From 7 May 2023 to 24 February 2024 the Fondazione Antonio Dalle Nogare
presents I Have to Think About It, the first Italian retrospective exhibition devoted to Argentinean artist David Lamelas. Author of one of the most fascinating conceptual researches dating back to the end of the 1960s, Lamelas practice ranges from installation to sculpture, drawing, photography, film, video, sound and textual works that address the defining contexts and conditions of our perceptions and cognitions. His is an art, more often than not, made of almost nothing.
The exhibition, curated by Andrea Viliani with Eva Brioschi, develops in space across all floors of the Fondazione, and branches outdoors and back into the exhibition rooms. This facilitates a dialogue between Lamelas works and those of the artists in the collection. In time, the show reshapes and expands: unlike what happens normally, the exhibition will last a considerably longer time, and will be taking on different configurations. Some of the artists most important historical works are presented alongside new productions and an unprecedented programme of live events.
Starting from the title consciously self-ironic, as much as self-reflexive (I have to think about it) Lamelas questions the very format of the exhibition, and in particular that of the retrospective. This, in order to propose a personal interpretation in which the contexts of the exhibition and the institution, represent elements of a discourse in the making, in which to provoke and accommodate aspects of temporariness and the possibility of different viewpoints that of the artist but also that of the visitor that respond to the context in which the exhibition experience unfurls.
Such reframing and rarefaction of the retrospective format, allows Lamelas to approach the exhibition as an exploration of the concepts of space and time that have characterised his entire research. Going beyond the traditional exhibition space, the installation invites a consumption of the experience over a longer and more fluid time span. Lamelas asks for us to listen and think about time and space as interpretable and therefore variable dimensions: contextual and relative in nature. The concept of the exhibition thus opens up to multiple interpretations and methods of consumption. The author co-participates in the meaning-making process alongside the public that is often formed by artists, and the people Lamelas invites as co-authors in his films and photographic series.
Trained as a sculptor, Lamelas frees the work from its objecthood and material consistency by highlighting, through his installations, the architectural or urban space that the works share with the artist and the spectator. This is why Lamelas favours time-based practices like video-film and performance. Time becomes concretely representable as situation (a term that appears for the first time in the title of a work from 1967) and activity (the Time as Activity series started in 1969), just as the work becomes a tool for signalling or pointing (the first appearance of the term dates back to the title of a work from 1968) to a space and to what, in that same space, the work relates to.
Further, in the 1960s and 1970s, artists began to question the role of institutions (the so-called institutional critique), in order to denounce the ideologies that impose and condition the experience and explanation of the work by or towards the public. To this end, Lamelas identified precisely in the space and time of the exhibition an opportunity to not only show works but to enhance, through the works themselves, the perceptive faculties and awareness of those who observe or listen to them. As such, Lamelas anticipates by decades the so-called relational aesthetics that eventually acquired consistency in the 1990s.
The artists tendency to defy the customs and expectations of the art system takes the form of a radical experiment, in which the distance between art and life thins and turns into a direct experience and historical-critical narrative of the aesthetic, chronological and geographical coordinates in which the artist operates accordingly every time.
Space and time, the real and the mental, figuration and abstraction, biography and history, artist and audience, art and life are no longer distinct categories. Rather, they become experiential and narrative syntheses: ever-changing and interpretable. Lamelas works consist and coexist... What if we, too, tried not to take up space and time and take our role in them for granted? What if we tried to look at and listen to what we normally see and hear around us, and started thinking about it? After all, just as Lamelas did, one can make and reflect on art with almost nothing.