.Curation, as Fondazione Morra resident curator, together with Susanne Prinz Kunstverein am Rosa Luxemburg Platz of Maurizio Elettrico solo show, An ephemeral banquet for the invisible guest: waiting for the bio-aristocrat Kunstverein am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, Berlin, Germany, December 3rd 20202- through January 31st 2021
.Orońsko Sculpture Magazine (https://rzezba-oronsko.pl/en/) Issue nr.4 (125)2021, ISSN 1230- 6703 printed version
Review by Marta Wróblewska
NEW IMPERIA MAURIZIO ELETTRICO The artist-erudite
The Neapolitan artist Maurizio Elettrico can certainly be classified as an artist-erudite. His fascination with the humanities, with an emphasis on philosophy and religious studies, on the one hand, and the sciences, mainly biology and biotechnology, on the other, is strongly reflected in his meticulously created site-specific installations. They reflect the broad spectrum of the artist’s creative activity, stretching from sculpture, through literature, to music, which shape the specificity of his multithreaded, multidisciplinary and multisensory
multidisciplinary and multisensory works created especially for selected spaces. Thus, each presentation of Elettrico’s work is a creative reinterpretation of his fantastic artistic cosmos.
The key to understanding the intricate iconography of the artist’s work lies in the books he has written – a seven-volume saga entitled The Squirrel and the Grail and a 2004 novel called The New Empire. Almost everything in them is fiction. For example, the author of The New Empire, published in London in 2272, is a non-existent Desmond Brown. The book is decorated with drawings and prints by imaginary artists from the future, annotated with information about their entirely fictitious provenance and places of storage. They are supplemented with the so-called remarks, known from historical engravings, i.e. impressionistic scenes drawn on the margins. The bibliography of a few pages at the end of the book is also thought out from beginning to end – the alphabetically listed authors and their quoted works come from the distant future, which may yet happen.
Elettrico’s peculiar authorial iconography of the universe combines a fascination for antique canons, medieval heraldry and mysticism, Renaissance harmony and baroque opulence, which are surprisingly not mutually exclusive. The semantics of his works is based on overlapping motifs taken from various religions and mythologies. The whole, however, has strong atheological overtones, as it is imbued with a peculiar kind of (a)morality, rooted in science, new technologies and genetic experiments. There is a strange tendency in this thinking, which could be described as sacral atheism, containing – as critics note – elements of neotheology, eschatology or neomitology. The alternative world of the future created by Elettrico is ruled by a race of artist-demiurgeons, called bioaristocracy, and its only re ligion is art and aesthetic experience. This artistic and intellectual labi- rinth, reflected in the sculptural installations, built simultaneously from the past, present and future, can in principle be most accurately described by means of the phenomenon of infiltration, penetration, penetration, which defines the occurring inside these works tensions. They mix motifs taken from broadly understood European and world culture, time and space orders, elements of nature and man-made civilisation, materiality and immateriality. While looking at Elettrico’s works, one gets the impression of crossing dimensions thanks to the transformation of the narration of the two-dimensional mauscript written by the artist into a three-dimensional sculpture installation, which actually touches upon further dimensions thanks to the multi-sensuality that dominates it. This strong support of the erudite narrative on the one hand, and the aesthetics of pro- fusion on the other, may in fact echo the traditional Italian understanding of the idea of beauty – “bellezza” – dazzling, measureless, absolutist.
The installations composed by Elettrico as if organically expose, spread, and push the space, seizing, conquering, sucking in, and transforming the character of the exhibition space for the needs of their own aesthetic spectacle. This effect is certainly fostered by Elettrico’s working method based on its own escalation. The artist first gets to know the terrain, looks for tensions in it, places that are ambiguous and not necessarily easy to arrange. He focuses his creative attention on them. Using a myriad of organic and artificial objects of varying sizes, the artist with the help of countless organic and artificial objects of various sizes, the artist gradually begins to blend into the existing space. The central element is always a massive, long and spectacularly set table, which is a symbol of a feast, a Dionysian element of creation connected with fertility rituals, wildness of nature, intoxication and vital energy.
On the occasion of the last year’s exhibition An Ephemeral Banquet for the Invisible Guest, curated at the Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin by Chiara Valci Mazzara and Susanne Prinz, the table was covered with a rose- and iris-scented veil, overflowing with the most exquisite fish decorated with gold repoussé medallions, flowers, vegetables, fruit, interspersed with shells, pieces of amber and exotic corals. In its centre is a wax imprint of the artist’s face – a new death mask decorated with precious stones. The invitation in the form of an exquisite menu prefigured the nature of the meal. Fantastic and in fact inedible dishes were served, including a Japanese salamander in a sauce made of the fruit of a redwood bush, pieces of python marinated in fermented yak milk, monkey brains in a sauce made of ginger and rose petals or a mixture made of water lilies, dahlias, sturnips and goldenseal, which in mythology symbolises the world of the dead (the so-called “asphodel meadows”). The Berlin exhibition was additionally accompanied by an opera composed by the artist, and the pages of a saga written by him filled the walls of a separate room, disturbing its architecture.
During this year’s presentation of Corpi di Luce ed Altre Ombre, organised at the palatial headquarters of the Fondazione Morra in Naples, a similar table stood at the top of an imposing 18th-century staircase, described because of its size as “grandiose” – i.e. exaggerated, monumental, which in a way resonates with Elettrico’s philosophy. At the top of the table covered with a white tablecloth with heavy golden tassels was a horse’s head made of white wax and decorated with colourful semi-precious stones. The colourful feathers of birds of paradise spread out from under it like a fan. In the middle of the table, the artist arranged refreshments consisting of Himalayan salt crystals, marble pestle, gilded stones, peculiar shells, mother-of-pearl, peacock feathers and goblets made of aromatic wax.
The feast was crowned with a mother-of-pearl effect glass fibre dish crowned with colourful branches on which rest exotic butterflies. As in Berlin, the artist did not limit himself here to the central object alone. Other parts of the work, less ostentatious but equally extravagant, lurked in the nooks and crannies of the palace, unexpectedly appearing before the viewer’s eyes or under his feet. Snakes made of knotted feathers climbed the cracked walls, and here and there, on the floors or antique furniture, other fairy-tale micro- landscapes were camouflaged – islands inhabited by peacocks, monkeys, squirrels, seahorses and fanciful butterflies. They were accompanied by abstract reliefs hanging on the walls, made of bak- lite, silicone, plexiglass, ecological leather and semiprecious stones, resembling peculiar reliquaries, or plastic mosaics showing unreal geographies of non-existent continents. In fact, they were visualisations of magical objects forming spiritual hierarchies of the earthly and non-white, filling out Elettrico’s literary saga.
The Neapolitan show also spread to the terrace of the palace, where Elettrico simulated a kind of Garden of Eden, filled with plants and flowers with complex metaphors and properties, in the cen- ter of which he placed a column of dark brown marble as a symbol of permanence and constancy. Metamorphism, shaping the nature of marble, is also a synthesis of Elettrico’s work, who step by step transforms the space, questioning its architectural identity, supplementing it with new, additional functions and completing its aesthetic image. The sensual symphonic nature of these installations created from myriads of different objects to be smelled, seen, touched and tasted enhances their immersive character. By freely mixing various ecosystems and creating aesthetic effects that captivate the viewer by means of the arbitrary beauty of objects, the artist builds his own impression of The exhibition space as a whole is subjected to specific metamorphoses. However, something disturbing seems to pervade this seemingly contemplative beauty. In its multi-sensuality there is, after all, an echo of vanitas, well-known from the sumptuous Baroque marine natures, in which the ideas of memento mori and carpe diem crossed. On the one hand, food is a vital symbol with enormous sensual qualities in its appearance, smell and taste, but also in the fact of the food eaten, felt in the hands or on the tongue. On the other hand, in the world of the future created by Elettrico, it is inedible, it comes from cloned animals, mutations being the result of uncontrolled genetic experiments, inevitably leading to fatal consequences for humanity. A poignant symbol of the ultimate moral and natural de- generation are the ubiquitous exotic butterflies carrying deadly poison implanted with microchips. Superficial beauty and goodness have another, dark bottom. The alchemical heritage is mixed with genetic experiments, revealing the true human nature, always unsettled, transgressing boundaries – including ethical ones. This is not a praise of progress, but a warning. For the beauty permeating Elettrico’s work is illusory – it hides the dangers that the man of the future has brought upon himself through his unbridled desire to control and rule the world, effectively destroying the natural beauty of the Earth, which must eventually be replaced by manufactured substitutes.
Analyzing Elettrico’s work it is impossible not to be impressed by the totality of his artistic expression, built from a number of heterogeneous elements that eventually form a synthetic and indivisible whole, which resembles the idea of a community of arts reflected in the idea of Gesamtkunswerk. It is no coincidence that the show at the Fondazione Morra in Naples became part of a larger project, the Wunderkammer, about the process of gradual disclosure of the elements of the art collection held there. The installation Elettrico perfectly fit into the convention of collecting, which on the one hand is a passion directed towards beautiful and unique objects, and on the other often takes the form of compulsive acquisition and accumulation. Additionally, the installation Elettrico, presented in the company of permanent exhibitions of such masters as Joseph Beuys, Herman Nitsch, Julian Beck and Judith Malina / The Living Theatre, Shōzō Shimamoto representing Gutai group, was confronted with the practices of total art, which no longer embraces individual exhibition instances but becomes an integral part of the lives of its creators.
The alternative reality created by Elettrico functions simultaneously on a material and immaterial level. These installations, despite the fact that they concern the distant future, remain quite traditional in themselves, because they do not engage in multimedia tools, remaining in an analogue mode. Thus Elettrico remains faithful to the traditional understanding of sculpture as a three-dimensional object functioning in space. The suggestive sensuality of his works activates the imagination, generating a subconscious production of ever new meanings. This is facilitated by the deep poetics of these works – each element becomes a sophisticated metaphor or symbol, and the viewer is drawn into the search for the key to their interpretation. Elettrico’s art can thus be interpreted as a peculiar act of mediation between the earthly and the otherworldly, between spirituality and corporeality, reality and fiction, taking the form of a peculiar, eccentric journey into the depths of a complex artistic experience, growing out of broadly defined sculptural practices created in a fascinating intermedia. –
.Art a part of culture, January 10 th 2021, by Loredana Troise, Maurizio Elettrico in Berlin : An ephemeral banquet for an invisible guest: waiting for the bio-aristocrat
A site specific installation presenting new sculptural works by Maurizio Elettrico inspired by the saga The squirrel and the Grail
The result is that of a skilful intertwining of historical interpretation and political theory, of mythography and theology, of philosophy and esoteric trans-humanism: An ephemeral banquet for an invisible guest: waiting for the bio-aristocrat, is the exhibition of Maurizio Elettrico recently opened at the Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg Platz, in Berlin, and it develops from the factual base, the bottom line, that is, the one of trying not to put our feet on the ground.
This affects our points of view, our impressions, our judgments, the categories of reference, even the way we walk and our physical appearance.
We are chthonic gods, and we call ‘Earth’ the star on which we live. This acknowledgement leads to radical questions: are human existence and human beings, in their essence, purely terrestrial? Do they have only the earth as a reference and its related parameters? And are alternative elements only secondary factors that are added to it?
The answer is in the various and unique texts written by Maurizio Elettrico, texts written in the shape of a story in which, through the connection between land und kosmos, the artist ventures into a fascinating territory, where the search for the elementary goes as far as eschatology, with a neo-mythological vitality, in which the radical secularization of the sacred and science fiction come together to create a turmoil where sense and non-sense shorten their distance to manifest themselves in their theophanic nature.
Chiara Valci Mazzara, who with Susanne Prinz, (head curator of the art institution Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg Platz) masterfully curated the event, explains to me:
“The idea of the exhibition in Berlin is born a year ago; when Prof. Giuseppe Morra invited me to Maurizio Elettrico’s studio in Naples, with the intention of promoting his work in the city of Berlin where I live and work. I developed an exhibition project, in collaboration with Susanne Prinz and with the support of Fondazione Morra, that would present Maurizio’s work at its best in the panorama of the Berlin art scene through constant contact with the artist in order to conceive a selection of pieces which would be able to send across the complexity of Elettrico’s work, with which I will continue to collaborate as soon as possible also in South Korea, in Seoul, where I am directing the international program for a space dedicated to art”.
With An ephemeral banquet for the invisible guest: waiting for the bio-aristocrat, Maurizio Elettrico once again confronts us with a crucial geographical-interpretative problem, which is also a symbol of our destiny: it evokes the dialogue of the ego with the elsewhere and is a psychological allegory that, in itself, welcomes sharp antitheses, surfaces and depths, the without-border of the horizon and the without-light of the abyss. Crossing its paths is its new challenge.
He succeeds by erecting an ideal labyrinth whose access takes place following the traces of The Squirrel and the Grail, a saga in seven volumes composed by the artist around the adventures of the protagonist, Leo Bruno.
In the manuscripts is envisioned an intricate futuristic world ruled by new species, partly natural and partly artificial, which has evolved from the financial elite of the planet through genetic reprogramming, the bio-aristocracy, whose structure has changed into artists, into omnipotent demiurges, who manipulate matter and nature at will and exclusively for aesthetic pleasure; as Elettrico explains:
“Art, so the contemporary traditional art as well as the ‘art’ related to the creation of new living species, is the fundamental part of the infinite wealth of this bizarre (future) society. Humans like us still exist in numbers enormously superior to those of the bio-aristocrats, but they are partly enslaved, partly reduced to a condition of ostensible freedom. There is also a third species, more humanoid than human, of beings characterised by a less sharp intelligence but endowed with great physical beauty and strength, called ‘the wilds’, which are the result of a terrible pandemic produced by a virus specially created by the feared Sara Power. It will be up to Leo Bruno to reunite the rebellious and indomitable clans of the bio-aristocracy and annihilate the last resistance of the old humanity….”.
The translation in to the format of an exhibition of the atmospheres inspired by Elettrico’s περιήγησις, wandering, opens to a magical world organised according to an alchemical taste mysteriously ideological, a world able to produce a visual pantheon that is dissolved with intelligence and balance between artistic creation and technological knowledge.
Drawings, collages, sculptures, installations realised with paper, wood, bakelite, plexiglass, resin or silver skins, each room is a metaphorical completed paragraph.
Right from the foyer of the prestigious building, where on the wall is installed the lettering of the first paragraph of the saga written by the artist and from the sculpture La nonna del mare (The grandmother of the sea) -which welcomes the guests upstairs- a charismatic sci-fi butler, which is the one who receives guests by pushing them towards the fulcrum of the rich itinerary, we are introduced to the fantastic scenario conceived by the artist: an eight-metre table in honour of the invisible guest (Leo Bruno) enriched by works in various materials that echo in visionary forms the precious table triumphs of a Baroque banquet, with very refined and inedible dishes; continues Elettrico:
“In this historical moment in which a Christmas dinner cannot be held with more than two people, the large bio-aristocratic tables sound a bit like a mockery, with their roasted dinosaur cubs, and monkey brain patées..”
Maurizio Elettrico writes a series of pages as of an abstract memory which hint at signals of a mythologized series of beyond-likely events. An ephemeral banquet for the invisible guest: waiting for the bio-aristocrat, is the manifestation of the anxieties that torment us: of our need to push towards unknown destinations, to skim unexplored regions and unfathomed constellations.
It refers to dimensions that wound us, because we are incapable of living without orientation. Unlike man who stays in a defined territory, attracted only by his world, Elettrico teaches us to trace the cultural and social resonances underlying a weave of signs to be experienced.
Seen through this angle art is seen as an actual catalyst that activates intellectual, emotional and psychological processes, no longer offering itself as a pure experience of doing, but as a comprehensive adventure: it is not a coincidence that the immersion of all five senses in the exhibition is also satisfied by sensual melodies in the background taken from the prologue of Grammeloth – a singular opera conceived by Maurizio Elettrico and realized with the help of virtuoso musicians from the Cimarosa Conservatory of Avellino – that enraptures and intoxicates the audience; about it, Chiara Valci Mazzara observes:
“The baroque, erudite references, the aesthetics related to a visual and conceptual narrative of the artist, provoked a strong reaction among the public in Berlin, especially considering the contrast with the modernist and post-modernist aesthetics that permeate the contemporary art scene in Berlin, aesthetics that are perceived as rooted in and characterising an important portion of the artistic tendencies in the city’’
Soon to be inaugurated is the long time-awaited Metatron, an isolated and insulating tufaceous space of neo-mythological – taumastic conception, sanctified to the mirabilia, thought over for some time by the ingenious and protean artist together with the Morra Foundation.
“A new wunderkammer in Naples” (comments Raffaella Morra), “somehow like a crypt for homeless ghosts – clarifies Elettrico – and a bit like the alcove of an imaginative vampire; the house- as the book about an imaginary cosmos, where the artistic process makes the extreme effort to create a dimension of its own, which implies the anxieties of our own reality”.
He has worked with some of the most renowned curators of contemporary art in the world such as Jan Hoet and Achille Bonito Oliva. His first experience abroad dates back to 1994, when he was invited by the committee of Art New York International to present an installation of thirty square meters.
Under the curation of Jan Hoet Elettrico has exhibited in major group exhibitions among which group shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent, Watou in Holland and Hann Munden in Saxony. In 2004 he took part in Le Opere e i Giorni at the Carthusian monastery of Padula and in 2007 in Intramoenia Extra Art at the castle of Acaya (Lecce).
Between 2005 and 2011 he was selected to participate at the XIV Quadrenniale di Roma, he presented his work in the frame of several biennials (Biennal Knokke; Venice Biennale, Collateral Events). To 2013 pertains the multimedia exhibition Biorema dislocated in several sites in the city of Salerno, organized by the Gallery Paola Verrengia with the participation of the Foundation Morra, Ghirelli Foundation and Menna Foundation.
In 2015 Maurizio Elettrico presents Cibumdeorum, an impressive sculpture inspired by the idea of the greasy pole and its archaic references to fertility rituals, as part of the exhibition event ‘L’Albero della cuccagna’, Nutrimenti dell’Arte, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva In 2016, a solo exhibition Supernaturalis Historia has been held on the second floor of the Pan museum in Naples.
Some of his works are part of the permanent collections of renowned museums and institutions as the Belgian public collections of SMAK and Flanders, the permanent collection of the Certosa di Padula, the Madre Museum in Naples, the contemporary art collection of the Banco di Napoli and the museum venues of Morra Foundation. Since 2009 he has been working on The Squirrel and the Grail, a saga developed in seven volumes.
Online version: January 10, 2021
.La Repubblica, Art and Culture, December 21st – 2020
The universe of Elettrico: where the artists rule
The solo show of the Neapolitan artist which works since twenty years at the construction of an alternate world: now virtually open in Berlin (after the December inaugural days – open again mid January) , in spring will open at Morra Foundation.
There is a Neapolitan artist which during the last twenty years has been working on the construction of an ‘alternate’ world, utopian or dystopian, set in a remote future where the earth, its continents and its cities keep their names, but the geo politics have changed.
And the most curious thing is that he had foreseen this epochal change which then occurred following a pandemic.
Maurizio Elettrico foresaw a universe where the power is in the hands of the so called bio-aristocrats, a super race of artists, a society of demiurges which, through genetic manipulations, give life to superior species, embodying an oligarchy that answers to the art world.
The society is divided into three castes: in command, the bio-aristocrats, followed by the natural men, similar to us, the third is that of the beings transformed into wild ones returned to nature after a pandemic that changed them. Elettrico, erudite artist and scholar of philosophy, history of religions and epistemology, had already described this parallel universe in the book ‘The New Emipre’ ( Fondazione Morra Edizioni ) in 2004.
The protagonist of the saga -halfway between fantasy and science fiction – is a self-appointed pontiff, Leo Bruno, whose coat of arms is a creature half squirrel half snake.
Behind the creator of the saga, the imaginary historian of the future Desmond Brown, is Maurizio Elettrico, who sets his epics on the threshold of the 22nd century. The sequel, as a new episode, took the shape of the show ‘An ephemeral banquet for an invisible guest: waiting for the bio-aristocrat’, curated by Chiara Valci Mazzara and Susanne Prinz, presented in Berlin, at the Kunstverein am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, in collaboration with the Foundation Morra of Naples. For now, due to the lockdown, the exhibition can only be visited virtually (wwww.rosa-luxemburg-platz.net, after having been inaugurated with great interest in early December), and will reopen from 10 January. Following, there will be an Italian edition: the project would be to display a new production of pieces, in spring, at the Morra Foundation.
Elettrico’s story is not only limited to the printed version of the work -the Saga- conceived in seven volumes but it translates itself, above all, into forms and volumes , the scenography elements comprehended in the above mentioned alternate society envisioned by the artist; the pieces have been realised with various materials from wood to beeswax to bakelite but also flowers and fruit.
A genesis that creates a mirroring game enabling this creation to really exist, that’s why its set-up must be very accurate.
The Berlin exhibition set up is conceived as a banquet where to the elite of artists are offered dishes ‘’..that to us – ‘natural men’ – explains the artist – as villains and destroyers of beauty, from which we have been banned in this remote future imagined by myself, are not edible or are even poisonous due to their characteristic of exceeding the limit of human biology. On the table there are also flowers and fruit that are replaced every four days with fresh ones by the staff of the German institution. A complex exhibition set up in remote at the time of Covid. The dishes are elements that recall the festive ones of the baroque tables, they are trophies made with naturalistic elements such as fish and shells, cocoa berries and other plants that have undergone genetic manipulation: mother nature is very close to this society but the bio-aristocracy twists it for aesthetic purposes, thus putting in place both the dark side of biological and genetic manipulation but also the bright side of the progress’’
On the banquet table appear the symbols of the religions of the caste of the artists, different from ours, which are including a transfiguration of the ritual act mixed with paganism. The invisible guest mentioned in the title, is -in Italy- completely up to date due to the last government decree about the Christmas reunions around the table, the placeholders are reduced to the bone. ” Even my imaginary world – continues Elettrico – has its rules and laws, but it refers as well to our present and past. We are working on the production of about half an hour video which will include my musical partiture, sang by an opera singer and the voice over reading some excerpts from the book related to the exhibition. ”
.Online version: December 28 , 2020