THE STREET (Est1863) & Strike – Istituto Svizzero di Roma

Invited to work with the hypothesis of Openings Out to Reality, a research initiated in 2012 by Istituto Svizzero di Roma on the relationship between art, institutions and society, artist Tobias Kaspar has proposed a personal project and invited the artist and conceptual photographer, Fred Lonidier. The outcome of this collaboration are two exhibitions: THE STREET (Est1863) by Tobias Kaspar, and Strike by Fred Lonidier, which open on Friday 5 June at Villa Maraini.

THE STREET (Est1863)  is the first act of Tobias Kaspar’s THE STREET, a fiction, a theme park, a performance, a staging, a hyper-artificial construction where the works of the artist finally find an ideal setting.

Starting from the remains of a block on Lower Broadway designed in the studios of Cinecittà – the so-called “Broadway set” – by the Academy Award winner Oscar Dante Ferretti for Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese (2002), Kaspar began his own very personal immersion between reality and artifice, Pop imaginary and the theatricalization of the global art world, between social struggles and the culture of consumption, mimetism, syncretism and appropriationism, wit and ironic self-critique, acting on the razor’s edge between staging of the world of mass production and the extreme fiction of international contemporary art.

The film Gangs of New York, set during the struggles against the Enrollment Act of 1863 in New York, and its set at Cinecittà – subjected to repeated modifications to adapt to subsequent productions – offer the artist a series of hypotheses, explorations, leaps and gaps (backwards and forwards) in a wide range of directions in time and space.

THE STREET is a restaurant, a bookstore, a jeans shop, action, dialogue, actors, extras, an art exhibition: Tobias Kaspar positions things and situations that take precise details into account, where gestures and exchanges are staged and presented with extreme dramaturgical care. Objects and images always lead to an elsewhere, where reality and fiction become inseparable. The set, like the city of Rome, is a place where history and representation are unavoidably confused.

For this occasion, the garden of Villa Maraini is the setting of a complex dramaturgy of THE STREET, which will materialize in the places that will give it this possibility. Sculptural, performative and immaterial interventions, all directed by Tobias Kaspar, will take the audience in a fiction, open to variations, from a western set to New York of the mid 90s. THE STREET (Est1863) also includes Est1863, a Jeans edition designed by the artist in collaboration with Fabio Quaranta and THE STREET TIMES, a periodical which will be continued in the next steps of the project. The audience is invited for a special cocktail in the bar THE ODEON, installed especially in the park of Villa Maraini.

Tobias Kaspar (b. 1984, Basel, Switzerland) lives in Berlin and in Rome. Among his solo exhibitions: The Air on the Way to the Oyster, Kunsthalle, St. Gallen and Kunsthalle Sao Paulo (2014); Tobias Kaspar at Midway Contemporary Art Center, Minneapolis and The Bling Ring at Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich (2013); Bodies in the Backdrop Halle für Kunst, Lüneburg (2012); Why Sex Now at Alex Zachary Gallery, New York (2011); Living Well Is the Best Revenge at Silberkuppe, Berlin (2010). And a selection of the international group exhibitions he has been involved in are: Blue Times Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2014), Frozen Lakes at Artists Space, New York (2013), How to Work (More for) Less, Kunsthalle Basel (2011).

Strike is Fred Lonidier’s first institutional solo exhibition in Europe and takes place simultaneously in Rome, Geneva and Zürich.

Artworks and artists can play many different roles. Fred Lonidier is a visual artist in the labor movement who offers his critical position as a model for us to examine. For Lonidier, to be an artist in the labor movement means to have a practice based upon the understanding that intellectual and artistic work has to be guided by union organizing and struggle. In the 1970s Lonidier was part of the racial, sexual, and gender emancipation movements and joined student protests against the Vietnam War. His studies in Sociology and Fine Arts, and his collaboration with the artists Martha Rosler, Allan Sekula and Phel Steinmetz, led to his use of documentary photography as a means toward social change.

For over forty years Lonidier has developed a specific visual language that is defined through its close connection to social and political movements: draft resistance during the Vietnam War, feminist movements at the U.C. San Diego campus, San Diego union fights, the struggles of maquiladora workers in Tijuana, and others.

Next to the wide-ranging selection of artworks exhibited at Istituto Svizzero di Roma, following Lonidier’s practice of installing in spaces of ongoing social struggle and union organizing, some of his works will be shown in the main meeting room of CLAP, the Council of Freelance and Precarious Workers. CLAP was established in 2013 to defend workers who lack protection at their workplace or who have lost their jobs, and freelancers and precarious workers who are not entitled to welfare.

The exhibition at Centre de la photographie Genève will focus on the diverse character of Lonidier’s approach to examining modes and roles of photography. Earlier works use documentary to point out sexist representation of women within the photo industry, while later investigations focus on the labor movement. Lonidier’s work I Like Everything Nothing But Union (1983) will be installed at the United Nations Office in Geneva, a site-specific intervention parallel to the exhibition at Centre de la photographie Genève. Strike will conclude with Fred Lonidier’s MFA thesis work from 1972 that consists of four parts: 29 Arrests, Pornography, Surveillance and Conceptual War, installed at the MFA Department at Zürich University of the Arts, Toni-Areal Campus.

Born in 1942 in Lakeview, Oregon, Fred Lonidier is an artist, activist and union member. He taught photography at the University of California, San Diego, where he lives. His works have been exhibited in art institutions and community spaces including the Oakland Museum; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Los Angeles Institute for Contemporary Art; the San Diego/Imperial Counties Labor Council; the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers, Los Angeles; the Ironworkers Union, Local 627, Norwal; and Centro Cultural de la Raza, San Diego, among many others. Recent group exhibitions include: inSite_05 San Diego/Tijuana transborder mobile archive project (2005); The Whitney Biennial 2014; Not Yet On the Reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism at Museo Nazionale Reina Sofía di Madrid (2015).

Strike is organized by Istituto Svizzero in Rome in collaboration with CLAP – Camere del lavoro autonomo e precario, Centre de la photographie Genève, and Zürich University of the Arts.

Fred Lonidier, excerpt from I Like Everything Nothing But Union, 1983
Courtesy the artist, Istituto Svizzero di Roma


Fred Lonidier, excerpt from I Like Everything Nothing But Union, 1983
Courtesy the artist, Istituto Svizzero di Roma



5 June at 8pm – 19 September 2015
Opening Friday 5 June 2015 at 6:30pm 
Istituto Svizzero di Roma – via Liguria 20, Rome