most eligible prize is an artwork.

Looking for a hiding place, a place where no one can find them, the two lovers take refuge in a suburban bar, with the mosquito nets that own the solemnity of the widows’ black laces, slightly worn. There are some black and red murales on the partially open shutter: the usual tags, some genitals, some blasphemies, but mostly numbers. Once they walked in a television hanging from a black metal arm in a corner dominates the room. On air a generic sitcom episode, where unbridled recorded laughter comment the show and its all happens in a room with cream-colored wallpapers.

Can we smoke in here? Can we play?

‘Of course!’ slurs the landlady, who forgot what year is it, or rather she doesn’t care. The lipsticks had been accurately applied, and the wrinkles around her mouth crack the pink cosmetic, the apron is dirty, but not much, and the yellow gold rings give her authority and malice. She’s just like the colorful slot machines, the light bulbs without lampshades and the soft pornographic postcards hanging on the wall, with tape and pins.

It’s really hot. Only the moths are interested in getting close to the blue-neon electric insect screen, sloppy and bulky like the rest, and bequeathed a burst like a stroke of a whip, a puff of smoke and a slight burning smell.

The inhabitants of the district come here on Sundays, bored with the long summer days, to play tombola,  cursing at every drawn number and trying their hand… It doesn’t matter if it’s Friday… It’s Friday the 13th… Does it bring luck? We heard a rumor that the tombola prize will be extremely cool this week…

Glass Editions (2017)

“But is decadence really over?”, I ask myself in the shady courtyard of this restaurant in the center, a short walk from the Natural History Museum, while my throat burns with yet another glass of Magrod.
I have no idea, I am here, my feet wrapped in soft Egyptian cotton socks, to reflect. The sounds of the city reach my ears through a diaphragm of oleander and jasmine.
The shuffling outside remind me of an insect with large colorful wings, the noises are nothing more but rain falling and hummingbirds flying and the metro roars like a puma approaching its meal.
My meal! I am not hungry. I do not remember the last time I had lunch.
It would be scary to find out that it’s all a hallucination. But that waitress is so kind, the colors so mellow and warm, so real.
I wonder what the girl languidly lying on the chair is thinking. She has her arms draped along her body, a small mirror in her hand and her skirt slightly ajar.
A rooster wanders among the tables. It reminds me of a pagan trophy, a magic animal painted with violent brushstrokes.
The tapestry hanging on the wall at the entrance features an atlas, each country has its flag, each flag its country. And the nations, hand sewn, starkly stand out against an overly blue sea.
From the window I see the shadows cutting obliquely across the square, the monument at the center looks like a puppet, a tailor’s dummy, a disturbing muse on top of a colored cube.
The stones are suspended in mid-air, as if they were clouds.
Men are pouring down.
This is not a story.

Via Settembrini 21, Rome

* The stories cycle that embraces each intervention, creating a kind of storytelling of imaginary characters, is edited by Leonardo Caldana, assistant curator at BASEMENT ROMA.


19/02/2016 – 19/03/2016

Sean Raspet, Emanuel Röhss, Sean Townley, Amy Yao, Zoe Williams

Curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin

Launching in the British culinary capital of London, ESPERANTO is the first multiethnic “Food of the World” restaurant chain founded by serial entrepreneur Mr. Bow. His vision for the start-up is clear: a unique blend of traditional fare and slow food. The secret sauce to its success? An innovative entrée of scented water for diners.

Mr. Bow’s other innovative move is the dining environment, which he chose in order to recreate the look and feel of a cutting-edge “Food of the World” restaurant. By setting aside corporate color schemes, steel surfaces, designer lamps and open-plan kitchens that so often characterize today’s international restaurants, his hope is that ESPERANTO will return us to the authentic flavour of local, family-operated venues of the past, replete with lacquered furniture, booth seating, plants and gargoyles.

ESPERANTO launches in collaboration with artists Sean Raspet, Emanuel Röhss, Sean Townley, Amy Yao and Zoe Williams, assisted by CURA.’s international team together with Rowing.

The artists’ culinary philosophies draw on past experience in the kitchen, but also on their personal tastes and a penchant for games and provocation. The spirited character of Mr. Bow, his confidence as a restauranteur at times bordering on arrogance, is perceptible in the unique dishes and approach of the ESPERANTO dining experience.

And if you’re still not convinced about this entrepreneur’s ambition, look no further than the array of upcoming restaurant openings he’s booked for Brussels, Rome, Paris, and New York!

A visit to ESPERANTO restaurant promises an unforgettable experience of the world of classic Chinese cuisine!

What will the risk-taking Mr. Bow offer up next?

Note by the curators
Reality is often manifested through representation. A frame, a screen, a narrative structure are the elements through which our perception of reality is activated. In this sense, the exhibition format enables us to recreate scenarios that are more vivid than reality itself. If the present remains impervious to the eye, and in the absence of a cohesive historical perspective, then fiction and reality become entangled across time and space; feeding into otherness. We can therefore imagine being here and elsewhere, now or before… We can also imagine the existence of a fictional character, the protagonist of our story. His name is Mr. Bow, and this is his story.

The tale of Mr. Bow
If Mr. Bow appeared in Italo Calvino’s “Cosmicomics,” not only would he be a fictional character, but, like the other bizarre, wandering dreamers of the story – beyond human. Mr. Bow, then, is the hero of a grotesque, paradoxical future, like a post-modern replica of the world we live in, recalled from a future where everything has already happened and cursed with an asymptotic “nostalgia for the present.” In such a scenario, Mr. Bow is a barker of dreams. Not because of his persuasiveness or insight, but simply because he is moved by a visionary fervor. Within the dystopian and disorienting future in which he lives – a chaotic and non-static world – Mr. Bow’s dream is finally realised. “The world is flat!,” He states one day… That is, flattened, static, with no shadings, no smells, no tastes. Especially with regard to food, water and air…

Food is low-quality and tasteless, gobbled up and globalised, as economists say, by identical big chains serving sterile fast food (by then Next, a slow-food chain and the future of McDonald’s, will have monopolized the planet).

This is where Mr. Bow’s dream begins.

In a constant oscillation between truth and fiction, Mr. Bow’s tale draws upon two spheres simultaneously, using a double language, the insider world of food bloggers and the visionary character of an overambitious entrepreneur who through his business sets out to achieve a retroactive dream.

A return to tradition, to individual identities, to flavors, through the opening of small restaurants, featuring old-time national and local cuisines. Mr. Bow thus begins his adventure and opens his chain of “Food of the World” restaurants.

Yet he can’t shake from his mind an old essay by philosopher Jean Baudrillard, read who knows when and where, on the Chuang Tzu chef: “there is no need to see the whole ox, but to work on interstices.” Therefore, Mr. Bow decides to start from absence to arrive at essence. Emptiness is a good canvas to start from. Everything is made from scratch, built as if it were true. But even truer than what we could ever have imagined, as “it is because they have already happened.” Hence, for the opening of Mr. Bow’s first restaurant, the characteristics of the place mingle with anomalies. He joins a dynamic team:  Sean Raspet, Emanuel Röhss, Sean Townley, Amy Yao and Zoe Williams. It does not matter that the philological reconstruction of the name does not work perfectly. The symbolic exchange does take place. We are in the midst of what James Berger has called a perspective retrospective. We are in a fiction, which seems more real than reality. It does not matter that the food is not what it used to be. We only know that in switching between fiction and reality we are always living in the two dimensions at once.

The show is curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, CURA.’s directors.



Zachary Armstrong, Petra Cortright, Gabriele De Santis, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Ryan Gander, Marc Horowitz, Oliver Laric, Helen Marten, Takeshi Murata, Oliver Osborne, Marco Palmieri, Grear Patterson, Eddie Peake, Cameron Platter, Jon Rafman, Francesco Simeti, Martin Soto Climent, Kyle Thurman.

Curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin

From the unique and privileged point of view of a metaphoric Ferris wheel, that provides a kaleidoscopic perspective on the artworks, WONDERWHEEL explores the aesthetic, symbolic and expressive territory of a new generation of contemporary artists who, rather than playing with ludic concepts, shapes or linguistic structures, are revisiting childhood imagery in their work.

The show features video, painting, sculpture and installation by international artists, some of whom have been presented recently by the Depart Foundation including Petra Cortright, Marc Horowitz, Grear Patterson, Gabriele De Santis, as well as Zachary Armstrong, Martin Soto Climent, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Oliver Laric, Helen Marten, Takeshi Murata, Oliver Osborne, Marco Palmieri, Eddie Peake, Cameron Platter, Jon Rafman, Kyle Thurman and special projects by Francesco Simeti and Ryan Gander.

WONDERWHEEL occupies the length of Nautilus’s lobby perimeter wall, creating a skyline of works, that punctuate the space with unexpected visual interjections of neo-pop, graphic imagery, playful visual texts, pop-cultural impressions and fantasy frameworks.

The exhibition features stylized or “grotesque” masks, monsters, cartoons, characters and caricatures. The use of deliberately naive drawings, stylization, modularity and repetition of signs and shapes, mythological and epic presences, dream worlds and virtual reality, represent what could be defined in the words of the late English art historian John Shearman, “a world of incredible, pleasant and obvious fiction.”

The show is curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, CURA.’s directors.

New Permanent Space

Beauty Codes (order/disorder/chaos) ACT II

#kunsthallelissabon, Lisbon

ACT II: Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Haris Epaminonda, Luca Francesconi, Jacopo Miliani, André Romão, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

At the origin of modern thought there is a contrast between order and disorder, “contrasting impulses and tendencies, the modular combination of which produces in every epoch the work of art.” Taking Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy as a point of reference, the exhibition Beauty Codes (order/disorder/chaos), is a collaborative project between three international art spaces, BASEMENT ROMA, Fondazione Giuliani and #kunsthallelissabon, which unfolds over a six-month period, in three consecutive legs. Loosely constructed around the narrative codes of Greek Tragedy, the exhibition begins with a single voice, then shifts – through the work of twelve international artists – to a gradual process of layering and accumulation, which disrupts the original order with multiple viewpoints, fractured boundaries and subverted roles, finally transitioning to a subsequent subtraction with a new set of objects and traces of previous actions. The complete exhibition cycle is a trajectory from a state of order and harmony, to disorder and chaos, leading to the formation of a new order and quietude.

The project’s Prologue took place in CURA.’s space with the installation Why Should Our Bodies End At The Skin? (2012) by Lili Reynaud-Dewar, a work which serves as the link between the three parts of a play performed on three separate stages, and which was present in a different form in Act I, the group exhibition at Fondazione Giuliani, which also included works by Pedro Barateiro, Pablo Bronstein, Haris Epaminonda, Fischli/Weiss, Jacopo Miliani, Amalia Pica, Alexandre Singh and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané.

#kunsthallelissabon is generously supported by Secretaria de Estado da Cultura/Direção Geral das Artes (DGArtes), Teixeira de Freitas, Rodrigues e Associados and by EDP Foundation.

The show is curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, CURA.’s directors, Adrienne Drake, director at Fondazione Giuliani Rome, Luis Silva and João Mourão, directors at #kunsthallelissabon, Lisbon.

PROLOGUE: Lili Reynaud-Dewar

ACT I: Pedro Barateiro, Pablo Bronstein, Fischli And Weiss, Haris Epaminonda, Jacopo Miliani, Amalia Pica, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Alexander Singh, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané
Fondazione Giuliani, Rome


Beauty Codes (order/disorder/chaos) ACT I


ACT I: Pedro Barateiro, Pablo Bronstein, Fischli And Weiss, Haris Epaminonda, Jacopo Miliani, Amalia Pica, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Alexander Singh, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

At the origin of modern thought there is a contrast between order and disorder, “contrasting impulses and tendencies, the modular combination of which produces in every epoch the work of art.” Taking Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy as a point of reference, the exhibition Beauty Codes (order/disorder/chaos), is a collaborative project between three international art spaces, BASEMENT ROMA, Fondazione Giuliani and #kunsthallelissabon, which unfolds over a six-month period, in three consecutive legs.

Loosely constructed around the narrative codes of Greek Tragedy, Beauty Codes begins with a single voice, then shifts to a gradual process of layering and accumulation, which disrupts the original order with multiple viewpoints, fractured boundaries and subverted roles, finally transitioning to a subsequent subtraction with a new set of objects and traces of previous actions. The complete exhibition cycle is a trajectory from a state of order and harmony, to disorder and chaos, leading to the formation of a new order and quietude.

The project began at BASEMENT ROMA with the installation Why Should Our Bodies End At The Skin? (2012) by Lili Reynaud-Dewar, a work which serves as the link between the three acts of a play performed on three separate stages, and which will be present in a different form in the exhibition at Fondazione Giuliani. As in the classical tradition, the narrator is called upon to introduce the stage action before its actual beginning, to explain the events and consequent actions that cause a reversal of roles, the multiplication of forms and perspectives, disorder, and finally the (never truly orderly) rearrangement of the previous situation.

The work of Reynaud-Dewar, which consistently focuses on the relationship between body, language, literature and identity, is part of the mise en scène of the exhibition, the deus ex machina of ancient memory, the narrative voice that supports the complex unfolding of the entire performance.

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s / (- \ (2013) heralds the beginning of Act 1 at Fondazione Giuliani. Upon crossing the threshold into the Foundation’s exhibition spaces, the viewer passes through four aluminium curtains, as if crossing the proscenium of a stage. This relational demarcation of space and movement confounds the distinction between stage and audience, actor and viewer, and creates anticipation for what is to come.

Upon crossing the proscenium, the viewer finds himself centre stage, observer and participant in a juxtaposition of different artistic practices and display. Works by Haris Epaminonda punctuate the exhibition space like notes of a spatial composition, both centering the setting of the scene of action, while dismantling conventional modes of exhibition display. This space of action is observed by the bronze busts of Bullen, Dandy and Strumpet (all 2013), themselves characters from Alexandre Singh’s The Humans, a 3-act play about introducing chaos into an otherwise orderly cosmos, itself modeled after the comedies of Athenian poet Aristophanes.

Yet rather than creating a singular narrative logic, Act I builds a disorderly juxtaposition of artworks in which different narratives link or intersect freely to generate a superimposition of storylines. Any straightforward trajectory is further dismantled by a stratification of interventions, a tumbling together of performances that reorganize the role of the actors and viewers. Works by Amalia Pica, Pedro Barateiro and Jacopo Miliani particularly reconfigure the space with performative sculptures. With Plans for the Construction of Paradise (2010-2013), Barateiro disrupts the division between author and spectator by both interacting with the public and activating the traditionally passive role of the viewer. An allusion to games, rituals and riddles, the work’s myriad possible abstract patterns indirectly dialogues with Amalia Pica’s A∩B∩C (line) (2013), both installation and performance that is activated by the continual reconfiguration of multi-shaped Perspex elements, and metaphor of the different meanings, function and interpretation of personal and collective communication. In the works of Jacopo Miliani, whose research is primarily based on an investigation of teatrality, sculptures become moving physical bodies. Through minimal actions, refined gestures and simple materials, the spaces of the Foundation become the stage where chaos both takes shape and leaves residual traces.

In the video by Pablo Bronstein, Young man spills cremated remains onto the floor I (2012), exhibited to the public for the first time, a highly stylised mise-en-scène portrays a single male figure whose theatricality suspends him between the representation of a Classical Greek sculpture and of a Baroque courtier. Finally, Fischli/Weiss’s iconic film, Der Lauf der Dinge (1987), transforms everyday objects into agents of motion. A journey of action and consequence, precarious moments of balance and stability, transmutation and collapse, the connection between cause and effect leads the viewer to metaphysical questions about the world, about the way things go.”

The show is curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, CURA.’s directors, Adrienne Drake, director at Fondazione Giuliani Rome, Luis Silva and João Mourão, directors at #kunsthallelissabon, Lisbon.

PROLOGUE: Lili Reynaud-Dewar

ACT II: Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Haris Epaminonda, Luca Francesconi, Jacopo Miliani, André Romão, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané
#kunsthallelissabon, Lisbon




Artie Vierkant, Vanessa Safavi, Bunny Rogers, Alessandro Piangiamore, Abinadi Meza, Cynthia Madansky, Adam Kuby, Corin Hewitt, Elias Hansen, Keith Hennessy, Francesca Grilli, Carin Goldberg, Martino Gamper, Anna Franceschini, Luca Francesconi, Andrea De Stefani, Gabriele De Santis, Tomaso De Luca

When Allen Ginsberg, writer and poet of the Beat Generation, photographed his friend Harry Smith – painter, archivist, anthropologist and film-maker – in 1985 at the Breslin Hotel in Manhattan attempting to turn milk into milk, he portrayed in a concise image an entire generation called to face major changes and struggles, through the subversive gesture of an impossible alchemy. At times, the impact of an artistic action can assume its own revolutionary force, even if only transitory, fleeting, light. According to Bachelard, poets and alchemists are those who translate into images the spell that the image itself casts on the psyche – a spell that becomes stronger with the poets and alchemists’ deepening knowledge of the basic elements that determine moods, and the ability to manipulate, process, transmute them.

Under this reverie of alchemical connections, milk revolution brings together the work of fellows from the American Academy in Rome and that of a selection of non-resident international artists, outlining an unsystematic, anti-narrative, fluid path, an open device, which contravenes the common sense of a concise thought and amalgamates temperaments and moods associated with changes of state, metamorphosis, the temporal span of the work, in an anarchical opposition of elements pitted against approval and control. In the abstract dimension of the exhibition space, the mutant and regressive process acts as a counterpoint to an aestheticized, timeless and suspended ambivalence, probing whims of resistance, autonomy and escape, but also empathy and unpleasantness, fascination and revulsion for the elements.

The exhibition therefore aims at defining a microsystem in which the mutation of matter, the flow of a dripping, the unpredictable path of wax, elements in a perpetual state of flux, the liberating gesture of a repetitive brushstroke, the impalpable transparency of tulle, the unexpected patterns of faux marble, the frenzied sound coming from a remote place, a wild raptor acting instinctively become a representation of an imagination called to explore the hidden folds of the human being and the “fragile nonsense of always being oneself, constantly becoming something else.”

The show is curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, CURA.’s directors.

Athletic Valentin Paris


Ei Arakawa, Annabelle Arlie, Gabriele De Santis, Mike Goldby, Anthea Hamilton, Daniel Keller, Jack Lavender, Federico Pepe, Billy Rennekamp

Installations, sculptures, ready-mades, anthropomorphic figures, graphics, useless machines, sounds and videos representing the production of nine international artists – Ei Arakawa, Annabelle Arlie, Gabriele De Santis, Mike Goldby, Anthea Hamilton, Jack Lavander, Daniel Keller, Billy Rennekamp and Federico Pepe – are devices for the conversion of the exhibition space of the gallery into the gymnasium setting of Athletic Valentin. The collective project looks at a long and influential tradition of artist works and curatorial projects aimed at manipulating the exhibition space to turn it into a place meant for a different function.

From the recent settings hosted in the Frieze pavilions in New York, which saw the re-enactment of historic sites of artist-run places such as FOOD, the restaurant founded by Gordon Matta-Clark in 1971, or the tribute to Al’s Grand Hotel which, reflecting the legendary project carried out by Allen Ruppersberg again in 1971 in Los Angeles, saw the reconstruction of the original hotel lobby. Or even the Secret Bar, designed by the American Lyzz Glynn, which the public could only reach through a secret key that was getting passed around during the days of the fair like in a treasure hunt. Going down memory lane, the transformation of an exhibition space dates back to those early attempts by artists to make the visitor not simply a passive element of fruition, but an actor functional to the success of the project. In his iconic essay Inside the White Cube, Brian O’Doherty identifies the transition between the two-dimensional space of the painting to collage, i.e. between representation and real life, in some of these moments and writes: “with the tableau, the gallery impersonates other spaces, becomes a bar (Kienholz), a hospital room (Kienholz), a bedroom (Oldenburg), a living room (Segal), a “real” studio (Samaras).”

In Athletic Valentin, the nine artists involved are called to destroy and rebuild, cancel the dimension of the original space and activate the conversion of space into another space. All this brings back to memory the projects, spanning his entire lifetime, developed by Gregor Schneider (“a wall in front of a wall, a window in front of a window”), but also the various interventions aimed at transforming places normally open to the public into art pieces, from the sculpture-bars by Tobias Rehberger at the Venice Biennale in 2009 – conceived after the Hotel Americano in New York – up to many other places that would be too long to list here. Here we are in front of, or rather within, a space in which the original meaning of the gym, linked to the classical concept of the gymnasium, is lost to make room to a homologated, aseptic, anonymous space, addressed solely to the care of the body according to the well-known standards of beauty, health and lifestyle imposed by today’s media and adverts. The transformation process that until now has often led the viewers to immerse themselves into a different space – not only display but also environment – in this context paradoxically goes back to being display. The circular path that has brought us here has gone one step further. ‘Display’ understood in its most current meaning, a middle ground between real and virtual, or between real and fictional, the shadow area normally absorbed through the filter of a screen appears not real but almost. The process thus arrives at a further stage of its development, partaking in the creation of a scene, in which the elements involved come close to the real world, they brush against it, deceive the viewer, and only on closer inspection one recognizes the scam. Like on a movie set, of which every detail has been recreated, the scenes have been set up, the extras are ready to enter the scene, but we realize that the backdrop is made of cardboard, the carpet is not fitted, the extras are motionless mannequins. The advanced model, born in the wake of previous attempts to turn an environment into another environment, intentionally leads us into a third hemisphere, the one closest to our age, which turns fiction into the reality that we want to see, where behind a watching big brother’s mirror, a morbid public is ready to swear that it is real. And thus, stereotyped patterns, based on identification-ambiguity-recognition-estrangement-involvement rules resurface, a plastic world where we are viewers/players/viewers (again).

The camouflaging of the environment starts from the “visionary” installations by Anthea Hamilton, featuring John Travolta, whose Portrait of John (Rubbernecking II’) (2014) – still tied to the vintage imagery of the first films – is isolated and duplicated as the image-symbol of a static aesthetic will, which is non-narrative and definitely iconic. This huge wallpaper is completed by the catatonic movement of the video Yogic Travolta Screensaver and Clock (2012), which instead sees the actor floating in a rarefied environment, designed in relation to space and time, with an emphasis on the relationship between the art piece and the surrounding environment through the mechanics of the human body. The weightlessness of an artifact space in which the tension between space and time comes loose is also found in the static presence of the piece by Ei Arakawa (Smell Image A (Navasana I)) (2012), both a sculpture and a scenic element. Movement, here only alluded to by the tension suggested by the dummy in the yogic Boat Pose, is the element through which the artist’s interest focuses on the performance of state and motion changes of the human body in relation to the public and the surrounding environment. Even the sports equipment exploited by Billy Rennekamp highlight the gap between object-function-fiction. The artist’s endless quest for installation options of objects and images belonging to the sphere of game and sport reinvents their function in a process of transformation of sense. Here, three steel-tubing sculptures evoke the typical structure of the ball trolleys found in high school gyms, although the visitor ultimately detects the sham. Object related with games, sport and sportswear, are central to the work of Mike Goldby and Jack Lavender. The first works with sportswear in a pictorial sense, investigating the structure of the concepts of trend, promotion and branding, in their interchangeable role within the definition of socio-cultural codes. In the artist’s Stretch (2014) series, the crude materialism of a sports brand becomes an experimentation exercise on the power of a trend and the recognizability of a brand through newly configured forms. On the contrary, Jack Lavender, with the attitude of a collector, gathers found objects and posters, depriving them of their symbolic value, which is given back to them only at the end of the artist’s intervention. The artist dwells effortlessly within the gap between reality and deception, because “the important thing is the way the object, either fake or real, influences the viewer and the space around it.” The element of unreality thus takes over when real objects are used, manipulated, and re-elaborated by the actors in play. Gabriele De Santis plays on this subtle fil rouge, offering the public flasks of energy drinks, typically used in sports training. Here, a spatio-temporal transition between fiction and reality occurs when the mixture concocted by the artist with alcoholic beverages is also the drink he normally offers visitors during the opening of his exhibitions. The viewer is thus called to identify with the actor in a play, in the mise en scène of a comédie humaine, thus ending up playing two roles at the same time. Elements which bring fiction immediately back to reality are the graphic works by Federico Pepe, who soars over the boundaries of genre to announce the opening of a new gym in the heart of the Marais, or the sound that invades the spaces of Athletic Valentin, where Daniel Keller replaces the aerobic pop normally used to motivate and boost fitness addicts, with a mix of two ‘EP’ tracks named after the book Exit, Voice and Loyalty, by the economist Albert Hirschman. According to Hirschman, among company and organization staff there are two types of human behavior, which can be classified as ‘exit’ or ‘voice’ analogous to ‘flight’ or ‘fight.’ The first indicates submissive attitudes of desertion and escape – but also a closed way of life like fitness, meditation or Hikikomori NEET can induce –, while the second indicates the ability to react and show disapproval. Thus, Keller reflects on opposite human reactions, offering a literal description of them rather than exploiting the emotional element of sound. And thus we come to the last details – the most important in a scene – prior to the opening of the curtain for Athletic Valentin. These include a pair of sneakers forgotten in a corner. This is Amitié au soleil d’argent (sample) (2013), a piece by Annabelle Arlie who, with a touch of lightness, leaves the trace of a passage – maybe of a majorette training…

The show is curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, CURA.’s directors.

Dreams That Money Can’t Buy

MAXXI National Museum of the 21st Century Arts, Rome

Adrien Missika, Andrew Norman Wilson, Anna Franceschini, Daniel Gustav Cramer, David Douard, Francesco Arena, Gabriele De Santis, George Henry Longly, Haris Epaminonda, Ian Cheng, Ian Tweedy, Ingrid Olson, Invernomuto, Jack Lavender, Jimmy Limit, Luca Francesconi, Luca Trevisani, Maria Loboda, Martin Soto Climent, N. Dash, Neil Beloufa, Nico Vascellari, Nicolas Deshayes, Parker Ito, Per-Oskar Leu, Raphael Zarka, Riccardo Benassi, Richard Sides, Salvatore Arancio, Sara Cwynar, Tilman Hornig, Timur Si-Qin and Tomaso De Luca

On the occasion of the first edition of THE INDEPENDENT, the special project organised by MAXXI Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome and devoted to the independent actors of the international scene, CURA. presents DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN’T BUY, a group show featuring interventions of 33 international artists, devoted to the building of a partial ‘encyclopedic atlas’, recalling Warburg.

The show is expression of a caothic universe in which images, videos and activities, illustrated works, objects, quotes and real life merge, become active in space, in a replacement device of the artwork. The image replacing the work expresses a tension towards the drafting of a shared imagination, in which classical forms and new languages come together in the flow of time. From the collage wall, pop-up screens – the extension of printed images – randomly project, over a few months, a selection of videos. The project thus sums up the tension between the eye and the viewer, between surface and collage, between the two-dimensionality of the support and three-dimensionality of the inhabited space (Brian O’Dorothey) but also between image, value, object, presence and absence. The dematerialization of the artistic object in the printed format reflects chaos rather than imposing its own order (Lucy Lippard) longing for an exhibition place other than the phsysical space (Seth Siegelaub).

The exhibition is finally referred to the ongoing project of a “curated” encyclopedia of the themes covered in the five years since CURA.’s birth, by a selection of almost 32 international artists and the display of books, DVDs, sources and excerpts.

The show is curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, CURA.’s directors.

The Time Machine


Mark Barrow, Ian Cheng, Nicolas Deshayes, Dexter Sinister, David Douard, Haris Epaminonda and Daniel Gustav Cramer, Andrea Kvas, Margaret Lee, Jimmy Limit, Billy Rennekamp, Torben Ribe, Timur Si-Qin and Gundam Air.

Through rapid synapse, irony and ease of access to an open-source turbo image archive the production of an emerging generation of international artists converges towards the construction of a new imaginery, in which – quotes and outcomes of the past being digested, and new frontiers of communication, information technology, internet, and the aesthetics of swirling hypermarkets and immediate consumption channels being mastered – outline an archeology of the future, focusing on gargantuan assimilation and the giving back of the ongoing virtual or physical change. A product of such a mutation, art seems to no longer have a form, or to have many. Teleportation, dematerialization and re-materialization. Bodies and objects disembodied, reduced from molecules to pixels, from substance to image. Video, painting, films, sculpture, installation codes and formulas are exchanged in a common primordial soup into which the image streams which cross the current everyday life end up, producing new form, a new place and a new time.

From Mark Barrow’s Re-productions, in which painting seems reduced to its basic codes, we go to Torben Ribe’s installation abstractions, passing by Andrea Kvas’s unstructured conformations paintings or Nicolas Deshayes’s ‘resins’, intended to return animal fossils. The moving image undergoes endless transformations, like in the work of Ian Cheng, who detects in a future primitivism the scenario ahead of us. Or, like In David Douard’s case, insists on the relationship between real and virtual dimension. It is instead reduced to pure language in the video story by Dexter Sinister, in a paradoxical contemporary iconoclasm. The everyday, familiar and domestic object, appears like the leftover of a distant time in the past or in the future, the trace of a moment unconnected to reality: this is the case of Margaret Lee’s installations or Billy Rennekamp’s assemblages, the results of metamorphoses generated by the flowing of time. Or the result of genetic contamination, like in Jimmy Limit’s still lifes. The idea of the musealization of an endless book collection can be found in the work of Haris Epaminonda and Daniel Gustav Cramer, who reflect on the cataloguing of an image database to be preserved in the future; Timur Si-Qin further insists on the idea of a past that will be rebuilt through new platforms, when the origins of the world will not remain but in small traces. This scenario is finally resolved in a utopia of the present in the project of Gundam Air, an artist who, in his folly, dematerializes his present being to talk with works projected in a future dimension.

The threads of time are interwoven with no apparent order, just like the spatial coordinates are muddled, giving rise to an entropy of references and allusions which leads the eye and the mind into a time machine out of control.

The show  is curated by Ilaria Marotta and Andrea Baccin, CURA.’s directors and supported by BASEMENT ROMA.