Founded in 1985 as the result of a process of education and research into the most current art scene, the Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea (MLAC) from the outset has encouraged an experimental vision of a museum based on dialogue between academia and the art world, between creative process and scientific research.
Today there remains an air of innovation in the museum, an environment geared to valorising and experiencing a new concept of curatorship and interdisciplinary art. Here, despite the changing historical perspective, students, artists and teachers have worked side by side to produce exhibitions of contemporary art, educational workshops, active readings and masterclasses.
March 2016 saw the inauguration of a fascinating exhibition curated by Giulia Tulino: Il linguaggio come scoperta. Nuove forme di libro d’artista nel XXI Secolo (Language as discovery. New forms of artists’ books in the 21st century). On this occasion, artists Lucia Crisci, Giuseppe Graziosi, Susanne Kressler, Alessandro Rosa and the Void group were invited to address a specific art form: the artist’s book.
Introducing the round table discussion, held after the vernissage and entitled Il libro d’artista dalle origini ai giorni d’oggi (The artist’s book, from its origins to the present day), Professor Claudio Zambianchi invited reflection on the difficulties inherent in the definition and historical contextualisation of this particular phenomenon.
He was followed by art collector Mauro Carrera, who referred by way of example to the definition of the Artist’s Book advanced in 1971 by the celebrated art critic Germano Celant, who observed shrewdly: “The artist’s book is essentially a synthesis of content and form; is the term ‘artist’s book’ correct today, or would it perhaps be better to call it a piece of art in the form of a book?”
The round table played a fundamental role in the exhibition, as during the discussion the reasons behind the spread and the success of the artist’s book emerged: for a very long time the form has represented an alternative medium to the classic mechanism of art distribution, and has been particularly favoured by artists seeking to present their work with a healthy dose of freedom and independence. During the debate, many questions arose concerning the interpretation and study of the potential and the possible variations of the form.
The traditional format of the artist’s book, in which the graphic structure provides the frame for the artist’s work, has undergone various changes. As curator Giulia Tulino explains, in recent years the tendency has been towards cross-fertilisation between various techniques; and the work of the participating artists confirms this observation. We can cite Lucia Crisci’s work Rosato 2015, a tapestry created by assembling pages of magazines positioned purely according to colour; Susanne Kessler’s installation consisting of books painted with tar and hung from a large metal wheel, entitled Mobile Library 2015; and lastly the Void group’s sound performance, Noise is full of words 2012, based on voice reading software which converts the sounds produced by an electric guitar into words and text. These artists have drawn on many different mediums to create their works, evidence of the endless artistic ways of relating to a text or interpreting the idea of a book. We can thus observe how, in the world of contemporary art, the artist’s book has undergone further evolution: it has been dematerialised, deconstructed, made virtual or ultimately even integrated into a the work of art, becoming a part of it.
The founder and creator of this museum, Professor Simonetta Lux, describes the cultural atmosphere that gravitates around the museum in her recent book. Simonetta Lux (ed.) Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea. MLAC Index 2000-2012, Gangemi Editore, Rome 2012.
images (cover 1) Susanne Kessler, Mobile Library, 2015. (2) Void, Noise is full of Words, 2012 (3) Lucia Crisci, Rosato, 2015.