Mircea Cantor at Fondazione Giuliani / Rome

Originally published in Italian by author Davide Ferri. I translated the review into English for Flash Art Issue 318 January – February 2018. 

A visit to Mircea Cantor’s “Your Ruins Are My Flag” at Fondazione Giuliani prompts a longing for the element of surprise. Despite the size and extravagance of the many works on display, the show feels unfulfilled (the sole exception being Disrupted Air from 2017, in which newspaper shreds have been scattered across pots of Japanese peace lilies — a work that alone is worth the visit). The exhibition includes various sculptures that are carefully arranged and compellingly set up in a display created specifically for the foundation’s spaces. However, the creeping sense of déjà vu seems to pertain to the exsanguinated “unmonumental” poetic that so many of the works pursue, and which extensively marked artistic research at the beginning of the new millennium: practices that indulge a subversion of classic object/pedestal dialectics; or a monumental quality that collapses in ruin; or an unstable verticality; or the notion of (the sculpture’s) space as an unstable boundary. Almost all the works in the exhibition touch upon this syntax of the “unmonumental” and draw upon a cyclic dimension that evokes a vortex of past, present and future — disasters of war and a yearning for renewal. Heterogeneous components are assembled and combined in novel forms: a trampoline can hold the weight of a pile of bricks and rubble, exhausting the limits of its capacity (Haiku Under Tension, 2017); a ground constructed of the same bricks and rubble holds two steel flags, irremediably static (Give More Sky to the Flags, 2016); another trampoline holds the weight of a twisted column made of soap — soap created in the age-old tradition of the tormented Syrian city Aleppo (Diagonal Aleppo, 2017). The soap column recurs several times — fractured but standing upright, dangling dangerously, lying horizontally on a carpet of polyurethane sheets; and it is indeed the true nucleus of the exhibition, releasing an intense, noxious scent that shadows the viewer throughout the space.

Mircea Cantor, “Diagonal Aleppo” (2017). Courtesy Fondazione Giuliani, Rome. Photography Giorgio Benni.