• Bohemia: A Desert Country By The Sea

    Interview with Martin Chramosta and G. Olmo Stuppia

On April 3, 2024 the Swiss-Bohemian artist Martin Chramosta inaugurates Anténa. Located in the heart of Palermo, we find ourselves surrounded by its mountains and overlooking its sea. Curated by G. Olmo Stuppia, this exhibition tells the story of a friendship between peoples situated on opposite sides of the compass rose. It’s an ancient tale of journeys and returns, a celebration of invisible and unbreakable bonds. Bohemia and Sicily share a Mediterranean spirit, embodying the essence of seafaring people. Their hospitality and warmth stand in stark contrast to the ravages of war, indifference, and the game where the winner is the one who spills more blood.  Chramosta’s centerpiece is a large iron swan, a homage to Prague. Acting as a beacon, it broadcasts on radio frequency FM100, continuously repeating the phrase “Bohemia, a desert country by the sea…” The swan is surrounded by totemic sculptures crafted from ceramic and iron, depicting various animals – a silent ritual opposing the rigidity and coldness of mere technique.

Martin, you have relied on the words of Shakespeare, how do you manage to find a horizontal connection between artistic languages that then become a single creative source in your work?

I believe that the combination of different languages and media, the hybridization, the synthesis is one of the main qualities or main characteristics of contemporary visual art. In my works and exhibitions, I always trust that such a synthesis will occur.
In the case of the Anténa exhibition, it was not the Shakespeare quote that was the starting point, but a discovery in public space in Prague: the antenna of the Bila Labut department store. During the work process, I then broadened my intuitive research and, in this case, discovered the concept of Bohemia by the sea, which can be found not only in Shakespeare, but also in Ingeborg Bachmann and other writers. By combining this fictitious geographical concept with the appropriation of an antenna form from the 1930s and folkloristic ceramics, the fan closes again, bundling the rays back together in the middle, so to speak, and hopefully creating a coherent overall picture, a panorama.

As an artist, would you be able to recognize what’s your obsession? If so, what is it?

I have this instinct that the quality of a work also depends on daring to push certain boundaries with it. These limits are sometimes self-imposed, sometimes imposed by social and aesthetic norms. They can be a matter of visual or formal taste, but also a matter of content. So, I would say that trespassing is an obsession of mine. On the one hand, how I explore boundaries in my own work and cross them. On the other hand, I like to do that also physically: I like to climb over fences or go to places that are outside my comfort zone. That’s where I get materials and ideas for new works.

Olmo, the relationship with the landscape is indeed multifaceted. It intertwines intimacy and collectivism. Taking a specific position within the collective landscape holds political significance and inevitably changes this relationship. What do you think?

The position of Landscape in the construction of the West has been masterfully described by Humboldt and by Timothy Morton to whom I devoted a small solo exhibition in Berlin in 2014. To have chosen and involved a “playful” sculptor like Chramosta is a precise desire: to leap the imagination beyond horror, to propose a dreamlike form as a link between two places (Prague-Palermo). A precise cut: to juxtapose polished metal and terracotta, to the deadly layers of military antennas and hidden sensors. The Sicilian Region, is an extremely polycentric place, an island at the center of the Mediterranean, a place of arrival and emigration. In the mouth of Mount Etna dwells Hephaestus, in Sigonella the drones that kill “the different” in the name of the “bios” of the dominants of the West. In Syracuse and Girgenti the temples. In Palermo the baroque and the power of the official linked in triple hand with the Mafia and the vote of exchange. Each valley boasts a variety of rites and languages not yet fully homegenised.

Cassata Drone Expanded Archive’s gaze, like a slow slug penetrates these elements thoroughly and dissects them. The upcoming workshop on the “Antennifcato Landscape” that I will hold together with Prof. Ferdinando Trapani, with students of Architecture, Design, and the Arts revives the idea of Cassata (quas’at from the Arabic basin and the Latin Caseum) as stratification. First of all starting from the real needs of our territories: understanding why for centuries Trinacria has been exploited in various ways but never changed. A visual essay, a poetic activism, a need to reconnect childhood memories with the strength of island life. Anténa is sexual also: antennas are design to touch stars. To strike against the energetic and eros-free life of today’s exaggerated machines. Returning to touch, to sculpture as “expanded field”.

How is it possible to make militant art in a world so threatened by censorship? What’s the key to do it?

“Be ready to Die for Your project, being obsessed with. Deal with contradiction: the Mediator is Heart”, as in Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang Film. Obscurantist phases are the normalcy in History. Greek Philosophy has nearly 28 centuries of History, the most sophisticated technologies cannot tame the inexpressible desire to “say.” A fury. Militancy is not just a political brand to cage yourself in: today it is first and foremost time, attention, risk. It is not a nihilistic 90s posture with the ego folded into the self.
It is a gesturality that unfolds day by day, in choosing what to avoid, how to look at oneself. Today’s Italy is devastated, fragmented, lacking pride in its Constitution. For its creative wing, often the child of a simplifying discourse. The market tends to fossilize on kitsch forms. Palermo, however, is a true laboratory, a true crossroads, since the days when Paolo Falcone had the work of Jannis Kounellis bought at Palazzo Riso by the Sicilian Region. Continued censorship perhaps alienates the petty bourgeoisie, but brings many fiery singles closer. The desire for the gaze is strong in Sicily. Chramosta’s work, taking up simple and evocative symbols, creates a sublime and mental coinage, a lucid dream that pierces the horizon of the Kalsa. Let us open for free and clean up a place long left empty. We spread poetry, sculptures and empathy. From a small angle you can see the whole better suggested Maurizio Cattelan when he visited us.

______________________________

Bruno Latour once said that art, politics, and science constitute an inseparable trinity: they are fundamental to each other. Throughout history, there has never been a circumstance where politics existed without art, but society has never been so apathetic towards politics. In Palermo until May 18, in the attic at Via Malta 21, in the independent space of Cassata Drone Expanded Archive, Anténa will be open for visitors. Anténa is more than an exhibition. It’s a ritual. A human, apotropaic, political ritual.

Antèna / Bohemia: A Desert Country By The Sea

Credits:

Artist: Martin Chramosta / @martin_chramostra
Curator: G. Olmo Stuppia / @g_olmo_stuppia
Interview: Vittoria Marsala / @vittoriaamarsala
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Assistant: Annalisa Fabbrucci / @annalisa_fabbrucci

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