by cosimo veneziano
“Do you have any idea what a cathedral is? What they look like, that is? Do you follow me? If somebody says cathedral to you, do you have any notion what they’re talking about? Do you know the difference between that and a Baptist church, say?”
He let the smoke dribble from his mouth. “I know they took hundreds of workers fifty or a hundred years to build,” he said. “I just heard the man say that, of course. I know generations of the same families worked on a cathedral. I heard him say that, too. The men who began their life’s work on them, they never lived to see the completion of their work. In that wise, bub, they’re no different from the rest of us, right?” He laughed. Then his eyelids drooped again. His head nodded. He seemed to be snoozing. Maybe he was imagining himself in Portugal. The TV was showing another cathedral now. This one was in Germany. The Englishman’s voice droned on. “Cathedrals,” the blind man said. He sat up and rolled his head back and forth. “If you want the truth, bub, that’s about all I know. What I just said. What I heard him say. But maybe you could describe one to me? I wish you’d do it. I’d like that. If you want to know, I really don’t have a good idea.”
I stared hard at the shot of the cathedral on the TV. How could I even begin to describe it? But say my life depended on it. Say my life was being threatened by an insane guy who said I had to do it or else.
I stared some more at the cathedral before the picture flipped off into the countryside. There was no use. I turned to the blind man and said, “To begin with, they’re very tall.” I was looking around the room for clues. “They reach way up. Up and up. Toward the sky. They’re so big, some of them, they have to have these supports. To help hold them up, so to speak. These supports are called buttresses. They remind me of viaducts, for some reason. But maybe you don’t know viaducts, either? Sometimes the cathedrals have devils and such carved into the front. Sometimes lords and ladies. Don’t ask me why this is,” I said.
He was nodding. The whole upper part of his body seemed to be moving back and forth.
“I’m not doing so good, am I?” I said.
He stopped nodding and leaned forward on the edge of the sofa. As he listened to me, he was running his fingers through his beard. I wasn’t getting through to him, I could see that. But he waited for me to go on just the same. He nodded, like he was trying to encourage me. I tried to think what else to say. “They’re really big,” I said. “They’re massive. They’re built of stone. Marble, too, sometimes. In those olden days, when they built cathedrals, men wanted to be close to God. In those olden days, God was an important part of everyone’s life. You could tell this from their cathedral-building. I’m sorry,” I said, “but it looks like that’s the best I can do for you. I’m just no good at it.”
from Cathedral, 1983
The project Cattedrale arises from the group exhibition Il luogo è sempre specifico (2010) at the PAC Museum in Ferrara, it is the result of my research on some works in the museum’s collection signed by artists who have had a promising beginning of career, but over time, for various reasons, they have been absorbed in less cultural weight circuits and gradually disappeared from the history and the art market. Cattedrale comes from a short list given, likely in error, from PAC. It is only shreds of stories, a list of modern artists names whose works are considered an historical remains. Works that take up space in a warehouse, considered redundant goods with a low insurance value. Works of artists with great careers, most of them had participated in the largest institutional exhibitions of their historical period, but which, for many reasons have been forgotten.
Every day we choose to throw or leave something. These parts of history, even personal, are chosen to enrich lists that lie forgotten locked in drawers.
Cattedrale is a survey project on cartographic visualization of the social history of art, on its mediation effectiveness and the speculative circularity of the response. The analysis of some of the artists present in the storage and the study of the insurance value of their works was the impulse for the construction of a visual system, a kind of info-graphic to explore the mechanisms of genesis and consolidation of contemporary art ecosystems. What emerged is a actual atlas, real and potential, of the social history of art, as well as a mapping, sometimes naive, sometimes bewildering, of the hypothetical exercise of a cultural institution. By reflex, Cattedrale (the title is based on the story of Carver), reveals an institutional system scarcely open to emotions, pursuing aims democratically foggy, unable to realize its dreams.
Which charge animates the artistic gesture?
If there is an essential charge, is it also originating?
Where is it aimed? In what contingent form is it operative?
Has it migrated somewhere else or it has always coexisted with other desires?
From such basic steps the productive and symbolic structure which gradually assumed is determined?
If the language platform is consolidated, which form it has? Is it a dogma?
Where is it going?
And what is our role?
Are we passionated scholars or cherubs praying?
Or ours is only a path of self-training on the forms of success and those of failure?
The answers that we help to give us help to rebalance power relations and to identify the rivulets of our desire or they simply formulate an accusation?
Shall we be censors or lovers?
Cattedrale began when a group of artists had the opportunity to go into the warehouse of the Pavilion of Contemporary Art in Ferrara. In those days I decided to compose a work through the combination of different works closed in the storage. Later I engaged a dialogue with the curator Denis Isaia. Starting from the considerations emerged and the research carried out, I drew a “mother map” depicting a synthesis of the mechanisms and rules that have determined the value in the history of art. The map was completed by a slide show dedicated to some of the icons of the project: group photos of artists who have founded manifestos or art movements, photos of artists minor prizes winners, images of installations, snapshots taken during the opening.
The start of the project is identified by this paper: an atlas of the social history of art. The diagram shows distributed on a sheet histories, deductions, thesis and evidence, it is proposed to a group of students who are asked to weave together, the same or other routes, starting with the opinion that they reach around the map or some of its segments. The path originally proposed, is retold through the lines of the students of art schools involved in the project, called to indicate and interpret wrong evidence, specious connections and impenetrable statements, a construction yard of imaginary built in collaboration with the real future “generation”. I asked students to deconstruct and reconstruct the “mother map” according to their knowledge and, especially, to their desires. The mood is comfortable, people involved should feel free to push the boycott of the historiographical proposal towards fantastic figures or graphics drownings.
The preliminary conversation introduces the theoretical effort that generated the map and define the boundaries of the intervention required in so far as it does not present itself as a laboratory of creativity, but it defies the speculative logic within a theoretical framework. Far from being a draft map it is the articulation in a schematic form of a reading through the genesis and development of the artistic discipline. His deconstruction, any vector it uses, asks to involve the best logical or instinctive force, including that of the refusal.
The project also reflects on the methodology of the workshops that are usually held in museums, based on the concept of “doing” and not of “thinking”. I asked participants to strart from the keywordsof the map and to add more. I asked them how they saw this starting point and how they imagine a planning of a art system or a cultural system.
Cosimo Veneziano is born in Moncalieri (Turin) in 1983. He lives and works in Turin. His research comes from the idea to trace a path through an anthology of experiences which try to overcome from the exclusion of the “official” history. He exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions in Italy and abroad, including: Visions of Labour, Kunsthalle (2013) Sao Paulo (Brasile); “Corso Aperto 2012” XVIII Advanced Course in Visual Arts, Antonio Ratti Foundation – Como; Imago Mundi, (2012) MAO (Museo Arte Orientale), Turin; Non è cosa, Cappella Anselmetti in the Laboratorio di Storia e storie designed by Massimo Bartolini in Turin; L’epoca delle passioni tristi (2010), Tirana Institute for Contemporary Art, Tirana; Estensione del dominio della lotta #1, We, Torino (2011); Carte Blanche – L’archivio storico: quattro interpretazioni, (2011) Milano.
He attended the artist residence: Aperto 2011 – art on the border, distretto culturale della Valle Camonica; Lugar a Dudas, Santiago de Cali (Colombia) and the public art programme Progetto Casanova, Bolzano. He is one of the founder of Progetto Diogene.