Paola Re

ARTE & ARTE at Kaunas Biennial once again

Simona Muzzeddu and Mattia Vacca are two Italian artists of the same generation, who both use light to express themselves artistically: Simona uses LED light, while Mattia uses light as imprinted on film.

Simona is a visual artist who graduated in Painting from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts (Milan); whilst there, she also found herself coming under the spell of graphics and photography.

Mattia is a photojournalist who graduated in Communication Sciences, specialising in cinema and journalism. He has won many prestigious awards, including the Sony World Photography Award and the Royal Photographic Society Award.

When Virginija Vitkiene asked me to work as Italian partner in Networked Encounters -the title of the tenth edition of the Kaunas Biennial – I naturally turned to my collaborators with a view to establishing a close relationship, setting up a preliminary link and creating an initial network with two artists who did not know each other but who could produce a joint response to our organisational needs.

Networked Encounters is the result of long and hard work carried out by the Lithuanian organisers of the Biennial and the partners in the various countries. The aim has been to bring to fruition an ambitious and topical project, with features that are also reflected in the works of Simona and Mattia.

The first of the two artists above, Simona Muzzeddu, was invited to attend the residency programme, which saw her participating with other young emerging artists from countries involved in the Biennial; she had the idea to make an RGB (red, green, blue) LED panel for the projection of both photographs and video clips of her artistic production, as well as new impressions captured during her stay in Kaunas.

Reflecting the dynamism that characterises and is essential to our present society, the panel will also act as a screen for superimposed “virtual chats”. Through it, visitors can interact and share their comments on the images projected in two ways. The first is based on the tried and tested short text messages: in this way phrases written by the various users in different languages will overwrite what is appearing on the panel, creating associations of words and images.

The second is a more across-the-board approach that is accessible to a non-multilingual audience, using “emoticons” to change the intensity and colour of the LED. For example, if a sad face emoticon is sent, the photograph will become gloomy, and if a happy emoticon is sent, the picture will become brighter. An angry emoticon will turn the  image red, and so on.

The work will also be seen and enjoyed online and in real time; it will be a means of webcam chat. The aim is to have chat users and the public at the exhibition actively engaging with the art, which can itself become the subject of online discussion.

The work of Simona Muzzeddu is therefore a mirror that reflects and expands, involving and connecting the creative moments and production of the artist.

Mattia Vacca has chosen, for his part, to engage us with his A Winter’s Tale photo reportage that will take place in situ among the new recruits to the Lithuanian army.

A Winter’s Tale is the result of a long-term project about the Carnival of Schignano, a small mountain community of fewer than a thousand souls, nestling in the mountains around Lake Como.

It is an art book offering a collection of emblematic images of an archaic Italy, where time stands still and where new generations have learned to capture the essence of the tradition and pass it on without tainting it with hurry, with the morbid desire for appearance or any incessant collection of “friends”, consensus and “likes”.

We are all familiar with the carnival as a staged gathering, a ritual, a chance to wear a mask and dress up in costume, where people put on a uniform (in a sense) and are recruited to perform silent actions and activities that have often been seen and experienced before.

In Mattia’s eyes, wearing a military uniform, training, and enlisting are actions and activities that have too often been seen and experienced. Young recruits must forget the virtual world and its absence of limits, barriers and borders, and learn the art of defence, or worse, the art of war. It is to be plunged into an archaic dimension, thought of as something far away in history and in time, but in reality living with us and alongside us every day of our lives.

Mattia would like to compare these two worlds, exhibiting the frames, the costumes, the masks and the uniforms, showing up close how a belief system is rooted.

Mattia’s project thus reveals his dual nature as artist and photojournalist, able to grasp, comprehend and address the most sensitive political events, such the decision of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaité to bring back conscription.

For Arte&Arte, after debuting in 2007, it is a real honour to be back now working with Virginija Vitkiene and all the organisers and promoters of the Kaunas Biennial. It is also another opportunity to involve our association, which has been busy for over twenty years in contemporary fibre art with the Miniartextil exhibition, in the international cultural scene.

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