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The poetics of Lara Favaretto (born in Treviso in 1973) have built an extensive relationship with the theme of the street, through various forms of relations between artwork and public space. This relationship can itself be observed from multiple angles.
One first, purely object-oriented approach can start from an analysis of some of the works in which Favaretto has used materials taken from the street context, whose specific function is reconfigured and indeed rendered bankrupt as they are moved from an open to a closed space. Here, I am referring to installations such as Painlessly Consumed, realised in 2010 in the spaces of Turin’s Galleria Franco Noero. The artist created a dense forest of metal Innocenti pipes, pressed between floor and ceiling, wrapped in woollen clutches. The pipes vertically invading the space make it impossible to cross it, thus limiting the observation of the work from the window facing the street. Normally used in renovation works, the Innocenti pipes were suggested to the artist by the urban landscape of Rajasthan — a landscape which she has photographed and made an archive of — where the use of precarious but functional wooden scaffolding is a commonplace part of building construction. In 2013’s Son Coup de Coeur, and in other similar installations, the leading role is instead taken by a heavy iron plate, used to cover excavations and holes during road works. This work is completed — as if in a struggle between the two materials — by a red silk cloth set under the plate and visible through holes. In both works, Lara Favaretto uses ready-madesin which there remain clear traces of the wear and tear, the action of atmospheric agents and all that passes through the street, before these materials are decontextualised and deprived of their rationality and effectiveness.
A second interpretation of the relationship between Favaretto’s works and public space concerns an attitude toward oblivion and the consequent dissipation of the work itself: precariousness, the mechanisms of attrition, dematerialisation — and, as a result, the inexorable destruction of the object-work — run throughout the artist’s poetics. In many cases, the material fragments in such a way that it returns to the street from which it first came. In Confetti Canyon, from 2001, hand-crafted cannons shoot confetti outside the exhibition venue, an outright diaspora of the material in the street. In Thinking Head, presented at the Venice Biennale in 2019, Favaretto flooded the entrance to the Central Pavilion of the Giardini with a blanket of fog, operating a physical, political and perceptual levelling between the institutional venue and the surrounding public space. In Library, from 2012, she fitted out an entire wall of MoMA PS1 with a bookcase, on which she places two thousand two hundred books saved from the scrap heap, inserting an image from her archive inside the pages of each of them. The books, enlivened and altered by the presence of the document, are available to the public, who can take them away — thus putting the object back into circulation and losing its traces.
A third possible approach to reading the dialogue between Favaretto’s works and the street is to be found in Momentary Monument, a far-reaching, ongoing project that is developing in multiple places, moments and forms. In this project, the link with the urban context proceeds through excavations and constructions, unravelling underground, soaring vertically or diluting in the horizontality of public space. Among the works forming the Momentary Monument constellationis the project Digging Up. Atlas of the Blank Histories.First realised in Kabul for dOCUMENTA (13), it was then expanded in 2017 in Cappadocia, and finally reconfigured for the Pompei Commitment programme around the towns and villages surrounding Vesuvius. The project connects stratigraphic subsoil-analysis techniques with memories drawn from the written and oral accounts of the communities of residents, thus weaving together a relationship between the surfacing of personal memory and its historical self-determination. Using a coring technique, the artist excavates in certain territories identified by residents as “sites of memories” and then preserves the sediments in time capsules, which are re-buried and can only be retrieved after a certain number of years has passed. While in Digging Up. Atlas of the Blank Histories,the street, as a place criss-crossed by the experience of the individual, is intertwined with a new temporality, in 2019’s Momentary Monument—the Wall the artist conceives the work in and for the public context, as she constructs a curtain of sandbags around the Dante Alighieri monument in the city of Trento. Through a dual gesture of protection and masking, Favaretto rewrites the perception of urban space for those who cross the square from one day to the next. Other forms of rethinking public space, capable of disturbing the gaze, can be found in works such as Momentary Monument — The Dump realised in Kassel in 2012 and in Momentary Monument — The Swamp,an environmental installation created for the open spaces of the Arsenale in Venice in 2009. The first offers a pile of iron industrial debris from local dumps; the second, the reconstruction of a real swamp. These works represent monuments destined to disappear and decompose; they are temporary, in that they are situated on public land, and subversive in their promotion of different forms of interpreting contingency. Also belonging to the series of temporary monuments are the Momentary Monument — The Stone workspresented in various exhibitions such as the Liverpool Biennial in 2016 and the Skulptur Projekte in 2017. Positioned by the artist in the urban space, these monolithic stone blocks, fitted with a slot, become public piggy banks, which are destined to be destroyed in order to retrieve the money that has been deposited in them. The dust resulting from the destruction of the heavy stones is then reused as construction material, once again returning to the streets.