Pennacchio Argentato: Time to Rise
Wilkinson Gallery, London
12 April – 17 May 2014
By VANESSA SARACENO, May 2014
Time to Rise was the latest exhibition of the collective duo Pennacchio Argentato, formed by the Italian artists Pasquale Pennacchio and Marisa Argentato. The exhibition, at Wilkinson Gallery was the second of the collaborative pair with the London-based gallery, and presented a series of new works, consisting of ten sculptures and two digital projections. The scenario is that of a futuristic landscape, but in a future that is not so far from us. A giant, dominating 3-D animation of a human eye, alongside living Orchids suspended from the ceilings, and floor-based fragments of titanium body parts arranged in a row, are some of the works of this thought-provoking exhibition. They are all recognizable and familiar, though their presence is uncanny and frightening.
It is not the first time that the artists recall anthropomorphic figures in their sculptures. In the 2011 Survival Upgrade at Van Horbourg Museum in Zurich, Pennacchio Argentato have reinterpreted prosthetic human limbs cast out of Carbon-keval, a material used by the U.S. Army to manufacture soldiers’ combat helmets and other protective gears. At Wilkinson Gallery, the artists set sculptures that speak of a different, more subtle kind of technology. The human-like limbs and exoskeleton in titanium composing the floor-based sculptures are meant to protect, but also to enhance performance. Painstakingly balancing the organic and the inorganic, the human and the machine, data and experience, the quality of these structures does not depend on its similarity with the human body, but on the quality of the performances they produce. They are forcing us to think about the humanity that is about to come.
Composed by an endless repetition of abstract mathematical fractals, the sculptural text that gives the name to the exhibition contributes to this anaesthetic, post-futuristic scenario, arousing feelings of fear and paranoia. Time to Rise (2014) refers to an action that has not happened yet, but that is about to happen. It sounds firm and assertive like an order, a hold on the future upon us. It leads us to think about future a priori. Nevertheless, the action suggested by the colourfully sculptural text does not sound like something unexpected, not even implausible. Everything seems under control, dominated by the animated, human-like eye scanning the space constantly, restlessly. As the sculptures lying on the floor, the eye still looks human, yet it is more human than human. It never stops, and it does have no tears nor blinks, no weaknesses nor imperfections. In its schizoid moves, it seems to be able to predict that which is about to come, the nearest future called about also by the four sculptures hanging on the wall and titled significantly Alternate Futures (2014). They are all identical in shapes, though they present different solarised effects of colours. Their wrinkled features suggest the dynamics of a rising, giving to the artificial process of solarisation affecting the colours the peremptoriness of a natural effect.
All these objects speak of a world of high speed and control, a post-futuristic world whose dark sides are not so difficult to visualize though. Addressing the bond between the human and the machine, Pennacchio Argentato investigate the patterns the make us human in a world where technology is not merely a tool through which to perceive the world, but becomes a dimension per se, with its own linguistic and visual patterns, and correspondent aesthetic codes. Pretending the predictability of the machine to make sense of our chaotic reality, and sinking the awareness of our limitations and finitude into the endlessly repetitiveness of standardized performances, we trust machines without even knowing how machines look at images and experience reality, and to what extent they affect our already altered perceptions of the world around us. These are all the considerations that Pennacchio Argentato bring to the fore in this meticulously balanced exhibition, opening a path for us to experience a future in which technology will be more human than humans, and the digital more consistent than reality itself
Vanessa Saraceno is a freelance journalist based in London. She holds a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Art History and Heritage Management from IULM University of Milan. Over the past three years, she has worked with several art institutions and galleries in various communications roles. She also writes and runs an art blog: http://www.arthuntermag.comview all articles from this author