Brian Dillon review Rossella Biscotti's solo exhibition at Museion, Bolzano.
Museion presents the first solo exhibition in an Italian museum of Rossella Biscotti (Molfetta 1978, lives and works in Brussels). Winner of the MAXXI prize in 2010, Biscotti is one of the most interesting artists of her generation. She took part in dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel in 2012, the Venice Biennale in 2013 and Manifesta 9, Genk in 2011. For Museion the artist created a project on the former concentration camp in Bolzano (2008) and in 2012 she took part in the group show “The New Public”, curated by Rein Wolfs.
Operating as a sort of archaeologist of memories and the contemporary period, in her works Biscotti opens past time up to new perspectives and contemporary scrutiny. The show in Museion traces some of the key stages in her career, yet not in the form of a retrospective. Biscotti responded to Museion's invitation by creating new works and presenting traces of existing pieces from private collections and the Museion collection.
The works on display include casts of her 2009 project “Le Teste in Oggetto”, five bronze heads of King Vittorio Emanuele III and Benito Mussolini created in 1942 for the Universal Expo in Rome, which was subsequently cancelled, and “The Prison of Santo Stefano” (2011-13), tracings in lead of parts of the first prison for prisoners with life sentences, which was built in 1793 on the island of Santo Stefano in the Pontine archipelago. Works created for the exhibition include a new video for Museion's media façade and “Note su Zeret”, notes on a trip to the cave of Zeret in Ethiopia, which sheltered a group of Ethiopian resistance fighters massacred by Italian colonial troops in 1939.
The nature of the works on show reveals much about the art and modus operandi of Rossella Biscotti, whose recent interest in sculpture only confirms and accentuates her predilection for an open, progressive approach. Whether they explore the psychological effects of prison isolation, reflect on the concept of monuments, or delve into the notions of identity and history - all the works on show have an undeniable socio-political element. Yet the exhibition also reveals the extent to which this aspect of her work is infused with an evocative, imaginary power.
Viewers are elicited to explore the physical traces of Rossella Biscotti's work, activating their own sensations and emotions: engaging with her pieces means getting an understanding of how power structures and interpretations of history can condition us. This engagement with history is more than a simple reconstruction, however. As asserted by the title of the exhibition, a quote from the French philosopher Derrida (The Future Belongs to Ghosts), reconsidering past events means representing them in the here and now - and therefore reflecting on the present.