Its content as revealed by time and circumstance, may be out of register with its presenting form. So there is both an immediate and a remote effect, the first containing the latter, but imperfectly. The presenting form has its problems. It must relate to an existing body of accepted ideas, and yet place itself outside them. Initially, it tends to be perceived – or misperceived – somewhere on a spectrum from outright hostility to just fun. In this, the “art-likeness” of the work is a liability. If it is perceived within an existing category, the category tries to digest it. Successful gestures – ones that survive their presenting form -usually abort the dialogue out of the accepted universe of discourse. In game-playing this is rule modification. But in art the modification takes place over time and with uncertain- indeed unpredictable- results.

Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube

Coming to think of the ways in which institutions display themselves as places of knowledge and shows as vehicles of transformation, an exhibition at the Mart of Rovereto of exactly two years ago comes to my mind, The Magnificent Obsession. Even though the white cube model is still widely dominant, in most recent years we’ve witnessed a series of attempts to overcome it. The Magnificent Obsession is certainly among these. With its three thousand objects relevant to all genres and media, a path of more than a kilometer, a team of ten curators, a time range of more than a century displayed through multiple conceptual, stylistic and aesthetic positions, it advanced an almost stereoscopic unanimity of perspectives. To all these tentacular subtexts, which assume the artwork as an open context [1] (and even the exhibition), merged the look of an archeologist, or of a diviner, relatively to the relation between the known and the unknown, the museum’s collection and history. And with the awareness that the image, as stated by Andrea Pinotti, triggers not just other images but also sounds, words and dialogues to maintain its own ambition of ongoing hypertext , this exhibition also housed the the visions of external artists who were invited to cyclically work in the program. The system of The Magnificent Obsession was, particularly by Marco Senaldi but also in general, related to the ones of some individual works such as the Great Wall by David Hockney, the Atlas by Gerhard Richter, the Museum of the 19th Century by Marcel Broodthaers or to great archives such as the Atlas Mnemosyne by Aby Warburg. None of the latter revealed as completely overlapping, concerning the form or the context. Nor have emerged relations with other exhibitions, if not for just one possibility: the Imaginary Museum by André Malreaux. It seems that the only trait d’union that is left, but in negative, is the one of the white cube. While in this system the semi-isolated object in an aseptic space becomes an icon, in The Magnificent Obsession the exact opposite process is dominant, so any hierarchal or hegemonic attempt is sedated. Even the rich didactic equipment is transformed into a pocket-sized and deliberate one, to abandon the bewitched visitor to the possibility of new interpretations other than the objective one, repeating the cultural context. Though this exhibition demonizes the iconic image, it does not avoid a wide use of this very thing and it ends up inevitably and possibly not willing advancing a new icon, constituted by a web, an iconoclash, present in part of the room and generally in the exhibit. As Saretto Cincinelli punctually highlighted, the result looks like an exhibition of the exhibition [2].

As it is hard to delineate it decisively, also because of its overflowing, receptive, trans-temporal and in progress nature, almost as if it was a live organism, and also because a plurality of intuitions were not completely fulfilled, The Magnificent Obsession may be set up once again in a couple of decades; by witnessing its own present time and summing up the history of which it is part, absorbing and transforming models that suffer in their own way the changes of another time, it understood and brought up many issues, from the exhibition phenomenology to the modalities of public and private collecting, from museum practices to didactics, up to iconology. Babelic, complex, redundant, critic, inquisitional, a vertigo of the mix; what came out from some essays and which seems more and more interesting, even relatively to the need of redefining the museums’ role and their mission, is this exhibition’s assimilation to reality.

La magnifica ossessione, curated by di C. Collu, N. Boschiero, V. Caciolli, D. Dogheria, D. Ferrari, M. Mariech, P. Pettenella, A. Tiddia, D. Viva, F. Zanoner, Mart Rovereto, 26/10/ 2012 – 16/2/2014

[1] Umberto Eco, Opera aperta: forma e indeterminazione delle poetiche contemporanee, Milano 1962

[2] All the essay abstracts that are here cited are extensively published in the exhibit’s catalogue.

Specialized in critical and curatorial studies, Veronica Caciolli has been responsible for a two-years period of institutional exhibitions and publications for Photology. She contributed to magazines like Segno and Exibart and  she was TA of History of Florence at Gonzaga University in Florence. In 2008 she won a competitive exam at the Mart in Rovereto as a curator of the XX and XI century collections, where she organized and curated exhibitions on contemporary until 2015. With Denis Isaia and Federico Mazzonelli presents Der Blitz project. Research, action and contemporary culture in the territory of Alto Garda and in Chiang Mai she curates One to many. From 2016 she is vice president and visual advisor for TERZOPIANO and she deals with development projects for the Museum of Palazzo Pretorio in Prato.

La magnifica ossessione
Mart – Fernando Guerra, 2012