Fiona Tan – Inventory
Rome, 26 March 2013. In 1745, Giovanni Battista Piranesi created a number of etchings later to known as Le Carceri d’invenzione (Imaginary Prisons), infinite yet constricted spaces within a visionary fantasy.
In 1791, Jeremy Bentham, an English jurist and social theorist, designed the Panopticon, a new model prison with a circular plan and a single observation point in the centre.
Around 1820, Sir John Soane, an English Neo-Classical architect, opened rooms of his own house in London to the public, exhibiting his collection of antiquities in a special tribute to Rome.
In 2012, the Dutch artist Fiona Tan, realised the video work Inventory, the worldwide premiere of which will be staged at MAXXI from 27 March.
The legacy of Piranesi, Bentham and Soane form part of Fiona Tan’s reflection on the concepts she explores in her work such as time, memory, cultural identity and the relationship with space. Her beautiful and engaging works are on show at MAXXI in the exhibition INVENTORY, curated by Monia Trombetta for MAXXI Arte directed by Anna Mattirolo(through to 8 September 2013).
The exhibition features important works by the artist realised after 2004, devised as an exhibition without walls, within a layout that rather than creating architectural divisions, leaves it up to the art to create environments and connections.
The exhibition on the ground floor with Correction (2004), a work composed of six projections in which the artist presents 330 portraits of prisoners and guards from four American prisons in California and Illinois. In this installation the portrayed inmates and their guards encircle the visitor, thus recalling but also inverting the structure of Jeremny Bentham’s Panopticon. Correction also reveals the artist’s other source of inspiration, Le Carceri d’invenzione (Imaginary Prisons) by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. These famous etchings by the Venetian architect and printmaker, have more than once been a source of inspiration for Fiona Tan. She sees a strong relationship between the visionary
architectural spaces of Piranesi’s Le Carceri d’invenzione and the fluid and dynamic spaces of Zaha Hadid’s architectural design for MAXXI. Presented here are eight reproductions of Piranesi’s etchings, in their original and final versions. These reworkings are the result of modifications to the plates made by the artist himself between 1745 and 1750.
These prints can be seen as a common thread of the entire exhibition, weaving a network of visual, cultural and architectural references. For Fiona Tan the Piranesian prisons express concepts of history, fiction, invention and folly that we again find in Disorient. Whilst the numerous changes made by Piranesi to “his” prisons constitute a reference to the process behind the creation of Inventory.
Disorient, filmed on location by Fiona Tan in the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009, is a two channel projection. While Tan shows the imagined, private museum of this Venetian explorer on one screen, on the other screen history and geography are transversed through a completely contemporary journey. Disorient’s spoken narrative consists entirely of quotes from Marco Polo’s The Travels, forging a new connections and possibilities for interpretation.
For Inventory the artist took the ancient city of Rome as a point of departure, but in the ensuing journey the artist arrived at quite an unexpected destination. Shot entirely in London, inside the home and private museum of Sir John Soane (1753-1837), Inventory is shown here for the first time ever. The images of the interiors of the John Soane Museum were captured by Fiona Tan using six different cameras. Taking the very medium with which the artist works as the focus, Inventory reflects upon the notion of translation and the fleetingness of our current day perceptions.
Cloud Island speaks about the Japanese island of Inujima, scarred and marked by some 400 years of industrial development. Once an island of fishermen and farmers, Inujima then became a place of granite quarries and copper refineries. Now all the works stand empty and the island’s aged population has dwindled to around fifty people. The island’s aged inhabitants find themselves amidst a pivotal moment of immanent change, one in which architecture plays a leading role.
The works are displayed openly, without spatial divisions, in the search for a pure dialogue with the architecture of this museum. Fiona Tan’s works annul the normal space-time dimensions to immerse the MAXXI public in a visual itinerary that traverses diverse eras and places.
Maxxi – via Guido Reni 4a, Roma
march 27 – september 8, 2013