Fare i conti con il rurale: the group show that in...

Fare i conti con il rurale: the group show that investigates the confrontational concept of Nature

On the one hand, erected by common feeling as a symbol of cultural and social narrowness (the province), on the other, made an emblem of purity, when and if presented in the slow tourism market, the “rural” is – etymologically – the worked land, not an edenic and sacred nature, but the countryside informed by peasant anthropization. Coming to terms with this rural means coming to grips with a contested narrative space, with all those fictions with which humans have presented nature over time, between misunderstood etymologies and one-way chronicles. The group show “Fare i conti con il rurale” curated by Arnold Braho and hosted in the spaces of the Iseo Lake Arsenal, looks at the confrontational discourse on Nature. It reconstructs the rural as a space of stratifications between antagonistic subjectivities and plurilateral drives: an unaddressable place whose essence cannot be instantly reduced and traded.

A.A.V.V., Fare i conti con il rurale, curated by Arnold Braho, Fondazione l’Arsenale di Iseo, Iseo, 2023, installation view, photo Giacomo Alberico, courtesy Fondazione l’Arsenale di Iseo

For Oliviero Fiorenzi (Osimo, 1992) the sky is the landscape to be constructed, the projection space, as for Klein, of a certain pictorial sensibility. Unlike the French artist, however, Fiorenzi does not claim possession of it. In the artist’s sky, in fact, the oligarchy of play prevails, and mythologies are constructed, not starting with the artist, but following the wonder and randomness of relationships between the self and the environment. Eight kites swam like tadpoles through the weather, overcame cloudy condensations and, first, landed at The Address (BS) on the occasion of the solo exhibition Otto Cieli (2022). Then, Fare i conti con il rurale returns a photographic print of one of them (Lo stupore. Il cavallo, 2022) and a verticalized kite (La paura. La fame d’aria, 2022). The Fire, the Horse, the Mouth, the Intertwined Hands: these banners of mind states bring back images that refer to the collective unconscious, to an iconographic apparatus built on childhood. As with the archetypes of the tarot cards or the figures of thread in the hank game[1], although the history and origin are obscure, it is the handing down that allows us to read and interpret Fiorenzi’s kites, to feel them close, to feel that they speak of our bushes, our circles, our huts. The artist’s focus is always on unpredictable exhibition spaces, and this is also the case with the buoys in Segnali (2019). The sky and the sea are, here, two strangers, whose desires, languages and cannibal hierarchies we have yet to understand. Wind is the agent of unpredictability, the performative, monstrous and playful drive of Nature that makes all anthropic works grafted onto her not immediately routable.

Oliviero Fiorenzi, La ricerca. Le mani, 2022, mixed media. Work presented on the occasion of Otto Cieli (29.09-12.11.2022), solo show at The Address gallery, Brescia. Courtesy l’artista

Also in Giorgio Mattia‘s (Frosinone, 1997) Viandante IV (2021) the object of observation is a sky, where lights from bombs and airplanes would manage to find even a needle on the ground[1]. It is September 11 1943, and the historic center of Frosinone, in lower Lazio, has been crunched by allied bombing. Cardboard buildings and thatched skies are returned, in the Viandanti series, with small graphite drawings, held up by straight, dogmatic arms, mobilizers of vulnerability, like the sewing needles to be found as the city goes up in flames, which are now the only holds of the string ropes holding up the installation. Mattia looks at the bombings and sees the layering of ruins, the improvisation that can always take place with and on them, the impossibility of condensing the landscape into a univocal structuring. And so, incursions and modifications, human and non-human, in the work of the artist from Frosinone, are never arcadian or nefarious, but always arcadian or nefarious for someone. The Viandanti series comes up against a certain irreversibility of the past: reworking with drawing manifests the generative possibilities of nostalgia, and Mattia inhabits the ruin with imagination. The archival recovery of bombed Frosinone does not bow to the linearity of history but desires to generate it. The artist seems, in fact, not so much in love with the referent – the hometown – as with the speculative exercise given by the estrangement, the failure to return home, the impossibility of being able to retrospectively experience a certain historical time.

Giorgio Mattia, Viandante I, 2021, grafite su carta, legno, ferro, 8 x 25 x 1,5 cm. Courtesy l’artista

The spatialization of war, the clash by antagonistic patterns invite us to rethink the narrative propaganda that occurs whenever dichotomies a priori are drawn: nature and humanity, companion species and pest species, interspecies collaborations and intraspecies clashes. In short, in the face of a widespread ecological neo-romanticism that projects fantasies of possession onto Nature again, disguised as the need for preservation, the ecological critique of Fare I conti con il rurale seems to look serenely at the disruptions given by the encounter between binary currents and the reconstitution that can occur from them. From here, Edoardo Caimi (Milan, 1989) goes on to imagine tools of survival on the peripheral ruins of an infected planet. The sloganeering of the end of the world is exorcized with survivalist structures that hybridize technological psychedelia with the search for a lost primordial consciousness. Falling from the skyscrapers of the Capitalocene dream, the last survivor now disguises himself as an animal, a clay, a drone charmer. In Witch (2023) and Trapcloack (2021) ecology is finally violent, it is the burnt wood of the witch’s stake, the last holder of community bonds, it is the accelerationist shield of the acrobat protecting itself of other species. In Caimi’s research, the environmental catastrophe, as well as the very birth of the rural, are never unconnected to social oppression, to the expropriation of the commons to the women farmers then sent to the stake, to the violence of which relations with the land cannot ultimately be stripped.

Edoardo Caimi, Strega, 2023, legno bruciato, pelle, vernice spray, dimensioni variabili. Photo Giacomo Alberico, Courtesy l’artista

If narratives about Nature often live, in contemporary art productions, in an extremely stereotypical dimension where the focus is on the arcadian collaboration between the two spheres and the logocentrism of language and desires of the human, Fare I conti con il rurale denounces a certain crisis of representation of the non-human, with artworks and research redefining power relations and pedestals of enunciation. The rural is, here, a materialistic nature, hardly sweetened let alone sanitized, that refers to real facts and ecosystems, to discourses about the world and the streets, where people live. Intimacy and contact with the rural, before being an animistic proposition, should be seen, in fact, as a political proposition, to reconsider the universality of the much-cited end of the world as much as that of environmental impact.

Alessia Baranello

[1] In Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016) Donna Haraway recounts how in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century, European and Euro-American ethnologists studying the skein game were surprised when they showed the thread figures they had learned as children to their hosts in other countries, who were already familiar with them. The thread figures were at once different and the same everywhere, and this was true of other games, such as the bell game or Chinese shadows. Situated, on the one hand, in the rituals and customs of the society in which they are produced, Children’s Games, at the same time, however, have cross-cultural qualities, of spatial and temporal rupture.

[1] “The town and countryside were brightly lit by flares, so much so that a needle could have been picked up on the ground.” “A reconnaissance plane passed over Veroli, lighting flares on Villa Campanari, headquarters of the local German command, below the monastery wall.” The evidence comes from the website of the City of Frosinone:


Edoardo Caimi, Marina Cavadini, Lucia Cristiani, Alice Faloretti, Oliviero Fiorenzi, Manuel Gardina, Nicola Ghirardelli, Edoardo Manzoni, Giorgio Mattia: Fare i conti con il rurale
curated by Arnold Braho
in collaboration with Camilla Remondina and with the patronage of the Municipality of Iseo and The Address gallery
Fondazione L’Arsenale
Vicolo Malinconia 2, 25049, Iseo (BS)


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