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