Vol 2 No 1 (2021)
Opera-Fanìa: On the Ostensive Conditions of Contemporary Art

What is the germinal cell of an exhibition, or rather of any exhibition event? OBOE Journal’s second issue departs from this question to investigate art’s fanìa (the Greek term for appearance) and the multiple ways in which art offers itself to the audience. As language, art is an instrument for exchange and an opportunity for the intertwining of two poles, that of the artists–those who make the art—and of the viewers, those who receive it and engage with it.

The articles and reflections presented in our new “Echoes” column open up a vast discourse on the phenomenology of how an artwork presents itself, on perception and the role of the audience, and on contemporary art’s exhibiting practices and conditions.

Contributors: Mónica Amor, Lorenzo Balbi, Arnon Ben-Dror, Marco Bertozzi, Jens Hoffmann, Miriam La Rosa, Emanuele Rinaldo Meschini

DOI: https://doi.org/10.25432/2724-086X/2.1

Editorial Vol. 2, No. 1.

This essay focuses on French artist Philip Parreno's 2013-2014 Palais de Tokyo exhibition Anywhere, Anywhere, Out of this World to explore how the artist utilizes the exhibition format to produce an aesthetic imaginary concerned with intermediality, collaboration, spectatorial attention and distraction. It examines the forms of object and image dissipation that Parreno and his collaborators mobilised through a digital network that activated ghostly environments in the spatiality of this unique exhibition space. Utilising the exhibition as a controlled dispositif that interfaced with viewers, Anywhere repurposed the normative structure of the exhibitionary complex to stage alternative relations between objects and subjects within the spectral conditions of the digital. The exhibition, rather than a framework that contains art, was used by the artist to stage relations and query contemporary rituals of artistic integration. The essay concludes that Parreno’s techno-environment and its anti-instrumentalising itinerary, posed, but didn’t resolve, recurring concerns with agency and publicness under intensified regimes of biotechnological integration.

Since the early 1990s, the Dutch artist herman de vries has installed several works in public space with the title sanctuarium (or sanctuary)—empty plots of land, surrounded by a fence, where nature is left to grow uninterrupted. For the artist, these sanctuaries communicate a consistent universal plea: that of rediscovering and reconnecting with nature in its pure, unspoilt form, from which modern life has alienated us. By resituating the sanctuaries in their actual environments and looking at their evolutions throughout the years, this paper shows how the ideas and affects instigated by the sanctuaries are actually contingent, and differ significantly from one place to another. These works are continuously reshaped, both physically and symbolically, by ongoing negotiations between the "object", its (social, environmental, and geographic) context, and varied interventions by local actors. This brings to the fore a couple of broader issues as well: first, the impossibility of perceiving the human–nature relationship merely in phenomenological and universalistic terms, since this relationship is always locally embedded. Secondly, the understanding that, from a semiotic perspective, a work of public art is a radically dynamic entity—owing both to its installation in the politically charged public space, and to the possibility of local publics to experience and interact with the work in a myriad of spontaneous ways.

The text aims to study and question art practices in times of crisis by analysing the case study of the Austrian collective WochenKlausur at the 1999 Venice Biennale.The crisis that WochenKlausur’s project investigated was the war in Kosovo and the issue generated by the exodus in the nearby over-crowded refugee camps in Macedonia and Albania. Using the Biennale’s cultural capital, WochenKlausur was able to establish a network of language schools at the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. The text proposes a reading of this intervention through the theoretical frame created by the curator of the Austrian Pavilion, Peter Weibel, in particular through the concept of Offene Handlungsfelder (Open Practices). In light of this definition, some of the main interventions of WochenKlausur will be described below, demonstrating how the Viennese collective has started to work through a concept of field of action defined by urgency and by the crisis itself, in which dialogue and long-term design has emerged as new artistic skills.

In conclusion, through the theoretical example of Giorgio Agamben the text offers a critical artistic re-location of WochenKlausur practices developed in between the concept of camp and field, as a transversal action able to construct symbolic objects and to activate a common and collective experience.

This paper addresses the ontology of residencies, interrogating artist residencies in relation to the ostensive, that involves the act of showing, displaying, exhibiting and demonstrating something. By focusing on a digital project curated by the author for the Marrgu Residency Program—an Indigenous-led initiative developed by the Durrmu Arts Centre in Peppimenarti (Northern Territory, Australia)—La Rosa employs a practice-led rather than purely theoretical methodology. In parallel, and through a discussion on the current developments of the Marrgu digital residency, the paper addresses the future of showing for regionally based artists of non-Western heritage, in a globalised digital world. It ultimately advocates for an innovative understanding of ostension framed as a hosting practice: an act of connection rather than display.

The rise of more critical and radical political debates has made museums intensely risk-averse such that self-regulation, self-censorship, and most importantly pure self-preservation have become the foundations of museum operations. Whereas the 1990s and early 2000s were broadly seen as a period of bold, critical, and unflinching curatorial undertakings, especially in the context of biennials, the last decade has witnessed clear shifts toward benign, almost anodyne programming for fear of being perceived as offensive or insensitive.

This essay considers the Whitney Biennial as a case study, tracing an arc from the lauded 1993 edition to the projected 2022 edition, which may be curated entirely by algorithm so as to please the broadest possible swath of the public. Stops along the way consider various controversies that have befallen the biennial despite its efforts otherwise: Donelle Woolford in 2014, Dana Schutz in 2017, and Warren B. Kanders in 2019.

Contemporary museology confronts us with a radical rethinking of the functions and responsibilities of the contemporary art museum which, from a place of conservation and enhancement of artistic heritage, becomes today a center of cultural production open to citizens. Looking at the Nuovo Forno del Pane, the new project of MAMbo - Museum of Modern Art of Bologna which offered working spaces to local artists, the article traces the characteristics of a new proposition: the museum presents itself as a site of creative processes, and as a home for the artistic community and promoter of its growth.

The points through which the new contemporary art museum model is described are driven from what Cesare Pietroiusti defines as the Museo Reale (Museum of the Real). In his manifesto, presented in the form of a work / poster on the occasion of his retrospective A certain number of things at MAMbo, Pietroiusti assembles a number of reflections which are taken as fundamental principles for the construction of the museum of tomorrow.

The essay aims to explore the conditions under which the Venice Film Festival was held in 2020. This is a crucial historic moment in which the international festival system sees some events converted into a completely online version, others postponed to a later date, and still others articulated in a hybrid way, depending on the evolution of the pandemic in progress. Among these emergency solutions, discussed in the impalpable digital body of online culture, what are the choices adopted by the Venice Film Festival? While the exhibition reduces the glamorous aspects to reflect on the ways of organising and showing oneself, of protecting the spectators and giving them an idea of normality, the emphasis on the “ways of doing” of this edition is the subject of unprecedented media attention. By recording the tremors of contemporary history like a seismograph, the Venice Film Festival becomes a testing ground both for the Italian “country system”, in the idea of more general rebirths, and for the most innovative trends in film curatorship, confirming its role as a privileged witness of changes, adaptations and reflections in institutional policies linked to culture and its diffusion.