Rä di Martino La controfigura/Stand-In

Opening April 2nd - Brunch at the gallery 1-4 pm
Until May 8th 2011
MONITOR – Via Sforza Cesarini 43A-44 – Rome

In this new series of photographic works and two installations the artist’s gaze has turned to various abandoned film sets in Tunisia and Morocco. The Tatooine settlements of Star Wars,an unlikely American service station and a Tibetan archway all become modern ruins starkly rising up from the desert dunes.

In her first non-video work to be shown in Italy, di Martino raises questions concerning those elements that make up the movie industry – what happens to a film after a film and what kind of relationship springs up between the products of the movie industry and those people who absorb and live that product?

Rä di Martino explores the idea of the landscape as a “stand-in”, underlining the persuasive power of images. Paola Nicolin aptly summed up the question in her piece devoted to the artist which appeared in the March-April issue of Abitare when she stated that every film envelops us in uncertainty.

From Tibet in Kundun to The Gladiator of Ancient Rome or Jesus of Nazareth, the generous Moroccan desert has been the setting of what can only be termed a long “visual dislocation”, in which anything from Ancient Egypt to Jerusalem or New Mexico coexist in an extraordinary layering of visual and mental identities between the reality of these North Africa landscapes and the collective memory.

Among these abandoned sets that have been continuously adapted to suit a succession of Hollywood productions, ancient local ruins have been submerged by sediments of abandoned props in a progressive mutation process that has nonetheless left the precious original characteristics of these places unaltered.

Having hosted over thirty films, the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou in Southern Morocco is one of the most spectacular locations in the Atlas Mountains. With a skyline utterly untarnished by modern constructions, Ait Ben Haddou is the perfect symbol of a stand-in landscape present in di Martino’s work. In the large installation conceived for her solo show at Monitor, Rä di Martino offers a repeatingly and obsessively alienating image of the Kasbah, and in another installation old slide pre-viewers, of the kind thet were once used to show travel photographs, are transformed into miniature sets in which stylised desert landscapes are hinted at with scotch tape and pencil – evocative of theruined sets visited by the artist.

In the photographic work presented in the exhibition, the sense of visual dislocation is dense with suggestions that recall some of the topos of 20th century art – fake watch towers, catapults, the alien structures from the Star Wars sets, all appear almost as involuntary pieces of Land Art, surreal spiral jetties of Smithsonian memory. The American gas station, landmark par excellence and beloved by artists such as Eggleston and Hopper, in the work of Rä di Martino becomes one of the many surreal aspects of Morocco, with the placid presence of a Berber revealing yet another of this land’s many illusions.


Rä di Martino (Rome, 1975 lives and works in Turin and New York). Selected Solo shows: 2010: ‘Ra di Martino – Artscape’,Vartay Gallery Vilnius, curated by Luigi Fassi; 2009: The Night Walker and Other Works, CAV Coimbra, Portogallo, curated by Miguel Amado; ‘August 2008’, Monitor, Rome;  Selected Group Shows and film festivals: 2010: ‘Terre Vulnerabili’, Hangar Bicocca, Milan, curated by Chiara Bertola; Lo Sguardo Persistente, GAM Turin, curated by Elena Volpato; Linguaggi e Sperimentazioni. Giovani artisti in una collezione contemporanea, MART, Rovereto, curated by Giorgio Verzotti; SI Sindrome Italiana, Magasin, Grenoble; VideoZone 5th VideoArtBiennale, Tel Aviv, Israel; 2009: Italics, MCA, Chicago, curated by Francesco Bonami. Festivals including the Stuttgart Filmwinter; the International Rotterdam Film Festival; the Signal & Noise Media Art Festival 2010, Portland; the KunstFilmBiennale, Cologne & Bonn; Viper Basel, the Locarno Film Festival; the Turin Film Festival.