8. Giovanni Oberti/The Big Device

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8. Giovanni Oberti 8

[p. 4 modifica]THE LARGE DEVICE

September 2008, Dafne Boggeri creates an enormous and lowered carton ceiling: walking inside the Careof space, through a strained passage1 that forces odd and clumsy movements, the visitor has the feeling of being in a place of imagination, maybe in the insides of a large animal that produces minimal and gentle movements with it’s slow breathing.
September 2009, Mauro Vignando suspends at mid-air an exact reproduction of a coffered ceiling, like if it were a room with non-existing walls. The light of his seven lamps transforms the space into a magic box.
Semptember 2010, space is still the heart of the exhibition that Careof devotes to a young Italian artist at every season opening. Giovanni Oberti creates a large device composed of primary mechanisms that concur to a common purpose: to gather elementary particles dispersed in space, then to elaborate them and return them in a different form.

At the center of the gallery Oberti places the sculpture Untitled (Piedistallo per polvere), an about two meters high irregular pedestal act that collects the dust that deposits itself on its upper surface for the whole duration of the exhibition.
A neon shaped as the number eight set at the top of one of the four walls saturates the atmosphere with a warm glow. The continuous but barely perceptible flickering seems to almost animate the sinuous shape of the small sculpture.
Like an hourglass or a Möbius strip (or a Lemniscate) it sends back to the symbol of eternity, of infinity, of the constant transition of matter from one form to the other, metaphor of a stratified memory and therefore a recollection of the interior chronology of things. But it’s also an eight, which is the number of the planets of the solar system, the tips of the wind rose, in chemistry it’s the atomic number of oxygen, in nuclear physics it’s a magic number, in Christian symbolism the eighth day represents the transfiguration and the New Testament.
Through the use of more dehumidifiers the artist gathers the moisture present in the gallery space, in the warehouse, in the offices and then renews it every day creating a large puddle of water. This way he generates a perpetual cycle where everything is transformed, but just to turn back how it originally was: the water spilled on the floor evaporates, then it’s collected by the dehumidifiers, it spills again and then it evaporates once more. In this effort, the large device at every passage seizes, in a very subtle way, everything that lingers in the environment, it absorbs the light coming form the neon, it gathers part of the dust that deposits on the big sculpture, it assimilates the traces of the passing of visitors, of the architecture, of the walls... Everything enters a single circle of life and death, and as a large palindrome, its likely to be read and reread starting from one end or the other.
At the same time, day after day this big invisible machine deposits traces of limestone, mixed with dust and other sediments that draw on the floor irregular shapes placed one on top of the other, almost like jagged coasts eroded by continuous motion of the sea.
In those fragile forms just hinted on the floor, Oberti seems to narrate the relation between the elements that inhabit the space offering his own personal "translation", wich is not only a "reading" but most of all comprehension and synthesis2.

[p. 5 modifica]In his project for Careof Giovanni Oberti sums up much of his previous researches, where, with the use of dust, graphite, or other simple devices he narrates the passing of time in relation of things and their connection with the visitor, creating a short circuit between present, past and memory: in Senza titolo (Simultaneità di luoghi di tutti i paesi che sappiamo...) the chandelier found in the first Milanese home of the artist, blemished by the slow stratifying of the dust, seemed to preserve the memory of all the homes in which he moved later; in Senza titolo (forks, dust) (2006-2008) the artist removed the vintage kitchenware from the lavishly laid table in a Baroque room (Palazzo Tozzoni, Imola), creating impressions and fingerprints that transformed absence to presence; in Senza Titolo (Oggetti dipinti) (2009) the artist gave a different surface to an object, an orange molded by time now protected by a graphite film that resembles heavy bronze armor.

If his works till now always added something to the preexisting reality, in this last project Oberti seems to become even more soft-spoken, he seems to be taking a step back and limiting himself to arranging a situation with the goal of providing visibility to a mechanism, unveiling a device and underlining its complexity and beauty, maybe keeping in mind the words of Giuseppe Penone published in his well-known Rovesciare gli occhi. In this work Penone refers to some of the images from his exhibition "Indicazioni per uno spazio" in 1969 and in a note he adds «Preparing an exhibition means: leading the visitors near the ceiling, conveying the windows toward the inner space and bringing the surface away from the walls"3 putting emphasis on the great potential of a sculpture that can be capable of revealing space and reality in a new and different way».

Chiara Agnello
Milan, September 2010

Traduzione dall’italiano Anna Luisa Vallifuoco


  1. [p. 5 modifica]You passed through three small black cars, a Ford Ka, a Renault Twingo and a Fiat Panda, each placed in correspondence of one of the three Careof entrances.
  2. [p. 5 modifica]Manara Valgimigli points out that «Other is interpreting, othe ris translating: interpreting is analysis, translation is synthesis. The one who interpretes looks at the particular, the one who translates looks at the relations with the remaining [...]. even translating is, like making music or poetry, like painting and sculpting, effort and longing to conquest and possess one's own reality».
  3. Giuseppe Penone, Rovesciare gli occhi, Einaudi, Turin, 1977