IT’S FOREVER: MARA FABBRO AND ALBERTO PASQUAL
MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO NAZIONALE MASSIMO PALLOTTINIO
18 JUNE – 30 OCTOBER 2022
MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO NAZIONALE MASSIMO PALLOTTINIO
18 JUNE – 30 OCTOBER 2022
Joseph Kosuth, in his rich and documented collection of writings, assigns to contemporary Conceptual Art, interpretative and documented purposes of reality that go well beyond the purely aesthetic and formal dimension of the work of art. Conceptual Art, better than Philosophy, has the possibility of analyzing, presenting and communicating in an exclusive and illuminating way some particulars of the Present.
The It is Forever research by Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual fits perfectly into this critical paradigm, highlighting a series of events that characterize our Third Millennium.
The artists, through the creation of installations and displays of their dialogue works, document the existential void of today’s man and the substantial fullness of natural space, now saturated with the remains of plastic materials that our consumer society has used and dispersed in a completely irresponsible way. This current drama, the accumulation of indestructible waste and the irreversible damage it causes to Nature, leaves indelible, permanent marks both in the environment and in the con- science of today’s man. Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual capture these signs, highlight the marks, violate the most distant borders and immerse themselves in the depths of the sea. They are aware of the need to recognize the values and necessities of a humanity that has lost its certainties and absolutes, and that is unnatural in savage places. It is a humanity that silences its now sadly tamed instincts and turns its gaze elsewhere to ignore horrors that cannot be contemplated.
Nothing lasts today, not knowledge, not feelings, not health, not faith, not relationships, … each category mentioned reveals its fragility and a limit of duration.
Plastic, on the other hand, remains forever …
Time, in these works, assumes the measure of the Eternal, when it is compared with the plastic material that encompasses, even in the microscopic dimensions of fragments invisible to the naked eye, the potential of Infinity. The empty screens, the transparencies, the relativity of the “ideological after”, the verticality, the lights and the weight of the underwater skies, take on the formal characteristics necessary to express the authors’ experiences. Each presence denounces the absence of harmonious balance between man and man, between man and animal and between man and the place where life exists.
It is forever communicates a danger and negates an immediate solution.
It takes time. We need a change of imagination and vision. It takes memory. It is forever is a complex exhibition; the immediate observation is given by experiencing the precariousness, the suffocation, the filter that slowly envelops the observer, transporting him into a tragic dimension that evokes the “Death of the Fish”. The meditated setting enhances the works ranging from mosaic to video, from photography to installation, from iron sculpture to the succession of concrete and virtual mental maps, from the minimal perception of a single object that changes by multiplying in the superimposition.
Everything documents the passage of time witnessed by the action of man who intervenes on the environment unconsciously, but guiltily, focusing on various themes that create poetic relationships between autobiography and the collective imagination conveyed by social networks and the media. The spaces created by the artists are, at the same time, solid, physical and mental places, composed of citations from the past and proof of the tragedies of recent history. In their installations, the space ceases to be public by the simple passing of a person who transforms it into a private place, where one can experience and leave one’s memories. For this reason, everyone is a protagonist, winner and loser.
Experiences transformed into memories create “internalized spaces” made up of remains, fragments and scraps of all those elements that give life to the new collective vision. Entire environments that lost their original function and their aura, contain the new suggestions of Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual: their unique maps and today’s poetic constructions that do not disregard tomorrow. The artists bring order, restructure the recent past, retrace yesterday’s time to reinsert it into reality as an image and as a functional structure. They ask the lived experiences to be transformed into active matter/memory.
The exhibition spaces transformed into narrative environments contaminate public and private sensations revealing a possible future. The fixed, impassive, inscrutable plastics remain and are handed down, but the viewer finds himself changing his perspective, upsetting the planes of reality, causing an overturning that no longer runs along that one path that leads from
the banal to the tragic. In this way, the exhibition It is Forever condenses both the public function that characterizes memorial art, as well as the communication of an idea that characterizes conceptual art. The various installations outline new meanings that contribute to the definition of new cultural and procedural identities, aware of the new directions in which society should proceed. In its evocative power, the art of Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual is an indispensable testimony of a time that will not return, but that can be re- lived to examine the urgency of the moment. Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual travel backwards through geography to grasp all the stratifications that preserve and defeat the fear of getting lost in history. The entirety of their art feels the same need that has always pushed man to make sense of his world. The contemporary myths, however, have a very different essence from those of the archaic man. The semiologist Roland Barthes argues that “the myth, today, is only a communication system … and that the word, as we know, is forever. … Every object of the world can pass from a closed, mute existence to an oral, open state, because there is no law, natural or not, to prevent us from talking about things.” Only art – as already stated – is able to go “where the known and the unknowable reality are concentrated in a single point, they join and become one … uninterrupted space in which there remains a very pure, very deep mysteriously protected consciousness” (R.M.Rilke).
Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual turn to it with the hope of obtaining the right to be heard, to access a new imaginary, a different reality whose duration is measurable; if not forever, at least for a while, the most necessary in the minimum possible.
Practice, Activism and Artistic Avanguard in a Global Realm
Mariateresa Setaro Chaniac
The current state of the environment is indisputably a global worry; for states, economic organisations, social communities and for individuals. Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual met at a crossroad of an artistic and moral path which they both embarked upon separately. At this crossroad it became apparent that, in this precise and monumental moment in our history, there was only one possible solution: engagement. Both artists, with consolidated experience and activists in their own practices, decided to create a piece of this path uniting both their artistic visions to enhance the intensity of this message. In this moment in time, similarly to what has been seen in the past yet, with a heightened urgency, the artist becomes the voice of a cultural avantgarde. Provoking not only inner thoughts but also a call for action. The reach of this new artistic avantgarde must be international, global and transversal. Coincidently, this has been highlighted by the current global pandemic, which has dictated new social, political and economic norms.
The rising problem of plastic consumption and the inability to discard it, is of a global scale. Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual highlight this issue by offering an immersive journey through plastic materials to the viewer, similar to one a fish would have day and age the value of visual arts is to offer different layers of symbolic, material, energetic and spiritual interpretations, thus allowing the inclusive experience which renders art universal. Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual, across their own artistic practices, offer this voice globally not only due to their international exhibitions but also, and more importantly, the understanding they have acquired across their studies, the research and the depth of the social and cultural processes that transversely describe our era. The artistic practice and activism of Fabbro and Pasqual offer the audience a layered interrelationship with the piece, creating an inclusive experience, both individually and collectively at the same time. The urgency of the topic of an invasion of plastic we are currently seeing at a global level (which has been dealt with at varying levels of success by governments, organizations and individuals) is represented by Fabbro and Pasqual through an artistic production that offers both a worldly and symbolic reading, due to the usage of materials and different selected shapes, such as the analytic texts of Alessandra Santin, Giada Centazzo e Lorena Gava explain. Mara Fabbro contributes to this project through the research and analysis she has conducted for many years on the modality of urban evolution of cities. Mara has developed her artistic practice in a journey starting from figurative and leading towards abstract representation, which follows an architectural structure without forgoing delicate details in the process. It is almost an algorithm that, when applied to maps of cities that the artist designs, uncovers intrinsic cultural mechanisms and social structures. The materials that Fabbro uses are inspired by nature, ductile and yet resistant, offering an immersive key of different levels of understanding: from the immediate dreamy and delicate aesthetic, to a minimalist and essential order, finishing with the symbolism that finds its roots in human nature and in its relationships.
In a fluid manner and without an abrupt end of continuity, the study and analysis of materials used by Alberto Pasqual, become the natural complimentary power in this artistic collaboration with Mara Fabbro. In conveying his own message Pasqual intrusts the concept to the intrinsic and visible force of the material, be it iron, cement or polycarbonate, he traces an intense gesture which interrupts the traditional geometric of the figure, creating an unexpected and emotional aesthetic.
The occasion of these two important exhibitions of Fabbro and Pasqual, highlights the urgency of a social solution for these dramatic contemporary events. These being natural or artificial, and of political consequences. The artistic practice that materialises and inclines itself in these two occasions “It is forever” – “and “It’s … empty” highlights, in fact, a clear call to action and the renewal of the role of the artist as an activist and a cultural avantgarde, in an unprecedented historical moment.
Abandoned playgrounds, lonely streets, desolate squares, deserted beaches, ghostly hallways; scenarios with an almost post-human flavor, framed with cameras and mobile phones, which stand out surrealistically. We can find them in each of our ‘digital archives’, by scrolling the Instagram feed or on Facebook pages in the days of the pandemic, shared empathically to feel less alone or jealously kept in private, unforgettable or banished. They testify to the passage of the Black Swan, unanticipated as unexpected, capable of generating a strong impact, upsetting life with its exceptionality. Rare and unrepeatable as to leave you astonished, like the passage of a comet, the Black Swan pushed us to document the unpublished in order to remember it. Suddenly, ‘domestic and amateur’ photography, in all its status as an index and icon, seems to have taken over the role of source and each of us has become a witness, forced to look at what we had in front of us with different eyes. Beyond the compulsive obsession of the selfie, the gaze was turned to this Other, to this stone guest, which revealed itself in all its concreteness, real and ghost-like, to try to seize it The installation “Plan Sequence” (2020) by Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual seems to play out precisely between memory and imagination, perception and emotion. Shots collated by the artists during the quarantine with the complicity of friends and colleagues, shown on a plastic support, visually combined are transfigured, referring to nebulous traces of memory or dreamlike longings on which everyone can project their recent experience. What imposes itself in the anthropic landscapes of “Plan Sequence” is the absence of man, made even more paroxysmal by the presence of his passing – the buildings, the urban furnishings, the unused means of transport – traces of existences that suddenly seem, irreversibly abandoned. Images that give us a vision of what the world would be like without us – to paraphrase an essay by Alan Weisman – without the human species. Images in which the absence of the human element – or its ectoplasmic presence – is accompanied by a sense of emptiness, emptiness that becomes a metaphor for a loss of values that permeates our society and that has probably led us to what we are experiencing.
Even the “Metropolitan Membranes” (2018-2020) by Mara Fabbro and the “Presences – Absences” (2016-2020) by Alberto Pasqual seem to reverberate this same feeling of emptiness and unreality of the abandoned landscapes that characterize the “Plan-Sequence”.
Fabbro’s “Metropolitan Membranes”, with their rhythmic aggregations of sand, resin and glue, appear as ascetic topographies or aerial photograms, created to map today’s hyper-urbanized territories or deserted places in the near future. Pasqual’s “Presences – Absences”, soaring in all their abstract sinuosity, their soft transparency, suggest skeletons or ghosts of buildings in an apocalyptic or post-nuclear scenario in which humanity, now extinct, is only a distant memory. Plastic, chosen by the two artists as a medium, is unquestionably also a message and becomes the evocative embodiment of the anthropic and contemporary society, an allusion to the deleterious results of its consumption on our planet, to the more sterile and irreversible, vacillations of its use. The superficial beauty of these works, their aesthetic appeal – made possible thanks to the implementation of plastic materials – in fact evoke both the dangerous seduction of the material used and its innocent insidiousness. With the knife you can cut bread or strike a blow, however, it is not the knife, but the handler who is to blame for its use.
In the first days of April 2020, as the pandemic began to spread virulently in the United States, the professionals of the New York MET inven- tory all the ‘protective equipment’ stored in the museum before donating them to hospitals in the Big Apple: dozens and dozens of masks, gloves, visors and other work tools normally used by restorers and conservators to move the works, perform routine activities or simply study
them. As the ‘battle for New York’ against the virus began outside, the museum shared photos of this anomalous rearrangement via its social media channels. The images of these stacked materials brought to mind certain photographs that immortalize the piling up of sandbags to protect the historical and artistic heritage in the First or Second World War. Perhaps because many times in recent months the image of the ‘war against the invisible enemy’ has been brought to mind, comparing the quarantine to a curfew, our homes to bunkers, the virus to the invader? What is striking is the upheaval that occurred in this ‘reconversion’ that happened within the walls of the New York museum. No barriers were erected to safeguard the works of art, but the barriers used to protect the masterpieces become weapons to defend man. This frequently used image of the ‘war against the invisible enemy’ presupposes a precise contrast, Manichean-like: something foreign threatens us and we must fight it to survive. Yet in this narrative that helps us make sense of what happens and escapes our control, there is a self-absolving (and perhaps hypocritical) element, which eludes a crucial point: how much this serious crisis is the outcome of a model of development that is no longer sustainable, of an uncontrolled globalization, of a consumerism as an end in itself, feeding on itself without rest. Exactly five years after the encyclical Laudato Sì, it was the words of Pope Francis that unmasked us with disarming simplicity: did we really think we could continue to live well in a sick world? Can we in conscience say that the pandemic we are witnessing is really a Black Swan, unexpected and unpredictable? Can we really widen our eyes like Willem de Vlamingh, the Dutch explorer, who in 1697 cross- bred two specimens of black swans in an Australian river? Because beyond the conspiracy theories, the ‘invisible enemy’ has made the infamous leap of species thanks to the destruction of ecosystems and biotopes. And the correlation between epidemic vehemence and atmospheric pollution, whatever the deniers say, of the virus as well as of global warming (curiously the same), has now been established.
The lockdown period represented an extraordinary opportunity to concretely experience the path of reduction, even if the way was certainly unpleasant. Suddenly we had to (re)discover zero km, home-made, self-sufficiency. The quarantine also led to a collapse in the levels of fine dust, making the air cleaner and many mirrors of water, clearer than ever, have been repopulated with fauna and flora: re-naturalization. Consider, for example, the famous jellyfish which, ethereal and opalescent, swam on the water in a canal near Piazza San Marco in Venice; poetic, endemic images. Nature that re-conquers the land in a highly deteriorated environment. Free from man, immune from his influence, nature finally breathes.
But nature is also the virus, the one that takes our breath away. The virus, concealed from wild animals, seems to have been transmitted to man, strongly reminding us that the human being is a species among species, that Nature is not separate from us, to be abused tirelessly. As an integral part of this system, it rotates in a perfect gear. We humans cannot continue to force it without compromising it irreparably. As Mara Fabbro wrote during the isolation: “The lack of awareness that we live in a system where everything is deeply interconnected and that an action awaits a reaction, the lack of attention and respect for the other who is a living being or the environment in which we live, are the main and deafening absences that generate the distress”.
Observing the “Plan Sequence” installation, one wonders how we will one day look at the photographs taken during the quarantine. Will the seal of time bring with it a certain sense of nostalgia in observing them? The Black Swan theory says that once it happens, the event is rationalized, metabolized. That is, it loses its traumatic effect and returns to the ordinary. Will it be the same for us? As Pope Bergoglio has wisely pointed out once again – with more leadership than many politicians – the real drama of this crisis would be to waste it. The word economy comes from the greek οἴκος (oikos = house) and νόμος (nomos = law) which can be translated as “housekeeping”. And if the house is a common home, economics must necessarily rhyme with ecology. We will have understood it before another swan arrives, maybe this time the infamous ‘Green Swan’?
Transparency of Matter and Thought
It is to a world of transparencies that Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual have been observing for some time. The word transparency brings with it an idea of weightlessness, of impalpability, of brightness and even of light. I will dwell on the term “light” which plays a large part in art. We speak of light in a painting, for the colors, for the tones or the different hues. But there is even more discussion of light referring to sculpture, to the luminous responses of the overexposed parts, perhaps projecting with respect to the shaded, excavated and deep areas. The recent works of the two Friulian artists thrive on light, diffused flashes and beams that enhance the material-body, which has always been the pivot and end of all their research. A matter that over time has changed form, substance, but not the vocation to establish mobile horizons of contemporary investigation. Sandy mixtures, pigments and resins are the beginning of the exhibition process of Mara Fabbro, characterized by mixed techniques on wood, with textures very close to the relief. While iron represents the creative dawn of Alberto Pasqual, marked by sculptures or paintings with three-dimensional inserts. Both are concrete, earthly artists for the common aesthetic, aimed at direct observation of natural phenomena. In Fabbro’s cycle “Water burns” (2013-2016), the Friulian painter exhibits a corpus of works strewn with traces, footprints, paths and solidifications of materials which, in the context of the informal and abstract lesson, allude to visions of water, corals, glaciers and perhaps even volcanic craters. Real places, pulsating memories of vital ganglia in expansion and transformation, suggested by the ripples of the pictorial surface that becomes a sort of earth’s crust, moved and guided by endogenous thrusts. The emergence of corals, deeply lyrical, similar to arteries emerging from the epidermis; shells bold and strong which, in dance, remind us of “the chimneys of the fairies” of the distant moors of Anatolia. This planet of sand, dust and minerals has migrated to other latitudes and perimeters. Over the years it has taken on “more urban” configurations, defined in spaces and geographies. “Since geographic maps were invented, the world has shrunk” wrote Leopardi. The world of Mara Fabbro has left the cosmic dimension to take on an apparently more every day and human face. Her attention was directed towards cities and suburbs, graphically translated into concentric circles that create progressive extensions. The first bird’s-eye view is now flattened, with the new cycle of “Metropolitan membranes”, on transparent and flexible PVC surfaces that contain many square tiles (pixels) composed of sand, adhesives and resins that lend themselves to multiple levels of interpretation: domestic units, structures, palaces, towers, men. They are conglomerates of life and together aggregates, deposits. This is how our cities appear; thus our lifestyles, asphyxiated, enclosed in mazes of obsessive rituals with no escape routes. It is the society of accumulation, building usurpation, plastic. It is interesting that ethical and ecological reflection on the current situation of our planet becomes an opportunity to elevate plastic into a noble, imperishable material, destined to be “forever”. A material that can become dangerous if used indiscriminately, but also fabulous, given its multiple qualities, primarily its extreme durability. The artist’s cities, in fact, are built on shiny, shimmering PVC platforms, similar to the purest and most precious marble. In the same way, Alberto Pasqual’s buildings and palaces, made of polycarbonate, exhibit to such an extreme unusual brilliances and transparencies, that they seem almost ghostly. We are nearly stunned by the apparent “immateriality” of buildings that in their evanescent structure refer to emptiness, absence, lack of references. Is it a warning to the inconsistency of the modus vivendi that belongs to us and distinguishes us in this time of insane, frantic and depersonalizing metropolises, metaphors, often, of deplorable inner drought? Yet the Friulian sculptor had accustomed us to the solidity of iron, to rigorous geometries (remember “Genesis” or “Traces” of 2012) which alluded to a sort of primordial subterranean energy, inherent to the earth and expressed by the strength of the extraordinarily forged and folded metal. After a more iconic and recognizable figurative installation than in the “Warriors” and “Guardians”, the artist Pasqual had found, in our opinion, great expressiveness and narrative value, accepting the urgency to target more evocative, symbolic, but above all, essential forms. He has come to extremely synthetic results, of considerable impulse and imaginative tension. An abstraction accompanied by the tenacity of the clear, precise engraved sign, testimony of all the wounds, lacerations, cuts and waste that the flow of time and the passage of history inevitably drag with them.
We appreciate that, in the latest creations, iron “flows” parallel to another material, plastic. In fact, chosen to tell the pitfalls of the present and the hypotheses of a near future. The recent two-dimensional works entitled “Concepts of reflected explosions”, made with plastic materials on stainless steel, whose grooves refer to the bruises of monoliths and iron steles, are well connected, for consistency and stylistic identity, to the “metropolitan cities”, of polycarbonate skyscrapers-totems, called “Presences-Absences”, previously analyzed. Fire bends iron, fire shapes plastic: the warmth of gesture and action leads us to reflect on our way of existing, of living, of scraping time.
With different experiences and backgrounds, the journey through the art of Mara Fabbro and Alberto Pasqual has a common trait here, the result of a shared project that seems to us, today, increasingly rare, given the lesser inclination on the part of the artists to proceed in a group perhaps on similar topics. Combining intents and materials, it is appropriate to say, to arrive at works that offer points of observation and thought for a responsible present and future. It is not an easy, nor taken for granted, practice. Remember that all abuse and exploitation depletes and demeans the very concept of existence, reinforces that social value of art that our authors interpret with admirable lucidity, unquestionable determination and laudable communication.
Mara Fabbro was born in Castello d’Aviano in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, where she currently lives and works. After graduation, she began her career while always keeping her passion for pain- ting alive.
She studied and worked as a self-taught for many years, experimenting a technique of her own that expressed her sense for art, creating a sandy dough that she spreads and works with her hands, spatulas and other tools, subsequently intervening with acrylic pigment. The choice of this material is determined by the desire to create a “living” work with a strong communicative impact.
The material is applied to plywood and PVC panels.
The inspiration and motivation of her work come from the observation of the habitat in which the human being lives. She wants to investigate the relationship and the link between man and nature, now almost indissoluble and which, becoming even more complex, requires responsible choices and global attention and management.
She uses other expressive mediums such as photography and installations when the manual skills are not sufficient to express the concept or to establish an interaction with the public.
Mara has held solo exhibitions and participated in collective exhibitions all over the world, both for public and private entities: Mantua, London, Venice, Sacile (PN), Miami, Trento, Conegliano (TV), Tannay-Geneva, Montreux , Lugano, Lausanne, Palermo, New York, and has participated, with their works, in the initiatives of “Art for Children & Mothers”.
Alberto Pasqual was born in 1965.
He graduated as a mechanical expert in 1985 while working at the same time in the family workshop. In his artistic research he studies the secrets inherent in the material by mixing abstract art of the plastic form with a figural allusiveness, often metaphorical or symbolic. In his production he experiments with different plastic materials: in fact he works with clay, plaster, ceramic, bronze, aluminum and cement. But the real protagonist of his works is iron, a favorite material for its strength and hardness, from which the study of volumes and the dynamism of forms emerge. Compared to his origins as a figurative artist, over the years his language has undergone a stylistic renewal aimed more and more in search of abstraction.
In 2006 he won the national competition “a monument to Marco Pantani” creating a sculpture in honor of the cyclist together with the architects Michele Biz and Alessandro Broggio. In 2015 he created a commemorative plaque in memory of Pier Paolo Pasolini. In 2018 he created the monument to the State Police in Cusano di Zoppola.
Alberto Pasqual lives and works in Sacile. In addition to Italian events, the artist boasts exhibitions in Austria, Germany, Russia, France, Hungary, Slovakia, the United States.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale Massimo Pallottinio
18 June – 30 October 2022