Cyprien Gaillard – Rubble and Revelation

Cyprien Gaillard, Portrait Ronald Dick, 2012


Like an archeologist probing the wreckage of modernity, Cyprien Gaillard travels the world looking for monuments of our era that have lost their aura and symbolic power, and with the precision of a research scientist, he documents their life and gradual disappearance. He roams nomadically from continent to continent, encountering ruins and relics that are immortalized in photos, videos, sculptures, and collages which convey his obsession with the poetry of decay.
With the gaze of a documentary maker and a dramatically raw aesthetic, Cyprien Gaillard reflects on the destruction – as well as decadence – that follow social and cultural transformations. Gaillard’s work is a study of iconoclasm, vandalism and the power of images: the artist traces the ways in which history is perennially rewritten, highlighting subtle links between past and present, and between different cultures and contexts marked by violent transformations and signs of disintegration-an area of research that has grown all the more topical in this era of street protests and popular uprisings.Architecture, with its globalized commercial symbols and its effigies of power, is a discipline that fascinates Gaillard because of its ability to deeply influence human behavior. Modernist buildings, rundown neighborhoods on the outskirts of town, crumbling highrises and skyscrapers, and military fortresses and bunkers serve as the setting for a “Natural History of Destruction” (to cite the essays by the German writer W.G. Sebald on the devastation produced by air raids during World War II); within it, Gaillard highlights the dynamics that govern social interaction, the relationship between the individual and the group – specifically, in the youth subcultures of urban gangs and tribes – where categories such as freedom and the right to choose no longer apply, and everything seems to happen as if guided by mass will. All of these forces can be found in the project Rubble and Revelation for the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, the first major solo exhibition by Cyprien Gaillard in Italy.

The project is housed in the military bakery of Caserma XXIV Maggio, a fascinating gem of industrial architecture built in Romanesque Revival style in 1898 and closed in 2005, after having been used for over a century to supply bread to all the military complexes in Lombardy, and after nourishing the entire city of Milan during World War II. Inside the spaces of the military bakery, with their patina of memories, Cyprien Gaillard leads us through his evocative vision of the ruins of our time: in a constant crescendo of juxtapositions and layerings, videos, photographs, images, and sounds trace a path that weaves between explosions and silences, devastation and contemplation.
Designed in 1889 and opened in 1897, Caserma XXIV Maggio is part of a large military district, originally called the “Quartiere delle Milizie” and later the “Distretto Militare di Milano”, that was built in the late nineteenth century in a middle-class neighborhood in downtown Milan, near Parco Sempione, between Via Mascheroni and Via Vincenzo Monti. Along with barracks for recruits, Caserma XXIV Maggio houses the military bakery, a Romanesque Revival building from 1898 and a true gem of industrial architecture, with ovens that were used for over a century to supply bread to all the military complexes in Lombardy. During World War II, the bakery’s output nourished the entire city of Milan. It ceased operation in the late Fifties, but the eight ovens – culminating in six tall chimneys that soar up from the roof of the building like elegant red – brick smokestacks – were never dismantled and are still in perfect condition. Caserma XXIV Maggio, on the other hand, remained operative until 2005, and over the years housed all the young men in Milan who were called up for the three – day selection for compulsory military service: one finds famous images from the Sixties of young girls flocked around the Via Mascheroni gate, waiting to catch a glimpse of singers like Adriano Celentano and Tony Renis, or up-and-coming football stars like Gianni Rivera. Starting on 1 January 2005, when the compulsory enlistment of young men for military service was suspended, the Distretto Militare was converted into a document center housing an archive of some 2,000,000 files, one for every member or potential member of the armed forces who spent time there. With the show Rubble and Revelation by, the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi is opening the doors of Caserma XXIV Maggio to civilians for the very first time: this is a unique opportunity to see inside a symbolic landmark that has played a vital role in the recent history of the city, and is deeply rooted in the heart and memory of its residents.

November 13 – December 16, 2012
Fondazione Nicola TrussardiCaserma XXIV Maggio, Milan

Cyprien Gaillard, Untitled, 2010, Oil and screenprint on canvas, 161 x 223 cm

Cyprien Gaillard, Untitled, 2010, Oil and screenprint on canvas, 161 x 223 cm