An aesthetic production acronym created by Aldo Elefante in 1992, Brigataes has created multimedia installations, video works, performance events, urban interventions. With an ironic approach and paradoxical outcomes, it calls into question the position of the artist and the meaning of art itself in contemporary culture. The name Brigataes, through its resemblance to a destabilizing name like “Brigade”, explicitly shapes and redefines the limits of rationality and irrationality, chaos and discipline, expressing the potential of cognitive states and suspended, hypothetical or dubitative actions. In the theorization of Freudian psychoanalysis, the Es (Id) is also the most archaic inter-psychic impulse that contains the instinctual erotic drives (Eros) as well as the self-destructive drives (Thanatos). Starting from the instance that “the only art possible today is the production of stories of art, individual or collective, real or imaginary,” through its projects Brigataes constructs the chapters of a social, political, economic and cultural narrative, rewriting and deepening reality itself, defining the blurred contours of an artistic personality that belongs to a parallel art history, in which the real, or shared, memory is the premise of a fictitious, or singular memory, where art is not only in what is, or was, but also what art might have been or that it could become.
This narrative or performative relation with the historical dimension – which combines the “withdrawal of the universal artistic elements of production” with “documentation of artists’ lives” – is the matrix of works like the first installation, Deja vu. New Year 1870 in Villa Mamontov at Abramtsevo (1992), in which the members of Brigataes represent themselves in large photographic panels as Peredvizhniki (i.e. the Itinerants or Peddlers, a group of Russian realist artists of the second half of the nineteenth century), or the installation presented in 2015 at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, The Greatest Artist in the World, which documents with realistic detail an archaeological find and a twentieth-century anthropological discovery at Cumae which, in fact, never really happened.
Cittàlimbo Archives (2015), the work by Brigataes presented at Madre in the context of the project Per_forming a collection. For an art archive in Campania and produced by the Fondazione Banco di Napoli, occupies a diffused and liminal space-time within the museum, entering not only into the exhibition rooms – where it creates a dialogue with the other works in the project Per_ forming a collection – but also into the service areas of the museum itself. On ten television monitors scattered between the ticket office and the entrance to the library, cafeteria, the galleries on the second floor, the bathrooms, the connecting stairs between the floors, appear the faces of men and women, mute video traces broadcast in a loop. In the Library reading room on the first floor, the work takes on the appearance of a possible unified archive: at the center of some of the television monitors batteries (some lit with a flickering effect, others switched off), a monitor transmits the same video traces glimpsed while visiting the museum but, in this case, with the sound turned on: sitting on a chair and using a trackpad, it is possible for the museum visitor to interact with the “screen shot” that appears on the main screen and select the “program” to follow. In fact, Brigataes’ works are neither “television programs” nor “computer screenshots”, but documents of an audio-visual archive in the process of formation, oscillating between past and present, history and stories, criticism and storytelling.
By collecting the testimonies of the protagonists (artists, critics, curators, gallery owners and collectors) who conceived and produced, wrote and exhibited widely and collected art history in Naples from 1950 to 1980, Cittàlimbo Archives possesses a hypertext of the museum collection itself, furnishing it not only with the support of a contextual documentation, but giving expression – with all the scope of openness and ambiguity this entails, even in relation to the critical distance of the museum function – to the protagonists themselves. Their stories are those that, in Naples, have helped constitute the art history of three decades. Starting in 2010, Brigataes recorded hundreds of these testimonies which, forming a kaleidoscopic whole, compose what in the meantime has indeed become the history of contemporary art in Naples. By accumulating a multiple memory, intersubjective and fluctuating between historical data and personal opinion, the conscious and unconscious strategy of repression, Brigataes raised its questions during actual visits, triggering reactions and activating diversified mechanisms of narrative. All this, taken together, renders the complexity of historical events and a cultural environment crucial for the transformation of Italian art in the late twentieth century, as well as the very identity of the museo Madre, which has the task of storing and transmitting them.
In this way Cittàlimbo Archives rewrites the neutrality of the archive as a story told by many voices, made of both individual stories and up the relationships between these stories, fragments of a possible general history in which the single document is a vector of dialogic and diachronic knowledge. And if, for Brigataes, “there is no art without works, but there is no work without a producer and a context,” Cittàlimbo Archives becomes a collection not of works (objects), but people (subjects), configuring the Madre as a “museum of lives,” and not only “artistic documents.” Cittàlimbo Archives itself is a hot archive, filmed “with a camera held laboriously on the shoulder, without using all those instruments – tripods/lights/ external microphones – that create a distance between the subject and the object” of research. Seated frontally, almost compelled to a temporary intimacy, the witness and the person who collects the testimony, the past and the present, meet. In its similarities with memorial art, conscious of its possible failure and the disappearance, of Christian Boltanski, or the taxonomies of Bernd and Hilla Becher, where what is stored is saved by a process of acquisition in memory, Cittàlimbo Archives retraces and also recharges the historical practices and supports of video-art between the 1960s and 1980s (the same period retraced by Cittàlimbo Archives) the massive use of television sets as a raw material for installations. As in the works of Nam June Paik with their CRT screens, similar to the works found in the museum’s collection, the ones that we find on our visit are “televisions, old and deep, that restore a body to the subtle images of videos, archaeological artifacts animated, finds from another time,” that draw you out of your present towards them to reveal the timeliness of the archive. Continuous contradictions, as might be expected from Brigataes, who again exhibits at the Madre, in the context of the permanent collection, after the exhibition No Lives Were Lost of 2009.
Testimonies in the Cittàlimbo Archives: Vito Acconci, Flavia Alfano, Anna Amelio, Tomas Arana, Mathelda Balatresi, Nanni Balestrini, Renato Barisani, Enzo Bergamene, Tomaso Binga, Rosario Boenzi, Ferdinando Bologna, Achille Bonito Oliva, Michele Bonuomo, Giannetto Bravi, Enrico Bugli, Peppe Capasso, Dina Carola, Renato Carpentieri, Gabriele Castaldo, Achille Cevoli, Geppino Cilento, Franco Cipriano, Francesco Clemente, Paola Colacurcio, Pasquale Coppola, Vitaliano Corbi, Mario Costa, Salvatore Cotugno, Enrico Crispolti, Vincent D'Arista, Riccardo Dalisi, Pietro Pasquale Daniele, Antonio Davide, Renato De Fusco, Vincenzo De Simone, Armando De Stefano, Attilio Del Giudice, Lucio Del Pezzo, Antonio Dentale, Bruno Di Bello, Gerardo Di Fiore, Carmine Di Ruggiero, Baldo Diodato, Fabio Donato, Ciro Esposito, Ernesto Esposito, Renato Esposito e Liliana Moscato, Luciano Ferrara, Luigi Paolo Finizio, Mario Franco, Gilbert & George, Guido Giannini, Mario Guida, Nicola Incisetto, Annamaria Iodice, Arcangelo Izzo, Ernesto Jannini, Mimmo Jodice, Jannis Kounellis, Franco Lista, Pietro Lista, Graziella Lonardi Buontempo, Franco Longo, Nino Longobardi, Giuliano Longone, Vittorio Lucariello, Luigi Mainolfi, Franco Mancini, Teresa Mangiacapra, Giuseppe Manigrasso, Giuseppe Mannajuolo, Giuseppe Maraniello, Gabriele Marino, Livio Marino Atellano, Stelio Maria Martini, Claudio Massini, Lello Masucci, Aldo Masullo, Rosaria Matarese, Luigi Mazzella, Rino Mele, Peppe Morra, Giuseppe Napolitano, Hermann Nitsch, Riccardo Notte, Mimmo Paladino, Salvatore Paladino, Rosa Panaro, Giulio Paolini, Peppe Pappa, Mario Persico, Salvatore Pica, Antonio Picardi, Mariantonietta Picone Petrusa, Felice Piemontese, Giuseppe Pirozzi, Gianni Pisani, Mimma Pisani, Bruno Pisaturo, Gigi Piscitelli, Ugo Piscopo, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Carmine Posillipo, Amato Rak, Giuseppe Rescigno, Carmine Rezzuti, Clara Rezzuti, Maria Roccasalva, Lia Rumma, Mimma Russo, Lelio Schiavone, Mimmo Scognamiglio, Quintino Scolavino, Ninì Sgambati, Aurora Spinosa, Nicola Spinosa, Tony Stefanucci, Antonello Tagliafierro, Giovanni Tariello, Ernesto Tatafiore, Angela Tecce, Angelo Trimarco, Lucia Trisorio, Adamo Vergine, Lea Vergine, Franco Visco, Salvatore Vitagliano, Tom Walker, Elio Waschimps, Giuseppe Zevola.