Roberto Costantino
Guy Debord
Olu Oguibe
Cecilia Chilosi
Lauri Firstenberg
Lucio Fontana
Hou Hanru
Luca Beatrice
Eva Grinstein
Marco Senaldi
Lou-Laurin Lam
Massimo Trogu
Hans-Ulrich Obrist
Nelson Herrera Ysla
Tiziana Casapietra

In a 1967 interview with Daniela Palazzoli for "Bit", Lucio Fontana reflects on the future: technology, science, art, and adds that he "could not survive until the year two thousand." However, his legacy does endure over thirty years later, particularly in the context of this exhibition mounted by the cultural association, Attese. An homage to Fontana's prodigious and consummate intervention into the field of art making with his slashed canvases entitled Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1959-1962), the exhibit circumnavigates his gesture of criticality in detonating conventional artistic practice, hierarchy, and genres. It also signals the literal translation of attese: expectation, waiting, hope, potential.

For this exhibition, twenty-five international multi-media artists are brought to the ceramic studios of Albisola, the locale where Fontana executed his sculptural work in the 1930s. A diaphanous process of interchange and translation between the international artists and local craftsmen working in traditional ceramic studios places experimentalism at the core of the project. This dialogic scene produces ground for spatio-temporal confluence and removal. The subsequent coterie of interdisciplinary production and outcome is paramount to this meeting of regional traditionalism and global conceptualisms.

The obscure yet historical location of Albisola, anachronistic in terms of its mode of production, its turn to a traditional medium during a reign of new media artistic production in contemporary times, does indeed provide terrain for dense and relevant visually and culturally charged research. Artists from Kosovo to Tokyo individually produce work within the parameters of the Albisolan ceramicists' studios. A trial of travel, localities, and regional production meeting internationalisms, speaks to the Biennale phenomena in an effort to literalize the dichotomy of local and global interface. This practice, of course, goes hand in hand with the tensions and advantages of decontextualizing and recontextualizing cultural production. Signaling the operations of international exhibitionisms on a meta and mega scale, the confluence of international practitioners and audiences with local economies, politics, and peoples, and the sort of dialogue and lack of dialogue produced therein, one must inquire: what does it mean when international artists insert projects into various regional historical, social, cultural, and political contexts in what artist Soo-Kyung Lee recognizes as a "temporary encounter?"

Having artists work in this vein produces a dialectical encounter of tradition and those invested in cultures of acceleration and technology. This experience prompts transculturation, translation, and a unique investigation of how specificity of context, history, ideology, and identity are articulated, despite the standardization of the medium. This exhibition's constant is the material. In this way, critical aspects of individual practices and cultural lexicons surface. A mediation on the notion of difference is performed by enforcing this constant. It also folds back onto the Fontanian mantra of privileging concept over process - neutralizing the material as a given and accentuating various conceptualisms. Infused with individuality, cultural identification, signs of specificity of geo-political exigencies, which serve to de-neutralize the constant of the clay, tradition and innovation are negotiated by the artists: Elke Krystufek's ceramic toilet with laptop and mobilephone holder, including a self portrait painting executed by local ceramicist taken after a photograph; Nina Childress's clay wigs after pictures of models; Kristian Hornsteth's Fuck You Art Lovers; Momoyo Torimitsu's treatment of signs of preciousness and gender in her belly-flopped-bunny.

However, it is the project of Soo-Kyung Lee that quintessentially illustrates a successful dialogue produced in the context of this exhibit. Traveling to Albisola from Seoul, her interest rests in collaboration with local practitioners of the ceramic studios - a process of spontaneity, translation, and "inter-subjective dialogue". Anna Maria Pacetti, the Albisolist under the instruction of Lee, fabricated 12 white vases after the 18th century Choson Dynasty kind. Tales about the vases were translated for Anna Maria, prior to her decorating of the vessels - a test on the part of Lee who wanted to expose notions or biases of larger Eastern culture. The texts, transliterated from Korean into English and Italian underwent grave disruption and misinterpretation. Lee describes this procedure, "along with the different stages of translation, the notion of the white porcelains of the Choson Dynasty de-materialized from vases to text and then translated, transformed, rematerialized and re-presented as vases". In this way, Korean nationalist icons transculturated into hybridic objects as their "forms and images were interwoven with regional characteristics of both Italian and Korean culture". A symbol of Confucianism now donned highly sexualized imagery in this revisionist form, countering the rigid classifications and nostalgic sentiments of how the vases signify in Korea. Lee maintains, "the 12 vases can be considered as a trace of a temporary encounter of virtual neighbors. This project is not a presentation of synthesis of two heterogeneous cultures or cultural exchange in the frame of late capitalism, but a presentation of interwoven regional stereotypes which could be valid or invalid according to one's viewpoint. My project in Albisola is an experiment in developing a new passage which can be opened to the world and to the other".

As Fontana went to Albisola and Sèvres Factory without regard for the legacy of the locale, so too in the context of this exhibition do artists counter tradition and work in contemporary terms. Working outside the vocabulary of one's own cultural production, this show constructs a mediation on travel, displacement, translation and interchange. In an age when the handmade has given rise to virtual intelligence, to turn to clay seems to be a paradox, a problematic. Yet as a staple in this context, the medium seems to dissolve. The concept is primary. In 1966 Jan van der Marck writes that Fontana's operations "obliterate the specificity of the medium". As such, Fontana's Attese signals the space inbetween the apparent slash and that which lies beyond it - surface versus concept. The investigational premise under the auspices of Attese reverberates of the space of in-between, of the unintelligible, and the expected, what in Fontana's work reflected the space between the façade and the void created by the tear of the canvas - allegory for the operation literally performed in the service of this exhibition.

Lauri Firstenberg

Lauri Firstenberg is an independent curator and critic based in New York. Recently she has curated an exhibition entitled "After the Diagram" at White Box, New York and "Work" at Folin/Riva, New York.
Curatorial experiences: Documenta 11 (assistant to Artistic Director, Okwui Enwezor), Kassel, Germany, 1998-2000. "Short Century: African Independence and Liberation Movements, 1945-1994" (Associate Curator to Director Okwui Enwezor), Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, February 2001; House of World Cultures, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; PS1-MoMA, New York; "After the Diagram" (curator), White Box, New York City, April 2001. "Beyond Decorum: The Photography of Iké Udé" (curator), Institute of Contemporary Art, Maine, Oboro, Montreal; Sert Gallery at Harvard University; MAK Vienna, 2000-2001. "Translation/Seduction/Displacement" (curator), White Box, New York; Institute of Contemporary art at MECA, Maine, 2000-2001. "Century City" (curatorial assistant), Tate Modern, London, 2001. "Mirror's Edge" (curatorial assistant), Bildmuseet, Umea Sweden, 1999. Contributor to international art magazines such as Camera Austria, Flash Art, Art Journal,Third Text, Chicago Art Journal, Nka.