Ibidem at pianobi. The terrestrial theophanies by ...

Ibidem at pianobi. The terrestrial theophanies by Marco Emmanuele

There is no artwork that refers to a specific archetypal meaning, where the latter is to be intended as the ability of the work to formulate a vision of a world that goes far beyond its visual representation. The philologist Walter F. Otto clarifies the matter explicitly in his extraordinary book Theophany, in which he states that mythical images, which have always accompanied men’s growth and evolution, contain a hidden power, such as to imply unconscious meanings derived from a depth psychology[1]. It can be said that, following this reasoning, myths, as well as the pagan and Christian iconographies from which they derive, are like ontological realities born from men’s confrontation with the external environment.

According to this evocative theory, every myth can be considered as an emanation of our being. In this regard, the work by Marco Emmanuele (1986, Catania), titled Iso#42 (2020), which draws inspiration from the ancient iconography of the Roman caritas[2], is at the origin of IBIDEM Now and at the time of the exhibition (IBIDEM Adesso e nell’ora della mostra), scheduled until September 30, 2021 at the pianobi space directed and curated by Isabella Vitale (1977, Rome). In the exhibition, the intention to create a diversified itinerary clearly emerges to identify a deposit of images that express an artistic conscience strongly reflective towards the inevitability of the material aspects and the process used to modify them.

In this sense, the curator’s decision to stem the exhibition from the image of the Roman caritas stimulates a series of concatenated reflections. The iconography, taken from pagan culture, is conceptually linked to the title of the exhibition “Now and at the time of the exhibition” (Adesso e nell’ora della mostra), which evokes religious litanies, a spiritual aspect accentuated by the site-specific works. In this case, Marco Emmanuele has created a three-glass set-up on the glazed entrance door, as if to signify an operation specific to liturgical locations, where the spiritual aspect of the world is thickened. From here, the artist’s unprecedented intuition emerges, or rather, his ability to give life to a visual and luminist form born from a contamination of materials and genres, where residues of objects and fragments derived from our world stage a spiritual dialogue made of wonder and imagination. This way, the artist finds himself in a sometimes-dichotomous position, in the sense that he goes beyond any kind of classic artistic medium and takes on forms that indicate his ability not to impose any limits on the materials he works with. The glass windows represent luminous filters that exude the physical aspect of the world: perforated as they are, marked, in some cases torn, they look like written media that want to remind us that men, actually, before communicating in writing, expressed themselves with amorphous signs, elements that are directly linked to our unconscious.

The exhibition is characterized by these particular contaminations, between the physics of things and the spirit of man, all of which could be a symptom of Emmanuele’s desire to glimpse the infinite richness of beings and of the world we live in. It is not surprising that Iso#42 seems to recall the name, as the artist wishes to suggest, of the graininess and sensitivity of photographic film. But also the name of an unstable particle waiting to jump from one interaction to another, to symbolize, in the words of the physicist Carlo Rovelli, “that what exists is never stable; it is merely jumping from one interaction to another”.[3] A whole, at the same time acute and involving, aimed at underlining the careful attention of the artist towards the state of reality, which, to paraphrase Rovelli’s words, is none other than a “continuous and restless swarming of things, a continuous coming to light and disappearance of ephemeral entities”.[4] Thus, from these reflections, Emmanuele’s attention to the physics and materiality of things emerges with absolute unequivocalness since his entire artistic language is based on a sort of sabotage of the normal denotative processes of art that has its nascent state[5] towards the aspect of matter, in this case the use of glass, ceramics and fragments of debris.

The exhibition as a whole is a sort of theophanic pause, awaiting the manifestation of a divinity, whether pagan or Christian, precisely because it presents itself as an indecipherable introspective path linked to the contamination and deconstruction of discarded fragments of glass and ceramics, elements that are always monitored by the artist’s intentionality, which dominates their form and color. His methodological ability to make the most of waste materials as processing residues implies a refined and extremely subtle intellectual awareness that allows Emmanuele to create canvases characterized by a biting harmonic chaos. And so, the small vitreous stones, pulverized and mixed with sea sand and rabbit glue on canvas, are arranged on surfaces legitimized by formal and coloristic mechanisms based on the exclusion and inclusion of forms. This is why the image succeeds in perfectly embodying and stamping the feeling of reuse and the idea of an art of future memory.

In contrast to the usual nowadays exhibitions, where the space is overexposed, Emmanule’s exhibition lies in the selective juxtaposition of technically dissimilar works that provide important and profound food for thought. This way, as in a process of translation, the physicality of the work penetrates into the physical space: this is the case with the sculpture called Nettascarpe (2019), in which the object that was used to remove mud from the soles of shoes in the 18th century is presented as a relic of urban archaeology, now re-proposed with small fragments of polished glass arranged according to a precarious compositional balance. The choice of overlapping details to mix informal figurative elements seems to point us towards a sculptural structure of allegorical value linked to a plurality of meanings, such as to make the ancient object alive and autonomous, independently of its primary use.

Another characteristic of Marco Emmanuele’s works is his ability to focus attention on the object and its physical component, to the extent that the diversity of the media  become instruments that distance the artist from the metalinguistic limits of art. The artist, especially in the works he made with glass materials, develops a sort of transition that sometimes leads him to annihilate the subject matter, to the point of making it vaporize by reducing its volume and depth. According to this process of dormant figurative annihilation, Emmanuele accentuates the physical and processual aspect of the work, to the point of giving us the intimate corporeity of the raw materials through an evocative simplicity of color and tone. The other uniqueness that rigorously emerges from the exhibition project is that, according to the examined works, they allow us to perceive aspects of Emmanuele’s inspiration, where he plays with the discards of the world. He carefully selects many elements left over by today’s bulimic contemporary life, then collects them, modifies them, and proposes them to a new life, thus generating in the viewer a feeling of disbelief and amazement. What supports this theory is the vision that it is possible to consider the corpus of exhibited works as small theophanies that, as manifestations of earthly divinities with a material heart, born from reinvigorated and regenerated waste by the hands of an artist, are halfway between the physical and the eclectic, a contamination of fragments that are apparently no longer usable. At this point, how should we all treat these little earthly theophanies born from discarded materials? Emmanuele has no doubts, like the physicist Rovelli, who, while describing the beauty of science, seems to be describing the same approach that our artist has towards reality, considered as an “incandescent forge of ideas […] born of intuitions, of attempts. Of paths taken and then abandoned, of enthusiasms. In the effort to imagine what has not yet been imagined.” [6]

This exhibition project would not be characterized by such a vibrant spiritual energy if it had not been set up in an equally stimulating location, namely pianobi, in the south-eastern part of Rome known as the Quadraro, founded by Isabella Vitale and opened to the public with this exhibition. It is interesting to dwell on the name of the place, which could coincide with an aphorism of life: who among us would not want to own a special place away from the normal routine where one can isolate oneself and refer to one’s memories and erudite stories? It is no coincidence that the rooms represent two ineffable souls: the exhibition white cube, currently hosting Marco Emmanuele’s exhibition, and the adjacent area as a place of intimate recollection, whose grazing light illuminates volumes and collections of historical documents from the founder’s academic life. It is precisely from this connection that the love and interest in ideas exudes with vehement energy, making pianobi an area in which one can mentally formulate creative concepts, almost as if the location opens up to welcome new artistic forms. The place’s founder herself underlines this duality, stating that the space is characterized by “a freedom based on transversal collaborations. This implies different phases: the study and the exhibition planning conceived together with the artist that leads to a moment of confrontation as a normal development of a research that has its beginning in the exhibition. In addition, the programming of the space does not have a strict calendar because each exhibition is the result of an introspective and progressive confrontation with the artist, since this is the added value of the exhibition strategy”.

The unforgettable and memorable philosopher Schopenhauer, speaking of the erudite, describes him/her as those who study in order to attain the intelligence of things; books, studies and thematic in-depth analyses are precisely the rungs of a ladder whose ascent allows access to knowledge. Vitale’s thought is reflected in this metaphorical image according to which “the true scholar carries the rungs of the ladder with him, rejoicing in the weight of the increasing load.”[7] In a time when it seems there is no longer a moment to stop and reflect, in this place, on the other hand, rich in suggestions, artistic research becomes a moment of meditation. All this is made possible thanks to the intentions of the founder, since Vitale, with her calm and cohesive approach, places dialogue at the basis of her work, so that the location becomes a place of welcome for one of the few languages that today is capable of touching the emotional state of men: art and all its shining, irradiating and involving light.


[1] Walter F. Otto, Teofania. Lo spirito della religione nella Greca antica, curated by Giampiero Moretti, piccola biblioteca Adelphi, 2021, Milan, pp. 32-35

[2] The iconography of Caritas Romana derives from a story by the Roman historian Valerius Maximus (Rome, 1st century BC – 1st century AD)

[3] Carlo Rovelli, Sette brevi lezioni di fisica, piccola biblioteca Adelphi, 2021, Milan, 2014, p. 40

[4] Carlo Rovelli, work cited, p. 41

[5] The term nascent state was theorized by the sociologist Francesco Alberoni (1929) and indicates a group of people who, united by common ideals, create a movement. However, according to the sociologist, this state is also linked to the phase of falling in love, meant as a collective movement of two. According to this meaning, in Marco Emmanuele’s works, the nascent state emerges as a love of materiality that leads him to break down all medial barriers to the point of experiencing it without limits.

[6] Carlo Rovelli, work cited, p.49

[7] Arthur Schopenhauer, L’arte di insultare, curated and with an essay by Franco Volpi, Adelphi Edizioni, Milan, 2020, p.61

Lo spazio pianobi founded and directed by Isabella Vitale, Roma, Ph. Credit Marco Emmanuele, Courtesy pianobi, Roma

Marco Emmanuele, Ibidem, 2021, resin and glass, 52 x 30 cm, Ph. Credit Marco Emmanuele, Courtesy pianobi, Roma

Installation view of the exhibition Marco Emmanuele. IBIDEM, Adesso e nell’ora della mostra curated by Isabella Vitale, pianobi, Roma, Ph. Credit Marco Emmanuele, Courtesy pianobi, Roma

Marco Emmanuele, Ibidem, 2021, (detail), resin and glass, 52 x 30 cm, Ph. Credit Marco Emmanuele, Courtesy pianobi, Roma

Installation view of the exhibition Marco Emmanuele. IBIDEM, Adesso e nell’ora della mostra curated by Isabella Vitale, pianobi, Roma, Ph. Credit Marco Emmanuele, Courtesy pianobi, Roma

Marco Emmanuele, Nettascarpe, 2019, enameled iron and glass, 33 x 25 x 5,5 cm, Ph. Credit Marco Emmanuele, Courtesy pianobi, Roma

Installation view of the exhibition Marco Emmanuele. IBIDEM, Adesso e nell’ora della mostra curated by Isabella Vitale, pianobi, Roma, Ph. Credit Marco Emmanuele, Courtesy pianobi, Roma

Marco Emmanuele, Iso #42, 2020, glass powder, sea sand and rabbit glue on canvas, 150 x 120 cm, Ph. Credit Marco Emmanuele, Courtesy pianobi, Roma


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.