“Conversation Piece | Part IV (Giant steps are what you take)” at Fondazione Memmo, Rome

Jörg Herold, Dschanna. Prophetisch Grün–Leipziger Tor zum Paradies, 2017
Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin, Photo Daniele Molajoli


Fondazione Memmo presents Conversation Piece | Part IV, the new appointment for the exhibition cycle curated by Marcello Smarrelli, dedicated to Italian and foreign artists who temporarily resident in Rome or who, in some ways have a special relationship with the city.

The exhibition will be open to the public from December 16th 2017 until March 18th 2018 and six artists have been invited to contribute to it: Yto Barrada (Mary Miss Artist in Residence at the American Academy in Rome), Eric Baudelaire (fellow at the French Academy in Rome–Villa Medici), Rossella Biscotti, Jörg Herold (fellow at the German Academy in Rome–Villa Massimo), Christoph Keller (fellow at the German Academy in Rome–Villa Massimo) and Jakub Woynarowski.

The subtitle of the exhibition Giant steps are what you take comes from the British band The Police’s song Walking on the moon, 1979, which clearly reflects on the first man landing on the moon in 1969, and the sensation of lightness due to the absence of gravity–typical feeling when being in love. Still, the inspirational motif for Conversation Piece | Part IV is the very act of walking as intellectual exercise–as “taking steps.”

The word “step” comes from the Old English steppan (“to go, proceed or advance”), deriving in turn from the Proto-Indo-European root stemb that means “to stomp, support, curse or be amazed”. This means that the action of advancing or progressing physically or conceptually in the dimensions of time or space originally derives from a sensation of amazement and an act of exclamation, also associated with the concept of support and stability. It is no coincidence that this word has repeatedly been used in poetry, literature and philosophy to refer to various concepts related to the human condition, such as development or arrival, as well as to express the act of walking as a philosophical exercise, as an active form of idleness that encourages an attitude of inner exploration and a desire towards a wider understanding of the world.

Each artist can metaphorically be considered a “walker” that crosses and travels through different pathways. These paths represent the multifaceted researches and theories each author carries along, which are shaped by their transformations and rendered visible as sketches, artworks, or large scale installations. As for an alchemical process these changes aspire to a glimmer of light, a revelation and meaning. Each and every aspect constitute a “step” towards the artist’s mind, modus operandi and poetic vision of the world.

The theme of the “steps” has been dealt with in an absolutely personal manner by each artist: Yto Barrada (Paris, France, 1971) works with the maquette, as an intermediary production phase of artworks that will later on be presented at the Barbican centre in London; Eric Baudelaire (Salt Lake City, United States, 1973) video stems from proper promenades in Europeans downtowns, where he focuses his attention on the unnoticed presence–alienated yet intrusive, of soldiers brandishing weapons, seemingly ready for urban warfare; making use of the autobiographical element, Rossella Biscotti (Molfetta, Italy, 1987) reproduces in a sculpture the twelve steps she had to go through for several months as physiotherapeutic exercise; Jörg Herold (Leipzig, Germany, 1965) proposes an environmental intervention, starting from the 99 names attributed to Allah, Herold evokes an initiatory route, a spiritual and ascensional path; the installation by Christoph Keller (Berlin, Germany) subtly reflects upon the nature of the moment afore the very act of creation—that nothing—through a discreet yet incisive presence; Jakub Woynarowski (Krakow, Poland, 1982) composes an atlas of signs and symbols on the Palazzo Ruspoli’s windows overlooking Via del Corso. As those glyphs are recurring in different epochs, Woynarowski delineates a historical-artistic route constellated with unexpected and mysterious correspondences questioning usual periodization procedures, and the disrupting role of the Avantguardes.

All of the works on display have either been created especially for the exhibition or have been adapted for the exhibition spaces of the Fondazione Memmo, thus making them, to all intents and purposes, previously unexhibited works.

The project Conversation Piece was born from the desire of the Fondazione Memmo to constantly monitor the contemporary artistic scene of the city and, in particular, the activities of academies and foreign cultural institutes, where they traditionally complete their formation new generations of artists from all over the world. Through these exhibitions and other initiatives, the Memmo Foundation wants to become an amplifier for the work of these institutions. The title of the cycle is inspired by one of Luchino Visconti’s most famous films, Conversation Piece (1974), a clear metaphor of confronting generations and relationships of hatred and love between ancient and modern; Conversation Piece was also a diffuse pictorial genre between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, characterized by groups of people conversing among themselves or educated in family attitudes. In addition to representing an opportunity for dialogue and dialogue with Rome, the exhibition offers a moment of discussion between different artistic personalities in order to bring together different energies, knowledge and methods into one single event.


Yto Barrada, Boudeuse, 2017
Courtesy the artist, Photo Daniele Molajoli


Yto Barrada, Eric Baudelaire, Rossella Biscotti, Jörg Herold, Christoph Keller, Jakub Woynarowski
Conversation Piece | Part IV (Giant steps are what you take)
Curated by Marcello Smarelli
Opening: 16 December 2017, 7pm
17 December 2017–18 March 2018

Fondazione Memmo | Via Fontanella Borghese 56b, Rome
Opening times: Wednesday–Monday, 11am–6pm
+39 06 68136598