In progress of Omar Calabrese

Junk Collection IN DIVENIRE (25)It wasn’t yesterday that the panorama of modern art was enriched with a new tendency- the reconfiguration of waste. Mind you: recycling of discarded goods and scrap material has been a recognized art form for quite some time now. Just take Pablo Picassos beautiful installation- now hanging at the museum of Mannheim- which presents a series of warriors assembled by pieces of metal found in the streets. Even Dadistics and futurist artists have at times turned their “objects trouvès” into some sort of “re-set up” and “re-semantics”. Let alone, “nuovelle objectivité” and artists like Cèsar and Arman, who often used squashed trash as material for their sculptures.

More recently, however, the topic of recycling in artistic terms has found success in a new way. It has, as a matter of fact, connected a different kind of commitment to the artist: particularly regarding criticism towards the consumption in today’s society- especially, in the remaining western world- where ignorance and foolishness are causing irreparable damages in our environment through, for instance, the waste of goods. There are many artists today who are devoted to a new way of showing their disapproval of the prevalent ways and development of the modern society. A group of Italian artists who have formed an association called Riciclarte (Recycle-art) is a good example of this. The association has been active for some time now, mainly in the town of Bresso, a set up hosting artists who commit themselves to recycling of material (maybe even in their own works of art) and the politics of energy saving and environmental protection. There are also numerous similar events taking place abroad. Here I’d like to mention a, by now old, exhibition curated by Gilles Deleuze at Centre Pompidou (in the late 80’s) titled, in fact, Art des dechets. In France, for instance, artistic associations like the Italian one mentioned earlier are proliferating. A few young maestros has even specialized in recycling wastes of the capitalistic western society, like for instance Kristof Kintera, from Phraga, creator of an admirable installation on the subject (for example a rubbish bag equipped with electronic cells which follows any viewer who gets close and even “speaks” to him/her by making persuasive sounds).
There are two, however, roughly speaking, different kinds of artists within the field of recycling. The first kind limits him-/herself to displaying abandoned material, making an accusation more or less violent against society, even if introducing new elements to the work of art belonging to the aesthetic domino. The second group, on the other hand, gets inspired by the materials true form but aim to give it another sense: almost as if it dreamed of having another shape (in fact artistic) either than the original one.

Marillina Fortuna fits right into the general perspective indicated above, in particular with the second line. Her works, as a matter of fact, are generally assemblages of abandoned junk, scrap material having been brought onto the shore by the sea from different places, but they are reproposed to create, almost like a paradox and an irony of their own destiny, shapes to which we have attributed, by tradition, a certain aesthetic value. And this is from an objective point of view (their nature), as they are reunited to constitute, once again, a natural, “beautiful” object (for example the two most remarkable series: fish and flowers); as well as from a subjective point of view, as the composition recalls real paintings (still life) thanks to the use of the techniques applied when making a collage (the so-called “big collage”, originally cubist and later Dadaist), which gathers “bits and pieces of the world” on a flat base.
The irony, dwells, above anything else, in this. For its own statute of autonomy, as a matter of fact, “rubbish” is made up of negative elements, which recalls, yes, their original function but is at the same time an evidence of a lack of purpose and decline. The final result, on the other hand, turns out pleasant, almost decorative, and aligns without too much deviation from traditionally used artistic objects. What was, as you say, negative is “translated”, in short, into something which in the common sense is positive and familiar. The paradox, however, remains complete, also because the observation of Marillina Fortuna’s works produces two kinds of messages concomitant. Seen from a distance, they give a dominating sense of the surface, since they appear “painted”.

Junk Collection IN DIVENIRE (12)But, little by little, as you get closer, the relief becomes dominating, and you start recognizing the prototype of origin of the different parts. The series of fish is the one which strikes its viewer the most. Also because the artist, not only without modifying the original shape of her finds through her manual work- but selects the elements which are suited to constitute her new formal configuration, and surely guide her choice of geometric components and of those chromatic. In this way, “what no longer has a sense” (junk) can find a new one thanks to the perceptive system of the combination. Marillina Fortuna’s fish actually look like they have been invented by a designer or an artist of the school of Pop art, with their definite contrasts of primary colours and the regularity of the figure to come. One could, to finish off, develop a few considerations of “philosophic” nature (in a broad sense, for heavens) on the subject of this work.

If you ask me, expresses in some ways the idea of an “eternal cycle”. If you consider that the parts of the recycled objects originates from a domestic set up (they have usually been objects for individual consumption), and for their potential the ideal destination (a middle-class home), they’ll probably end up returning to you. You can, in fact say that what gets thrown away might just return to its “starting-point”, and come back- as old and evaluated- completely “new”. Quoting Lavoisier, in conclusion, this work demonstrates that in our culture, just like by nature “nothing is created and nothing gets ruined, but everything transforms”.

Omar Calabrese

This post is also available in: Italian