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After the exhibitions realized at Teatro Anatomico de Waag in Amsterdam (Gare du Nord) and at Teatro Anatomico dell’Archiginnasio in Bologna (Gare du Sud), Gare de l’est is on view at Teatro Anatomico di Palazzo del Bo in Padova. The interview to the curator Chiara Ianeselli.
The connection between art and anatomical theater: where does this wish to relate them come from? What is the intent of this dialogue? Why the choice of this space? What can an anatomical theater’ space offer, compared to an aseptic setting such as that of a gallery or of a museum (in relation to the fruition of the artworks). Where does Les Gares project come from?
The project Les Gares stems from a “perverse” relationship with the idea of time: the anatomical theaters meant as places where man proceeded chasing the eternity, dissecting in the other beings the reasons and the motions of existence. It was 2014 when I went in the Anatomical Theatre de Waag in Amsterdam in order to attend an astrophysics conference by Vincent Icke: the talk was about the period of stars’ formation. Meanwhile, I was staring, mesmerized, at the coats of arms of Dutch surgeons on the ceiling. From that moment I started to imagine a new project able to gather different disciplines and to move through time and space, here is Les Gares: this term comes from the concept of body as place of transit, a station of flows, of thoughts. The project has now reached its third expressions, indeed, to this day it was preceded by the exhibition Gare du Nord at Anatomical Theatre in Amsterdam in 2015: a group show with museum loans; Gare du Sud at Teatro Anatomico dell’Archiginnasio in Bologna between 2015 and 2016, a solo exhibition by Nicola Samorì; and Gare de l’Est, currently on view in Padova (until March 15, 2017), a group exhibition with private and foundations’ loans. The artworks displayed are by Alberto Burri (Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, Alberto Burri Collection), by Nicola Samorì and by Gustave-Joseph Witkowski (private collection). The relationship between art and anatomical theaters, or generally between art and anatomy, predates us from thousands of years: art has often been the sister of science, it was its instinct, in a fruitful conjunction in which they were reciprocally feeding each other, often without the possibility of distinguishing themselves. In a way, science “aging” becomes art. This bond then, is definitely not an invention of the contemporary. Every anatomical theater has also its own distinctive features, a milieu that wished it, and some questions that it has generated, some promoted researches. This path has allowed to highlight similarities and differences between uses and different levels of “sacredness” of these places. The anatomical theaters, as historic buildings in general, voluntarily show traces of their layering in the development process and in their use, while whitecubes instead try to back out of dimension of time in an unblemished way, hurriedly hiding signs and imprints of individuals’ passage within it, often with awkward results. The subject of the antiques, archeology, tells much more about the present time than a supposed contemporary art we are subjected to.
The Anatomical Theatre of Palazzo del Bo, University of Padua, is a place rich of historical past and it’s where, in a way, science used to become like a spectacle, almost theater. The scientific dimension, with such a rational component, how does it meet art? How is the collaboration between art and science expressed?
The anatomical theater of Padua, the oldest anatomical theater preserved to this day, inaugurated in 1595, has contributed to make Padua one of the leading medical schools in the West. In this school several doctors who have taught, among which Vesalio, Falloppio and Acquapendente, authors of fundamental progress in the medical field. Realdo Colombo discovered the pulmonary circulation (small circle); Gabriele Falloppio uterine tubes; Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente the swallow’s nest valves in veins. This scientific dimension of knowledge, has always been linked to the artistic one ( for example the famous Fabrica in 1543 by Vesalius, the manifesto of modern anatomy). In addition, the cooperation between science and art specifically in Gare de l’Est, is primarily expressed in the structure of the theatre itself, a refined “machine to see” (Maurizio Rippa Bonati) and then in the exhibition’s forms which provides for cooperation of different figures. This interdisciplinary approach characterizes both the general conception of the project and the artists choise. Concerning the connection with the knowledge, Les Gares project allowed me to get in touch with several anatomical theaters’ enthusiasts: hence the project THESA that gather Luca Borghi, Professor at Istituto di Filosofia dell’Agire Scientifico e Tecnologico Università Campus Bio-Medico of Rome; Maurizio Rippa Bonati (already mentioned), Professor of History of Medicine at University of Padua; Andrea Cozza, near-graduated in Medicine and Surgery at University of Padua; Emanuele Armocida, doctor in specialist formation in Industral Medicine; Valentina Cani, post doc at University of Pavia and collaborator at the Museum of Medicine History of Pavia; Chiara Mascardi, with a phd focused on the anatomical theaters’ role in modern culture.
Concerning the formats and artists, how was the project organized?
The scientific consultation for the exhibition was Maurizio Rippa Bonati, medicine historian, among the leading experts of anatomy theaters. Rippa Bonati has allowed me to understand the state of art on the knowledge of the anatomical theater of Padua and to probe various possible directions of the project. In general, in the various geographical expressions of Les Gares, they were involved doctors, medicine historians, surgeons, astrophysicists, photographers devoid of sight, poets and astronomy experts were involved. The profiles of the artists I worked with in the whole project, were likewise diverse, almost always with site-specific interventions: Sonja Bäumel ascribes his practice in bio-art, Laurent Garnier-David, a wise French “nose”, focuses on optical and perfumes, Nicola Samorì, precious painter and sculptor, juggler of the matter and then Alberto Burri, one of the greatest Italian artists of the twentieth century. The choice of works has reflected the interconnection between different disciplines and eras: the work – atlas with overlapping boards showing the mechanism of vision, the eye, of 1878-1888 by Gustave-Joseph Witkowski, a French physician and propagator, it is the highest product of human intelligence, both in terms of artistic research and of scientific instrument. Indeed, this atlas was used to share knowledge on the structure of the eye through the different papers of its structure.
In the anatomical theater dissection of bodies took places, the anatomies were prepared for educational reasons. Does the project have an educational worth? Or, if not strictly in an educational way, does it wish to push the visitor to a new interpretation of the anatomical theater space? Could this project be considered as an attempt to shed new light on the theater, a more contemporary one for instance?
Certainly, the project has a cultural value: I think it has the chance to propose an experimental vision of places, instead of an antiques or conservative one.I think it is a delicate procedure, which tries above all to respect these spaces’ aura, and then it leans temporarily in a harmonious way, aware of the impossibility to identify with it and to dovetail perfectly. Many of the rituals performed in these “anatomical churches” are still unknown, and we can retrace them, or perhaps imagine them, through various proofs, iconographic and documentary, including for example chronicles by students, medical treatises, citizens registers or visitors diaries ( concerning this subject, the famous sentence by Goethe, on the occasion of his trip to Italy in 1786, he wrote: “They look down to the narrow space where the operating table is, on which no glimmer of light falls”). I do not think we need a new contemporary light to read these spaces, they do not need us to show their strength and their beauty. The chance to enjoy time in this theaters, the possibility of being transformed that I wanted to share then, it was given to me by the forward-looking professionals, who believed that a project built on the research could be hosted by these masterpieces of the human mind, in a perspective not only of heritage enhancement but also of sophisticated experimentation. In particular, the Vice-Chancellor to the artistic heritage, museums and libraries of the University of Padua, Professor Giovanna Valenzano, medieval art historian, has carefully followed the project’s development with a significant involvement.
The structure of the theater reminds of an optical instrument and a reflection on the sight sense that seems to be a recurring theme…
Gare de l’Est has exactly considered the Rippa Bonati studies related to the Anatomical Theatre of Palazzo del Bo. Although the ownership of the theater’s structure is not totally documented, the current information tend to emphasize the involvement of d’Acquapendente, anatomist at the end of the sixteenth century. Rippa Bonati has examined in depth the interests of the anatomist at that moment, showing how in the Nineties his research was focused on the anatomy of the eye. Moreover, in his De visione, voce, auditu (1600), a work dedicated indeed to the sight, contains a striking image of bovine’s orb, immediately comparable to the view from above of the Theatre of Padua. Hence the idea to persist on the macro / micro vision, the tele vision ( remote vision ) and the close one, the “panopticon” and the archaeological perception, blind, of what is submerged. The gap between the scales inspired the realization of the works or their selection. The artwork Lucy by Nicola Samorì (pure white Carrara marble, lunar fragment, cm 90 x 35 x 30, 2016) is a cabbage, transposed and magnified in marble containing a lunar fragment. In regard, Samorì wrote: “I have the impression that our mind coincides with the eye, even that of the blind, and this for the simple reason that the eyes’ origin dwells in the brain.” Cretto by Burri (Cretto, 1974, acrovinyl on cellotex, cm 76,5 x 101, Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri) is the perfect proof of the vision’s scalability, and I refer to the infinite Cretto in Gibellina realized by the artist from 1984. The vision and its limits have always been one of my greatest obsession, strengthened by the reading of the “Eye’s natural history” by Ings.
The invitation to slowness and reflection offered to visitors …
This is undoubtedly a key element of the exhibition and, in general, of my relationship with art. The artworks in Les Gares does not claim public intents and do not even social one, but they invite us to sensually and individually probe them, in every detail and from different perspective, heights, emotional states. They communicate through their matter to those who are careful, to those who can hear. Captions and critical texts are available on a brochure, allowing the viewers to enjoy the works’ nature. Gare de l’Est invites us to think of the time with divisions of geologic times, not simply human. Concerning this, I think the exhibition metaphorically invites to see the seed while looking at a tree, to see then the marble block before the sculpture, the tree before the paper and so on. The gate in Les Gares is slow, like that of who walks at a station, without ever having been there.
Gare de l’Est, Veduta della mostra
Alberto Burri, Cretto, 1974, Acrovinilico su cellotex, cm 76,5×101, Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri
Nicola Samorì, Lucy, 2016, Marmo bianco puro di Carrara, frammento lunare, cm 90x35x30
Gare de l’Est, Veduta della mostra
Nicola Samorì, Primo bianco, 2016, Marmo Michelangelo, cm 42x32x7
Teatro Anatomico, Gare Du Sud
Teatro Anatomico, Gare Du Sud
Gare du Nord, Veduta d’insieme
Laurent David Garnier, PUMA (Polarised Unlimiting Magnitude Absolute), n.2, 2015. Teak wood metallic tube iridescent nanostructure carpet, cm 100x20x14
Launched in March last year, the curatorial project Art Sweet Art combines artists’ residencies in private homes with new forms of collecting. Although exhibiting artworks into a domestic environment is not a news, this project takes credit for being a portal (through its website http://www.artsweetart.net)