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  • Immagine del redattoreCristina Ruffoni

Qualcosa è andato storto

"We have left the land and embarked on the ship! We have burned the bridges behind us – and that's not all: we have cut off the land behind us. Well, vessel! Look ahead! On your sides, the ocean: true, not always roaring, sometimes its expanse is like silk and gold and a dreamlike goodness. But there will be moments when you will know it is infinite and that there is nothing more terrifying than infinity. Oh, that poor bird that felt free and now crashes against the walls of that cage! Woe to you, if you are seized by nostalgia for the land, as if there were more freedom there – and there is no more land left!" (Nietzsche, The Gay Science).

The intent and the work of Michelangelo Gandini Jr.'s Shipwreck lead to these thoughts.

Melville writes that real places do not exist on geographic maps, but boundaries, traced and then deviated on maps, lose their original function as limits and become different creatures and nomadic images. After the standstill of the pandemic and the nightmare of war, space and time have been perceived as increasingly relative, blending together, depriving the language of religion and science of their stability, causing words to lose their character of orientation and guidance.

Thus, geographical maps, transfigured into gentle monster heads by Michelangelo Jr., become unfamiliar spaces with neither high nor low, neither inside nor outside, neither far nor near.

“Something has gone wrong”, the artist reminds us, in a universe that has lost its order, its hierarchies, and its purposes, offering itself as a no man's land in resounding and silent ruins.

Yet, in this perpetual and sought-after instability, Michelangelo Jr. seems to orient himself as a traveler who doesn't even want to dominate the final outcome of his artistic work.

In this continuous alternation between art and life, surrendered to nomadism, one never sets off hoping to find truth, salvation, or home. The artist also mixes us up with the game, as in his transparent notebook pages sealed in slate, where false indications lead us everywhere but nowhere, in such disorientation that we can find giraffes in Paris. As a true Situationist or, rather, Surrealist, he takes us out of our habits and exposes us to the unusual, emphasizing that any project that includes control and total definition is madness.

Michelangelo Jr. grants no pauses or mitigations even with the drama of the war in Ukraine, which he reaches with a van but which he associates with all the ongoing wars, marked in red on the map and becoming real again, taking us away from the illusion of feeling better or absolved through distant solidarity, returning us to the raft at the mercy of the waves of Géricault.

Michelangelo Jr.'s constant "Praise of Failure" refers to the Fluxus paradox that explains and disciplines nonsense and "The Drunken Boat" of Arthur Rimbaud: "Why do we admire the subversion of the irreducible."

The soundtrack of euphoric losers and aimless outsiders is, instead, that of Tom Waits, whom Gandini recognizes as the background to the same visions and hallucinations, from "Small Changes" in 1976, the same frenzy of travel inherited from Kerouac, "I don't know where we're going, but we have to go..."—both naturally inclined to celebrate nocturnal outsiders and anti-heroes of the economic boom and the myth of the West Coast.

In the contamination of languages and quotations, in the chromatic bewilderment and melancholic assemblage of objects taken from folklore, there is a reference not only to Robert Rauschenberg's combine-paintings but also to the set designs of Wim Wenders, with ramshackle cars and tattered billboards that light up like signs in empty skies and boundless American deserts, the same discordant elements and unforeseen details, like Nastassja Kinski's shocking pink sweater in "Paris, Texas" and the small immaculate toy animals entwined around the wheel of the Sicilian cart created for this latest exhibition, disorienting like the coyote on the roof of the German director's car.

Michelangelo Jr.'s work, despite being within the system, stands on the margins of established art paths, always posing questions to visitors who are no longer mere spectators but active participants in what happens. Every time, we are asked to give up our reassuring convictions and process the diversity of experience.

We are at the end of Man as we have known him, destined to change, just like the borders of territories after migrations, and anthropological and climatic upheavals. We must no longer retreat and protect ourselves but cast off the moorings and set sail. The task of art is to legitimize these new unstable and temporary landscapes, already present in our minds and imagination.

Cristina Ruffoni

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