Curated by Rebecca Olsen
“The problem with the Eichmann case was that there were many men like him, and many of them were neither perverted nor sadistic,
but they were, and still are, terribly normal ”
Hannah Arendt – The Banality of Evil
Being a part of the fringes of history we are forced to observe it from an ambiguous point of view: from the border of which, as people conditioned with our present time, we are forced to follow it while history itself takes on the shape of a mirror. The reflection which one sees is the picture of a complex humanity that speaks of both a collective and individual event – where each part is related to the others in a chain which excludes the possibility of abstaining, or to give one’s own responsibility to others regarding his or her own actions. It is a unique human characteristic, and the variety of all its branches should be regarded as an accidental factor that only under certain circumstances allows one to realize if their conduct is criminal or not.
All of Loredana Longo’s recent research reflects the paradox of this perpetual lack of identification, an apology for the "banality of evil”. In both the last century and even in the present we have become aware of this situation, but it still remains a tragic taboo of powerful societies (more willing to misinterpret than to attempt to understand the radical nature of Arendt’s thought). It is not evil that is banal, but rather how it manifests itself in people who appear quite normal, persuaded to act on their own, that is so disconcerting. Works such as The Circle and Carpet bring into play the rhetoric of power (which tragically is as much without meaning as it is steeped in assertiveness) and bring to the fore the compulsion towards barbarism that power gives to anyone who is a willing accomplice. The written word, language itself (except when used as a way to evoke memory), the complaint, a testimony, the reconstruction of an event, is emptied of meaning in the propaganda and slogans launched to aggregate communities around mirages of supremacy and consolation.
In all the work Longo has produced in recent years she consistently ritualizes mechanisms of the rise and fall pertaining to the consensus which tyrants use on the masses. She divests such strategies until they are rendered vain, and highlights the common origin of anyone wearing the cloak of power and domination.
Bearing this in mind it is intriguing to think of the metamorphosis that takes place in The Animal Farm. Pigs take on the appearance of their same torturers – the artist, however, does not negate her own individualized position. Loredana Longo assimilates this ruthlessness by forcing the oval of her face to resemble the lineaments of dictators and men of power who have committed genocide as well as other protagonists of the disasters of war perpetrated over the past hundred years. The resemblance of some of the tyrant’s physical facial features with the artist is surprisingly similar and emphasizes the total predominance of male figures in the game of power, where the "reduction" in size of the female face by the executioners alludes to another, parallel history of oppression.
Longo also depicts the occurrence of another mechanism, which is a consequence of circularity, which is best described as ‘cause’ and ‘foundation’: the antagonism between equals, the tension towards competitive behaviors that result in a struggle for life (or in death of the other). The kind of deaf force produced by this continuous friction can be measured by the same standard that defines a double portrait. And while the fascination with the mechanical nature necessary for evil, summarized in Longo’s sculpture, in the form of bronze and marble monuments, seems to give off the impression that they will outlive the lives of normal people. The question about the inevitability of all of this remains suspended.
As always the art of Loredana Longo takes on every kind of artistic language and is not intended to state or proclaim the infallible truth. The contradictions in the world are there, knotted in on themselves, revealed in some of their forms from the light of art that contemporaneously imposes itself on the same plane as history. But it has a winged appearance that seems to reach higher than the boundary of necessity – at times able to catch a glimpse and even foreshadow a condition of hope.
April 30 – May 15, 2015
mon-fry 10:00 am – 9:00 pm – free entrance
SRISA Gallery of Contemporary Art – Santa Reparata International School of Art
Via San Gallo 53r, 50129 Firenze