The MAMbo Museo dArte Moderna di Bologna
opened its autumn season of exhibitions with The Floating Collection this past October 27th, a group exhibition born out of the desire to study the collections of the museums in Bologna the Settore Musei Civici Bologna and other museum systems of the city through the gaze of six artists: Alex Ayed (Strasbourg, 1989), Rä di Martino (Rome, 1975), Cevdet Erek (Istanbul, 1974), David Jablonowski (Bochum, 1982), Miao Ying (Shanghai, 1985), Alexandra Pirici (Bucharest, 1982). In preparation for the exhibition, which will end on January 8th, 2023, through visits, in-depth sessions with museum staff and unplanned journeys, several collections and significant places of the city have been turned into resources, in a research platform which is capable of opening trajectories of socio-cultural and aesthetic investi-gation.
The Floating Collection, curated by Lorenzo Balbi and Caterina Molteni, draws inspiration from the decolonization debate and processes started in the ethnographic and anthropological museums all over the world which, starting from the 90s, have committed to review the history of their own heritage, by experimenting new investigation approaches on collections and new mediation approaches with the au-dience. As it enters this context, the exhibition focuses on the languages of visual arts, by proposing them as tools which are capable of reinterpreting the histories of the city, reactivating and reimagining them with eyes free from the usual narrative structures and methodological approaches.
The floating collection is contrasted with the encyclopaedic and cataloguing perspective which characterizes the Western and modern museum model, by moving across the borders of the different disciplines without outlining standardized rules or interpretations, but asking questions, offering image-ries and keeping itself open to continuous oscillations and variations. The protagonists of the project are not so much the objects of the museums collection, but rather the ideas and imageries emerged from their reinterpretation. Therefore, the artists accompany us in a re-flection on museology and its superstructures, the social-cultural history of the territory, the evocative nature of artefacts, and the potential for creation of fictional worlds which can shed a light on how we organize and enhance information today. By focusing on the methods through which visual arts relate to the study of society, the exhibition also becomes an example of the polyphony of styles, techniques and approaches which characterize the most recent contemporary arts.
The Floating Collection fits into the programming of the MAMbo and, at the same time, tries to go beyond the investigation started in 2020 and continued in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic situation, with the cycle of exhibition focuses called RE-COLLECTING, where existing works, which already be-longed to the collections of the civic museums, were exposed to new interpretation perspectives, with the purpose of renewing and making more dynamic the relation with the visitors and proposing unusual sensory pathways. Among the shared sources of inspiration between RE-COLLECTING and The Floating Collection, as high-lighted by Lorenzo Balbi in one of the introductory essays of the publication that will be released with the opening of the exhibition, is the vision of Franco Solmi, director of the Galleria dArte Moderna di Bologna, which in 1975, in his inaugural speech, outlined the identity, mission and vision of the nascent GAM:
The museum is a structure that involves, and is involved, in the reality of the city and the territory and, at the same time, a natural filter for experiences that transcend this reality. As such, it can be-come a cultural hub in the broadest sense of the term - a place where the things we say about culture are not only presented, but created, discussed and perhaps challenged, in order to promote a debate between different ideas and orientations: this is the real result of a cultural policy that aims to be plu-ralistic not only in name, but in practice. [...] Programs should not be seen as the juxtaposition of one event to another, or a mere sum of different initiatives, but cycles of activities aimed at debating a problem, a process that of course cannot be exhausted in a solution, even a temporary one, that is pre-determined. [...] That is why it seems appropriate to me to replace the concept of exhibition with the more inclusive and open concept of activity.
By embracing and updating such vision, The Floating Collection goes beyond what has already been done with RE-COLLECTING and asks Alex Ayed, Rä di Martino, Cevdet Erek, David Jablonowski, Miao Ying and Alexandra Pirici to produce, after visiting and familiarizing with the collections of the Bolo-gnese museums, brand new works, which draw inspiration from the suggestions received during the vis-its and propose brand new and original interpretations of the citys cultural heritage. Therefore, the space of the Sala delle Ciminiere becomes the container of a new floating collection which asks us questions and leaves us anything but passive spectators, as effectively explained by Ca-terina Molteni in her introductory essay on the exhibition:
The floating collection floats in the air to be observed again, making us wonder what other trajecto-ries can be generated from it, how its parts, with the stories they hold, can suggest new avenues of in-quiry, not only about the museum but about the world around us. The absence of gravity thus becomes an opportunity to take our hands off our hips, reach for the ob-jects, start handling them carefully, and ask ourselves some questions.
We can track several sources and insights in the exhibited works:
To be able to work on the series Sun Drawings, which includes sunshine recorder strips coming from the Specola Museum, Alex Ayed spent several weeks in Bologna and visited the citys museum collections, with a specific focus on the Sistema Museale di Ateneo. Fascinated by the encyclopaedic nature of the scientific and didactic collections collected by the Università di Bologna over the centuries, the artist became interested in the different cataloguing and measurement methods put in place by human beings to study the cosmos and other terrestrial creatures. In the music composed by Mauro Remiddi for the video Moonbird, Rä di Martino re-elaborates sound samples of ancient music instruments, which are part of the collection of Museo internazionale e bibli-oteca della musica di Bologna.
For his site-specific architectonic installation, Cevdet Erek has adopted a wide perspective: in a meas-urement process which extends itself to the whole city, the artist became interested in the rhythms and pauses that are traceable along the streets, museums, porches and towers, up to the MAMbos Sala delle Ciminiere, which hosts his work, that includes a XIX century plaster cast borrowed from the sculpted cross (IX-X century) originally placed outside the Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Varignana and coming from the Museo Civico Medievale di Bologna.
David Jablonowski presents in the exhibition, in addition to a series of existing sculptural works, a new production called Geo-fenced commodity futures (renewable, traced, hard) I-V, born out of a re-flection on the history of the materials within the museum collections, places where its possible to ob-serve how the concepts of innovation and obsolescence have shaped the identity of specific objects and how they have implied, over time, a certain idea of progress along with the technology they proposed.
For Surplus Intelligence, a new movie production born out of a reflection on the act of collecting in con-temporary society, Miao Ying has drawn inspiration from the collections of the Museo Civico Medievale and other testimonies of the Middle Age in the city to create a work that establishes a relation between forms of surveillance and influence of the past, such as the system of indulgences, with contemporary data collection processes.
Finally, Alexandra Pirici brings to Bologna a two-interpreter version of the performance Re-collection, which structures itself as a living collection where objects are turned into motion, without labels or need for classification. Real and fictional works of art, fragments of songs or poems, or real and imagi-nary forms of life are remembered through the bodies, voices and motion of performers.
There are several institutions and museums which, along with the MAMbo and in various ways, have been the research object for The Floating Collection. For the Settore Musei Civici Bologna: Museo Civico Archelogico, Museo Civico Medievale, Museo Civico d'Arte Industriale e Galleria Davia Bargellini, Museo del Tessuto e della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi, Museo Morandi, Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica, Museo del Patrimonio Industriale, Museo civico del Risorgimento.
For Sistema Museale di Ateneo | Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna: Museo di Palazzo Poggi, Museo della Specola, Collezione di Zoologia, Collezione di Anatomia Comparata, Collezione di Antropologia.
Other city institutions: Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, Cimitero Monumentale della Certosa, Opificio delle Acque.
The publication The Floating Collection, edited by Caterina Molteni (Edizioni MAMbo, Italian-English) is published in conjunction with the exhibition and is designed as an extension of the research on the collections of the Bolognese museums taken into consideration. The publication is made up of an intro-ductory session with the essays by the curators Lorenzo Balbi and Caterina Molteni; a part dedicated to the artists with texts and a collection of visual notes coming from their visit to Bologna as references which allow to visualize the research stage; finally, a chapter with three unpublished tales by Wissal Houbabi, Vaiva Grainytė and Lisa Robertson who broaden the reflection on the collections.