AFA 2, running from July 29 to August 12, is a lightweight exhibition. It could fly away with the first summer breeze. It leans on the public beach of Bari in Italy waiting for the sun to set, folded and unfolded in a ritual which determines its existence. Thirteen international artists invited by 63rd-77th STEPS design a series of black and white print towels for the historical coastline of Pane e Pomodoro, its intense life discreetly interrupted by this spectral summer collection lying on the sand. The towels are unfolded from afternoon till evening among the haphazard lines of bathers, arranged in random order daily, in an event that lies somewhere between guerilla marketing and the human right to tan.
Pane e Pomodoro is a popular beach: just like the dish from which it took its name. Bread, oil, salt, water, tomato. In the heart of a landscape of contaminated beauty, where the sand isn’t natural: the shore being artificially designed following an asbestos removal project nearby. It assimilates and defines their waves. And it stays there, soft and still until the flow of people slows at sunset.
This is the feeling of the three bathers portrayed in Fabio Santacroce‘s ‘Mare Nostrum’, that can be found in a lot of the creatures evoked on the towels: from the monkeys sketched in the white by Ditte Gantriis, to the hypersexualized female ants by Lucia Leuci. There are the tentacular eruptions of the ‘Phallus-vagina Dentata’ by Uffe Isolotto and the pale masks by Liz Craft, the threatening black claw between the small birds cages by Rosa Ciano, and then the four-handed zombies of the ‘Gmorkrunoff’ by Rolf Nowotny.
All these aberrations of the body are probably generated by the contradictions of ‘meridian thought’, as sociologist Franco Cassano calls it, faced with global economy. The same suggestion comes in the sign of Spencer Longo’s ‘Work Ethic’, Michelangelo’s ‘Dying Slave’ stuck on a doner kebab spit by Pentti Monkkonen and the cluster of ‘submit’ icons carpeting Maja Cule’s ‘Submit to AFA’, which spills out from the Internet to the beach in Bari. For an instant they may seem like a collection of bottle caps and cigarette butts: that’s just the effect of visual pollution. It’s a bit like the darkened emoticons sadly reclining on the pain rating scale of Bradford Kessler’s ‘Even Diablos Get The Blues’, or the plots and symbols of the Transpacific Partnership of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization intertwining in the ‘Factory Trawler’ by Michael Assiff.
Guiding us through this variable and irregular itinerary, we bump into Ilya Smirnov‘s lost children with a torch, which rather seems like the lantern of Diogenes the Cynic: ‘contra omnia adversa’ (against all). But there is no light and no words showing us the way. And maybe we can’t do anything else but get lost in this reality. **
Exhibition photos, top right.