Artificial aerial landscapes
On the occasion of the Azione 2020 performance presented within the project Triennale Decameron, we asked the artists Goldschmied & Chiari a few questions to tell their work.
Goldschmied & Chiari, Azione 2020, photo by Gianluca di Ioia
How does Azione 2020, which you have created exclusively for Decameron, meet your artistic vision and relate to your Medusa Mirrors and Untitled Views works from 2014?
For the first time, our Azione 2020 performance for Triennale Decameron engages the audience in the making of our Medusa Mirrors, Untitled Portraits and Untitled Views cycle of works, which we have been working on since 2014. This work is an actual performance that involves some chemistry, from its making in the studio to the actual exhibition. The moment the smoke bombs are lit in the studio is a performance in itself, which usually takes place behind closed doors, with only us there to see it, and it is captured through photography. The bombs were made with different combinations of substances and colours, so a cloud filled the room with unpredictable, colorful swirls, creating artificial aerial landscapes that lasted a few minutes and changed continuously. As for Azione 2020, the work translated into a blast designed for the Triennale Gallery and streamed live on Instagram; through a careful choice of colours and strategically placed smoke bombs, we created a unique artificial landscape that changed by expanding into the architectural space. This aspect of constant change is also found in works that use mirrors to change during the day, as they react to the surrounding environment, to changes in light and to the movements of people, giving time, space and viewers themselves a key role in the work, and extending the performance from the studio to the relationship with the audience
Goldschmied & Chiari, Azione 2020. Triennale Decameron
How do natural and artificial, reality and illusion intertwine in your works? How did you become interested in these opposites?
Our Untitled Views reproduce a natural environment in an artificial way, an aerial landscape inside the studio with a palette of coloured and toxic smoke bombs. There is an aesthetic of destruction behind Untitled Views, such as street conflicts, war scenarios, terrorist attacks, industrial pollution and fires, which turn into delicate landscapes, fiery sunsets, artificial northern lights, moons emerging from blue clouds. Also, the initials of Untitled Views evoke UV rays, of which the sun is one of the main sources, and we all know how hard, and sometimes harmful to health, it can be to look toward the sun or an eclipse with the naked eye. Mirrors, on the other hand, are an archetypically feminine material; they evoke the relationship with otherness and self-reflection, capture light and reproduce an image of reality, creating multiple perspectives. We believe that the practice of working in pairs is one of the reasons for our interest: multiplying views, transforming and combining opposites is an aspect of continuity in our way of working. For Untitled Views, our studio is the place where nature is artificially reproduced with the help of toxic and coloured fumes. In both cycles, art history and the landscape become references and images to be “re-represented” artificially. There is a dialogue with painting through the medium of photography: it is almost a challenge to the medium itself and to the sacred idea of art history and the Masters of the past.
Your work has always had some political implications, even when it is loaded with a highly evocative, aesthetic value. How did you come up with the idea of using smoke bombs, which bring to mind street conflicts, war scenarios and terrorist attacks, to develop an idiosyncratic take on the landscape and nature?
This is because our collaboration began in a climate of political activism. We met for the first time in a cyberfeminist group in 1998. goldiechiari embraced multiple-use names, such as Luther Blisset, with the idea of creating a feminist collective. Politics, sociology and activism are some constants in our work, from the first works that reflected on gender self-representation and identity boundaries as a submerged struggle – Cu-Cu, Dump Queen and Welcome – through to more complex research works in Italian history, such as Genealogie di Damnatio Memoriae, La démocratie est illusion, Patria e Dispositivi di rimozione. By using smoke bombs, we wanted to combine pictorial references with the typical scenery in which we are used to seeing them, such as street demonstrations, danger signals, war and industrial zones. Our compositions are inspired by the dramatic skies depicted by artists associated with the tradition of landscape painting and, in particular, by the late period of painter William Turner, when his skies become almost abstract. While we were carrying out research for the making of our Untitled Views, we went to see the Late Turner: Painting Set Free exhibition at Tate Britain, London (2014-2015). In practice, we often explored pictorial tradition as part of our work, trying to deconstruct ideal natural landscapes through photography, mixing the natural with the artificial, because as Bruno Latour said: “Beware of purity. It is the vitriol of the soul.”
Goldschmied & Chiari, photo by Toni Thorimbert
Goldschmied & Chiari (Sara Goldschmied, Arzignano 1975 - Eleonora Chiari, Rome 1971) founded the goldiechiari duo in 2001. Since 2014 they have been working with the name Goldschmied & Chiari in Milan. Among the most recent personal exhibitions: Paesaggi Artificiali / Artificial Landscapes, Galleria Poggiali, Pietrasanta and Milan (2019); Eclisse, Museo Novecento, Florence (2019); Gioielli di famiglia, The Open Box, Milan (2018); Vice Versa, Kristen Lorello, New York (2017). They have achieved national and international recognition by collaborating with institutions and museums.