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Souvenir of Luca Vitone

Entering the PAC of Milan (Padiglione d’Arte Contemporaneafor the retrospective of Luca Vitone (the Genoese artist, who lives in Berlin, has exhibited in various international galleries and at the Venice Biennale), the visitor is immediately struck by a kind of commemorative plaque of an eye inside a triangle. The title, “Souvenir d’Italie (Lapide)”, ironically represents the symbol of the P2 Masonic lodge, the secret organization that aspired to bring about an anti-democratic change to Italy. A very long list of names occupies almost the entire wall opposite the plaque: they are the members of the lodge (title: “Souvenir d’Italie, Foundations of the Second Republic”).

If with this work Vitone makes us descend into the historical-political reality of the second half of the twentieth century, through the forms of power aimed at subversion (from the list of members: bankers, politicians, journalists), his other works speak to us of the same theme using different materials. “Imperium” is the title of four monochromes, painted by mixing watercolor with the dust collected from four prestigious German institutions: the Central Bank, the Parliament, the Pergamon museum, all symbolic places of economic, political and cultural power. Power is also represented through an “olfactory sculpture”: a perfume (created by the artist himself) that diffuses in the air, first in a pleasant way, then becomes nauseating.

In the next room, the attention is directed to a multitude of flags (black, edged with red, with writings and a red wheel in the center); looking at them more closely, one can see that the flags are without a pole because they do not represent national power, but they address the condition of the Romani people (the wheel is a symbol of their ethnic group) and that of migrants in general.

The writing on one of the flags, “Il movimento è tutto, il fine è nulla” (Movement is all, the end is nowhere), refers not only to the continuous movement of these populations, but also indicates the process oriented approach as a fundamental element of contemporary art.
Souvenir of power, which transforms people and places, and at the same time a memory of a youthful experience, is also the installation “Last Journey”: an old red Peugeot 204, with the bonnet raised, stuck in the middle of a sea of sand (real). In 1977 the artist drove with his family in a car like this one from Genoa for an adventurous journey to Iran, but a breakdown forced them to have an unexpected stop in the desert. The individual memories of an unrepeatable experience overlap with the unrepeatability of a historical condition, of a world profoundly transformed by recent events.

Vitone offers us an exciting, complex itinerary that leads us to reflect on current issues using heterogeneous materials for a particularly original visual (and olfactory) experience.
Liviana Martin, Milan Reviewer

Volume 32 no 4 March/April 2018 p 29

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Hans Peter Mayer

Hi Liviana,
In the context of Vitone’s souvenirs, how do you think the new Italian government will change the economic, political and cultural power of Italy? Do you think anything will change? Is it possible that the planned reduction of taxes will benefit the arts?

Liviana Martin

I think things will only get worse, as the future government doesn’t seem to have the proper knowledge of the basic principles of economy. Theoretically they should sponsor the artistic heritage, but now we have to see if the resources will be actually spent in this context

Brad Torres

Beautiful art exhibitions aside, what a dramatic moment for Italy; I hope all goes well. I look forward to reading more of your articles, which I thoroughly enjoy.

Penelope Pearson

This has made me think; is this exhibit a souvenir, as something we bring back with us from a holiday – something to remember from the past? What exactly is a souvenir? Why would Vitone consider this exhibit a Souvenir from Italy? Is it because he lives in exile in Berlin? I consider anyone living outside of their country as living in exile, as their memories become their souvenirs. This artist has a past, a rich one, and it is part of his baggage, part of his souvenir of life.

Brad Torres

I’m curious to know how the olfactory sculpture with its good and bad smells had anything to do with the rest of the installation. What was the artist trying to say here?

Liviana Martin

Entitled “Imperium”, this odour is a representation of power. Power is such when it cannot be seen , when it is not explicit, but can be sensed, as in this case.
Vitone created various works with the idea of recovering the olfactory dimension in order to substitute the object ( as he did for the Italian pavilion during the 55th Biennale in Venice, where he reproduced the smell of Eternit).

Brad Torres

I appreciated your explanation. I’ve always thought of odors as an attraction or a repulsion with some odors triggering memories from the past, while other odors incite desire, hunger and disgust. The concept of unseen power sensed from an odor is totally new for me. I guess it represents the transformation of the world due to unseen power and manipulation behind this power, like a perfume that permeates an environment.
What would Vitone have used to make these odors, in particular the smell of Eternit?

Liviana Martin

Vitone used benzoin, citron, costus, hyraceum , water , alcohol for Imperium. For the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale, he filled a great space in the Italian Pavilion with a sharp, pungent , nauseating and disturbing artificial scent, in order to represent the silent progress of microscopic cancer cells that cause sickness and death to those who inhale them.

Brad Torres

So Vitone is also some sort of mad genius out of a chemistry book, not just an artist. I am fascinated. How does one invent the smell of microscopic cancer cells caused by eternit or for the smell of power? Smells are so vital to our lives, but again, I find their use in art quite original and also thought provoking.

William Bates

I’m impressed by the number of high quality exhibitions coming out of Milan year after year, including this one of Luca Vitone; lucky Milanese to have so many exhibitions to go to – that is if they have any time to do so. I know it is a very competitive and high paced city where people work endless hours, leaving little time to visit these great exhibitions that are also expertly curated. It is this that has made me ask, who are the attenders of the exhibitions in Milan, or do people go out in hordes on Saturdays and Sundays… Read more »

Liviana Martin

In Milan there are various exhibitions and many events, the most recent one being the design week that attracts visitors from all over the world. Regarding the turnout at exhibitions, this does not only occur on Saturdays and Sundays, although of course it is when there is the greatest number of visitors, but also on a daily basis. Visitors are mainly local but there are also many tourists, students, schoolchildren and art lovers- people of all ages. Almost all the museums, galleries and foundations are open all week, while sometimes they also open in the evening: this naturally favours the… Read more »

Thank you Liviana for your answer. We must fight the lack of a demand for culture in our society, as mass media has taken control over our lives and of our children’s lives. It is refreshing to hear that this isn’t taking place in Italy, yet.

Liviana Martin

I think that in these days is very important to speak about the United States of Europe . Vitone paints his monochromes exposed in Milan and in Berlin thinking of the identity and the history of the European nations.

Hans Peter Mayer

Luca Vitone is now in Berlin with something totally different from what he did in Milan. lt’s a fascinating exhibition on the United States of Europe, considering the context we are living in with a looming Brexit.
Must see if you can, with only 4 days left.
http://nagel-draxler.de/exhibitions/europa/

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