Nicholas Polari’s run at spazioSERRA

If one were to pause for a few moments to outline the physical and human geography of a railway station, the outcome would probably be disappointing. The interweaving of trajectories is too complex and the skein of human lives and temporalities that reconfigures itself differently each time in this space is elusive, in the attempt to enclose it in a fixed signpost. The geography of a station is magmatic, cacophonous: a plasticity that the body traverses no longer as a singular point but, as the English anthropologist Tim Ingold would say, as a line, inevitably entwined with the other lives that pass through this always uncertain space.

Nicholas Polari

Nicholas Polari, Dragon, installation view at spazioSERRA, 2023, courtesy spazioSERRA

The impasse is in the first verb. To pause: how is this possible in a place where everything moves? The station is a lacunose geography, un postoIMPOSSIBILE, as it is the title of the 2022/2023 exhibition season of spazioSERRA: a curatorial collective and non-profit exhibition space located in an octagonal glass kiosk in Milan’s Lancetti station, where even art itself branches off into the ever-moving gazes of passers-by, becoming part of this complex mapping in the making. It is not so much a contemplation as an encounter, what happens when the eyes accidentally bump into this glass perimeter. It is in this visual ‘stumble’, so closely in contact with the daily hustle of the metropolis, that the public vocation of this space lies in the sparks that are created: deep and fast aesthetic collisions that move in correspondence with the sensibility of those who, for a moment or for a few hours, pause to look, but then continue their ‘run’ that will end elsewhere. It is an experience in which the work and the eye, the rhythm of art and that of life, are always caught in a reciprocal movement: an elusive and wild resonance that in the case of Dragon, a solo exhibition by Nicholas Polari (Turin, 1993) open until 1/03/2023, is transformed into the echo of a much older, inner and existential race.

Nicholas Polari, Dragon, installation view at spazioSERRA, 2023, courtesy spazioSERRA

Polari allows this transit with neither beginning nor end to be perceived by embodying it in the figure of the dragon, evoked in its ambiguous and abysmal character, as if the act of running were actually a symptom of a soul puffing from within, reminiscent of a beast in a state of quiescence: running and performing, faster and faster, ever more silently. Is the dragon an excessive, uncontrollable creature, or perhaps is it just a performance? Probably both: in Dragon the fantastic animal becomes the imaginative projection of the rally car, the medium and symbol of a competition in which what counts, first and foremost, is speed. Getting from A to B in the shortest possible time, with spazioSERRA becoming the cockpit of this device and simultaneously the frame of a frozen time, where everyone discover themselves to be both driver and rider.

Nicholas Polari, Dragon, 2023, photo Federico Ravassard

Through an engine roar that seems to repeat itself eternally, a video begins alternating images of a real rally performance, created from the inside of a cabin that engulfs the entire screen, leaving the surrounding environment in an impossible out-field, with visions of the dragon reciting its monologue, steady in a space poised between the synthetic, the organic and the oneiric. The roar of the engine thus cadences the race of reality, while the dragon’s puffing dilates it in an inner breathlessness that at the same time disquiets and seduces, regardless of any moral itinerary. In Dragon, reality and fiction also run together, without letting it be understood where one ends and the other begins: Nicholas Polari makes their interstices visible, and in so doing transforms spazioSERRA into the cockpit not only of the car, not only of the dragon of the soul, but also of an aesthetic sensibility that welcomes the passer-by-knight-rider without judgement. Three aspects intertwined in a silent turbulence where A and B no longer exist: only the movement in between counts.

Nicholas Polari, Dragon, installation view at spazioSERRA, 2023, courtesy spazioSERRA

One senses – the turbulence – by following the contours of the sculptures made of compact polycarbonate and then sprinkled with glossy enamel, suspended at half-height as if they were embryos of a decomposed bodywork, far removed from the linear and clocked time of the video: matrices of the car engine and of life. One is seduced – by the turbulence – then looking at the fiery red dragon mask, which embodies the words spoken in the video, motionless as if ready to be worn by anyone who wants to try. One turns around – to the turbulence – finally walking around the glass perimeter of the exhibition space, and reading the mapping of the Milano Lancetti station – only comprehensible from the outside – written in the code that in the rally the co-driver uses to guide the companion riding the dragon: an immediate language made up of a few lines and words, as quick as sparks, which in the race anticipate the space that one is going to travel. It is a matter of trust, the one between the driver and the co-driver, and if the former is the knight, the latter wears the shoes of the soothsayer: the figure who, in this story of speed, knows the road beforehand, even if during the race he never sees it, concentrated on reading the prophecies to the companion to whom he entrusts himself completely. Perhaps it is only through this extreme pact that the rider can manage to run without crashing. Living together in the dragon’s puff.

Nicholas Polari, Dragon, installation view at spazioSERRA, 2023, courtesy spazioSERRA

“I asked the rider why he runs and he replied that he does not know. He says that maybe he runs not to think”. Thus we read in the exhibition’s critical text written by Ilaria Leonetti. Words in which the spirit of Dragon is condensed: its truths and the gaps that Polari subtly lets you guess. One runs, but why? The dragon poses a complex and paradoxical question: can a sports performance become a metaphor for a performance of existence?


Nicholas Polari. Dragon
A cura di spazioSERRA
25/01/2023 – 01/03/2023
Stazione Milano Lancetti – Viale Vincenzo Lancetti 43, Milano


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