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Filip Markiewicz. Road to Nowhere Eng

Filip Markiewicz
Road to Nowhere

Canepaneri, Milan (I)
December 2020 ― February 2021

Towards an unknown place
Daniele Capra

Sceptical eclecticism
Filip Markiewicz’s freedom of expression is surprising. His work seems to contradict the maxim that says “for a scholar’s strength consists in concentrating all doubt on to his special subject”.[1] The artist suffers from a sort of expressive bulimia which concerns not only the great productivity but also the choice of media used and the disciplines. Thus, his work in drawing, painting, sculpture, video, performance, theatre (as in the recent case of Antigone) or music can be seen close together in time. In other words, there are no limits or exclusions as his natural eclecticism allows him to feel at ease in any situation and any direction he moves in, all the more because, as he argued in one of our conversations, it’s essential “not to have a personal line but to wonder about the most appropriate choices to make on the chosen objective”.
Road to Nowhere gathers the artist’s recent works, ranging from painting to design and video, where topics and styles are dizzily mixed. The title, borrowed from one of the most famous Talking Heads songs, alludes ironically to the inconclusive situation of our present, which contradictorily features realism and fiction, uncertainty and predictability, and meanness and altruism. However, in this situation, the completely human desire to move, even towards an unknown destination, comes out, in search of an island to be totally imagined, that still doesn’t exist but it’s comforting to think that it does, that’s a little utopia, simple, unpretentious, and necessary to continue moving towards something.
In addition, it’s the anarchic, and perhaps post-postmodern, attempt to oppose an established, premeditated fate since, as the chorus says in the introduction to the song, “We know where we’re goin’ / But we don’t know where we’ve been”. Thus, with great irony, Markiewicz seems to oppose Lenin’s philosophical but static question “What’s to be done?” with a kinetic invitation to abandon the immobility of one’s position to move towards something, as David Byrne does incessantly in jest in the video of Road to Nowhere. Naturally, a doubt arises that having a direction to take or an aim to follow is pure illusion, a projection of our imagination or just expectations. What if all this was just make-believe, and the place we’re going to didn’t exist? Although we’ll never know, we should certainly take account of it, even more so if we’re with an eclectic, sceptical artist who, in his career, has created a work in neon displaying the words “Fake better”.

Markiewicz’s artistic practice features a sophisticated approach where sociological investigation, media analysis, disillusion and subtle political criticism alternate with a detached, bitter flavour. Mainstream symbols, pop culture iconography, hyperbolic irony, melancholic nostalgia and lucid realism follow each other unceasingly in his works, and the artist moves fluidly through them with an omnivorous approach. Versatility, of topic and style, is often condensed into shows where the spaces become well-structured visual devices, in which the visitor can have an experience with many emotional implications as surprises, confirmations and conflicting feelings. In particular, his work overall has an innate theatrical dimension which draws attention to the visual elements (the observer is always a spectator) and the skilful dose of the emotional component – all this ensures the chance of having an immersive, totalising experience. In addition, it’s important to note how Markiewicz is always invisibly on stage, although not always at the centre of the scene, like an actor who’s also director of the play being staged and who knows every psychological detail of the characters.
In detail, Markiewicz’s painting and his drawings are inhabited by figures that determine our fates – politically, economically, ideologically and through media. The politicians who lead the most important states, leading bankers and the CEOs of large multinational companies are players in a farce in which the artist separates their public image from the personal, institutional, political, economic or artistic credibility. Think, for example, of the oil on canvas Gerhard Nicholson, in whose title the artist blends the surname of the actor in the portrait (Jack Nicholson) with that of the artist whose technique he borrowed (Gerhard Richter). Similarly, logos briefly describing the pervasiveness of corporations and large institutions, the heroes of video games and the actors of the series are recognised in a burlesque/tragic continuum in which Markiewicz highlights the predictable and boring uniformity of the hegemonic imagination. Everything looks the same and can produce in us desire and repulsion, excitement and depression at the same time, since it is unable to scratch the surface and ontologically meaningless and worthless.
The artist reacts inevitably to the uncertainty and ambiguity of the present, in which the experience of an artwork perhaps seems one of the few escape routes or one of the few solid footholds which allow us not to remain involved. Furthermore, although we often pretend that we’re not aware of it, the contradictions, tragedies or madness we’re submerged in are a deadly quagmire that prevents us from moving freely. In Markiewicz’s practise the work itself makes visible the ambiguity and error it’s easy to fall into, and at the same time it provides an intimate and natural counter-narration about the most recurring or predictable opinion. In other words, the work assumes the psycho-analytically liberating functions of irony, criticism and ultimately the political function of dissent.

The unexpected
Our recent history, and more acutely the dramatic situation of the pandemic, has highlighted in an especially significant way how perception of events and their interactions is regulated, particularly, between two opposing and complementary types of events – what we consider “expected”, i.e. taken into account, and those that are “unexpected”, i.e. not announced. We almost perceive the former as unimportant, because it is expected, since it corresponds to established or hoped-for hypotheses. On the other hand, the latter, whose prediction is neither controllable nor planned, becomes very important because of its ability to challenge the ordinary nature of all that was previously imagined. We could say hyperbolically that only the unexpected event really happens, by virtue of its rebellion against the logic of ordinary nature – contrary to what is predictable, banal and taken for granted. And it’s because of its ability to back out of the conventional flow of our hypotheses that an unexpected event is considered as significant and inevitable bearer of meaning. The explosive energy, positive or negative, it triggers is so immense, immeasurable, that it questions our behaviour and the ways we act (individually or collectively) in the reality.
We may think about this when we observe Markiewicz’s works. Encountering one of his works is often the same as having a totally unexpected, previously unimaginable, meeting. Similar to an unexpected event, it is something that sound different and of which we are aware, not because it generates some type of instantaneous surprise, but because its reflective or iconic capacity lasts beyond the time limits of the simple contemplation of the work. Its importance clearly lies in the mental sedimentation of its content, whether this is intimate, political, aesthetical or critical. And when we got the meaning, whether silent like the boy dancing (Tanz der Stille), distorted like the body of the puppet (Dr Mario’s Dream) or reflective like the lucid words of Lech Wałęsa (Wałęsa), it doesn’t stop buzzing in our head. Just like the rhythmical song in which David Byrne walks obsessively towards a place unknown both to himself and to us.

[1] E. Canetti, Auto-da-Fé, transl. by C. V. Wedgwood, London: Pan Books, 1978, p. 60.

Elisabetta Di Sopra. Pietas Eng

Elisabetta Di Sopra

Venice (I), Bugno Art Gallery
November ― December 2018

English text not available

Les yeux qui louchent Eng

Les yeux qui louchent

Igor Eškinja, Fritz Panzer, Manuela Sedmach, Michele Spanghero, João Vilhena

Venezia (I), Galerie Alberta Pane
September ― December 2017

TextThe artists
Desirable Strabismus
Daniele Capra

Reality is the condition in which we are immersed and in which we develop our existence in a subjective form thanks to the use of our senses and cerebral structures that allow us to order and elaborate experiences. As Kant wrote, “the consciousness of my own existence is at the same time an immediate consciousness of the existence of other things outside me”:[1] the consciousness of existing therefore implies not just a boundary that defines me, but also the presence of something to know beyond me, on the outside. It is thus that we ourselves – by a continuous negotiation with other individuals – forge the interpretive instruments through which we perceive reality and the mental representations that map it.[2]

Every artistic practice based on reality – that is, that treats it as a subject to be delved into in its countless implications – requires the artist to have a sort of “double vision”. However, it mustn’t be specularly two-faced, like that of Giano, but must move forward on different trajectories. Indeed, if an eye must be turned towards that which is in front of it (that is, oriented forwards toward what is in his view), the other instead must look beyond – behind, below, above, elsewhere – and divergently, so as to take in an unordinary view of the world. The artist is therefore asked to make himself voluntarily and necessarily cross–eyed, in any case allowing him to sidestep the prefigured dictates of the orthogonality of sight. So he must visually – and even more so mentally – be outside his comfort zone, conscious that this condition must be transmitted to his works. Only thus is, his work more than just a description, empty caption or appendix, but an awkward element of tension that aims to delve into and make manifest the innermost reasons that comprise and animate reality.

The awareness that art aims to give the observer a critical reading of the world is fundamental if we don’t see the work of the artist as that of a mere producer of products with aesthetic properties, but rather as an intellectual practice that has a social utility in the Marxist sense. In the awkwardness of his own intellectual condition, visually and linguistically conveyed to the observer, a process of attention is thus activated, and that makes the cross-eyed artist an unorthodox sentry, gifted with geometric power – power of vision and of thought.

[1] I. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, edited and translated by P. Guyer and A. W. Wood, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 327.
[2] See P. L. Berger and T. Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, Garden City, NY, Anchor Books, 1966.

The artists
Daniele Capra

In his research Igor Eškinja merges different visual planes, creating stratifications that lend themselves to multiple levels of reading. The Golden Fingers of Louvre series exposed overlaps the imaginative value of the French museum with the almost baroque pictorial detail of the imprints left by visitors. The marks of the hands are thus material elements that disorient the viewer, who is stimulated to direct his interpretation elsewhere, towards the visual abstraction or a possible Institutional Critique.

Fritz Panzer’s artworks are real drawings with real dimension of the represented subject made of metal wire, though they have a three-dimensional development. Thanks to the use of thin lines of iron, with which the corners and sharp edges of the object are outlined, the artist brings the volumetry back into a single visual plane, compressing fiercely its camouflaged potential and putting the viewer in a condition of perceptive ambiguity.

Manuela Sedmach’s works on canvas are the result of a minimalist pictorial exercise whose objective is to render visual landscapes in an undulating and profoundly intimate form, combining realistic aspects and elements that are the fruit of elaboration. Characterised by a limited palette of colours and a soft and hazy rendering of details, her artworks tell us of submerged and imaginary worlds, about the mental universes in which the spaces are not submitted to the rigidity of prospective metric.

With the Translucide series that stems from a reflection by Gilles Deleuze, Michele Spanghero analyses the way in which an image manifests itself to us in the form of a revelation that needs a translucent support on which it can lay. In a video and some photographic images, the artist makes this process concrete slowing it down exorbitantly, transforming the image into an event and a dilated flow of blindingly obvious information.

João Vilhena’s research is characterized by a conceptual use of drawing and painting. The series L’amour des corps arises by condensing, in the form of graphite drawing, the complex bond of visual nature featured by a woman with whom, fortuitously, the artist established a relationship of an exhibitionistic type. The images of her – aware of being seen – in the building in front of her window, are returned in poetic form, as snippets of an intense visual relationship, in which the spectator can take the place of the artist and get tangled up in a game of visual triangulations.

Sous les pavés la plage! Eng

Sous les pavés la plage!

Filippo Berta, Bianco-Valente, Giovanni Gaggia, Stefania Galegati Shines, Regina José Galindo, Isabella Pers

Ferrara (I), Festival Internazionale
September ― October 2017

English text not available

Adrian Paci. Inside the Circle Eng

Adrian Paci

Scicli (I), SEM
May 2014

English text not yet available

Remijon Pronja. Rex Anonymouse Eng

Remijon Pronja
Rex Anonymouse

Bregenz (A), Ku(rz)nsthalle
May ― June 2014

The works
Daniele Capra

Il vuoto nello spazio²
The works of Remijon Pronja frequently speak about the existential condition of the artist, coming to grips with everyday struggles and with insecurities stemming from the economic precariousness and the lack of social recognition. Il vuoto nello spazio² is a series of drawings created during Pronja’s time as a student at Brera Fine Arts Academy in Milan, time when he had to work in order to pay the rent and tuition fees. Thus, the artist was often forced to sacrifice university classes, which were in fact the reason why he kept on working.
This was the contradictory condition – apparently a no-exit loop – which, however, testified the desire to take one more step further to reaching a goal. Half-way between a work and a journal, these drawings show the calculations needed to keep track of the household expenses, the daily working hours, the money to be earned or that needs to be spent. But at the same time the sketches and notes of Il vuoto nello spazio² speak of a fleeting condition during which a person struggles to reach the artist status, to claim one’s own freedom and the space for one’s own expressive needs, freeing oneself from being a mere foreign student.

Home sweet home, There is no place like home. The rhetoric of home as the best place to be, feeling safe and protected is immense. Remijon Pronja’s work – a parody of all this – is created with red led lights, similar to the ones used as Christmas decorations or during local food fairs. But Home is also an ironic statement that confirms – with its blazing and kitsch taste – that every place can be a homely space suitable to our needs; you just need to move the sign to another house in order to reject the false emotional and relational distinctiveness that it seeks to highlight. In Home Pronja shows that the words- and their connotative meanings – are often empty containers that can be used according to our needs, in no particular fashion. The artists seems to prefer the playful and Socratic substance of the unmasking to the glossy sheen of the words.

The Evidence of Game
The Game of Evidence is a dual-channel video, mysteriously confronting two crows cawing with what looks like a home interior. The camera is static on the birds, while the image is intermittent on the inside, where it progressively zooms in on a window. Such movement seems to lead back – rhythmic to the birds’ voice – to the outside, connecting thus – only seemingly – the internal and the external. But the work turns out to be nonsense, a video in which Pronja likes to lead the observer to false conclusions, towards deductions that can neither be confirmed nor denied. The observer is held in check, thus forced to be made fun of.

Larger than borders Eng

Larger Than Borders
Armando Lulaj, Alban Muja, Studio203, Driant Zeneli

Trieste, Studio Tommaseo
October 2013

Comfortable stereotypes
Daniele Capra

The show Larger Than Borders collects the videos of young artists dealing with Albania or Albanian culture, but different in genres, contents, themes or attitudes. Albanian culture is just the common ground, the starting point of their personal research, and becomes for the spectator a stereotype to forget.

The idea of nation based on common language and tradition, the kulturnation, becomes central in the nineteenth century, and quickly became one of the ideas to whom the men showed both their strongest passions and the worst instincts. The story of our past hundred years testifies it tragically.

Today, even if there are still many differences on the social, religious and economic point of views, our world has shrunk – even thanks to strong pressures of capitalism, that is constantly animated by the needs to seek new markets and new workers to be enslaved for the promise of a minimum economical wealth. So the idea of nation is now one of the many tags we use in our personal taxonomy, or a tool politicians uses for feeding and manipulating people.

Eventually a nation that is something that does not exist except in people’s mind. The idea of ​​the borders that contains/holds the space of a nation is outdated, and became mostly a mere exercise of topology made by old geographers moving on the cartesian plane: borders exist only to be overtaken.

This is even more evident for Albania, a nation who has close connections with neighboring Kosovo, where people speak the same language, but also the strong relationships with Turkey or Italy. Although it may seem geographically small in size, the concept of Albania/Albanian crosses the limited boundaries.

Although Albania may seem geographically small in size, the concept of being Albanian, easily overcomes the limitations of the physical boundaries and of comfortable hidden stereotypes.

Ivan Moudov. Stones Eng

Ivan Moudov

Udine (I), Casa Cavazzini Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
May — June 2013

Try walking in my shoes, with a stone under your toes
Daniele Capra

Going for a wee with a stone in my shoes
I am not in any way a well-mannered gentleman, nor am I a snooty stickler for etiquette. And I’m certainly not a socialite dandy. And yet I had never taken my shoes off in a museum before, or urinated in an artwork, worried that a museum guard might catch me red handed. Whilst you might not doubt that I have recently done the first, but you are probably incredulous about the latter. On the other hand, as the philosopher Gorgias warned us “the deceiver is more honest than the non-deceiver, and the deceived is wiser than the non-deceived”.[1] However I don’t write fiction, and these are not mere flights of fancy: Ivan Moudov made me experience all of these. If I was a child caught with his hands in the sweet jar, I would say “it’s all Ivan’s fault”.
Many of his works were intended to make the “emancipated spectator” [2] accept and confront completely unexpected provocations in a museum context, like in the instances of Stones or the pissoir of Already Made 3.
In Stones, the pebble-covered courtyard of Casa Cavazzini is surprisingly yielding, and people walking on it find themselves sinking ten centimetres into the gravel. Layers of foam rubber were placed under the pebbles to give the viewer an experience that is at first disconcerting and then funny. The experience overturns the long established topological assumptions about the consistency of the surface we walk on, with the trivial effect of finding your shoes full of stones (which many visitors, me included, removed by taking their shoes off and shaking them out).
In Already Made 3 Moudov installed a signed copy of Duchamp’s Fontaine – to which he added a round demijohn to collect fluids – in a 1930’s bathroom which is part of the tour of Casa Cavazzini. The bathroom can be seen but not used by visitors, and the work is in front of a real pissoir which bears all the signs of having been used, as witnessed by the presence of liquid in the transparent bottle. The viewer wonders whether the artwork has actually been used by someone before them or if the artist wants them to believe it was, but most of all they want to use the art work, hoping not to be seen by the museum guards. The sophisticated viewer finds themselves wanting to push the boundaries of their reserve and break the rules of the museum by urinating in the pissoir, adding their urine to that which they think is already contained there… unless they are caught. The game being played is one of expectations and rules, and the opportunities the viewer has to break them and do something they are subtly driven to do. The deception is also supported by the fact that the viewer is caught unawares in a situation which is on the borderline of plausibility: reality and the artwork (fiction by its very nature) overlap, making the viewer the weakest link.
The majority of Moudov’s works share a sharp analysis of power relationships between people and generally accepted conventions. Artists often want to challenge abstract rules or habits that regulate a certain aspect of life. An example might be urinating inside a museum, but it could also be the right of way on a roundabout in One Hour Priority or the possibility of freely entering or exiting a room in a building. Moudov takes these rules and habits to the extreme, or to being deliberately broken, in order to reap unexpected personal advantages.
It is in this sense that the work of the Bulgarian artist is political, as it seeks to reveal the human need to challenge or sidestep anyone with even the slightest power, as well as the possibility for an individual to exploit the rules that should be shared and respected by everyone, in an unexpected and opportunistic way. [3]

The viewer is screwed
One of the most intriguing qualities of Moudov’s work is that of exploding the codes that define the normal (i.e. habitual and shared) relationship between viewer and artwork. The Bulgarian artist sets in motion a process and invites the viewer – who is unaware of what it might be – to take part in it. Traditionally the viewer only has the right to express an aesthetic (or possibly political or social) judgment of the artwork, but this process breaks with that tradition. For example, watching the artwork made up of stolen fragments of other artworks (Fragments), or a video where a theft is being committed (like that at IAC, in Lyon) is not all that different from being the lookout during a robbery or being an accessory to a theft. Provocatively, Moudov does not inform the viewer that they are becoming an accomplice to an offence, thus making their involvement completely involuntary. The viewer is therefore not only a passive element, as they would be in front of a television, where a very low level of participation with the contents of the broadcast are required. Rather they find themselves in the embarrassing role of accomplice, or possibly even becoming the formal- if unwitting- instigator of the crime.
A priori and totally independent of whether he has the viewer’s consent or not, the artist unilaterally renegotiates the relationship between viewer and artwork, in a way that makes any opposition impossible. The viewer inevitably finds themselves framed in the dual role of end-user and commissioner (or instigator). In such a circumstance, accepting or rejecting, praising or criticizing the artist’s actions has very little point, as the spectator is in effect, and in spite of themselves, called upon to witness a process which is perfectly designed to frame him. Doubt about the legality of Moudov’s actions, the legitimacy of appropriating the works of colleagues, or the legal or ethical issues that might arise from such actions, are all pointless. After viewing the artwork, the viewer is quite clearly screwed (just like in police movies).

In first person
Nineteen Problems, Eighteen Paintings is a rearrangement of artworks and a performance that Moudov devised specifically for Casa Cavazzini. In this he hung works from the museum’s collection in the museum project room, to cover and temporarily hide the many elements that constitute a visual disturbance in the room. During the inauguration Moudov temporarily repositioned the artworks in their intended positions, giving them an ironically mimetic function: they are meant to hide imperfections of the space from the viewer. However, the paintings are hung at heights, and in ways, that differ from the traditional exhibiting criteria in museums (a further breach of a well established rule), and as such the viewer sees them as peculiar, disconcerting presences.
As well as cleverly bringing an extra function to the works in the collection, the artist also takes on the role of activator or reagent, directly intervening himself, before then letting the artworks be repositioned in a more traditional arrangement.
Moudov chooses to use himself to measure his own art, in a role reminiscent of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man. We can see this in the video Performing Time, where he stands for a whole day measuring the passing of the minutes without the help of any time-measuring devices, performing the function of eyewitness to the flowing of time. The extremities of his body touch the borders of that which can be known, of the world that can be touched and understood. The difference is that Moudov uses the circle that surrounds him to play hula-hoop.

[1] Gorgias, fragment B 23 DK, published in H.S. Harris, The Reign of the Whirlwind, 1999, p. 325, see here.
[2] J. Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator, Verso, London and New York, 2009.
[3] Curiously this aspect is a metaphor for the market and modern capitalist society, where a law which seems (or was intended) to be fair and reasonable does not in fact stop an individual from profiting at the cost of others.