press release

Cesare Pietroiusti
Un certo numero di cose / A Certain Number of Things
October 4, 2019–January 6, 2020

From October 4 2019 to January 6 2020, the Sala delle Ciminiere at MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna hosts a new exhibition: Un certo numero di cose / A Certain Number of Things is a project by Cesare Pietroiusti, curated by Lorenzo Balbi with the curatorial assistance of Sabrina Samorì, and promoted by MAMbo. The project is the winner of the 4th edition of Italian Council (2018), a competition conceived by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Art and Architecture and Urban Peripheries (DGAAP)—a division of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, to promote Italian contemporary art in the world. The idea for the exhibition (the first survey on Cesare Pietroiusti in a museum institution) originated in a reflection on the very notion of the retrospective—whether it is possible to represent the evolution of an artist’s research in such a format. This examination led to the provocative idea of the artist: a self-narration, not just through the artworks he created, but also including objects, suggestions, episodes, gestures, actions, behaviours, and memories related to his own life, starting from the year of his birth, 1955.

The visitor itinerary in the Sala delle Ciminiere is organized as a display of "oggetti-anno" (year-objects), arranged in approximate, but not strict, chronological order. It starts with a photo of baby Cesare in the lap of his wet nurse, as he reaches for a bunch of grapes (1955), and continues until the year 1976 with documents, photos, music records and cassettes (complete with period players), letters, sketchbooks, essays, stories, school reports, cards, books, travel memories, and poems that outline the growth of Cesare as a child, an adolescent and a young man. Since 1977, the types of objects change, as we move from his private sphere to his life as an artist, with works that Pietroiusti created over a 40-year span.

The objects that represent the years from 1955 to 2018 are displayed around the last year-object, relating to 2019, placed in the middle of the hall, inside a "ring": this is a work in progress, made as part of a workshop held by Pietroiusti in two locations, the MAMbo museum itself and the Grazer Kunstverein in Graz (Austria). The workshop is held with a group of students and young artists, and the aim is to reproduce the objects on view, physically or through performance and narrative devices, by applying a mechanism of mise en abyme of the exhibition itself, a form of co-authorship from the ideational stage. The visual exchange between the original objects, displayed in the exhibition, and their reproductions inside the ‘ring’ plays a key role.

Ever since 1977, the artistic research of Cesare Pietroiusti has developed in a radically independent way, outside the logic of galleries, museums and the market. A unique interpreter of performance and relational practice, the artist has operated between the fields of linguistic experimentation and conceptual reflection and, probably due to his educational background in psychiatry, has shown particular interest in apparently inconspicuous, paradoxical situations and objects, which are normally not considered worthy of being observed, studied or represented. The theme of relation in artistic practice, viewed as a bilateral or multilateral exchange, as opposed to a one-sided notion of authorship, is therefore a cross-cutting theme in Pietroiusti’s oeuvre. Starting from the 2000s, Pietroiusti’s work has increasingly focused on an analysis of market mechanisms, the money/goods exchange, and the paradoxes that arise across the capitalist-based Western social system: for instance, the artist irreversibly changed the appearance of banknotes belonging to other people; donated thousands of his original, signed drawings; organized shows in which his works can be obtained in exchange for ideas; sold stories; and even ingested banknotes, only to give them back to their owners after defecation.

A book published by NERO (in Italian with English annex) is issued in coincidence with Un certo numero di cose / A Certain Number of Things, with texts by Cesare Pietroiusti that go over, and expand, the complex contents of the year-objects exhibited at MAMbo, complete with images and an afterword by Lorenzo Balbi.