Filippo Leonardi – Freevolo
Through a series of installations, photos, and videos, Filippo Leonardi narrates at Marsèlleria a journey through time and space, a stage in the Colombaia project, intended to all effects and purposes as an artist’s residency (as is specified by the secondary title of the exhibition). This investigation, elaborated in Sicily, was presented for the first time at the Galleria Collicaligreggi in Catania with the show Freevolo, in 2012.
Colombaia is a work in progress conceived to allow two interconnected spaces—one stable, the other mobile—to dialogue, involving a pair of carrier pigeons. Contrary to the collective imagery where pigeons are seen as a blight to society that needs to be eradicated with different ploys of deterrence, it instead has a long story and a wealth of literature. Pigeons were the first species of birds domesticated by man: the oldest remains of pigeonries date to over 3000 BC. Known and praised in Mesopotamia and in ancient Egypt, they were believed to be sacred animals, a symbol of fertility. From the Sumerians up to World War I, pigeons have proven of vital importance in emergency situations, when communication by land is compromised or not safe and is the fastest means of exchange.
By using these birds to put different places into contact, Filippo Leonardi intends to reflect upon the typically human cultural need to classify into categories. He reflects upon “commonplaces,” prejudices that, once assimilated, motivate ambiguous feelings of acceptance or repulsion. In Colombaia the artist stresses how carrier pigeons are both loved and loathed: in fact, this bird is particularly praised by pigeon lovers, but is at the same time hated by city dwellers.
On display at the gallery entrance is Colombaia mobile, an installation that hosts three pairs of pigeons ready to take off. The sculpture is the miniature prototype of a pigeonry used by raisers and reproduced with all comforts and ergonomic standards.
On opening day carrier pigeons will take flight three times at Marsèlleria towards the mother pigeonry where they were born and raised (that is, at Settimo Milanese) at 16:30, 17:00, and 17:30. The hour takes into consideration the fact that the pigeons must return to their mother pigeonry before sunset.
On display is also an element from the series Dissuasori. This is an object-sculpture covered with metal spines normally used to keep these birds away from windowsills or frames. Seemingly surreal but perfectly working, the sculpture presents itself like a totem and challenges its actual use by making it both functional and awkward.
Opening up to various disciplines—under the guidance of the artist, orinthologists, breeders, carrier pigeon associations, gallerists and curators—FREEVOLO: Pigeon in residence is rounded off by the photo series Colombofili e colombaie and by a video, Volo unico, a work that shifts the gaze from a human point of view to the one of an animal and which narrates flights carried out by Marsèlleria to the mother pigeonry at Settimo Milanese. This does not entail documentary material but new narrations on the trip undertaken by carrier pigeons, a metaphor of comings and goings.
Filippo Leonardi’s work coincides with subverting the ordinary, disturbing that which is given as certain, constituted. However, the artist does not intend “subversion” as having a revolutionary or militant connotation, but instead a sort of unveiling of what is normally hidden, or that which is not immediately revealed to the gaze of all.
The work in progress Colombaia/Pigeon in residence is documented in La natura ama nascondersi, a monograph catalogue that gathers the last ten years of work by Leonardi (2002–2012), edited by Claudio Cravero and published .
Marselleria – via Paullo 12, Milan
March 22 -April 7, 2013