In a reality defined by territorial control and the consequent ideological constraint, tyranny, expansionist conflict and colonial exploitation, surrealism was born in the 1920s to explore alternative worlds to the dominant system and served artists as a tool in the struggle for political freedoms. and personal. The analogies with our days are not lacking, and it is therefore no coincidence that this artistic movement appears strongly in the exhibitions and in the language of contemporary artists, albeit with a new attitude. Unfortunately, we are already talking superficially about a current “mode”, rather than a question that needs to be thoroughly investigated. Instead, these corresponding “shadows”, between yesterday and today, between the anxiety of the twentieth century and the disturbing times, put themselves in the dirty corners that we do not want to clean, or rather, enlighten, are the result of “that live in strange times “. “from the hypermodern era, to quote Gianluca Didino.
On this theme, a small exhibition in Bologna after the overdose of works experienced during the pre-opening of the Venice Biennale represents a jewel that shines in the magma of “opinion” thumbs down thumbs up on the event in the lagoon. This is “Garden of Trust: visual correspondence between Gluklya and Kati Horna”, at Galleriapiùwhere, to put it in the same words used by Cecilia Alemani for his biennial, two artists belonging to different eras, “adopts the metamorphosis, the ambiguity and the fragmentation of the body to contrast the idea of the unitary man of the Renaissance, in favor of a hybridism, of a fluid reality, relationality and individuality. Stories of disobedient bodies who rebel against classical visions and representations “.
The Bolognese exhibition connects the work of two artists with compelling biographies. The first, Kati Horna, born in 1912 and of Hungarian origin, photojournalist from the Spanish Civil War with his friend Robert Capua for the anarchist agency Spanish Photo Agency, who with his reports and photographic collages gave us a female look at the war, depicting the state of struggling mothers and ordinary people, privileges the story to the news. Much of his work at the front seemed to have been lost until 2019, when a portfolio of 600 negatives was found waiting to be cataloged and exhibited. Persecuted as a Jew, she changed her name several times and wandered through the European capitals until she arrived in Mexico in 1939, where she became part of the entire entourage of intellectuals who fled World War II and merged into the surrealist current, such as Alejandro. Jorodosky, Frida Khalo and above all Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington, friends and companions of artistic projects, nicknamed “the three witches”.
The other artist exhibited at GallleriaPiù is instead Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya, aka. Glulya, Russian dissident writer who creates and wears conceptual clothing as statements that can pollute the world, pioneer in participatory projects where she involves different types of people outside the art system to reflect on the power systems that surround us. In 2015, she was invited by Okwui Enwezor at the Venice Biennale, where he presented the work Clothes for the demonstration against the false election of Vladimir Putin, openly opposes Putin’s election and the occupation of Donbass and Crimea. In keeping with his feelings, in recent months he has paraded through the streets of Amsterdam with his family Peaceful dress against the war in Ukraine.
In the Bologna exhibition it is possible to see one of the most famous (and rarely useful) series by Kati Horna, Oda to necrophilia, originally commissioned by avant-garde magazine S.Nob, whose original images are from his daughter Nora’s archive. As in a play, these black-and-white photographs reveal the story of a woman, played by Leonora Carrington, covered in a black veil that embodies the idea of mourning. A false white Mexican mask lies on an empty and unmade bed, while a lit candle contrasts the absence of the deceased. But sadness quickly turns into lust: the woman lights a cigarette, opens a black umbrella reminiscent of Renè Magritte’s paintings, looks at herself in the mirror, and undresses until she is naked, back to back. The subtlety of the narrative revealed in detail and the perfection of the composition compares us to a photography artist with an instinct for the perfect moment. Exhibited, it is also possible to see a picture taken from the satirical series Hitler from 1937, in which the politically engaged author portrays the dictator’s misfortunes turned into a soft-boiled egg.
In another way, Gluklya repeats it by setting up a surrealistic theater in the exhibition spaces, where she meets people of all ages and social backgrounds to talk about the theme of care during the pandemic, in a protected environment of trust and intimacy. From these dialogues are born watercolors and sculptures covered with a translucent black fabric, hung in the hair from the ceiling, which encloses, under a large amygdala (the gland that regulates emotions), the fetishes carried by the participants. These works, with the title Vails of Sarrow and Hope and created in collaboration with fashion designer Raja and the students of the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, they intend to sublimate the concept of fragility as an invisible force, as much underestimated as it is powerful, and will be “processed” with performance Silence walk performed by Glukya himself during Arte Fiera Week to the end of the exhibition (Saturday 14 May from 19:00 to 21:00).
Both militants and activists, in the art of Gluklya and Kati Horna, blend reality and illusion perfectly and transport the viewer into amazing and subversive worlds, created by memories, anxiety and elements strange.
With my cheeks beaten by the war winds coming from the northeast and my eyes hurt by the Ukrainian resistance, after spending more than two years listening to the daily bulletin about the dead from Covid, I can not help but in front of these works to think about how much and how our body has absorbed a war language that forces us to transform. A metamorphosis that pushes from the unconscious rather than through pre-existing categories. Close to the abyss, the question is old: what is the meaning of our presence in this world?
In the silence of the decentralized via del Porto, in an almost domestic dimension, I am able to gather the most frightening thoughts and look at them one by one, to rediscover the contemporary feeling that Cecilia Alemani had well identified under the pandemic introspection of preparation. for her Biennale, but which was somehow atrophied by the screams of the rewarded, the unrewarded, the too many names and the hypocrisy of the market forces.
Here I rediscover the authenticity of feminist and transfeminist thinking, of language and modalities that nurture and transform the great, perhaps infinite container that is art history and the systems of power with which it is written.