Spotlight on Res:In #2 group exhibition, initially shown as part of Palermo Art Weekend, curated by Maria Abramenko and showcasing the work of Alban Adam, Jordan Hemingway, Edoardo Dionea Cicconi and Floria Sigismondi.
The exhibition was held at the Palazzo Imperatore – a gorgeous and lightly decrepit space that was popularly compared to a set from Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive – opposite Palermo Cathedral. Built predominantly in the Catalan-Gothic style, the cathedral’s proportions are exuberant. Huge, palm-spiked grounds stretched out in front of it, and tiny figures, who paid extra for admittance to the terrace, crawled against the darkening skyline. The exhibition space at the Palazzo Imperatore consisted of three rooms in sequence. The third room had a balcony that looked onto the cathedral. It was a vaulting juxtaposition. One that precipitated a minor experience of the sublime: to be pleasurably cowed, before returning to the interior with a heightened sense of its interiority. Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space states ‘The house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ Palazzo Imperatore was that house for the four artists and their visions, realised as part of Res:In #2. The first room contained Withstand the Fall of Time by Alban Adam and Jordan Hemingway.
I think it’s indisputable that a log wearing chains is more naked than a log not wearing chains. In this sense, the draped log in this piece is like a classical nude in drapery, wherein the cloth begets the erotic. The log became a body. On top of the body lay a black warlock guitar. The guitar was played by a chain that swung in pendulum motion. I want to say that the chain played the guitar in a manner that was syncopated, from the root Latin syncopare, to swoon. The chain played the guitar swooningly, returning as if cursed to do so. The animation of the chain seemed to imbue meaning to the object of its return. The log, no longer a log but body, more naked for being clothed; no longer object but in relation; no longer inert but, in response to the chain – prostrated. Prostrated in a manner of devotion? Honour? Yearning? Grief? Withstand the Fall of Time is named for a song by Norwegian black metal band Immortal, fond of black leather, corpse paint and outrageous weapons. It seems fitting that the guitar, a trapping of this scene of camp excess, is locked in a melodramatic tryst with a log and a chain.
Easy to overlook: on the floor in front of the log were a pair of neatly folded over-elbow (in fact dog-handling) leather gloves. Alban called them ‘the hand of the artist’, to which, thrilled, I rejoined ‘Like a threat!’ In terms of the work’s theatricality, I enjoyed appending the show with its after party, hosted by L-Y-O-N, wherein the artists played as Sissies of Mercy and Alban, shirtless, brandished his new twin-balled, spike-headed flail.
Our ill-fated lovers are bang in the centre of hard stage lighting, which is usually a contract with the audience that something will happen. On the one hand, it was enjoyably problematic, in an arch fantasy kind of way. It seemed to present a task or riddle – an Excalibur in the stone. It begged the arc of an epic, while withholding the quest. On the other hand, it was like Waiting for Godot. Except the tree was lying down and there were no people involved. I think, for me, the closest energetic counterpart was that of a forest in which dead wood gives way to new life.
This process was enacted in the work’s sound. As the chain touched the guitar, the sound that rose joined the sounds that decayed of those that had come before. Rising, decaying. Like breath. As my breath followed the chain and slowed, I became more aware of myself as matter.
The second room could not contain Edoardo Dionea Cicconi’s Untitled 0000, consisting of a smoke machine, strobe lighting, and a plinth made of glass. Inside the plinth there were layers of fine cut glass that looked like particles, suspended. This inside-out plinth (of course, a plinth is usually solid, and things go on top of it) is a gesture that demonstrates the artist’s scope of ambition and impulse to disrupt. He states of the work that it ‘wants to symbolise the fragmentation of the space-time continuum’, no less. In disrupting the senses, the artist points to their anarchic potential. I found it interesting to consider an anarchy of the senses. Elsewhere in his statement, Edoardo expands: ‘Each flash is a fragment, a portion of reality […] Linearity breaks down, creating a mix of past memories and potential visions of the future.’ I really liked this collapse into the body and all that is strange in our relationship to time. I think that’s really political and worth dwelling on. Here, instead of narrative or history, truth or hegemony, we find unsettling and untrustworthy spaces: Lynchian déjà vu, Proustian nostalgia, hauntings, premonitions and memories of the future.
The third room belonged to Floria Sigismondi, perhaps best known for her work on The Handmaid’s Tale televisions series, the film The Runaways and, in the 90s and 2000s, directing music videos for artists like David Bowie, The White Stripes and Marilyn Manson. It was a perfectly formed room, in which hung small, framed works in apt proportion, appropriately spaced. But beyond that, it was chaos. Looking closer, we find bodies that are beside themselves. Bodies that are displaced, deranged, dismembered. These images – film stills and self-portraits – were taken from the artist’s 1999 publication Redemption. It was strange to see these photographs so removed from their context, it was as if they were very far away and you needed to lean in to hear them. From the 90s, from a publication, from a film. I felt a bit like the neighbourhood boys of The Virgin Suicides – obsessed with the girls who lived cloistered in the house yet forced to get by on glimpses and scraps. These were images that were maddeningly beautiful and definitely off limits. Each was a poem of the macabre, delicate and dark. These works are stubborn in their craft. They give the impression of an uncompromising fidelity to the artist’s vision, which, in its strength, promises to transform anything in its path. Floria’s tender and rigorous works bring the viewer back to themselves, while inviting escape.
Res:In #2 showed at Pallazzo Imperatore, Palermo; after party was hosted by L-Y-O-N. Res:In #2 went on to show at Scalo Lambrate, Milan, and, separately, Jordan Hemingway and Alban Adam will show Withstand the Fall of Time at 3537, Paris, opening 29 October, 2021.
Alban Adam & Jordan Hemingway / @alban_adam & @jordan_hemingway
Edoardo Dionea Cicconi / @edoardo_dionea_cicconi
Floria Sigismondi / @floriasigismondi
Curator: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Text: Jessica Todd
Palermo Art Weekend / @palermoartweekend
Scalo Lambrate Milano / @scalo_lambrate
@marcogiulianoph, @fabriziomilazzo, @alongi_1994, @michael_lomonaco
Special thanks: Live Your Own Nature / @l_y_o_n