Unknown Friend (Stephen G. Rhodes and Barry Johnston) “Sivilization’s Wake” at Palazzo Campofranco, Palermo

Film still from Sivilization’s Wake, Unknown Friend (Stephen G. Rhodes and Barry Johnston), 2018
Courtesy the artists, INCURVA and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi


INCURVA presents the Sicilian première of Sivilization’s Wake, the latest experimental buddy comedy by Stephen G. Rhodes and Barry Johnston (Unknown Friend), curated by Marianna Vecellio. On view from 15 June to 14 July 2018 at Palazzo Campofranco, in Palermo.

Sivilization’s Wake is less an adaptation than an expulsion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, floating beyond a cesspool of cinematic repetitions.  Beginning with the premise that film itself, in the very act of casting light as its subject, necessarily defaces the written word which birthed it (and whose nature is always darkness), Unknown Friend attempt a further disfiguring of the text’s legibility.  Misreading darkness as drunkenness, swerving toward a state of total blinded-by-the-lightness, the artists want to drive themselves—with Twain in the backseat—off the well-lit roads of authority, and down into the dark gorges of prophecy. Drowning in the rivers of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, spelunking in the bunkers of Sicily’s past patria, the gang grope wildly for anything that shines, only to find that the sunken treasure they discover is too heavy to be carried, and can only be added to the mythologies that flood, in overlapping projections, the walls of this rented basement.  Using the advanced technology of the Star Trek franchise, as well as a cast of flexible characters, Unknown Friend travel through time and space performing society’s primal scenes (as well as a few of their own), often before involuntary audiences. In the process of staging these conundrums of exodus— freedom? banishment?— Sivilization’s Wake attempts an ecstatic desertion of the source text, only to wash up once again on the shore of history’s traumas, and find that the displacement, dysphoria, imprisonment, and injustice that even Mark Twain at times could not fully face, continue to plague civilization today, 200 years down river from the “Sivilization” of Huck and Jim’s time.

“Beware.  Trouble is brewing.  Keep a sharp lookout.” – Unknown Friend


Stephen G. Rhodes (b. 1977, USA) lives and works in Berlin, Germany. “Starting with references ranging from myths about the first president of the United States, George Washington, to the biographies of historical thinkers like Immanuel Kant and Aby Warburg, or films like Walt Disney’s The Song of the South (1946), William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), Stephen G. Rhodes builds up immersive sensorial chambers that collapse the distinctions between immediacy and representation, history and fiction, conscious and unconscious.” (Andrew Maerkle, Extract from «(NON) POSSE (NON) PECCARE», in: ART-IT online, 29.01.2016). Exhibitions include “A good neighbour” (15th Istanbul Biennale, 2017), “SWEETHAVEN ASSUMPTION:  Or The Propertylessness Preparedness And Pals” (Eden Eden, 2016), “Or the Unpreparedness Prometheus and Pals” (Kölnischer Kunstverein, Köln, 2016), “The Law of the Unknown Neighbor: Inferno Romanticized” (Migros Museum, Zurich, 2013).

Barry Johnston (b. 1980, USA) lives and works in Los Angeles, USA. His sculpture, poetry, and performance are simultaneously destructive and ecstatic.  With influences ranging from Patti Smith to Jean Genet to Richard Foreman, Johnston’s work asserts the liberatory potential of a kind of violent celebration of presence, each piece another attempt to find the exit, another temporary threshold further into the present moment. Exhibitions include “Our Fertile Hand” (Overduin and Co., Los Angeles, 2016), “Upside Down Libation 2″ (Galerie Micky Schubert, Berlin, 2015), “Made in L.A.” (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2014), and “The California Biennial, (Orange County Museum of Art, 2010).


Film still from Sivilization’s Wake, Unknown Friend (Stephen G. Rhodes and Barry Johnston), 2018
Courtesy the artists, INCURVA and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi


Film still from Sivilization’s Wake, Unknown Friend (Stephen G. Rhodes and Barry Johnston), 2018
Courtesy the artists, INCURVA and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi


Unknown Friend (Stephen G. Rhodes and Barry Johnston)
Sivilization’s Wake

15 June 2018–14 July 2018

Palazzo Campofranco | Piazza Croce dei Vespri, Palermo
Opening hours: Tue–Sat, 11am–1pm and 4pm–7pm