The protagonist of this unexpected voyage is an android created by Macuga and produced in Japan by A Lab for the exhibition presented in 2016 at the Milan venue of Fondazione Prada. The android recites/rehearses his monologue constructed from numerous excerpts of seminal speeches, claiming himself to be a repository of human knowledge. In this futuristic scenario, where the human perspective is no longer valid, the android is the only inhabitant of Prada Rong Zhai and a discrete presence in the residence. The key and dramatic question: „What was I?“, that closes his enunciation and gives the title to a Macuga’s neon piece and to her new project, was originally pronounced by Frankenstein’s monster in the gothic novel written by Mary Shelley in 1818.
In Macuga’s fictional and post-apocalyptic universe, the android occupies the rooms of the historical house, revealing his personal art collection and belongings: 26 works from Collezione Prada, including several Italian art masterpieces, from 1958 to 1993, as well as 3 recent paper collages by the artist, part of the series Discrete Model.
A selection of works by artists related to the German Zero group and the Italian and French Programmed and Kinetic Art movement 3⁄4such as Jan Schoonhoven, Luis Tomasello, Grazia Varisco, and Nanda Vigo3⁄4 explores the complexity of computer-like patterns and geometric shapes and creates an autonomous alphabet of forms. The android is surrounded by a constellation of works by Italian artists: Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni, who attempted to reach a zero- pictorial language; Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Francesco Lo Savio, Salvatore Scarpitta, Turi Simeti, and Giuseppe Uncini, who experimented in their works new ways to overcome the physical and symbolic limits of the canvas and employed unconventional materials that connected art to reality. Two unusual portraits by Walter De Maria and Llyn Foulkes remind the human body and its absence, while a painting by Vincenzo Agnetti evokes a “language beyond language”.
A series of installations and small sculptures by Richard Artschwager, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Mario Merz, Salvatore Scarpitta and Rachel Whiteread, incorporating common objects and functional elements, suggests a possible post-human daily routine. At the same time, these works contribute to shape a domestic context and an intimate habitat, in which the android can invent his own future “existence”.
During the exhibition, the android’s speech will coexist with a live performance by a calligrapher. Taking place twice a week, it will aim at generating an alternative and written version of the original monologue by translating it from English to Chinese.
Opening image: Exhibition view of “What Was I?” by Goshka Macuga Prada Rong Zhai, 23 March – 2 June 2019, Photo: Alessandro Wang, Courtesy Prada, Goshka Macuga, 致吃掉书卷之人子 / To the Son of Man Who Ate the Scroll, 2016.
Im Slider: Exhibition view of “What Was I?” by Goshka Macuga Prada Rong Zhai, 23 March – 2 June 2019, Photo: Alessandro Wang, Courtesy Prada, Goshka Macuga, 离散模型007号 / Discrete Model NO 007, 2018; Nanda Vigo, 时空 / Cronotopo, 1965, Grazia Varisco, 脆弱的图案 / Reticolo frangibile, 1968; Grazia Varisco, 脆弱的图案 / Reticolo frangibile, 1968, Jan Schoonhoven, 204个四边形 / 204 Quadrangles, 1965