There Is No Place Like Home, organised in a house under construction on Rome’s Via Aurelia, was held over three days and nights in September and distributed work – including performance – by 29 artists across the building’s two floors. Participants ranged from young international artists such as the US-Lebanese Daniele Genadry and English-born Thomas Hutton to internationally known Italian artists such as Flavio Favelli and Alessandro Piangiamore. The show was conducted with no institutional partners and installed via a constant process of dialogue between the participants, under the direction of exhibiting artists Stanislao Di Giugno, Giuseppe Pietroniro, Marco Raparelli and Alessandro Cicoria: essentially, then, this was a noncurated exhibition.
The empty shell of an incomplete, detached house – its familiar grey skeletal structure casting a silhouette on a rough-hewn landscape – appeared, under these auspices, as much a reflection on space per se as on the idea of home as a precarious construct, one linked to the fragility of its human architects and inhabitants. Of the works performed and installed, several could be taken as emblematic of the show’s overall effect, in which the objects themselves responded independently to the notion of ‘the home’ as subject.
On the space’s enclosed lower floor, for example, Alessandro Cicoria’s Untitled (2014) consisted of a closeup digital print of a tree, positioned on one of the space’s concrete walls: a work influenced by Rome’s famous Trevi fountain, where relief carvings of foliage demonstrate mankind’s attempts to link themselves to nature by copying it. While Cicoria here conveyed the intensely naturalistic aspect of homebuilding, Thomas Hutton’s adjacent Hearth (2014) represented a different relation to nature via plans for a fireplace by the office of architect John Soane, intended for the Bank of England, though probably never built. Austerely minimalistic and comprising lime plaster mixed with black and white pigments on Dibond, Hearth’s cold, stark simplicity and sheer surface (it had a total depth of no more than 2mm) conveyed a primeval attachment to the home as a space associated with protection from the sublime natural elements, the hearth or fireplace being the focal point of the community and, above all, a place of warmth and safety. Nearby, Raparelli’s Mondo Cane (Dog’s World, 2014) – several tree stumps cut to varying heights and painted with cartoonish emphasis of their knotty features – continues the artist’s practice of referring to the language of animation in order to reflect on human behaviour. We often forget just how much we anthropomorphise our household pets, who nevertheless view the world from a different angle.
Upstairs, one had to look from a different angle to see Favelli’s Come into My Life (2014), a collage of Italian pornographic movie posters from the 1970s to 90s that adorned the ceiling, albeit also visible from outside due to the lack of any exterior walls. For Favelli, the posters evoke memories of those placed outside cinemas, past which his mother rushed him when he was young. In the context of There Is No Place Like Home, these ones also attested to home as a site of familial regimentation – of gender roles, sexual orientations, etc – but also as the location of sexual practice. What lies behind the facade was referenced again when, during the opening night, Milan-based duo Goldiechiari let off coloured smoke canisters on the lower floor of the house as part of a performance completing their exhibited work, Medusa Black Mirror (2014), a mirror featuring a digital print of black smoke: a representation of the home as a place of illusions. Because while there is no place like home, the outsider or guest rarely sees what the home really contains.
This article was first published in the December 2014 issue.