press release

In 1948, the Italian anthropologist Ernesto de Martino published Il mondo magico (The World of Magic, 1972), a cornerstone in the history of European cultural anthropology. In the book, he outlined new perspectives in anthropological research emerging from investigations within the so-called “world of magic.” This was defined by de Martino as the ancestral human condition, which lies beyond historical determination, a condition, wherein the distinction between the self and the outside world is not yet fixed but rather a fluctuating, ambivalent process. Since in this process the sense of the individual self is still under development, it is threatened by the prospect of disappearance.

De Martino's term for this potential threat is “crisis of presence." It denotes the inability to consciously retain experiences and memories that are necessary for the individual’s ability to respond correctly to historical situations, to take part in them actively and personally, and ultimately to transcend them. The loss of domestic references and established signs of meaning can undermine the presence of the self, leading to a growing sense of disorientation and to a crisis of the individual's historical being as an autonomous and defined presence in the world.

The crisis of presence postulated by de Martino provides an incisive analysis of the contemporary situation by virtue of its capacity to describe the various forms of latent crisis affecting numerous aspects of the contemporary world, particularly within a social and political context. The exhibition is thus an attempt to read a variety of current existential experiences of subjugation, migration and distress through De Martinos' concept of crisis.

The Crisis of Presence exhibition project serves as an interpretative model for a thematic analysis built around the works of a number of contemporary artists active in the European, African, and American contexts. European colonial history and its effects on migratory flows both past and present; the legacy of real socialism in Eastern Europe and Cuba; the new influence of Asian capitalism in the Third World; the economic and political crisis in Europe and the concurrent global rise of authoritarian right-wing politics; all these are among the main themes addressed by the featured artists. Their works provide examples of itinerancy and a loose analysis in which issues regarding the individual subject, the dispersion of memory, and the sense of displacement with regards to the present self are examined. As such, the works are indicative of relevant contemporary issues—made as they are of unresolved memories, cultural dislocation and identities that are forever altered in the unrelenting groove of history.

This exhibition was made possible by generous loans from ADN Galeria, Galeria Aural, Galerija Gregor Podnar, Giuliani Collection, Galerie Antoine Levi, MEF Museo Ettore Fico, Niels Borch Jensen Gallery & Editions, Michel Rein Paris/Brussels, ProjecteSD and P420 together with loans from artists. With support from iaspis and Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Helsinki.

Iñaki Bonillas, Alina Chaiderov, Nanna Debois Buhl, LaToya Ruby Frazier, François-­Xavier Gbrè, Leslie Hewitt, Paolo Icaro, Concha Jerez, Adrian Melis, Marzena Nowak, Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio, Mona Vatamanu & Florin Tudor, Camilo Yáñez, Katarina Zdjelar

Curated by Luigi Fassi