Piazza del Duomo, Milano
30 June – 27 July 2008
“Tarantula” is an anthology of artists’ films and videos conceived for the giant screen in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo. It is an exploration of the latest trends in contemporary art, but also a miniature encyclopedia of video art: a large-scale public projection on the 500-square-meter screen that covers the scaffolding of Palazzo dell’Arengario during its restoration, presenting the work of Vito Acconci, Victor Alimpiev, Johanna Billing, John Bock, Roberto Cuoghi, Rä di Martino, Trisha Donnelly, Mark Leckey, Klara Liden, Pipilotti Rist, Aïda Ruilova, Markus Schinwald, Patrick Tuttofuoco, and Gillian Wearing.
Borrowing its title from Bob Dylan’s celebrated experimental novel, while evoking ancient exorcism rituals, Tarantula describes an upside-down world where logic and order make way for madness, and new rules turn everyday life into an endless game. The videos depict humanity at boiling point, a universe apt to veer out of control and explode into liberating dances and moments of ecstasy. Conceived especially for Piazza del Duomo, like a mirage that mysteriously appears against the imposing backdrop of Milan’s main square, Tarantula guides passers-by and viewers through a world of shared illusions, hallucinations, faces, bodies, solitary lives and teeming masses. Many of the pieces focus on the representation of the individual, as if the giant screen could reflect images from the street, becoming a mirror for the faces and stories that populate the square.
For one month, two hours a day, the videos of these fourteen artists are shown on the largest LED wall in Europe: from Pipilotti Rist’s giant faces, Gillian Wearing’s video confessions, Victor Alimpiev’s obscure rituals, Mark Leckey’s lysergic dances, Vito Acconci’s legendary performances, all the way to Roberto Cuoghi’s cartoon cruelty, Tarantula explores a society in constant transformation, where truth and fiction are fused and confused. Johanna Billing’s choral videos, John Bock’s dissociated, surreal logic, Rä di Martino’s liberating cancan, Trisha Donnelly’s endlessly repeated simple actions, Klara Liden’s small acts of rebellion, Aïda Ruilova’s madness, Markus Schinwald’s mystery, and Patrick Tuttofuoco’s videogame cityscapes thunder off the screen in the piazza like the shrapnel of reality.
Tarantula turns Piazza del Duomo into a bizarre open-air cinema where the artists’ images appear like a hallucination amid the hustle-bustle of the city. Dominated by the Gothic facade of the cathedral, the current layout of the square dates back to the second half of the 19th century, and is the result of a radical gutting project that tore down the preexisting buildings.
The redesigned plan of the piazza is by architect Giuseppe Mengoni, who began work on Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in 1865 and shortly afterwards, on the buildings at the main ends of the square, Palazzi dei Portici Settentrionali e Meridionali, respectively finished in 1873 and 1875. The equestrian monument in the center of the square, aligned with the portal of the cathedral and dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II, the king who oversaw Italian unification, was unveiled in 1869. Mirroring the cathedral is Palazzo Carminati, whose facade, just a few decades ago, used to be covered in neon signs, the symbol of an ambitious, industrious Italy.