Featuring new solo projects by Matheus Rocha Pitta (Rio de Janeiro) and Klaus Weber (Berlin), Fondazione Donnaregina per le arti contemporanee and Fondazione Morra Greco are proud to present the third installment of a series of exhibitions entitled Hybrid Naples: L’ordine delle idee deve procedere secondo l’ordine delle cose, part of the Progetto XXI exhibition project.
Klaus Weber will install an homage to the people of Naples: cast from numerous live and still-life models – from girls on a Burberry blanket to a garage door to a cat – the negatives of plaster molds will populate the first floor of the Fondazione, as if envisioned in dreams by the central character of a dreamer taking a nap on a bench. In the basement, Matheus Rocha Pitta, inspired by ancient Greek funerary steles depicting a dead person shaking hands with a divinity, will show a series of concrete slabs reminiscent of tombstones, but encrusted with current clips from international newspapers featuring – often powerful – people in gestures of agreement: shaking hands, embracing, sometimes kissing.
In his work, Matheus Rocha Pitta keeps returning to a connection between gravel or dirt and the circulation of images and objects. In a major show at Rio de Janeiro’s Paço Imperial in 2012, he piled plastic-wrapped gravel from a demolished modernist building behind fake walls, with narrow doors left ajar. One couldn’t help but think of smuggled goods – in the vein of earlier works such as Drive Thru #1 (2007), for which the artist – during a residency in Austin, Texas – ‘confiscated’ land and packaged ordinary dirt in plastic foil like drugs, photographing it in car headlights in front of a fence, just like the trophy photos meant to prove successes in the fight against drug trafficking.
For his Naples project The Agreement (L’Accordo), Rocha Pitta works with a curious technique of pouring concrete onto findings, a hybrid of cast and collage. It is based on a common, cheap way to cover graves: if you can’t afford marble or travertine, you use a concrete slab instead. In order to prevent the poured concrete from sticking to the wooden casting mold, the latter is laid out with newspaper, which thus inevitably becomes part of the underside of the slab as the paper is fixed in place by the hardening concrete. The dark joke is, of course, that the dead will have something to read. Correspondingly, even in the ‘dead’ art object, crucial insights might still be encapsulated, and wait to be unearthed. Incidentally, it was in the Naples region that Pozzolana concrete was already used first by the Greeks and then the Romans; also, Rocha Pitta came across ancient Greek funerary steles depicting the dead person shaking hands with a divinity – as if as a gesture of assurance that the dead will continue to be under the protection of that divinity. Rocha Pitta had to think of contemporary media images of any kind of people shaking hands, embracing, or sometimes kissing – all signaling – performing – some form of agreement. Using these images on the concrete slabs – divided up in a series of diptychs – they will be presented in the basement of the Fondazione Morra Greco: as a kind of crypt for the paradoxical nature of the agreement as an affirmation of change.
Klaus Weber’s work revolves around the idea that the art object is not so much a container but a disseminator, releasing resonances and vibes like a fountain sprouting water. Sometimes literally as a fountain: Public Fountain LSD Hall (2003) involves a Victorian-style lead glass fountain emitting homeopathically potentized LSD; while the actual substance is not present anymore, the homeopathic argument is that water has ‘memory’, i.e. that the substance in question leaves an ‘imprint’ on the molecular structure that thus can have an effect despite the substance’s absence – in this case, the effect being actual hallucinations. The Large Dark Wind Chime (Arab Tritone) (2009) is another case in point: it literally emits dark tonal vibrations. The chime’s long aluminium tubes produce an eerie drone – it is tuned to a triton, the restless-sounding interval of three whole tones. Named diabolus in musica in the Western musical tradition, it was largely banned from composition until Romanticism. With Weber’s wind chime tuned to a tritone based on an Arabic microtonal scale, the interval is further layered with anxieties that are present both in historic Western Orientalism as well as contemporary islamophobia.
Weber’s Naples project Agemo – like Rocha Pitta’s – involves the use of casts and molds, this time using plaster. However here, most of the casts are made from live models – inhabitants of Naples, with their identities however remaining anonymous. The central figure on the first floor of the Fondazione Morra Greco is the “sleeper”, taking a nap on a bench, with his face covered under a newspaper. We can imagine the scene unfolding as taking place in his imagination/dream – the cat strolling along, the garage door, the figure of a drunk leaning against the wall, or the couple on a Burberry blanket. However, we don’t get to see the “actual” volume of the figures, but only the negative cast, either from the outside presenting us with a rough plaster surface, or from the inside as an inversion that – through an optical illusion – can look like the actual protruding features of the person, an effect that in places is emphasized by traces in the cast such as a bit of hair or lipstick. Finally, there is one piece on the ground floor that gives a cue to the idea behind Agemo and it is Phantom Box – a box with holes in it reminiscent of the ones used in therapy for people having lost a leg, or arm, as a means to cure phantom pain. The remaining limb is doubled through a mirror, so that the brain can receive visual feedback and thus ‘de-sensitize’ the post-traumatic pain. In Weber’s version, the box has many holes, thus suggesting a collective effort to sense the phantoms – echoing the collective of phantoms on the first floor.