There are many ways to deal with a context. Any context. Often one just wants to fit in. Immediately, perfectly. Even if one is new to the place and its people. Some other times we desperately struggle to find our spot. Here, now, in the world. And it is exactly in that moment that we feel misplaced, out of place. Out of context, de-contextualised. This - and much more - is what the exhibition “De-contexts”, arranged at Spazio Millepiani in Rome, is about. Thanks to a vast spectrum of pictures, digital works and videos representing still life, portraying people and landscapes, this group exhibition embodies a concept and its opposite. It enacts dichotomies and contradictions of nowadays’ society being able to establish a fruitful dialogue with the observer.
The beginning of modernity in the artistic field is marked by the introduction of a perspective vision, thanks to which the figures, within a planar space, are arranged according to an order of depth of field. The object acquires an "internal space", and with this it takes autonomy from the external space and is no longer an object in a space, but is itself the creation of its own space of representation: it becomes removable, and can be displayed in any place. The act of extracting an object / subject, isolated or inserted in imaginary spaces, imposes an evaluative approach oriented on the intrinsic meaning - and aesthetic - of what is exposed, and with it imposes questions such as "how much context is needed for us to categorize an object? How much can be taken away before an object completely loses its identity, before it truly becomes something else?".
Lake Roberson Newton, It's All Quite Promising, 2021│Buy it
Sometimes, when documenting objects out of their conventional contexts - meaning something we do not expect - intentionality clashes with casualty. For example, while watching colourful balls invading a room, we need to ask ourselves which role the artists had in this process. Were they documenting a happening or were they orchestrating the whole situation? Is it the artist acting both as an invisible performer and a director or was she/he able to catch the perfect moment? Where does intentionality end and casualty does start? Whether they are playing with us, emphasizing the surprise-factor, or not, with those photos and moving pictures they are stating something. They are asking for our reaction and for further questions. Despite the differences, all these pieces are denouncing something - a lollipop filled with plastics is a metaphor for pollution and a pile of washing machines alludes to the overconsumption we are too often used to. Dislocation is another focal point these artworks are dealing with. Taking something out of its context means dragging it into an environment it is not usually part of. The objects (mostly natural elements) of this section are thus documented in ‘another’ place. In a place other than usual. This produces a sense of estrangement due to the difficulty of recognizing things that have been eradicated from their ‘safe space’. Here, the sense of non-belonging mixes up with topics and feelings concerning the loss, the abandonment and the emptiness - the void we are looking at reflects the one we keep inside us.
That is why the colours disappear and the scenes become blurry and faded. They represent our memories, they are exactly like our sentiments.
To conclude, the last term we are taking into consideration within this exhibition is manipulation. Probably inspired by the ready-mades produced by Marcel Duchamp at the beginning of the 20th century, where an object was extrapolated from its ‘everyday life’ to be turned into a piece of art (such as Fountain, 1917, for example), the artists here are playing with the reality itself and its ‘products’. So, in this frame, it is allowed to transform mushrooms into abstract but soft sculptures as well as to reuse a waste as bidimensional compositions. It is not just magic involved within this process, but also reuse and sustainability matters. Suddenly, everything is potentially charming, and subtle is the threshold where the ordinary meets the extraordinary.