The City Rises

Opening May 28, 2015
h. 18.30
via Fara 12
Milan 20124, ITALY

T: +39 335 69 35 869
Tues.—Sat. 15—19
or by appointment

La città che sale / The City Rises
Zoe Beloff
Katarina Burin
Ali Cherri
Dor Guez
Ahmet Ögüt
Valerio Rocco Orlando
Amie Siegel
Curated by Chelsea Haines

In 1910 Umberto Boccioni painted his first futurist composition, The City Rises (La città che sale). A monumental work six and a half feet tall by almost ten feet wide, the painting captures the frenzied pattern of Milan’s urban landscape in the early twentieth century, depicting the construction of an electrical plant as a blur of red, blue, and yellow workers alongside theirn horses. This Janus-faced scene of modern architecture made through pre-modern means is characteristic of Milan itself, the site where Italy’s most influential avant-garde movement was born, described by F.T. Marinetti as simultaneously “tradizionale e futurista.” Despite the century of distance that has repeatedly and even cataclysmically revealed modernism’s flaws and failures, the uncritical celebration of technology and urban development promoted by the futurists by and large continues with today’s frenetic, accelerationist, global society.
The artists in the exhibition “The City Rises”—hailing from Europe, North America, and the Middle East—revisit the fraught history of the previous century, not to reproduce the past uncritically, but to unearth its possible impact today. They explore the possible futures of the past, showing work that looks to modernity’s archetypal containers—architecture, the city, and outer space—to reveal and critique multiple histories of war, politics, migration and displacement, spirituality, and the tension between individual memory and collective identity.
The exhibition considers the modern city not as a site that rises out of the ground ex nihilo, but as one that, despite the sanitizing steel infrastructure of modernity, always bears the marks of a past threatening to reveal itself. Zoe Beloff presents her newest work The Glass House (2015), a creative reimagining of Sergei Eisenstein’s notes and drawings for an unrealized film with the same title. Eisenstein first conceived of The Glass House in Berlin in 1926, inspired by new modernist architecture and a visit to the set of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. He imagined a great tower in which not only the walls but also the floors and ceilings would be made out of glass: a structure of total visibility. Katarina Burin’s installations unpack the established canon of architecture—lending voice to female designers, exploring historiographical authority, destabilizing conventional scholarship,  and creating a space of play around the mythos of “the architect.” Her projects demonstrate how historical movements and utopian ideology are complicated, contradictory, and in constant flux. In the chrome-plated brass sculpture Heroes—The Rise and Fall (2013), Ali Cherri explores the legacy of the space race in tandem with past and current uprisings in Syria. By connecting national claims on extraterrestrial and worldly space, Cherri’s work combines one element that feels conspicuously dated with another that is acutely present.
Dor Guez shows elements from The Sick Man of Europe (2015), an ongoing research project that explores the military histories of the Middle East grasped through the lives and creative practices of individual soldiers. Guez’s “scanograms”—a special format invented by the artist to produce high-resolution digital prints from archival materials—exhibited here reflect the memories of a young Turkish architect on the eve of World War II. Wikipolis (2011) is a 16mm film collage by Ahmet Ögüt that splices together a scene from the 1927 film Metropolis with an image of a former nuclear bunker in Stockholm that now houses a data center with 8,000 computer servers, two of which belong to WikiLeaks.
Valerio Rocco Orlando’s white neon sculpture Truth is a pathless land (2015) reflects on the themes of alternative international education at the heart of his recent solo exhibition at Museo Marino Marini in Florence. The sculpture quotes the modern Indian pedagogical reformer Jiddu Krishnamurti as well as the handwriting of one of Krishnamurti’s students, whom the artist met at a workshop while a professor-in-residence in Bangalore. In the five-channel video Deathstar/Todesstern (2005), Amie Siegel juxtaposes tracking shots down the hallways of early modernist German buildings appropriated by the Third Reich and their subsidiary companies (or later the German Democratic Republic), set to a looped soundtrack of the German-dubbed version of Star Wars. These buildings share a style indicative of both national socialist architecture and a modernist program of hygienic building, both of which are machines that attempt to free themselves of the past.
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Chelsea Haines is a curator and writer based in New York. Since 2009, she has organized exhibitions and public programs for institutions such as Independent Curators International, Portland State University, the Shanghai Biennial, and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School. Haines is currently a PhD student in Art History at The Graduate Center, CUNY, where she is a Presidential Research Fellow at The Center for the Humanities. She has held curatorial residencies and research fellowships at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP), Residency Unlimited, and Artport Tel Aviv.

image: Amie Siegel_DeathStar 5-Channel Video Installation