From the 1970’s to the 1990’s, Ferrara was an internationally renowned laboratory for video-art experimentation. The Centro Video Arte, directed by Lola Bonora with assistance from Carlo Ansaloni and technical support from Giovanni Grandi, fostered experimental works by artists of such stature as Fabrizio Plessi, Christina Kubisch, Angela Ricci Lucchi, Yervant Gianikian and Marina Abramović as they first ventured into electronic media. The corpus of works that has come to us is a precious testimony of the pioneering artistic practises that were developed in those years through video language, at the intersection of conceptual art, body art, performance art and land art. However, this fascinating but fragile collection of videotapes faces the risk of dispersion due to structural changes, the obsolescence of technology to reproduce them, as well as profound changes in viewing modes.
To recover this unique archive of artistic and historical memory and bring it back to life, the Gallerie d’Arte Moderna and Contemporanea of Ferrara has launched a preservation and restoration project in collaboration with one of the most important international centres in the field, the La Camera Ottica e CREA laboratories of the DAMS (Performing Arts Department) of Udine University, Gorizia, under the supervision of Professor Cosetta G. Saba. In 2013, they launched a major conservation initiative for archiving, digital transfer, study, and preservation of the Centro Video Arte’s vast corpus of videotapes, following a protocol adopted by the Gorizia laboratories. Vital support for this initiative has come from the generous, substantial contribution of the Fondazione Pianori as part of their commitment to the expansion and preservation of Ferrara’s artistic and cultural heritage, particularly the civic collections of modern art.
The exhibition Video Art at Palazzo dei Diamanti, 1973-1979: Re-enactment, organised by the Fondazione Ferrara Arte and Gallerie d’Arte Moderna and Contemporanea of Ferrara, aims to present the first results of this team effort, giving a selection of video works from the 70’s back to the public. For this purpose, they decided to re-present the exhibition Video Art at Palazzo dei Diamanti, 1973-1979, curated by Janus and shown in Turin in April 1980, which constituted a particularly significant turning point in the history of video art, not only because it offered an early compendium of the Centre’s avant-garde artistic research, but also because it raised more general questions about the nature of video, its cultures, its imaginary nature and its aesthetics, just when the stakes were the connection between art and society and consequently, the definition of a new status of the work of art.
The exhibition will take place in the Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo Halls at the Palazzo dei Diamanti, which has been one of the stages for the Centre’s various initiatives, and will focus on nineteen single-channel works that appeared in the “video art” section of the Turin exhibition. These videotapes are the product of creative experimentation with the expressive possibilities of the electronic signal and broadcast on a single monitor. Transmitted on 1970’s display devices that enhance their light and evanescent grain, these video pieces will be accompanied by the documentation and instrumentation following their creation in a journey that seeks to show the creative process through which the artist considered, explored and reinvented video close to the relationship between art and everyday experience.
The show opens with one of Fabrizio Plessi’s first videos, Travel (1974). This is a voyage into the artist’s poetic and protean imagination, inspired by the aquatic element and Venetian context, which are reflected in the fluid density of the electronic image. The exhibit continues with some of the most important works produced by the Centro Video Arte in the 70’s, including Claudio Cintoli’s Filo d’Arianna (1974), Christina Kubisch’s Stille Nacht (1975) and Julian Giuman’s Trace of Shadow (1976), in which the artists rely on the irony typical of conceptual art and the live aspect characteristic of the performing arts, thus putting the multi-media nature of video between music, visual art and theatre to the test.
Another exhibition room focuses on two works by Angela Ricci Lucchi and Yervant Gianikian, Viaggio di La Rose and Essence (1975). The famous couple, at this early stage in their joint work, began to reflect on memory through the device of the catalogue of “found objects,” using highly evocative items such as toys, bringing into play a complex system of relations between image, memory and smell. These crucial “early works” go beyond video conservation, fulfilling the task of restoration in collaboration with the artists, aiming to restore the expressive value of the work without compromising its historicity, by following an experimental technical protocol and decision-making model, in conformance with the common guidelines of European research centres, whose procedures are also illustrated.
The reinterpretation and re-contextualisation of the 1980 exhibition, set in one of the exhibition spaces of the Centre itself, along with the presentation of the restoration of two works of affirmed international significance, represents a first important step in the study and “re-enactment” of the video collection in the perspective of valorising the archive within the context of the Gallerie d’Arte Moderna and Contemporanea at Palazzo Massari’s future profile.