Artists: Jacopo Belloni, Irene Coppola, Alessandro Di Pietro, Giovanni Giaretta, Eleonora Luccarini, GianMarco Porru, Agnese Spolverini, Massimo Vaschetto, Ilaria Vinci
Co-curated with Jade Barget and Naz Cuguoğlu
Coordinated by Lucrezia Calabro Visconti and Michele Bertolino
Dates: October 2 – November 28, 2021
Palazzo Re Rebaudengo, Piazza Roma 1, Guarene
Beneath the Palazzo Re Rebaudengo, there lie underground tunnels. Nobody knows where they lead or what they hide, but some say that if you listen carefully at night, you can hear voices and see shadows turning quickly around the corners. Beneath the cover of domestic space, these tunnels might stand for how the fantastic is merely hiding in plain sight.
Badly Buried is a descent—a dive below to what lies beneath. Beyond secret tunnels that serve as our gateway to the subterranean, we begin to discern the underground as a shapeshifter: it is the soil, the subconscious, a mine, a sex dungeon, a cave, or a grave. It is a space where both the material and the imaginary coalesce.
The appeal of the underground has shaped mythology, epic poetry, and popular forms of literature across time. From 24th century BCE Egyptian myth of Osiris’ descent into the underworld to become master of the Afterlife, to Jean Valjean’s fall into the clammy sewers of Paris, that hide the wretched, in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in 1862. In Notes on the Underground (2008), historian Rosalind Williams surveys the subterranean as conceptual terrain, charting a genealogy of tales so ancient and universal that their fundamental structure—the opposition of surface and depth—may well be rooted in the structure of the human brain.
Descending into the underground and its inner worlds is an act of searching, of contending with the unknown, the abject, and the internal; of opening passages and holding space with the monstrous. Journeying downwards, the exhibition asks: What knowledge arises from the act of descending physically, psychologically, and socially? Emerging from the underground, what narratives do we uncover? What can obscurity reveal?
Having crossed thresholds between worlds, knowledge resurfaces in the form of performances, installations, and moving image works investigating notions of labor, secrecy, pleasure, monstrosity, and death. The works bring us from the bowels of a BDSM dungeon to a pixie’s bathroom, from the depths of the subconscious to the earth, and back again.
Jacopo Belloni’s sculptures and installations bring esoteric practices, rituals, and contemporary spiritual practices to the historical space of Palazzo Re Rebaudengo. Ilaria Vinci’s works are speculative in their nature—making use of fantastical realist narrations, she imagines alternative realities, while Alessandro di Pietro’s “TOMB WRITER” turns the palazzo into a tomb, where dead bodies return to the earth—a cyclical way of thinking about time.
While entering the room that holds Irene Coppola’s work might feel like ascending above ground, the scars she surfaces from recent history tell another tale. Using industrial materials, Coppola plants a ghostly orchard, where tropical plants silently testify to the violence of warfare and colonial intervention. Climbing further puts the viewer in front of GianMarco Porru’s “MALEDETTA.” In this three-channel video installation, we witness a hypnosis session where a voice offscreen reveals, in spellbinding detail, how Medea—a magician and master in the art of potions and poisons—turned into a monstrous figure as a result of forces far beyond her control.
Journeying into the underworld also means looking inward, into our own depths. For Badly Buried, Eleonora Luccarini nosedives into the abyss of her multidimensional self to wrestle with her alter ego, Leonard Santé, while Massimo Vaschetto explores BDSM culture wherein, resembling the katabasis motif in literature, sadomasochists descend to underworlds and return physically, emotionally, or spiritually transformed. There, the artist finds resonances with Christianity.
Sinking deeper into the underground of the Palazzo, Giovanni Giaretta’s media archaeology practice excavates fantasies of the cinema cavern and the minerality of our digital devices. Beneath slick surfaces, the extracted materials seep through. These excavations and extractions take us further down to the bitumen mines of Abbateggio, where Agnese Spolverini tells a story not only of hidden labor and oppressive working conditions, but the immense sympathy and solidarity needed to sustain life in this hostile environment.
Nothing stays underground for long when they are badly buried. The soil will erode, bringing secrets, suppressed knowledge, and social underworlds to light.
Click here to download the exhibition booklet.
All photos by Domenico Conte (2021).