Ursula Mayer “The Soul Paints Itself In Machines” at Monitor, Rome 

Ursula Mayer, Atom Spirit, 2016, video still
Courtesy the artist and Monitor Rome-Lisbon


The Austrian film-maker and artist Ursula Mayer returns to Rome for a film-screening and talk in collaboration with the critic Alessandra Mammì at the Casa del Cinema di Roma on February 8th. This event will be followed by the opening of Mayer’s solo show at Monitor on February 9th, where she will present her latest film Atom Spirit (2016), alongside a group of sculptures on view in Italy for the first time.

Mayer, who lives and works in London, has been the recipient of numerous awards including the prestigious Derek Jarman Award for Radical Filmmaking. She has exhibited work her work in a number of major international museums and spaces including: the Belvedere Museum, Vienna; the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Whitechapel Gallery, London; the SeMA Biennale Mediacity, Seoul; Moderna Museet, Stockholm and Moderna Museet, Malmö, Institut Kunst, Basel; Upcoming: Vleeshal, Middelburg, Home, Manchester. Mayer’s artistic practice encompasses film, sculpture, photography and installation, to create “kaleidoscopic” spaces where multiple references converge and enduring boundaries dissolve. Her films fuse formal experimentation with myth, biopolitics and the semiotics of cinema, to visualize and ruminate upon posthuman ontology.

Mayer’s latest 16mm film Atom Spirit is set in Trinidad and Tobago, a seeming paradise in which race, gender, ecology and technology meet. Atom Spirit was made in collaboration with the LGBTQ community of Trinidad, as well as Mayer’s longer term collaborator, transwoman Valentijn de Hingh. The result is a twisting narrative traversing a number of science-fictional scenarios brought about by the Earth’s current sixth mass extinction.

Spanning scientific, ecological and social spaces, Atom Spirit creates an interpenetrating mesh of realities where interrogations of postcolonialism, ecology and queerness can take place. The resulting futuristic landscape produces a hybrid space in which human and non-human animals become entwined with cybernetic components, in order to question how our shared future may manifest within an increasingly damaged environment. Thus Mayer explores the potentials of a posthuman alternative world inhabited by mutant hybrids. Starting from, but ultimately unravelling an anthropocentric viewpoint, the film underscores the need to reconsider the entanglements and artificial boundaries between man and machine, nature and artifice, biology and technology.

Mayer takes a similar approach in her sculptural practice, working with opposites to create links between solid and liquid forms. From the series Robotic Cells,  See you in the Flesh 1-4 (2014), a group of sculptures evoke anatomical parts of the body, where the solidity of these bodily pieces are rendered light and sinuous through the transparency and fluidity of glass. In Drawing Android 6 (2014), the artist transforms a rigid body into a flexible one by pairing a slab of concrete with wires and cables, recalling instead the elasticity of hair. Mayer’s work encourages the viewer to explore and transcend a number of boundaries: those of identity, the body, gender, social roles, and technology by immersing ourselves in contemporary history, probing and confronting the most pressing questions of today’s society.

On February 8th, Mayer’s film retrospective at Casa del Cinema will feature a selection of the films that were recently awarded the Derek Jarman Award – a prestigious recognition that celebrates visionary and radical talent among British or adopted-British filmmakers. Although Austrian by birth, Ursula Mayer has in fact been living and working in London for years, where in her cultured and highly experimental work she has been exploring social and cultural themes related to gender, sexuality, identity, human and post-human issues. Mayer’s film work breaks down all interdisciplinary genre barriers, combining music with photography, installation, literature, sculpture and theatre. She relates classicism to some of the most disquieting aspects of our present-day living, artfully creating a kaleidoscopic and symbolic dimension that is visually evocative and profoundly intense on a poetical and philosophical plane.

This brief but exhaustive retrospective is therefore an opportunity to get to know the work of one of the most incisive artist/filmmakers currently operating in Europe, in an evening beginning at 6pm with the powerful trilogy Gonda (2011), Medea (2013) and Cinesexual  (2014).

After the screening the artist will be talking to art historian and critic Giorgio Gosetti, currently the director of Casa del Cinema, as well as to producer Jacqueline Davies and to journalist and art critic Alessandra Mammì. During the meeting there will be a screening of Lunch in Fur (2008).

The evening will end with an Italian premiere showing of Mayer’s new film Atom Spirit (2016).


Ursula Mayer, Atom Spirit, 2016, video still
Courtesy the artist and Monitor Rome-Lisbon


Ursula Mayer, The Lunch in Fur (Le Déjeuner en Fourrure), 2008, video still
© Ursula Mayer, Courtesy the artist and Monitor Rome-Lisbon 


Ursula Mayer, See you in the Flesh 3, 2014
Courtesy the artist and Monitor Rome-Lisbon


Ursula Mayer, See you in the Flesh 4, 2014
Courtesy the artist and Monitor Rome-Lisbon


Ursula Mayer
Screening and talk in collaboration with Casa del Cinema
Curated by Alessandra Mammì
8 February 2018, 6–8.30pm | Sala Deluxe

Casa del Cinema | Via Marcello Mastroianni 1, Villa Borghese, Roma
+39 060608

Ursula Mayer
The Soul Paints Itself In Machines
9 February–17 March 2018
Opening 9 February 2018, 7–9pm

Monitor | Via Sforza Cesarini 43a-44, Rome
+39 0639378024