Training New Eyes. Luca Rossi 2009-2022
If you think about it, the centre around which our lives revolve is the screen. Quoting the poet Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827) and a song by the musical group ‘Elio e le Storie Tese’: ‘of life the centrepiece is the screen (and not the “tomb”)’. We prefer sharing on social networks to living a certain experience. If we don’t share on our screen we feel we have lived that experience less. If we are not on social networks, if we do not become the coloured surface of our mobile phone, we feel we exist less. Like beyond the coloured surface of Marilyn or Andy Warhol’s Campbell soups, beyond the surface of our screen there is a ‘big void’: a feeling of emptiness that we can experience when we lose our mobile phone with the thousands of information, photos and videos it contains.
In this situation we do not need to express ourselves, we do it too much. To save ourselves, we need to sort and manage this enormous amount of information, of which we are both creators and victims. To remain imprisoned in the surface of our screen is to suffocate and be anaesthetised: social networks are not a true community and keep us divided in our cages of individualism. It is as if we were in a room with 100 other people similar to us and talking at the same time: we cannot understand anything and we cannot communicate anything. Luca Rossi’s IMAGES series was born in 2013 and does not propose yet another piece of content, yet another work of art, but a way of ordering and managing the content that is already being produced abnormally in the world every day. By searching YouTube for ‘IMG’ and four completely random numbers, we can access a completely unexpected playlist of videos that grows every day. Amateur and subtly poetic videos that would otherwise remain submerged and for which Luca Rossi’s work represents the only opening. A sort of contemporary ‘Sistine Chapel’ in which anyone can participate, through that hybrid role that the common man has assumed in the last 10 years. A role that Luca Rossi anticipated in 2009 and in which author and spectator merge and mingle. Watching these videos almost represents a form of ‘training’ for our eyes, since these videos have completely uncommon characteristics compared to the moving images we are used to watching every day.
If the IMAGES series opposes the pollution of our screen’s content and the algorithm that would like to propose us content that is always “the same as ourselves”, the Black Mirror project, permanently realised in 2019 inside the Fondazione Prada in Venice, goes so far as to totally turn off our screen. Luca Rossi enters the foundation as a spectator and then decides to remodel his vision, to train “new eyes”. The large black air conditioners in all the rooms, which accompany the official tour, become like large black screens that are inexorably switched off. Luca Rossi’s invitation to future viewers is to investigate what lies beyond these black screens and record videos of their interiors, placing their mobile phones on the very grating of the air conditioners. Our mobile phone crawls over these black monoliths and investigates within them a dystopian landscape balanced between the digital and analogue worlds. As if we could bring home, in our video gallery, the documentation of what lies beyond our own screens, within this ‘machine’ that pushes us online in order to exist more.
The character that allows Luca Rossi to improvise “site-specific” many of his projects, as in the case of Black Mirror, somehow meets the IMAGES series in the project Lumbung Orationes, presented in 2022 in Kassel. In this case, Luca Rossi makes a real hakerage of the official event (Documenta 15) and it is as if one of the videos from the IMAGES series is made site-specific. The audience is drawn in, from all over the world, by manipulating information as if it were clay and conveying all the research related to the official event on the Documenta.live website. People in Kassel have to decide whether to ‘believe’ in their screen or go and check out the facts for themselves in the Bergpark in Kassel. Lumbung Orationes (‘prayer granary’) is a large collective prayer for ‘something meaningful’ to happen in the world. The possible effects of this prayer, if any, are documented on the dedicated website (www.documenta.live). The work of art really loses defined temporal and spatial coordinates and decides to take seriously a spiritual and ritual dimension that we often choose to avoid and censor. We could say that a single video, out of the thousands that characterise the IMAGES series, appropriately chosen and made site-specific, triggers the whole project. As in the case of more conventional site-specific interventions, such as Black Mirror, the video-work acts as a “positive attack” aimed at reconstructing sense and meaning.
The Blind Work project, the gestation of which began in 2014, returns to act within the more conventional art system and descends more specifically from the critical and popularising action carried out by Luca Rossi in Italy since 2009. The screen becomes the space for dialogue and contact with the viewer who can decide, once again as if he were the author, three modern and contemporary artists to be brought together in the same work of art. The purchase of the work takes place ‘blind’ because the spectator-collector can only see it once the work arrives directly at his home. Also in this case, Luca Rossi chooses a strict ‘ecology of art’ whereby the work is only produced on commission and not as a preventive measure, in addition to the indiscriminate production of new works. The prospective buyer only chooses the three artists who are to meet in the work and whose profound essence Luca Rossi ensures to know. Blind Work thus opposes the digital tsunami that has overwhelmed us and that often makes us see things online before we can experience them ‘for real’, thus stifling the surprise effect and our imagination. On the contrary, this project, in its radicality, promises to reactivate our imagination (the work is only imagined by choosing the three artists) and, above all, the surprise effect that we will have when we see the work for the first time only within our own homes. Together with the work, Luca Rossi also releases an audio presentation of its ‘value’, testifying to his critical-disclosing interest that has been the matrix from which all his projects have descended in recent years.
All of Luca Rossi’s projects profoundly question the conventional rituals of the art world that often, in their redundancy, lose sight of content, the work of art and its value. “Luca Rossi” does not exist. Anyone can be Luca Rossi.