The project was conceived and designed by Goshka Macuga, whose artistic practice is often referred to as taking on the roles of an artist, curator, collector, researcher and exhibition designer. Macuga works across a variety of media including sculpture, installation, photography, architecture and design.
“To the Son of Man Who Ate the Scroll”, developed by the artist for Fondazione Prada’s spaces, brings together reflections on seminal issues such as time, beginnings and endings, collapse and renewal. Observing humanity’s concern with the conclusion of mankind, Macuga poses a fundamental question: how important is it to address the question of “the end” in the context of contemporary art practice?
Macuga’s exhibition is the culmination of a lengthy period of in-depth research attempting to formulate a methodological categorization of material and information around such topics. The artist looked at the art of rhetoric and artificial memory as intricately linked tools for the organization and advancement of knowledge.
The influence of this framework resonates through the inclusion of speech and reference to mnemonics systems throughout the exhibition. The ground floor of the Podium becomes the setting for an android created by Macuga and produced in Japan by A Lab. The android recites/rehearses his monologue constructed from numerous excerpts of seminal speeches, claiming himself to be a repository of human speech, though “who this knowledge is preserved for is no longer clear”: in this scenario, in the time known by the robot, the human perspective is no longer valid. The android is surrounded by a selection of large works from the Prada Collection and significant museums around the world that evoke ideas of the cosmos, by artists including Phyllida Barlow, Robert Breer, James Lee Byars, Ettore Colla, Lucio Fontana, Alberto Giacometti, Thomas Heatherwick, and Eliseo Mattiacci, along with a new work, titled ‘Negotiation sites’ after Saburo Murakami, realized by Goshka Macuga in collaboration with Kvadrat in Denmark.
On view on the upper floor of the Podium is an installation titled Before the Beginning and After the End the result of a collaboration between Goshka Macuga and Patrick Tresset. Five tables each present a 9,5 meter long paper scroll covered with biro sketches, texts and mathematical formulas, diagrams and schemas drawn by Tresset’s system “Paul-n”. On a sixth and final table, robots of the series “Paul-A” continue drawing in real time for the whole duration of the exhibition. Their intentions are undefinable as to whether they are adding or erasing the anthropocentric narratives they attempt to illustrate. Ancient and contemporary artworks by, among others, Hanne Darboven, Lucio Fontana, Sherrie Levine, Piero Manzoni, and Dieter Roth, rare objects, books and documents are displayed on top of the scrolls to create a juxtaposition related to the evolution of humanity and its possible collapse.
The three spaces in the Cisterna host a large new sculptural work conceived by Macuga, consisting of 73 bronze heads representing 61 historical and contemporary figures such as Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Luther King, Karl Marx, Mary Shelley, and Aaron Swartz, connected by long bronze poles. This work can be seen as a realization of an imaginary encounter between thinkers of different historical periods and geographical and cultural backgrounds, whose ideas reflect on the complexities of human nature and its history.
Goshka Macuga’s contribution continues in the form of an intervention in the studiolo within the exhibition “An introduction”, on view in the Sud gallery and in the Deposito until 25 April 2016. This intervention, titled “Al la filo de la homo kiu manĝis la skribrulaĵon”, highlights the connection between the studiolo as a space for practicing knowledge, the architecture of one’s mind as a container for memory, and the exhibition set-up or artwork as a space of contemplation. Macuga will animate the studiolo as a stage setting for a series of readings of significant texts in Esperanto, which play out a troubled relationship with the practice of knowledge, evocative of both the utopian intentions of the constructed vernacular and the collapse of the idea of a universal language and a common human culture. The readings, performed by Valeria Sara Costantin, will take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 5pm from 6 February to 24 April 2016.