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Contemporary Expressions

  • Exhibition
  • 4 November 2023 - 2 June 2024

Artist Residencies and New Site-Specific Installations

In 2022, under the direction of Davide Quadrio, MAO inaugurated a programme of artist residencies and site-specific commissions that views contemporary art as a means for fostering new interpretations and plural narratives as well as a driver for valorising the museum’s collections, in a fruitful dialogue that generates unexpected connections.

For Artissima 2023, MAO is delighted to present four important new works that have resulted from this multi-year project: The Snake Ritualby Marzia Migliora, Le son de la pierre by Lee Mingwei (both in residence at the museum for a two-year period between 2022 and 2023), Flying Kodama by Kengo Kuma and Gigli, cinghiali, qualche carpa e poi conigli, galline e asini in gran quantità by Francesco Simeti, in residence at MAO starting in October 2023.

Visitors will be able to see the works with the purchase of an admission ticket to the permanent collections.

The Projects

The Snake Ritual| Marzia Migliora
For the residency #MAOTempoPresente, the artist Marzia Migliora (Alessandria, Italy, 1972) worked at MAO for a few months between 2022 and 2023, looking at works in storage, assimilating objects, styles and images found in the museum collection and transforming them into a composite alphabet that she used to create The Snake Ritual.The work takes its title, which means ‘Serpent Ritual’, from the eponymous essay by Aby Warburg (1866–1929) in which the German art historian describes the Pueblo rituals that he saw during a trip to the American Southwest in 1895–96.Using Warburg’s methodology, a pioneering approach that links art history to other historical and scientific disciplines, Migliora selected and analysed works in the collection, incorporating them into her creative act, which is generated through assonances and intuitions tied to different, and sometimes very distant, anthropological and social contexts.

The Snake Ritual(2023) comprises tapestries that partly use MAO’s monumental stair and are based on a large scroll (130 x 9,140 cm) filled with mixed media images – collage, frottage, drawing – that the artist made looking at ritual and sculptural works in the collection that are invisible to the public because they are not currently on view at MAO. In this large drawing, varied works from different times and cultures (objects from the collection and references to post-industrial history, nature and the symbolism ofnaga/snakes) intersect and interact, creating a visual narrative in which each element coexists with the others in a single intense, ahistorical setting.
Starting with the drawing on paper, Migliora createdfive tapestries with Giovanni Bonotto (A Collection), a metaphorical weaving of time and history, hung before our eyes like the sudarium of a contemporary, suffering anthropic world. Textile production and its social consequences are the thematic foundation of the work.

The work creates a symbolic bridge, that can be crossed from different directions, between the MAO collection and the contemporary world, with the aim of presenting within the museum a work that metaphorically combines space-time and warp and weft in an emotional, historical and experiential crescendo.

The work on paper Paradoxes of Plenty #54, The Snake Ritual will be on view in preview in the exhibition Green Snake: Woman-Centred Ecologies, curated by Kathryn Weir and Xue Tan (19 December 2023 - 1 April 2024) at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong, in dialogue with the first textile exhibition at MAO in November 2023.

Flying Kodama | Kengo Kuma
Flying Kodama is a newinstallation created by Kengo Kuma for the entrance to MAO. A kind of sphere measuring 120 cm in diameter, the piece is made up of interlocking blocks of pale ash that place the wood and its ephemeral composition in contrast with the physicality of the museum’s vault.

Kodama, which means ‘tree spirit’ or ‘forest spirit’ in Japanese, is the result of structural and sculptural experimentation that Kuma has been carrying out for several years. The project began in 2018 at Arte Sella, leading to a work measuring almost six metres in diameter that brought an element of geometry and porosity to the Casa Strobele wood. It continued in 2019, with the installation of the first work’s twin in an urban setting in Taiwan. A version in reduced scale (1:5) was then displayed at Palazzo Franchetti in Venice for the Architecture Biennial in 2023, presenting an oak variation onKodama as a piece of sculpture.

For MAO, Kuma created a piece that is rooted in the same ideas but leads to a different outcome: here, the Japanese architect is presenting, for the first time, a sphere designed to be hung, as if floating, and comprising interlocking multiples of a single unit in solid wood, a bit like a Japanese brain teaser.

Lit from the interior by a series of concealed LED strips, Flying Kodama creates a play of light and shadow, defining a mysterious, dream-like space filled with references to Japanese culture, in particular Junichiro Tanizaki’s volume In Praise of Shadows.

While the main classical elements in the West are earth, air, fire and water, in Asia, and Japan and Zen philosophy in particular, there is a fifth element: the Void. In Flying Kodama, Kuma amplifies this void on three different and concomitant levels: interior concavity, exterior convexity and the ineffable space in between: porosity. Light penetrates this porosity like a kind of enlightenment – Bodhi in Buddhism, or reawakening, wisdom and freedom.

The light is released from the inside and enhances Kodama, the kanji for which is composed of Ko (tree) and Dama, which means both ‘spirit’ and ‘echo’. Kuma’s Flying Kodamais therefore a ‘light echo’, a kind of Buddhist enlightenment that is generated by the wooden heart, expands in the museum’s entrance hall and guides the visitor, with its rays, towards the galleries.

Flying Kodama was produced for the museum by D3Wood in Lecco, with financial support from the SCM Group and scientific assistance from Marco Imperadori, Professor at Politecnico di Milano and Scientific Advisor Arte Sella Architecture.

Le son de la pierre | Lee Mingwei
The artist Lee Mingwei (Taichung, Taiwan, 1964) is returning to MAO (where he participated inSonic Blossom earlier this year) with the workLe son de la pierre.

The installation utilizes a ceramic disc, stone, and granite stand as metaphors for human inertia and potential for change. The act of breaking and subsequently repairing the disc using Kintsugi functions both as a physical and metaphorical gesture, underscoring the transformative power of imperfection and resilience.

“I envisaged a project that could take shape using a ceramic disc, a stone and a granite support. The idea was to use these simple but symbolic objects to create a powerful, transformative experience. The ceramic disk represents the immobility of our lives. The little stone represents the potential for change. The moment we realise our lives are stalled, it’s time to act. With a strong hand, the ceramic disk breaks into a thousand pieces, freeing our stagnant emotions. This breaking point is a moment of lucidity, an opportunity to free ourselves from the rigid shell that was holding us back.”

Like a hermetic presence, eloquent in its silence, Le son de la pierrecontains the imaginative sound of the fracture and its subsequent suture.

Gigli, cinghiali, qualche carpa e poi conigli, galline e asini in gran quantità| Francesco Simeti

The artist Francesco Simeti (Palermo, 1968) is presenting Gigli, cinghiali, qualche carpa e poi conigli, galline e asini in gran quantità (Lilies, wild boar, a few carp and then rabbits, chickens and donkeys in large quantities), a wallpaper piece for the museum’s reception area and the first part of a project that will develop at MAO during a two-year residency between 2023 and 2024.

With this project, MAO is creating a bridge with an important space just a short walk from the museum. The work was originally made for Casa Giglio (where it is permanently on view), a space that opened in 2019 on the top floor of the Seminario Metropolitano, in the heart of Turin’s old town, to provide accommodation to the families of children hospitalised at Regina Margherita. It was set up on the initiative of Giglio Onlus, an association that has been offering free accommodation since 2002 to families without means so that they can stay near their children while in hospital. Through the Nuovi Committenti programme, Casa Giglio commissioned Francesco Simeti to create a work for the entrance to the facility that would serve as a welcome to the families staying there and, at the same time, be expressive of an offering of cultural and recreational activities open to the whole city.

The title Gigli, cinghiali, qualche carpa e poi conigli, galline e asini in gran quantità is like a nursery rhyme for the youngest guests of Casa Giglio, for whom the work was originally conceived, a kind of fantastical world to immerse themselves in.

Rooted in archival research, it is a composite work that combines the iconographic traditions of different cultures and times and animal and plant species from far-flung geographical regions.

At MAO, the work will be installed in the space that marks the dividing line between outside and inside, between the city and the protected space of the galleries, to welcome visitors and introduce them to the experience of the museum.

Special thanks to:

Galleria Lia Rumma, Milano / Napoli, Francesca Minini, Toshiki Hirano (The University of Tokyo SEKISUI HOUSE – KUMA LAB), Marco Imperadori (Politecnico di Milano), Giacomo Bianchi (Arte Sella), Marco Clozza (D3Wood), Jun Sato (The University of Tokyo), Ceramica Gatti, Et al. and Amici della Fondazione Torino Musei.