Anna Boghiguian returns to Turin after her major exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli in 2017, opening her first solo show at the Galleria Franco Noero. The Egyptian artist – born in Cairo, where she studied political science, and emigrated to Canada, in Montréal – is the protagonist of a double setup, the first part in the venue on Via Mottalciata and the second in the garden attached to the gallery’s warehouses.
Reconstructing a linear narrative in the curated itinerary for A Clown Jumped into the Arena is not obvious. There is certainly a direction suggested by the geography of the gallery, letting visitors flow between the artist’s most recent works and those produced specifically for the occasion, but not doubting its uniqueness might prevent us from noticing the archipelago-like conformation of the exhibition. Anna Boghiguian, over the course of her career, has drawn lines connecting sociopolitical realities as distant on atlases as they are coincidental in their fate, in an attempt to map the world according to her personal intellectual inkling, and so it happens again this time. A Clown Jumped into the Arena opens with a large installation made up of a multitude of birds and closes with the satirical figure of a crocodile, only the head of which emerges from the wall with its jaws wide open and one paw clutching prey. The birds are constructed of a variety of materials – some made of paper, decorated with glitter or painted, others of blue and black glass, and still others of metal, bronze or iron – and hover lightly in an improvised aviary. The birds inhabit a hoped-for reality, however utopian, in which living things are free to detach themselves from the ground, contrasting with the violent reptile whose absent belly is anchored to the ground.
We continue to a room with pine-green walls, furnished with a table on which a cardboard vase and flowers of the same material give off no aroma. Here we can encounter the first circus disturbing figures, puppets that stand upright thanks to taut wires descending from above. Their anatomy reveals an envelope of padded tissue, on which it is printed the sketch of characters the artist has previously traced on paper. Some are mere acrobats who maintain their anonymity with colorful disguises, while others cannot hide their identity, despite their jester-like poses. One puppet resembles Berlusconi, one Farouk – the deposed ruler following the 1952Egyptian Revolution, who almost attended the military academy in Turin – and to close, in the open air, a Mussolini trying in vain to grasp an acrobat pole.
Their role is directly clarified by a text painted on a wall by the artist. “[…] The ruler, as a clown, introspects his essence. His country becomes a circus, his arena. On stage he tells stories of victory. He holds the string of power. The mass choose to turn into wood: they catch fire, they turn into ash. He no longer has an audience[…]”. A Clown Jumped into the Arena lacks that audience made of human figures on paper and wood that, neglected by its sovereigns, in so many other projects by Anna Boghiguian had become their background, making itself a two-dimensional scenography, and at the Galleria Franco Noero it is completely absent.
In the last room, we can witness the ultimate metamorphosis of the textile characters, embodied in their circus profile. Iron and bronze silhouettes covered in wax, posing in inhuman postures with disproportionate features, accompany the artist’s drawings in the pure form of reflection. These works, occasionally complemented by acetate sheets on which emblematic phrases are embroidered, are divided into two series: Nietzsche and Alexandria.
Like echoes recalling past works, especially in the first collection the artist intertwines her poetics with the figure of the philosopher who had already been the subject of her reflections in the past, during her residency at Castello di Rivoli. Nietzsche had shown himself capable of discerning into reality the Dionysian spirit that governs irrationality, passion and creative chaos, becoming its victim at the climax of his illness. The same spirit that so frequently moves politicians and rulers, intent on performing at the center of their own arena their mediocre performance. “[…] (The ruler) He cleans his white washed face. The heavy mascara, the red lipstick. The lime light falls on his deadly complexion. He becomes an eye, a vision, a memory, a forgotten silhouette, an illusion of time past”.
 Text taken from a wall painting created by Anna Boghiguian and quoted in the press release
Anna Boghiguian. A Clown Jumped into the Arena
4 November 2023 – 10 February 2024
Galleria Franco Noero
Via Mottalciata 10/B, Torino
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