Fondazione Ermanno Casoli
the Ermanno Casoli Contemporary Art Award
Curated by Marcello Smarrelli
opening: 19 February 2010, 12.00
at Elica, Fabriano, Italy
Friday 19 February 2010, in the premises of the Elica company in Fabriano, the Fondazione Ermanno Casoli presents Teste [Heads], the artwork created by Francesco Arena, winner of the XI edition of the Ermanno Casoli Contemporary Art Award, curated by the artistic director of the foundation Marcello Smarrelli.
The award intends to be a moment of authentic support to contemporary art and culture, without embracing a competitive perspective; the prize aims to produce projects of international relevance that however hold a strong relation to the region Marche, a territory to which Ermanno Casoli was – and his family is today – deeply connected.
Francesco Arena won the award in June 2009 and was then invited to realize a project for Elica, the company that supports the foundation, located in the inland of the province of Ancona – an area where industries have become part of the territory. In addition the workers of all the companies of the area form a community that can be considered the first recipient of the foundation’s activities fostering a better knowledge of art. The award, dedicated to the entrepreneur Ermanno Casoli, founder of Elica, has two main goals: to create in Fabriano an international pole for contemporary art that spreads across the region, and to encourage the collaboration between artists and the world of industrial production.
This is why Francesco Arena decided to involve a group of workers from Elica in the realization of his artwork. The workers joined the programme of talks and workshops part of E-STRAORDINARIO, the training programme of the Fondazione Ermanno Casoli curated by Marcello Smarrelli and thought for the companies in order to promote interaction between art and business. And this is how E-STRAORDINARIO #3. To remember is to know originated: four meetings during which the artist, after having presented his work and research in an open conference, invited the workers to address issues linked to their historical and personal memory, starting a reflection on the mechanisms of memory and shared memories, like those related to news stories that everyone has experienced in different times and places. Arena asks himself, referring to the author Edgar L. Doctorow, “what is history if not a story to warn us?”. The act of remembering thus becomes a means of knowledge, to improve one’s own capacity to understand what happens and who we are, from different points of view.
Teste is a work focusing on the importance of the past as an iconographic source for artists of every age, and on the function of memory as a way of knowing the present.
Since ancient times artists have measured themselves with the concept of time, with the issue of handing down content and giving immortality to moments and people that have marked the history of humanity. In this sense the genre of portraiture is emblematic: either realistic, idealistic or celebratory, a portrait has always had the function of making the memory of the depicted person immortal. Even today, photographs, monuments, statues, plaques, inscriptions on buildings, along streets and in squares allow us to learn things connected to the past, help us to remember, and constitute annotations that if correctly developed become a safe guide to the interpretation of facts happened in the past.
“There is no memory without forgetfulness” states Francesco Arena. This reflection was the starting point for one of the workshops at Elica during which the artist led the participants to identify a method to select six significant characters in the history of the Marche. The names that were chosen are the following: Gino De Dominicis, artist, architect and philosopher (Ancona, 1947 – Rome, 1998); Osvaldo Licini, artist (Monte Vidon Corrado, Ascoli Piceno, 1894 – 1958); Giambattista Miliani, explorer, mountaineer, speleologist and an innovator of the paper industry, as well as Senator of the Kingdom of Italy (Fabriano, 1856 – 1937); Maria Montessori, pedagogist, philosopher, doctor, scientist, educationist and volunteer (Chiaravalle, Ancona, 1870 – Noordwijk aan Zee, 1952); Father Matteo Ricci, Jesuit, mathematician and cartographer (Macerata, 1552 – Beijing, 1610); Renata Tebaldi, soprano (Pesaro, 1922 – San Marino, 2004).
For each of these characters the artist realized a head-portrait in clay, reproducing the distinctive features of their faces. The six portraits will be positioned in six passageways inside and outside the premises of Elica in Fabriano, so they can easily be seen by workers and visitors. Thanks to an innovative hydraulic device that collects water, every time it rains the heads will be showered by water jets that gradually consume the clay making the portraits unrecognizable. This process of corrosion is beyond direct control: one can’t foresee in how much time the faces that belong to our cultural background and historical memory will blur and become increasingly anonymous and surreal.
After a certain degree of consumption other characters will be chosen to undergo this treatment of memory dispersion, while the consumed faces will be showcased in an exhibition space creating quite a unique gallery of portraits, somewhat echoing the galleries of viris illustribus (famous men) of the patrician collections in ancient Rome.
The project is accompanied by an Italian and English catalogue published by Shin Production, with a critical essay by Marcello Smarrelli and colour photographs.
Teste will become part of Elica Contemporary, the art collection that Francesco Casoli, president of the company, has placed at Elica’s disposal for the realization of a company museum set up in the working area.