My Religion Is Kindness. Thank You, See You In The Future
Vecchi Magazzini della Stazione di Porta Genova, Milan
November 14 – December 10, 2006
With her sculptures, performance pieces and installations, Paola Pivi builds an upside-down world, a personal universe ruled by the laws of absurdity.
The artist’s work comes out of colossal undertakings, but is pervaded by lightness and irony: through changes of context, endless multiplications and radical displacements, Pivi’s magical realism turns apparently impossible actions into disarmingly simple gestures. For the exhibition My Religion is Kindness. Thank You, See You In The Future, Pivi combines historic pieces with brand-new work, dreaming up a fairy-tale world in which everyday objects and apparently mundane situations are animated to create extraordinary events. The majestic, austere setting of Porta Genova station’s old warehouse is invaded by a festive, yet unexpectedly sinister collage of today’s world.
First presented at the Venice Biennale’s 48th International Art Exhibition in 1999, and never exhibited since, Senza titolo (aereo) [Untitled – Airplane], 1999, announces a blissful apocalypse in which objects come to life and upset the order of things: a menacing Fiat G-91 fighter plane is turned belly-up in defiance of the laws of physics and engineering, staging a radical reversal.
All around it, the exhibition is teeming with life: a drove of all-white domestic and exotic animals inhabit the exhibition space, which seems to become a hallucinatory dream or a bizarre country fair. In Interesting (2006)—as in an abstract, monochromatic moving sculpture—not only horses, cows, sheep, doves, dogs, but parrots, Japanese carps, and even a llama, turn the warehouse space into a magical, disturbing Noah’s Ark.
In the last room, Guitar Guitar (2001–2006) is a wild collection of thousands of everyday objects—ranging from a tiny glass marble to a massive tractor, a camping tent to a Mickey-Mouse-shaped balloon—all presented in identical pairs. Through this game of doubling, the Italian artist reflects on the system of commodification and distorts the siren song of consumerism. As a wild archive of materials, forms, light and color, and a mirror of our society, Guitar Guitar and its twin objects invite viewers to look for similarities and differences, like a three-dimensional puzzle, as they construct a labyrinth where all touchstones are lost.
For this exhibition organized by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi—her first solo show with a Milanese institution—the artist chose the former warehouse of the Porta Genova station, the oldest railway station in the city that is still in use. Opened in 1870 on the Milano-Vigevano railway line, and originally called Milano Porta Ticinese, the station quickly became the center of a vibrant industrial district in the southwestern part of the city, the streets around it housing numerous workshops and factories, many of them directly connected to the railway. When the new central station opened in 1931, the Milanese railway system was reorganized and the Porta Genova station became the end of the line rather than a transit hub. Today the old warehouse, an imposing space that is clearly industrial, yet with the austere charm of an abandoned cathedral, still bears witness to the city’s industrious, dynamic past. Held in front of the building, every Saturday, is the Fiera di Sinigaglia fleamarket, the oldest one in Milan.
Winner of a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale’s 48th International Art Exhibition in 1999, Paola Pivi was born in Milan in 1971 and lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. She has had solo shows in many museums and exhibit venues, including Le Grand Café centre d’art contemporain in Saint-Nazaire (2009), Portikus in Frankfurt (2008), Kunsthalle Basel (2007), La Criée centre d’art contemporain in Rennes (2007), MACRO Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Rome (2003) and Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Turin (2000). She has taken part in many group shows and international exhibitions in spaces such as Palazzo Grassi in Venice (2008), Malmö Konsthall (2008), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai (2006), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2005), the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco (2005), Künstlerhaus Bremen (2005), the Hayward Gallery in London (2005), P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York (2003), Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2002), and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin (2001), as well as the 5th berlin biennale (2008), Manifesta 5 in Donostia-San Sebastián (2004), the Venice Biennale (2003 and 1999) and Sonsbeek 9 in Arnhem (2001). In March 2009, she presented her performance piece I Wish I Am Fish at the Auckland International Airport for Auckland Festival 2009 and 1000 at Tate Modern, London.