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The Monumentality of a Critical Era
The Italian Landscape by Alterazioni Video

Alterazioni Video, Note per un parco incompiuto, 2021, courtesy Museo Nivola and Alterazioni Video

Questo articolo è disponibile anche in: Italiano

“Unfinished” can mean many things. It can refer to a project that has been abandoned, which will never see its completion because the possibility or the will to continue is no longer there. But it can also mean opposite: that a programmatic decision has been made not to fix any end point, and instead to let an idea — an artwork, a video, a performance — continue evolving over time. We could say that Alterazioni Video’s research moves back and forth between the two. The first move takes the form of documentation, the second of creation; but in any case these terms may sometimes overlap, or swap around, because they are both part of the collective’s artistic research: the street as place and the present as historical time. The twenty years of research which it has conducted throughout Italy, starting from abandoned sites in Sicily, have produced an investigation that accompanies the reader, like an exploration, through the ruins of the contemporary. Incompiuto: la nascita di uno stile [“Unfinished: the birth of a style”] isthe first and only archive of unfinished Italian monuments and public works. Its architectural panorama spans some 750 abandoned sites, portrayed in thousands of photographs, captured in a volume and numerous exhibition projects.

From the unfinished infrastructure documented therein, a certain aesthetic emerges — a form of ambiguous identity of the Italian landscape, inspired by “non-place”, by politics, by the ancient fascination for ruins, even if they are modern ones. Fosbury Architecture, inspired by Alterazioni Video, tell us that this landscape is now saturated, needing not new buildings but rather continuous reconstruction; this landscape is part of our urbanistic but also cultural imagination, in the form of ruins that serve as reminders of unfulfilled opportunities.

But Alterazioni Video — a collective founded in 2004 by Paololuca Barbieri Marchi, Alberto Caffarelli, Matteo Erenbourg, Andrea Masu and Giacomo Porfiri — is also something else. It is a chat window hundreds of metres long, as we see in the production on wall paper of the archive named “Violent Attitude”, featuring their exchanges among the four cities where they live A hyperkinetic charge (as they describe it) finds expression in their works, and especially in their videos, which straddle performance, live shows and fiction. This is a way of capturing and expressing the feelings and thoughts of a moment — if not an era, a generation — without having to worry about the formal choice of artistic medium. Here, the other strain of unfinishedness surfaces: i.e., the proactive, dynamic, irrepressible one, in which film is a means without an end, a work without a script, a scenario of reality and fiction that intertwines with the live stream, without any expectation that the words “the end” will ever appear. This means listening from below; Turbo Film, a series-in-progress begun in 2008, is a performative art-cinematographic genre, which makes it impossible to tell whether what we are seeing is the result of direction or improvisation. Lumped with having to operate in increasingly fast-paced, chaotic decades, the artists need to find means for their languages to evolve, so that they can continue to speak to the present; and, in this sense, the series undoubtedly challenges the limits of genre. Faced with a reality itself refracted into myriad reflections, the work can hardly be offered as something intact, finished, concluded. Turbo Film thus opens a small window onto the unconscious moulded by these convulsive years, thanks to the narrative capacity of the “here and now” that goes with the “neorealism” of YouTube and the live broadcast — at once serious, self-mocking and delirious. It is a studied performance within totally unstudied footage. A pièce, a stream of consciousness.

Alterazioni Video is a chorus of voices that exclaims — out loud, and at other times silently — the doubts and the spectres that haunt the present era, between public thought and private space. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the collective produced I numeri non vengono chiamati in ordine numerico [“The numbers will not be called in numerical order”], a video shot live and edited remotely (and finally in real time) during a performance in the empty spaces of the Milan Triennale. This work, which it is difficult to translate into words, gave active form to the desire to fill the many empty physical spaces with the minds that were by this point overcrowded with thoughts. Months of images and content devoured online were poured out into the dark corridors of the museum, which were awoken by hallucinatory physical characters wandering around saying phrases and quotations, as if giving vent to an over-saturation. Enacted, here, was the ambiguity between public and private space, studio and museum. What is public, what is private? In that moment, everything seemed the same and indistinguishable: what was real, what was virtual in the live performance?

During the 2019 Venice Biennale, twenty online performers with their own shows, selected by the artists from social media around the world, were invited to participate for three days in The New Circus Event, set up in the streets of the city in front of the Fondazione V-A-C. Reflecting on the era when circus shows were festive, anarchic and unpredictable events, the collective set out to revive the idea of the circus, reworking it within the framework of contemporary visual culture. The palimpsest revolved around the principles of spontaneity, theatricality and chaos, elements that distinguish both the circus and the web, through which the actors were chosen. This project expressed an idea of community-in-difference, and of equality in and before the act, of “abundance, freedom, fun for all, rich and poor”.