Fondazione Merz presents “Society, you’re a crazy breed”, a new project by Turin-based artists Botto&Bruno. Conceived as one large installation that responds to the exhibition space, the work focuses on The Fondazione’s symbolic value as an abandoned industrial building converted into a cultural venue.
The exhibit – starting with its title, taken from Eddie Vedder’s song “Society” from the “Into the Wild” soundtrack – is a cry to reflect upon the future of our society and its contemporary madness, which tends to reset memory to create a present without history, a present that is built on ruins. To quote Marc Augé: “Future history will no longer produce ruins. It does not have the time for them”.
Upon entering the exhibition space the viewer is enclosed within a photographic landscape almost completely covering the gallery’s walls and floor: a dense pattern of images, printed with environmentally friendly inks and representing generic suburban sceneries from around the world. They are Botto&Bruno’s urban outskirts, in which there is an accumulation of cultural decline of the human spirit: the price man has paid for the transition from the archaic agricultural civilizations to today’s supposed “affluent society”. Within this deteriorating scenery the artists have identified some pauses, or places for reflection. They consist of three structures, a silo, a wall, and a movie theatre, which have been conceived as a “relief for the soul.”
The silo, similar in form and size to the pits that used to take up the outside space of the Fondazione—a former heating plant for the Lancia factory—is a place where man’s destruction has ceased. The inside is filled with images of nature taking over the ruins: a dreamlike place of the imagination, recalling man’s ancient relationship with earth and nature.
A second highly symbolic element of the installation is a jutting portion of a wall from which emerge paper fragments, words and sentences scattered on the gallery walls: they are the messages, dreams and requests that appear on every wall, everywhere on earth.
Further into the installation, the viewer approaches a third structure: a small movie theatre named Lancia Cinema that has been recreated from the drawing of the original industrial building’s façade——which becomes yet another place where imagination comes into play. Screened in loop is the artists’ latest new video Kids world (2016), with original music composed together with Bartolomeo Migliore. The video was made using the cut-up technique and features scenes from The 400 Blows by François Truffaut (1959), Kes by Ken Loach (1969), and Abbas Kiarostami’s first short film The Bread and Alley, (1970). They share the restlessness and the sense of solitude of adolescence, and investigate the theme of living the present: favourite subjects of Botto&Bruno’s art, which reflects on the issues of banlieue life.
Botto&Bruno, who were born and brought up in a working-class neighbourhood that was in constant search of a new identity, narrate the world through a lucid and harsh realism, connecting vision and reality, distress and dream, enchantment and ruins. This exhibition offers multiple levels of interpretation: the remains of a world that has been destroyed by lack of planning, a dream world, and an outlook on the future; a theory on what will happen if we don’t allow sense to communicate with sensibility, and if we don’t engage in a deep and respectful relationship with every place.