Don't stop at appearances. Seductive, elegant and coy, the images of the new exhibition to be held at the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice from 4th April through 24th June are only partly what they appear to be at first sight. Behind their humorous and carefree facade, they are capable of tackling complex and at times painful issues, from the relationship of a people with its own past, to the space of the individual within a social reality still too riddled with contradictions, and from the manipulation of information to the disillusionment of the new generations.
Held in collaboration with the Fondazione Fotografia and curated by Filippo Maggia, the exhibition brings together a selection of works by 19 international artists from the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena collection. Striking in terms of both the immediacy and efficacy with which - from beneath the cover of apparent light-heartedness - they delve into issues that are often disarming and unresolved, these photographs, videos and installations are all in fact closely bound up in contemporary reality and our own existence.
With differing approaches and modulations, dictated by their various cultural origins, the artists on show offer visual short circuits, continually subverting the initial levels of communication. They provide food for thought, or simply new points of view, and above all they remind us of just how the language of imagery may at times be ambiguous or even mendacious as regards the message which it sets out to put across.
Taken to the extremes, this discrepancy may be incredibly disorientating, as is the case of the installation portrayed in the 11 photographs by Zbigniew Libera, presented in the form of a familiar toy. The shots, entitled LEGO Concentration Camp, use the famous coloured bricks to reconstruct the stereotypical images of the Nazi lagers so firmly embedded in our collective awareness. Through this extremely provocative work, the Polish artist alludes to the cultural familiarity with which we relate to one of darkest events of the 20th century, despite the fact that similar atrocities - from the Soviet gulags to the Balkan repressions - have unfortunately been (and indeed continue to be) repeated.
While several of the works investigate our relationship with the recent past, others serve as a starting point for a reinterpretation of the present, going into issues which are just as collective as they are closely bound up in the consciousness of every individual. This is the case of We are the World, the video installation by the Cameroonian Goddy Leye put together using the melody of the song of the same name written in 1985 by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie as part of a major fundraising event for Africa. This tongue-in-cheek version turns all preconceived notions on their heads, its great simplicity unveiling a whole series of prejudices against a continent which has been looked down upon far too long.
The role of the artist, be it put to song or put to question, also lies at the heart of works which focus on the art system as a whole. The young Bulgarian artist Ivan Moudov scrutinises his fate for a week in the dregs of seven cups of coffee, comparing various predictions, while the photographic series by Mladen Stilinovic constitutes a sort of provocative art manifesto. The emblematic title, Artist at Work, shows the artist as he tosses and turns, half asleep, in his bed sheets: despite all the models of production imposed by society, the artist states, sloth is the key condition necessary for artistic creation.
The exhibition features 49 photograps, 9 videos and an installation by: Anetta Mona Chi？a & Lucia Tká？ová (Romania and Slovakia), Philip Kwame Apagya (Ghana), Fikret Atay (Turkey), Cao Fei (Cina), Wong Hoi Cheong (Maleaysia), Priyanka Dasgupta (India), Samuel Fosso (Cameroon), Hung-Chih Peng (Taiwan), Iosif Király (Romania), Július Koller (Slovacchia), Goddy Leye (Cameroon), Zbignew Libera (Poland), Yasumasa Morimura (Japan), Ivan Moudov (Bulgaria), Marco Pando (Perù), Mladen Stilinovi？ (Croatia), Tabaimo (Japan), Yang Zhenzhong (Cina), David Zink Yi (Perù).