Luca Vitone. Macht
The Italian artist Luca Vitone (*1964, lives in Milan) traces the manifold imprints that are deposited in spaces and determine both their appearance and our idea of them. In creating his conceptual portraits of different places, he incorporates emotional as well as cultural, social as well as historical, economic as well as political aspects. Since the 1980s, he has used film, painting, photography, installation, audio piece, or scent installation to pose questions about memory of and longing for home, about migration and the representation of spaces.
With Macht (Engl. “Power“), the Weserburg Museum für Moderne Kunst is presenting Luca Vitone’s first solo museum exhibition in Germany. Macht vicariously circles the different modes of representation of the places we live in, our attempt to gain emotional access, the imprints we ourselves leave on our surroundings, and the interconnectedness of landscape, emotional belonging, and cultural as well as institutionalized identity.
At the center of the exhibition is Vitone’s expansive olfactory installation Imperium from 2014. For this, the artist collaborated with perfumer Maria Candida Gentile to develop a smell that greets visitors upon entering an otherwise nearly empty space and, after initial restraint, develops a certain musty-sweet penetrance. Vitone asked the perfumer to create a scent that is able to associate itself with feelings and ideas of power and authority and power. A scent that is just as capable of evoking memories of musty authority corridors as it is of monumental architecture, of bringing together diffuse ideas of high finance and politics, or of conveying experiences with authority and domination knowledge. The result is an invisible yet space-defining sculpture that is shaped by an awareness of structural hierarchies and representative power. As a “scent of power,” Imperium becomes a vehicle for artistic questioning. Through the presence of an odor that seeks to unite clichés and atmospheres of authority, the work also speaks to collective experiences to the same extent that it triggers individual associations in the viewer – after all, smell is linked to our subconscious like no other sense and thus determines our perception of the world.
The four-part series of paintings Räume (Engl.: “Rooms“, 2014) continues the thread of Imperium and assigns it to concrete places. What at first seems to pursue abstract-formal questions as monochrome cloudiness turns out to be a large-scale watercolor of dust particles dissolved in water. Vitone has collected the dust at four sites of institutional power in Germany: the Deutsche Bundesbank in Frankfurt/Main (economic power), the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe (judicial power), the German Bundestag (legislative power), and the Pergamon Museum (cultural power) in Berlin.
In the outdoor area directly in front of the museum entrance, Vitone installs the sound work Foresta teutonica domestica (Engl.: “Teutonic Homeland Forest”) from 2015. Here, the artist lays the voice of his 10-year-old son over the soundtrack of a sound machine with synthetic forest sounds. He had previously asked his son to imitate some animals that he thought lived in the forest. We hear the childlike imitation of eagle owls, cuckoos and wild boars – but also of seagulls. The huge, romantic tradition of the German forest is brought together here in a way that is as humorous as it is precisely placed, with a playful attempt to draw an emotional landscape of what is, as it were, both foreign and familiar to us.
Finally, the film Romanistan expands the perspective of the works shown at the Weserburg to include the inscriptions of ethnic groups in cultural and natural landscapes. Romanistan traces the migratory traces of the Roma on their way from India to Europe since the 8th century, the ways in which their centuries-long, nomadic search for home has been deposited in art, maps, architecture, food, or music. Romanistan will be shown on July 4 at 5.30 pm Uhr in the cinema City 46 and will be introduced by the artist himself.
Thus, the works by Luca Vitone presented in the exhibition join together to form a course about being foreign and being at home, about emotional access, cultural traditions and institutionalized power. They are restrained and monumental at the same time. Smells, dust, and sounds, as in Imperium, Räume, and Foresta teutonica domestica, are incidental testimonies to lived life whose meaning stands in marked contrast to the institutions or cultural traditions of the landscapes from which they spring. Vitone assembles them into overarching images. His portraits of places of institutionalized power are conceived from below, from their smallest components (such as particles of smell or dust), just as his tracings of centuries-old travel routes in Romanistan turn from the smallest to the whole, from the ephemeral to a form of supratemporality.
Curated by Janneke de Vries
As part of Smell it! The Fragrance of Art – ten exhibitions in eight museums from May 2021 in the state of Bremen. A joint project on smell in contemporary art by: GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, kek Kindermuseum, Künstlerhaus Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen, Kunstverein Bremerhaven, Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Städtische Galerie Bremen, Weserburg Museum für moderne Kunst, Centre for Artists’ Publications.