The Italian Pavilion presents a large-scale installation and sound work by artist Massimo Bartolini

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The Italian Pavilion presents a large-scale installation and sound work by artist Massimo Bartolini
Pavilion of Italy: DUE QUI / TO HEAR, 60th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia. Photo: Andrea Avezzù. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia.

VENICE.- Due qui / To Hear is the title of the project for the Italian Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia (April 20– November 24, 2024), presented with the support of the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Culture. Curated by Luca Cerizza (with the assistance of Francesca Verga), it centers on a large-scale installation and sound work by artist Massimo Bartolini, who has returned to the Biennale after his previous participation in the Italian Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2013. Working in close relation to its setting, Due qui / To Hear leads viewers through each part of the Italian Pavilion, including the garden, in an alternation of full and empty spaces, movement and rest, that brings unexpected encounters with sound-based and performative pieces and environments.

Playing on a translation that seems wrong at first glance – “two here” (in Italian, due qui) and “to hear” – the title suggests that listening, “lending an ear,” is an action directed towards others. Meeting and listening, relation and sound, have been inseparable concepts throughout the three decades of Massimo Bartolini’s practice. In Due qui / To Hear the acoustic paradigm should thus be thought of as a physical experience, but also as a metaphor and an invitation to pay attention, to be open to others.

In this sense, the project for the Italian Pavilion engages with the theme of the 60th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque / Foreigners Everywhere, curated by Adriano Pedrosa; it offers a new slant on the idea, suggesting that to avoid being foreigners, we must start by not being foreign to ourselves. “Listening to the self” is therefore a crucial way to understand the individual’s position in the world and in all the relationships that one weaves within society.

This focus on listening to oneself and to others can also be seen in the dialogue established between forms and styles from the Italian cultural tradition (Baroque music and gardens) and even more specifically, the Venetian one (antiphonal music and organs), and those of other cultures and climes (Buddhist art and spirituality); between the representation of Italy, and the involvement of foreign musicians and writers in Massimo Bartolini’s project.

Due qui / To Hear is the most complex, ambitious example to date of a collaborative strategy that the artist has frequently employed over the years. Through a long process of dialogue and exchange, the curator and artist wove a network of relationships involving other artists from various disciplines and countries. The young composers Caterina Barbieri and Kali Malone, and one of the leading figures in experimental music for the past fifty years, Gavin Bryars (with his son Yuri Bryars), have contributed to Bartolini’s sound works, while the children’s book author and illustrator Nicoletta Costa and the novelist and poet Tiziano Scarpa have been invited to conceive new stories for the occasion, becoming part of the Public Program.

Made up of sculptures, installations, sound works, and performances, Due qui / To Hear offers a manifold, multisensory experience. The project, born out of a respectful dialogue with the Pavilion – with no structural additions or any form of display – takes viewers on a three-part path that can be travelled in either direction, letting them move freely within the spaces. In Tesa 2, for instance, they are greeted by the bronze statue of a Pensive Bodhisattva. This image from Buddhist art represents a person who, having attained enlightenment, voluntarily gives it up in order to show others how to get there, by embracing inactivity. This statue is emblematically placed at one end of a long recumbent column, a line of demarcation that, despite its architectural appearance, reveals its true nature as an organ pipe by producing a steady drone. The suspended state suggested by the Bodhisattva is underscored by this low vibration, which evokes a circular kind of time.

The path continues throughout Tesa 1, with a complex, labyrinthine structure built from construction scaffolding; the result of sophisticated technical and musical engineering, it is evocative of Baroque sound machines. The design of this walk-through installation follows the layout of an imaginary Italian garden from the Baroque era. As if it were the fountain in this stylized garden, a circular minimalist sculpture (Conveyance, 2024) occupies the center of the space. What looks like a bench where visitors can gather and rest is also a point for contemplating the motion of a conical wave. This quiet oasis – a beating heart within the exhibition – is the ideal spot for listening to the composition written for the project by two musicians at the leading edge of experimental and electronic music: Caterina Barbieri (b. 1990, Italy) and Kali Malone (b. 1994, United States).

Another acoustic encounter takes place in the Giardino delle Vergini, which is also part of the Pavilion: a choral work for three voices, bell plates, and vibraphone composed by one of the greatest figures in the minimalist avant-garde, Gavin Bryars (b. 1943, United Kingdom), in collaboration with his son, Yuri Bryars (b. 1999, Canada). This piece is based on a poem by Roberto Juarroz (1925-95, Argentina), A veces ya no puedo moverme (Sometimes I can no longer stir myself), which alludes to a human being who feels like a tree, or some other form of plant life connected to the world by its roots in a form of osmosis, “as if everything were born in me or as if I were born in everything.” It is another way of suggesting possible relationships between humanity and the environment, or humanity as environment. This theme recurs in Audience for a Tree (2024): a temporary space created by “planting” a circle of people around a tree in the garden, balanced between the acts of protection and contemplation. In the vicinity of this temporary theatre, on certain occasions, there will be performative readings of two stories that allude to gardens and trees, written specifically for the project by children’s book author and illustrator Nicoletta Costa (b. 1953, Italy) and by poet and novelist Tiziano Scarpa (b. 1963, Italy); they will take place inside the Giardino delle Vergini during the opening days and as part of the Public Program.

The exhibition Due qui / To Hear is accompanied by a Public Program presented with the support of the Directorate-General of Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Culture and curated by Luca Cerizza. The program features various events inside and outside the spaces of the Italian Pavilion and will be divided into three sections. The first will comprise performances held during the pre-opening days of Biennale Arte 2024 (April 16-17-18) and on the official opening day (April 20); the second is made up of initiatives closely related to the contents of the Italian Pavilion, held in May, June, July, and September (in collaboration with Gaia Martino); whereas the third will include two special projects involving music and performance, which will take place outside of Venice: an event in the Banca Ifis International Sculpture Park in Mestre, and a new itinerant sound performance in various Italian locations, conceived specifically for the program by Massimo Bartolini.

Due qui / To Hear will be accompanied by two publications.

The visitors’ guide, published by Electa, is conceived as a compact but richly informative tool to help orient visitors to the exhibition. Alongside essays by Massimo Bartolini, Elena Biserna, Luca Cerizza, and David Toop, it includes biographical notes on the figures who have contributed to the project, the stories by Nicoletta Costa and Tiziano Scarpa, and a series of pencil drawings by the artist that illustrate the exhibition.

A second, in-depth publication will be available in the fall. Edited by Luca Cerizza and published by Timeo, it will not be a traditional catalogue, but rather an extension of the Public Program, a parallel space in which to explore the themes behind the artistic and curatorial project, in relation to Massimo Bartolini’s practice. Adopting an anthology format, the book will bring together a wide selection of writing by philosophers, essayists, artists, musicologists, musicians, and poets, many of whom will be featured guests in the Public Program itself. The book will include extensive photographic documentation of the Pavilion and a selection of works from Massimo Bartolini’s three-decade-long career.

The Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture has contributed a sum of 800,000 euros to the production of the Italian Pavilion, officialized, as usual, through an agreement with the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia.

The project has also been made possible through the support of TOD’S, as Partner, and Banca Ifis, as Sponsor, whose overall contributions total more than 400,000 euros.

Special thanks go out to all donors, whose support has been vital to the realization of this project: Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Palazzo Bentivoglio - Bologna, ACACIA - Associazione Amici Arte Contemporanea Italiana, Collezione Mauro De Iorio, Nicoletta Fiorucci, Silvia Fiorucci, and Hofima.

Additional thanks to: Tessuti Bonotto and Frescobaldi, official suppliers to the Italian Pavilion; Massimo De Carlo, Frith Street Gallery - London, Magazzino - Rome, Corrado Beldì, Fondazione Ugo & Olga Levi for musical consulting and assistance with hospitality; NABA - Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, IUAV University of Venice, NICHE - The New Institute Centre for Environmental Humanities, and Unione Buddhista Italiana.

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