The Castle at Barletta has become the stage for the (Di) sfide contemporanee exhibit. This event was conceived and curated by Daniela Di Niso and Antonio Musci. Featured pieces are the site-specific installations by French filmmaker and artist Pierre Coulibeuf along with those by Elastic Group, the Italian-Spanish team of artists (made up of Alexandro Ladaga and Silvia Manteiga), Raffaele Fiorella and Igor Imhoff.
The exhibit’s title (Di) sfide contemporanee (Contemporary Challenges) alludes to both the theme of conflict at the core of the two exhibitions as well as the challenge Art wants to present to History through the creative and innovative use of modern technology in such a way as to recall and modernize an event like the renowned tournament known as the 1503 «Challenge at Barletta». The contemporary nature of the exhibit is inherent to the nature of the works on display which are placed in different areas of the castle. A mutual and simultaneous exchange takes place in accord with an inter-media logic that witnesses the perfect fusion of cinema, video, photography and graphic-digital animation.
Works on display examine the theme of conflict in different ways. For example, Pierre Coulibeuf presents a large portion of his 2002 film Les Guerriers de la Beauté on two different screens in his installation The Warriors of Beauty. This work focuses upon the imagery of another artist, Jan Fabre, and reinterprets the theatrical universe through an operation of similarity that is not purely imitative. This is a technique which Coulibeuf has adopted throughout his career as he juxtaposes himself to the beauty of celebrities from the worlds of dance, visual arts and other forms of expression. In his The Warriors of Beauty, the figures and actions follow one another according to a logic of repetition/difference in the halls of a fortress located in Antwerp (Fabre’s native city) that seem to extend to the interior of the castle at Barletta in an ideal spatial-temporal continuity/proximity. Several photographs of scenes from the eponymous film are featured in the installation.
The choreographic transposition of the conflict, according to the timeless historicity seen in the Coulibeuf’s work becomes a clear battle between art and nature and between form and material in Elastic Group’s From Milk to Z. This evocative single-channel installation makes us witnesses to the materialization of an image that produces a kind of sculptured video, a magmatic architecture in evolution. The examination of detail as the detector of universes, anticipated with the initial experiments with microscopes which has progressed into the recent onset of nano-technology, has articulated the beginning of the post-digital era in which a new nature takes shape. Theorist Roy Ascott describes this nature as «Back to Nature II» and one that is born into «a world that is not digitally dry nor biologically wet, nor virtual, nor current: in short, a ‘moist’ world».
The figurative/performance traits of The Warriors of Beauty and the abstract/kinetic ones of From Milk to Z somehow find a synthesis in the work by Apulia natives Fiorella and Imhoff, Idle Status, a work that is presented in some points as a mapping and, according to certain precise parameters, dematerializes the castle’s true architecture into spectacular images of great impact. The truth is that their art is a powerful graphic tale built upon an admixture of geometric-symbolic elements. The challenge becomes, yet again, a pretext for a broader argumentation: the chaotic and deliberately unstable texture combined with the constant interference of and in the images that intermittently disturb the screening bring a conflict to mind that is not only narrative (the historical event in and of itself) but recreational and technological as well, as illustrated with the idiom of analogue vs. digital video games. Other works by Fiorella are on display indoors which are mounted onto digital frames to represent the ideal continuation of the kinetic external fresco: the Barletta native artist’s delicate silhouettes are a series of repeating loops, mimicking the same gestures populating the powerfully evocative and poetic micro-worlds which are the direct descendants of shadow play or magic lanterns. Her work stems from that fascinating pre-cinematic universe which is being recovered and modernized in today’s digital era. Planet and Kurgan, the two videos by Imhoff, are visible on monitors and represent the apex of this animator-artist’s aesthetics. After the evocative «Percorsi» series, we now see more abstract results that are also more complex on a technological level and yet the artist continues to combine animation and 2D-3D computer resources, heading in a direction that is most definitely experimental. In Kurgan, for example, we see a setting that is deliberately hyper-realistic in which the characters (two phantoms or semblances) materialize and are immediately set against one another in a battle to the last molecule. Notwithstanding a certain autonomy they all possess, the idea emerges that art is experiencing a «transitional phase» today unlike any other before. In other words, conflict and regeneration suspended between past, present and future – carrying out an ontological afterthought of its devices.
This first exposition, which can be viewed for a month, will be followed by a second that is being inaugurated on Saturday 15 November. It too shall be open to the public for a month: the De Bello Naturae, della natura le sfide exhibit will feature new works by American artist Peter Campus, considered by many one of the pioneers of video art. This special preview will be displayed alongside photographic works (most of which are being shown for the first time) by American photographer Kathleen J. Graves and electronic landscapes by Antonio Trimani.
De Bello Naturae is not just an exhibit. It is an artistic project whose first fulfilment is hosted at the castle in Barletta and is the result of a dialogue which has involved the talents of Peter Campus, Kathleen J. Graves and Antonio Trimani for many years. Even if they adopt three different modes of expression, they share the same means of recording real life (photographs/movie cameras) and these three artists will exhibit works which illustrate the relationship/conflict between humans today and Nature in three different ways.
Peter Campus, with his increasingly abstract landscapes, has created a paean to nature thanks to the lively colours obtained with brilliant saturation and pixilation that can only be obtained in this our digital era. Campus has always been fascinated by cognitive psychology and all aspects of perception and explores the chasm between what we see, what photographs/movie cameras record and what we imagine to be a landscape. The videos which will be on display are part of a series that Campus, an impenitent formalist, began in 2008. They are works of exquisite sensitivity and compositional clarity, inspired by the great masters like Cézanne, Corot and Rothko.
The works of Kathleen J. Graves derive from her love for nature and technology. This artist has produced artificial creatures called NanoBots. They are practically new forms of life that can work and live in outdoor landscapes and help safeguard nature. Her new photographic work which will be in exhibit is called Dark Garden and reflects the change in meteorological models as proven by the flooding on Long Island, New York where she lives. In these works, the Bots (artificial creatures) take on imaginary shapes which observe and control the environment.
Lastly, the electronic works by Antonio Trimani invite us to contemplate, making this function associated with memories that are ancient and ancestral yet near to us now more than ever. Marco Tonelli wrote these words about him: «If Magritte had had a way to use video, he would have certainly represented his revelations about daily life in the same way Antonio Trimani does. For example, by suspending a boulder in the middle of the sky as a sudden apparition (Rivelazione). Trimani’s work often lives on these subtle epiphanies which alter their physical essence according to the times and places charged with a colour-changing anticipation like the Angles&Curves video on exhibit. Here time is like an evanescent material, not only because it is diluted in these times of digital images but because it is expanded along ultra-sensitive and changing coloured trajectories exactly like the sensitivity of the subject and our perceptive apparatus. Daily visions in the electronic flow, the works of Trimani make everything real that can be observed in the banality of our daily lives seem unreal and metaphysical thanks to the dreaminess of the composition in his videos».
(Di) sfide contemporanee is associated with the Avvistamenti (Sightings) Workshop curated by Bruno Di Marino, Daniela Di Niso and Antonio Musci and created by the Cineclub Canudo in collaboration with the Apulia Film Commission: a series of encounters with international artists which has been taking place since last July at the Cineporto in Bari and has hosted Italian filmmakers Cosimo Terlizzi and Davide Pepe as well as Academy Award winning Polish filmmaker Zbigniew Rybczinski.