Monday, 17 October 2011

A Two-Times Exhibition: Silvia Iorio's Odyssey 2010 | Odisseia 2011

Perhaps some of you remember this post.
It doesn't say much, it is just the Press Release of the first show my colleagues and I curated as part of our  MA in Curating the Contemporary at the London Metropolitan University, which we successfully completed this year. Instead, that simple post - and show, is the start of something unique.
Something that needs to be read through the lines to be caught and understood.

But let's proceed in an orderly fashion.
When we involved artist Silvia Iorio in this show, she conceived an artwork, Odyssey, which was to be further developed in the upcoming year. The challenge presented to her to go beyond a clearly defined site, and pierce the walls of a space, was met with the idea of creating a two-times exhibition.
Odyssey is a panel with 160 coloured switches "that people were invited to activate during the opening night, on the12th of May. No light would go off at the same time, though: the artist decided to stretch this event in Time – and Space – by having the Light travelling through the Universe for One Light Year. An unconceivable distance for a human being, as it is the speed at which the Light travels (...)
Through Silvia Iorio's eyes, the journey of Odyssey’s Light reached even the most remote and unknown points of the Universe. The various stages of the journey would have been impossible to document had it not been for the experiences of the people attached to them. As part of the project, the artist created the conditions for those who participated to Odyssey to re-interact with the artwork: every 12th of the month, for 12 months, they received an email with questions about what they were doing at a precise time, what they were thinking, and if their mind and body were “connected”. How many times are we caught in the middle of doing something, but our mind is elsewhere? Yet, mind and body are closely interconnected, like the switch and the light. Through the answers she received and collected, Silvia Iorio was expanding the concept of dislocation and taking it onto new levels."*

Silvia Iorio, Odyssey, 2010, One hundred and sixty switches, MDF, enamel, aluminium and wood, 224 x 118 cm

Now, what happened after a year, namely this year 2011?
The first thing to say would be that artist and curator, too, were dislocated. The artist was in Berlin, the curator in London. The two of them were disjointed, their dialogue possible only through modern technology. As the dialogue between Odyssey and its twin work Odisseia, everything seemed hard and impossible: how can it be that two different events, happening at a different time and place, are brought together and re-connected in a solo show? Initial ideas were discarded and a more complex outcome took form, the barriers of space and time acting as incentives. It couldn't have been just the same panel, with 160 lamp bulbs bearing the same colour as the switches, and lighting up in the same sequence they were activated one year before. Very predictable.
But Silvia Iorio is an artist of many resources, and surprises, as sometimes Science is. 
Therefore, the Light manifested itself through imaginary Celestial Maps, from where unknown stars, which are lost in the vastness of Universe, shine for real for the eyes of those who can see them. 
They shine for the eyes of those who see the created connections. Light came back to Earth, and earth made its appearance in the gallery space. 21 people among many who activated the switches, one year before, were the most regular contributors in answering Silvia's question about their whereabouts. 
Their coloured experiences materialised in the form of 21 light terminals, and here the circle clicks, and closes.

And to think that everything happened by simply turning on a switch!
On September 22, 2011, the exhibition Silvia Iorio Odyssey 2010 | Odisseia 2011, was successfully concluded.

Silvia Iorio - Odisseia 2011, Installation view

Odisseia 2011 - Celestial Map, detail, dimensions variable 

As I told Silvia, I find her watercolours nearly moving.
To imagine corners of Universe no one will probably ever see, but that she was able to evoke thanks to the inspiration of Light travel and people's experience, is a gift. 
The experience of the casual viewer included, of course, the fact that seeing is believing.

P.S.: I am happy to mention another show that successfully featured the Celestial Maps, which are having a great and well deserved success: Silvia Iorio, Age of Time. Edge of Space, part of the ongoing show series Rendez Vouz Mit Kunst at the Restaurant Diekmann in Berlin. The show, curated by Isabelle Meiffert, was on until the 8th of September. An installation view is below and more pictures can be found here.

(*) Extract from the catalogue's text. You can read the full version on the Galerie Mario Iannelli's website.

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