Organised in partnership with the Wemhöner Collection under the patronage of Milano City Council | Culture during Art Week and Miart 2019, this is the first time a selection of works from one of the most important German collections of contemporary art will be on display in Italy and, generally speaking, outside of Germany.
The majestic architecture and private rooms of 17th-century Palazzo Dugnani provide the ideal setting for an exhibition entitled Hypervisuality, which sets out to bridge the gap between the visible and invisible in temporal perception, the invisibility of time and the visibility of the traces time leaves in space.
In space it is possible to decipher time.
The Hypervisuality exhibition, featuring six films from the Wemhöner Collection, thus advances into the threshold of what can be visually displayed.
Six museum-style video installations by some of the most important players on the international art scene interact with the intriguing, monumental spaces of Palazzo Dugnani, an historic building normally closed to the public that contains a magnificent fresco by Tiepolo – being displayed to the public for the first time since it was recently restored – as well as works by Ferdinando Porta and the 18th-century Venetian school.
Yang Fudong‘s New Women, Masbedo‘s Fragile and 2’59’’, Isaac Julien‘s Playtime and Julian Rosefeldt‘s The Swap and Deep Gold invite the visitor to explore the cinematic art of alienation.
Cinematic art is located in the delicate balance between customary ways of seeing, pictorial conventions and visual innovation.
Its liberating power begins with an awareness of seeing differently.
All the works in the Hypervisuality exhibition activate an aesthetic potential to visualise the invisible through the cinematic language and by speaking in images.
It is now so easy to produce images and to share them publicly that there is little to prevent the emergence of a culture in which there is a preference for communicating with images rather than words, at least from a technical point of view.
The cultural dominance of the speech and text model is crumbling.
Debates on imagery have long since gone beyond the narrow range of the visual arts; social, political and media-aesthetic issues intermingle with the reflection on images:
Is there a rupture between the sayable and the visible?
Can images achieve something that words can’t?
Is ‘the power of images’ possibly based less on their ubiquity than on their very specific tendency to break through conventional practices of seeing and representing and make inroads into other areas?
As far back as the 1990s, the boom in visual representation brought about by electronic technologies inspired the American art historian William J. T. Mitchell to propose a paradigmatic turning point for the image: the ‘pictorial turn’.
According to Mitchell, a cultural evolution towards a new visual culture would be necessary after the digital revolution. In his view, words and images need to be considered of equal importance and the quantity of images that now surround us must be matched by the appropriate quality of the productive and receptive visual culture.
Behind this claim lies ‘the realization that spectatorship (the look, the gaze, the glance, the practices of observation, surveillance, and visual pleasure) may be as deep a problem as various forms of reading (decipherment, decoding, interpretation, etc.) and that visual experience or “visual literacy” might not be fully explicable in the model of textuality’.
Consumers of images do not always pause if they encounter a merely recognising view.
A shaping and interpreting look strives for more, it strives for something other than what one usually sees, which art historian Max Imdahl once called the ‘seeing view’.
On the part of the image producer, this corresponds to the insistence not to settle for showing as pure appearing but to refer to situations outside what is depicted.
This takes hold of what is seen in such a way as to move beyond itself to systems of thinking, imagining and feeling.
The artists’ countries of origin mark three stages in Heiner Wemhöner’s life, the traces of which are still reflected in his collection:
” While travelling in Italy, I began to take an interest in art. That was in the 1980s. The works of Italian painters originate from this period, and I still have a close relationship with them
to this day. I first came into contact with the German art scene and with international contemporary art in the 1990s. In the mid-2000s, I was frequently in China for business, which also had consequences for my understanding of art: Chinese contemporary art continues to open up horizons for me to the country’s cultural wealth.
The fact that a number of works from my collection are now being exhibited in the Palazzo Dugnani leads me back to my early encounters with art. However, I have only begun to acquire films in the last few years. As with photography, it took me some time to develop a relationship with this medium. ”
The Hypervisuality exhibition refers to these movements by stimulating three kinds of seeing experience that transcend the threshold of the visible: implicative, mediated and reflective hypervisuality.
Can the mood of a transition period be visualised in such a way that the spectator is positively urged to look out for relevant contexts?
In Yang Fudong’s five-channel video installation, New Women, five naked women stroll gracefully through a sparsely furnished studio interior.
The few props alternate between references to European antiquity and the East Asian tradition.
As if in an intermediate realm, the ‘new women’ appear at times to be a homage to the early days of Chinese cinema in the 1930s, at times to be a reminder of the era of new beginnings at the end of the imperial period.
What techniques can be used in the medium of film to evoke something other than a mere depiction of reality?
In Masbedo’s Fragile, we see an Indian peacock as it roams around Turin’s Galleria Sabauda against a backdrop of Old Masters.
With this dynamic interplay between man, animal and art, natural and cultural heritage are abruptly confronted with one another.
Perhaps because both nature and art consist of spheres of beauty that require careful nurturing?
In 2’59’’, an LP plays on a record player: the opening chords of John Lennon’s Imagine can be heard.
The record is repeatedly stopped, and a tool is used to scratch it.
Finally, only a grating, scraping sound and a jolting buzzing can be heard.
Is the scope of the imagination laid to rest here?
Or is the artist hinting that the imagination is based on an interdependency between the old and the new?
While Isaac Julien’s Playtime and Julian Rosefeldt’s The Swap both address the abstraction of financial market events to the point of invisibility, they do so in different ways: one is actor-focused, the other is process-focused.
Playtime indirectly reveals capital flows as Julien presents the life stories of people who are deeply entangled in processes of global capital links.
We witness the memories of an Icelandic artist whose lifelong dream of owning his own home is shattered by the financial crisis.
We see the flashbacks of a Fillipina domestic worker for whom family hardship leads her to hiring herself out as a maid in Dubai.
In The Swap, an exchange of briefcases between two groups of gangsters mutates into a choreographed series of movements that appear to combine figures from modern dance with those of a round dance on the stage of a container terminal.
A Dance around the Golden Calf against the backdrop of global commodity flows?
An allegory on the exchange transactions, known collectively as ‘swaps’, that take place in the world of finance?
In Julian Rosefeldt’s Deep Gold, a work that borrows motifs from Luis Buñuel’s surrealist film L’age d’or, the spectator follows a man who is struggling with his libidinous imagination.
The artist also plays with the layers of illusion that exist in films and shows the audience how the structure of fictional worlds populate the audience’s imagination.
This is where the circle is completed: like the Palazzo Dugnani and its Tiepolo frescoes, Deep Gold presents a reversible figure caught between the past and the present and brought to life by the imagination.
About the Wemhoner Collection
Inspired by his travels in Italy and his friendship with renowned curator and museum director Jan Hoet, Heiner Wemhöner began to acquire his first works of art in the late 1990s.
The ever expanding collection now totals around 1,200 works of international contemporary art.
An important milestone in Heiner Wemhöner’s relationship with contemporary art was the planning and construction of the MARTa Herford museum, which was designed by Frank O. Gehry and opened in 2005.
As Chairperson of the Friends of MARTa and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Wemhöner Foundation, established in 2000, he is committed to the cultural life of Herford, where both his home and company are based.
The Wemhöner Foundation thus sponsors the MARTa Prize, worth € 25,000, every two years.
The Wemhöner Collection has already been displayed in several exhibitions covering a variety of themes and the associated publications provide an insight into its founder’s passion for collecting.
The collection is currently seeking suitable premises in Berlin to ensure that the works may be accessible to the public on a permanent basis.
An exhibition in a major German museum, due to be staged next year, is also at the planning stage.
Wemhöner Surface Technologies, a family-owned business already into its third generation, specialises in the manufacture of machinery and systems for refining wood-based products and operates in both Germany and China.
Heiner Wemhöner also combines business, culture and social responsibility in China, earning him honorary citizenship of Changzhou, a city of 5.5 million people.
About Palazzo Dugnani
Built at the end of the seventeenth century, between 1758 and 1846 the Palace became a main artistic and social center, mansion of the Dugnani family, who had already had an important role under the Visconti and Sforza.
Among deco rations with stuccos and mythological frescoes of the eighteenth century Venetian school, the main hall stands out, painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in 1731.
Restored after the bomb damage suffered in 1943 and then restored again in 2015, today the Palace hosts temporary exhibitions.