The Premio Ermanno Casoli goes international. The winner of the fifteenth edition is the Chinese artist Yang Zhenzhong with the project Disguise, curated by Marcello Smarrelli. The award takes the form of a commission granted by the Foundation to an artist to create a work for a company, with the active participation of the people who work there. Yang Zhenzhong was invited to be artist-in-residence for two months in the Elica plant in Shengzhou where he held a series of workshops that involved dozens of employees and resulted in the exhibition, which will be presented in the Elica Show Room in Sanghai Saturday, May 9 at 5 pm.
“The FEC, in line with the drive towards internationalization that distinguishes Elica,” explains artistic director Marcello Smarrelli, “has chosen to give the award to Yang Zhenzhong, an artist who strongly represents the latest trends in contemporary Chinese art. His works that range from video, to installation and photography, always underlie the desire to challenge learned behaviours and codified social rules. For these qualities, combined with his ability to actively involve the public in his projects, it seemed like the ideal artist with whom to try out the FEC method in a socio-economic context that is very different from the one we're used to working in. ”
The title of the project, Disguise, immediately takes us into a theatrical atmosphere emphasised by the presence of a series of masks that reproduce the features of the employees involved, created using the technologically sophisticated technique of 3D scanning. The masks were later worn by employees in a performance held at the workplace, whose documentation provided the material used to produce a video.
“I had the employees wear the masks made in the first phase of the workshop by scanning their faces, during the usual work shift,” says the artist. The video shows the employees at work and, at the same time, staging the production process, expressing a sort of performative and dynamic action, despite having to adhere to the rules of their respective roles within the company. With their faces covered by masks, their movements are always related to the assembly line, but, thanks to this metamorphosis, it all acquires the grace of a liberating dance. The atmosphere created during the workshops did not change the daily production potential, as you could imagine, but turned it into a kind of theatre or something more spiritual. Personally, this whole practice and creative process was an extraordinary new experience.”
Disguise is based on a Lacanian approach to the deconstruction of identity and, at the same time, triggers a process to awaken the awareness of the individual within the community. The masks, as exact duplicates of the employees' faces, dramatize their emotions to the point of extreme ostentation. On the other hand, the choreography in slow motion of the mechanical movements that they perform on the assembly line, that we see in the video, reveals another aspect of the work. What is more real, the role they take on or their identities? What reaction could this video provoke in the workers involved when they watch their own performances? Nothing is certain during production and all predictions can turn into new possibilities.
The results of the residency and workshops will be exhibited at the Elica Showroom in Shanghai where the public can view the video and the 50 masks used by the employees. The staging also involves Elica products recreating the industrial atmosphere in which the work was created.
Francesco Casoli, President of Elica, comments on the decision to award the prize to Yang Zhenzhong: “Elica is garnering success in the marketplace, establishing production facilities and offices on all continents. The Premio Ermanno Casoli has followed this trend; therefore we are proud to give this award to a Chinese artist, helping to communicate the international dimension that both Elica and the Fondazione Ermanno Casoli are solidly gaining. Aware that art facilitates communication between different cultures, we have always believed that the contamination between art and business encourages innovative thinking and creativity. For this reason, the FEC activities are a fine internationally recognized example.”