Utramore: Riccardo Benassi’s extremist love ...

Utramore: Riccardo Benassi’s extremist love at Palazzo Bentivoglio (Bologna)

One of the most mysterious and disturbing aspects of new technologies is the hypothesis of their emotional potential, the occurrence of which would erode to the bone the substantial difference that we still perceive between us and them, making them belong, like us, to the realm of sentient beings . This rationally impossible possibility (at least in the current state of affairs) has been creeping into our imagination for decades and seems to be an inexhaustible inspiration source for cinema, literature and visual arts. In particular, the latter, in the very last period, have faced the pervasive presence of artificial intelligence and the semantic and existential questions raised by it. The research by Riccardo Benassi (Cremona, 1982. Lives and works in Berlin) pertains to this area, since the beginning of his career focused on a poetic interpretation of technological means. The artist, through videos, generative images and robotic media, explores the phenomenology of interfaces that contribute to forming our vision of the world by triggering mechanisms of mirroring and estrangement to reflect on the intersections between an increasingly indistinguishable mixed dimension.

Riccardo Benassi, “ULTRAMORE”, performance for a pair of robotic quadrupeds, 2024, ph. Andrea Rossetti, courtesy the artist and ZERO…, Milano

In Bologna, Palazzo Bentivoglio, as part of its program of acquisitions and support to artistic production, has chosen to inaugurate the schedule of evening openings of the garden (which began last year with the presentation of the work Lifetime by Ugo Rondinone in dialogue with a selection poetic works by John Giorno elaborated in collaboration with the foundation that manages his legacy) with a small precious solo exhibition by Benassi, already present in the collection with the video diptych: Cosi per dire (tornare partire), 2023. The work, supported from by pre-programmed portable laser projectors, projects a laser beam emitting white light onto the wall of the entrance door to the permanent collection which rhythmically makes the two words “tornare” and “partire” flow, fragmenting them into waves of discontinuous letters. The work, part of what the artist defines as «a series of disembodied acts of spoken poetry», amplifies the significance of the words, transforming them into subliminal messages whose meaning our mind intuits without our gaze ever being able to grasp them in their wholeness, implementing mechanisms that relate to hypnosis and mechanical psychedelia. As we can see from this example, the most characterizing trait of Benassi’s poetics is the collision of the coldness of the ultra-technological apparatuses with emotional and existentialist instances to generate hybrids through which we are invited to delve into our intimacy from the outside.

Riccardo Benassi, “ULTRAMORE”, performance for a pair of robotic quadrupeds, 2024, ph. Andrea Rossetti, courtesy the artist and ZERO…, Milano

The resulting mix of estrangement and identification is also the fulcrum of ULTRAMORE, a robotic performance produced by Palazzo Bentivoglio which debuts here with ten days of performances open to the public upon reservation, at the end of which it will continue its immaterial life outside of the collection. This work, whose protagonists are a pair of robot dogs programmed by the artist, as he himself explains, starts from a reflection on the fact that «paradoxically it is precisely the machines – and even more so the most advanced ones – that remind us of what defines our humanity. When we try to focus on the difference between us and them we are giving meaning to existence, we discover what we are doing here». And in fact it is surprising how the two mechanical animals, similar to those with which the Italian Carabinieri have recently equipped themselves following the example of the American police, are able to stage a surreal antique dialogue on unconditional love, acting as spokespersons for an intimate and existentialist confession written by the artist in the form of a poetic stream of consciousness entrusted to the synthesis of his mother’s voice created via artificial intelligence. The two performers, one programmed, the other remote-controlled directly by the artist, move surrounded by the audience around a flowerbed in the garden, interacting with each other with canine yelps, words and gestural codes.

Riccardo Benassi, “ULTRAMORE”, performance for a pair of robotic quadrupeds, 2024, ph. Andrea Rossetti, courtesy the artist and ZERO…, Milano

Sinisterly tender in resembling the headless body of a vacuum cleaner with legs, but at the same time threatening in terms of size, materials and power, one personifies an aphasic conditioned love and the other unconditional love «that which can also be addressed to a person who abandons us or who we decide to leave free to abandon us», assimilated «to the non-productive work of the mother, who wants nothing in return». The re-enactment of feelings, childhood memories, sketches of not always coherent reflection by making use of these alienating means introduces a sentient aspect into the martial efficiency of the machine, revealing a fallibility that is instinctively assimilated to the constitutive imperfection of the human being. Beyond the undeniable thematic and aesthetic reference to the standards of certain dystopian science fiction, the artist’s work therefore aims to be a reflection on our present which, by intellectually re-elaborating primary feelings previously rarefied by technological mediation, invites us to try to overturn the way which we look at reality in a systematic exercise of doubt understood as a heuristic tool.


Riccardo Benassi. ULTRAMORE
20, 21, 22, 26, 27 and 28 June; 4, 5 and 6 July 2024
6.00 pm, 8.00 pm and 10.00 pm
Palazzo Bentivoglio – Giardino privato
via del Borgo di San Pietro 1C, Bologna


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