Gianluca e Massimiliano De Serio The Fondazione Merz presents the exhibition No Fire Zone, featuring a project by artists Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio.
The project was commissioned by the Fondazione Merz to document the great event that closed the Wolfgang Laib’s exhibition in June of 2009, when the German artist brought forty-five Brahmins from the Indian region of Tamil Nadu to celebrate the Hindu fire ceremony at the Fondazione.
Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio take the Mahayajna – the fire ritual that is celebrated for the wellbeing of the entire world and all living creatures – as the starting point for their reflection upon the Sri Lanka Civil War and its implications for the Tamil ethnicity, which the Brahmins belong to. The two artists were struck by the strong contrast between the two contradicting situations: on the one hand the religious ritual and man’s quest for harmony and on the other, the oppressive abuse of power that causes unbalanced situations and overwhelming human distress.
Their installations interact with Laib’s work: they juxtapose the images of Laib’s exhibition with the harsh images of the war, and the reality of the Tamil’s Diaspora as if trying to find the way to a possible dialogue in this clash.
The exhibition features a multi-video installation that unfolds through the Fondazione spaces according to a circular path. It ends in the lower level where it begins again with Soul Diaspora, the pivotal work around which the entire project No Fire Zone revolves.
Introducing the exhibition is a series of video titled Public prayers, where some members of the Tamil community in Italy recite their “public prayers” whispering them as if they were the most private confessions. The Tamil people meet for these ritual gatherings in different public places around the city and the artists interpret them as both an accusation against the war, and a consideration on the fact that any space, once its context is being removed, may actually take on different connotations.
The work Seam consists of a slide projection of archival photographs regarding the Civil War found on the web, with a parallel projection of images regarding a Tamil worker in a Biella wool factory. It represents a contrasting interchange between two opposing situations: the Sri Lankan tragedy and man’s attempt to find a new life in distant places. As fragments of testimonies dispersed in the Diaspora archive.
The video Before the prayer shows the group of Brahmins that was in Turin for the fire ritual at Laib’s exhibition as they go about their daily activities, eating, sleeping, getting ready to pray, and also as they
visit a Tamil community. These images are mixed with other images from a demonstration in the Biella region and a meeting in Geneva.
The lower floor hosts the last work Soul Diaspora, a video installation consisting of three large projections. The first video shows a 360 degree view of the Brahmin’s ritual shot from the roof of the Fondazione. In one single take the video embraces the fire ritual that was officiated outside the Fondazione and a funeral commemoration being celebrated by a Tamil community in the back garden.
In the second video one of the Brahmins explains the Hindu belief of the transmigration of the soul. The camera progressively zooms in on the man’s face until his skin becomes a landscape. In the last video a young Tamil woman speaks about the death of her twin brother during the civil war; her brother’s soul narrates his tragic experience through his sister’s body.
And as a circle, the exhibition begins again right here where it ends.