Purple Art

[November 11 2014]

SHIT AND DIE produced by Artissima at the Palazzo Cavour, Turin

SHIT AND DIE is not a themed show: it is not a congregation of works dealing with faeces and death. SHIT AND DIE is not a prospective show taking the temperature of the contemporary art scene. It doesn’t feature artists chosen according to their age, or their nationality, or any objective criteria. It features artists chosen in the most subjective manner according to their existing works or to the capacity they’ve had to produce one responding to a specific context. SHIT AND DIE is not a show about curatorial innovation; it is neither an experimental exercise nor a formalist statement. SHIT AND DIE could be defined as a contextual experience: its point of departure is the city of Torino, which provided the characters, stories, objects and atmospheres that have become the food for our starving imagination and the primary material with which to elaborate a visual tale.

The title SHIT AND DIE could be seen as a provocation, but it’s not only a provocation. It is also a loan from a work by American artist Bruce Nauman, One Hundered Live and Die. The installation, originally created in 1984, features multicoloured neon phrases outlining 100 possible mundane and tragic ways to live and die. Shit and Die is one of them. The combination of declarative ease and uncompromising toughness delves heavily into the universal human experience without imposing a neither fixed or stable meaning. It is a very small and unpretentious poem of existence, highlighting the ideas of polarity, paradox, and mystery of human condition as well as the hopelessness of mortality; no matter what one does, one will live, one will shit, and one will die. Echoing the title, and echoing the path of life itself, the exhibition is a purposeless journey, simultaneously sad and hopeful, tough and absurd, silly and tragic, slight and profound.

The exhibition is divided into seven sections. Each section is related to a specific object that functions as a thematic anchor and that was sourced from both established institutions and uncanny collections in the city. Among them are Olivetti’s residential units in Ivrea; the Museum of Criminal Anthropology ‘Cesare Lombroso’; the Museum of Human Anatomy ‘Luigi Orlando’; Museo Casa Mollino; the Museum of Risorgimento; the Gaia Collection; GAM Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea; the Ettore Fico Foundation; and the Aldo Mondino Foundation.

Artworks have been chosen to interact with these objects, sometimes through deliberately fortunate affinities and sometimes through more elaborate reflections. In both cases, the interaction between objects and artworks creates extra levels of meaning that forge a narrative: at times it seems arbitrary and non-exhaustive and at others it shapes as a cohesive tale inhabited by Torino’s characters – historical and contemporary – and by their obsessions, their fears, their vices and fetishes that are, in the end, our obsessions, our fears, our vices and fetishes.

Thus the space turns into a surrealist dream – or nightmare – where Contessa di Castiglione rubs elbows with Nietzsche’s ghost, while more than 45 artists occupy what used to be the house of Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, invisible but still present head of household. SHIT AND DIE is also a catalyst for external projects including a documentary, realised by artist Yuri Ancarani in collaboration with Museo Casa Mollino, that explores the eclectic character, architect and designer Carlo Mollino from an ‘occult’ point of view, highlighting Torino’s affiliation with magic. The trailer for this documentary can be seen exclusively on Purple TV here. It’s a catalyst also for the a SHIT AND DIE publication and a Tumblr blog, http://shitndie.tumblr.com/ which is a prequel mood board to the exhibition, realised by assistant curator Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti. Text SHIT AND DIE and photo Marta Galli

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