At Castello di Rivoli, curator-gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch has put together the exhibition “Form Follows Fiction”. Twenty international artists give body and voice to aesthetic worlds in which it is no longer possible to distinguish between truth and fiction.
In 1992 Jeffrey Deitch organised “Post Human”, also at Castello di Rivoli. The exhibition, which explored the confines of the human condition, unexpectedly became emblematic of art at the end of the century and formed the basis for that which has been defined as the post-human aesthetic, coining a neologism.
In October the American curator has returned to Rivoli with “Form Follows Fiction”, the project, which ideally follows on from the 1992 exhibition, represents the new concept of reality developed by artists active during the mid nineties.
Deitch starts with an evident assumption: the confines between reality and fiction are increasingly less clear. As such also artists end up constructing aesthetic worlds in which, as in life, it is increasingly less possible to establish the boundary between that which is real and that which isn’t.
The CIA, after the attack on the Twin Towers, has decided to pay science fiction writers to bear out the most visionary screenplays. The world does not want to be surprised anymore and to achieve this turns the relationship upside down: starting first with fiction in order to then arrive at reality.
What to some cynics, or confused minds, appeared to be the most costly Hollywood set ever made, is just the latest example of this incredible mix of real and artificial.
Even Deitch delayed printing the catalogue in order to mention the event.
The exhibition, in its strange context, an enormous corridor that does not allow much autonomy to the artists, is however both impeccable and beautiful.
The spectacularisation of the real and the increasingly blurred confine between reality and fiction are well documented in the exhibition catalogue, a brilliant instrument, as was the catalogue of Post-human, created together with the lamented and talented artist/designer Dan Friedman.
Cover of the catalogue of the exhibit by Jeffrey Deitch
The cover carries the words “Form Follows Fiction”, in the style of the Hollywood sign on the hills of Los Angeles, immediately inferring the double game of the fiction, it shows the work of Maurizio Cattelan for the latest Venice Biennale, the American sign reproduced full scale on a dump on a hillside near Palermo.
Before coming on to the work, Deitch constructs a television programme which could be a documentary entitled: is it true?
A “fiction” on paper, which steals much from reality TV, grainy images, an inventory of atrocities or plain absurdities.
It opens with the O.J.Simpson case: falsehood first becoming entertainment and then rising to become truth.
Then there are the students of Colombine High School: killing fifteen classmates with a gunshot, convinced they were in a video game; the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate sect who were waiting for the aliens to come and get them; genetic engineering, Dolly the sheep, the reality show, the many identities of the chat room, avatars, the virtual, the media communications industry, Michael Jackson and his ranch of candied fruit, the grafting of a human ear onto a rat, Mrs Wildenstein reinvented woman-tiger thanks to the latest in plastic surgery and a great deal of imagination: up to Saddam Hussein who for news of the Gulf War looked to CNN.
There wasn’t time before printing to include Osama Bin Laden in videoconference.
Coming onto the work, the artists steal from reality and graft scenes of everyday life onto their work, filtering everything through a private imagination and ending up building aesthetic worlds on the edge, in which it is impossible to distinguish between true and false.
Happily, we do not perceive stylistic currents and semblance, we find them free to use whatever means and code for portraying the confusion of life. Has globalisation at least liberated art from labels?
“Third Memory” by Pierre Huygue appears right at the end of the long corridor and is in some ways a piece symbolic of “Fiction”.
A bank robbery in Brooklyn in 1972 became the subject of a film by Sidney Lumet “Dog Day Afternoon”.
Huygue reconstructed the set, tracked down the real robber, John Wojtowicz, imprisoned for six years for the case, and filmed him, now aged, whilst he corrects the dramatisation acted by Al Pacino.
Press reports from the time are collected together in a room and two projectors alternate scenes treated from film with those filmed by the artist.
And the hot news is that John says that he stole in order to pay for his lover’s sex change operation.
Pierre Huyghe (with John Wojtowicz), “The Third Memory”, 2000
Huygue manages to make the paradox coincide: the fiction of the film and the truth of the remake with the confusion between the two.
Not to be underestimated is the morbidity of the public at the time, all engulfing news and little attention to the truth of the events.
Not much has changed.
Vanessa Beecroft who in keeping with the culture of the happening at the end of the twentieth century dresses nude models in only shoes and hats (by Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy).
The hats cover the faces of the women, timeless, De Chirico like icons. Real and unreal.
Vanessa Beecroft, “VB 45”, 2001
Amy Adler instead reproduces herself drawing over photographs which portray her nude, she retouches them and burns the original photos. It is a way to distance the subject a second time and concede oneself another perhaps different life.
Amy Adler, “Once in Love with Amy”, 1997
The two British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster are lovers also in art: “The new Barbarians”.
Two short and clumsy Neanderthal men with their faces, divested of history and evolution are shown in an embrace.
Tim Noble e Sue Webster, “The New Barbarians”, 1997-99
Mariko Mori is also portrayed in an image in which a religious goddess floats like a manga heroine, dressed in a kimono and made of microchips. Takashi Murakami works with Japanese comics and video games.
Mariko Mori, “Pure Land”, 1996-98
The sad and lonely young girls of Margherita Manzelli, which could seem to be self portraits are representations of moods and emotions, anorexic and lonely.
Olafur Eliasson is interested in the reproduction of natural phenomena in the world of art. He recreates artificial rain which is accompanied by a rhythm of strobe lights: the impression is that the water stops weightless mid air just for a few seconds.
Olafur Eliasson, “Your Strange Certainty Still Kept”, 1996
Franz Ackermann also creates environments, this time abstract. He travels a great deal and uses cartographic drawings to create mental maps, exploded projections which evoke his journeys.
Franz Ackermann, “Untitled (Call Yourself City)”, 1999
Matthew Ritchie with abstract painting creates instead a universe which brings together theoretical physics, analytical systems and Big Bang.
Matthew Ritchie, “Double Down”, 2000
Toba Khedori also uses minimal marks on paper, we can still however manage to perceive architectural structures with no weight and evidently with no function.
Toba Khedoori, “Untitled (Explosion)”, 1993
The black silhouettes on the walls of Kara Walker have instead a precise function: referring to the life of black slaves and their descendants in the southern part of the USA.
Kara Walker, “The End of Uncle Tom (Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven)”, 1995
Chris Ofili, a Nigerian living in London and 1998 winner of the prestigious Turner Prize, tells the story of the black population, but transforms it into sacred icons, highly coloured kitsch portraits in hip hop style, with painted and perfumed elephant dung forming the base.
Chris Ofili, “No Woman No Cry”, 1998
Recreating alternative worlds through painting is American artist John Currin, who paints today’s obsession with big breasted young women with caricature realism and a manifest interest for painting tradition and Kurt Kauper who in his “Diva Fiction” realistically and meticulously paints singers who are actually completely invented.
Matthieu Laurette seems to choose real characters but who instead are the doubles of contemporary stars and divas, organising international gatherings of them.
Cai-Guo-Qiang is the only performer in the exhibition: on the lower floor of the museum a nude model on a horse poses for painters; canvases and easels in a timeless atmosphere.
Cai Guo-Qiang, “Still Life Performance”, 2000
Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist plays in a band and is well acquainted with Pop culture. She prefers images to words and transforms herself in a medium through which to transfer the conscious and unconscious.
Doug Aitken’s video installation creates a juxtaposition between the myth of the American Far West and areas filled with offices and motorways whilst Gregory Crewdson creates juxtaposition by positioning some extraneous element in the film set which he builds. The photos seem to be of a surreal and glittering drama.
Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco makes unusable structures, almost unbuildable. “Ping-stagno” is a table tennis table for four with a pool with flowers at the centre: enchanting!
Gabriel Orozco, “Ping Pong Table”, 1998
Jeffrey Deitch is dealer, curator and gallery owner of Deitch Projects, a gallery in Soho (New York) to which he has recently added another space in Wooster Street (Soho) as well as a further 4000 sqm open only from 7 to 11 in the evening, in Williamsburg (Brooklyn).
He graduated in art history and economics and the two subjects came together to form his main line of work, a new militant critical figure was born along with Deitchland!
Since the eighties he has been head of the Art Investment sector for the First National Bank in Manhattan, he has become a powerful figure on the New York scene and something of a King Midas in the art world.
Manager of Jeff Koons and curator of the famous Dakis Joannou collection. Curator of events such as “Artificial Nature”, in Italy famous for “Post Human” (1992 Castello di Rivoli), in which he presented artists who at the time were little known or who had never previously shown: Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Matthew Barney, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Mike Kelley, the text in his catalogues is both fast and readable.
Deitch Projects is interested in artists who are linked to pop culture, crossing over between the world of art and that of fashion, design and cinema, often more interested in the production of the work than in its simple management. Memorable projects include the “Navy project” by Vanessa Beecroft, a performance by the Italian artist with the military American marines, held on an aircraft carrier in New York.
Form Follows Fiction
Date: 17th October 2001 – 27th January 2002
Place: Castello di Rivoli. Museo d’Arte Contemporanea
Address: Piazza Mafalda di Savoia -10098 Rivoli (Torino)
Tel: 011 956 5222