In a (not very) distant time it was in trend #I STAY AT HOME. The Italy of the pandemic learned to say confinement, a definition that is as cool as any English style unlined in the middle of Italian. While not having the pleasant sound of brunch or openingwe have all learned to manage it.
Those who seem to be particularly successful are the artists. No, not those “Which make us entertain so much“; here we are talking about the others, which the former Prime Minister Conte did not even contemplate at the time, and of which Exibart continues to document the many projects born in / from that moment.
It is true that a stroke of luck, a chance encounter, during a lockdown encourages. So it happened to Antonio Milotta (Alcamo, 1984). And so #I STAY AT HOME became the title of the project presented at Villa Croce Museum of Genoa, curator from Michela Murialdoamong the winners of Cantica 21. Italian contemporary art everywhere.
One villa, two families
Since we dig a little back in time, let’s go in order. By spelling out some keywords well – as a hashtag does -.
Genoa: the high-bourgeois one of Gino Coppedé, who lived there, leaving behind various architectures. One of these is the highly recognizable Evan Mackenzie castle from 1890, a neo-medieval wonder that today looks like a spaceship from another planet. In the same vein, Coppedé signs four other villas. Less pretentious than the castle, they had been commissioned in the San Fruttuoso area by Mackenzie, who sold one to the engineer Ernesto Umberto Martini. We are in 1906
House: it happens that in 2006 Anto’s mother-in-law buys the building from the Martini heirs. In 2015 Anto and his wife Arianna Spanò they go to live there, starting to classify all the good things offered by those walls. The Martini archive is in fact a multitude of papers, photos and diaries. Pieces of a past snubbed by the Martini heirs, and remained at their disposal. A little stalled, until the lockdown has everything in motion.
Family: as complete strangers, the Martinis meet the Milotta-Spanò family after a hundred years.
#I STAY AT HOME. From contingency to the project
Thus began the project, with the artist who finds himself delving into the history of a family like many others. Crossing it with his own.
From here on, the parallels move a carousel of moments in which past and present intersect, mixing almost seamlessly. They arrive without mixing their naturalness with the affectation, animating a row of 9 tables; individual miscellaneous that unite the early-twentieth-century plans of Coppedé with those of the post-2006 renovation. The same house for two families, two different ways of living it. The design differences are as obvious as a hundred years apart.
Milotta, however, who has a long view, does not live by simple comparisons. It suspends time, creates a situation in which to distinguish ancient and becomes a contemporary, fleeting action. In some ways futile, certainly simulated under yellow acetate sheets to cover the early-twentieth-century plans.
Yellowing from the past. Yes, but fluo, like the present. Come on a kind of “Contemporary filter“ tells the artist. Paired with the yellowish-sepia – this totally natural – of the polaroids taken by Milotta at Villa Martini, every second spent separating the two families seems to be a completely questionable convention.
Rotation of exactly 180 degrees, and on the other side life within the walls of Villa Martini pre-2006 is rekindled. Squeezed into the classifiers, in a disruptive selection of relics that tell of the engineer Ernesto Umberto Martini from Garibaldi, a fighter in the Third War of Independence. Of her five children and in particular of Nena, together with her husband Giuseppe Di Vita, who died in 1930 following complications deriving from enrollment in the First World War. Small and big family things, with some curiosities that we invite you to discover personally.
Thinking analog in a digital world
The goal is to arrive prepared for the video installation. Three parts dis, to be approached with caution. In particular the first, an 8 mm shot in which the artist is an artist, thus arrogating himself the right to self-produce what he has not found: a film that in all its soiling tells the villa at the time of the Martinis .
Sublime analogue “mystification”, functional to the creation of a logical path. Therefore, with the addition of a second part, a sort of handover from Martini to Milotta. Here the hands of Anto and Arianna browse the documents found for 3 hours – speed up in 20 minutes.
Condensing in 20 minutes does not only exempt you from spending half a morning on the sofa, which is also pure comfort. The rapidity with which those images flow produce a destabilizing sense of oppression. One by one the elements of this story pass in front of you, following a time that does not give you the time to become part of it. You can only look out, poke, immerse yourself for a few seconds among the memories of those who have seen, for example, the Ministry of War.
For all 20 minutes, past and present come back to interpenetrate. Milotta still focuses on the miscellany between media, on documentary overlapping: video within video, a small window opens the analogue memories of the Martinis to the digital contemporaneity of the artist’s family. The Martini archive is thus completed in that new reality, made up of instagram, files and folders, and of those who live the age of the vaccination certificate as an indispensable document for common life. Altered by the same yellow user for the boards, as well as augmented by the familiar sound of “shakes” and smartphone notifications in the background.
The third and final part is a play with cards exposed. It is the expression of a full return to the future, of a here and now that brings back to the contemporaneity of documentaries shot via drone. To today’s Villa Martini, compressed, tightened by the pressing urbanization that has some characteristic areas of Genoa.
More than an ending, a restart point: Villa Martini will preserve its analogue past while through Milotta’s family it continues to live. And to archive.