Céline Condorelli

_AGO4893-cmyk.jpg

Céline Condorelli, À Bras  Le Corps – with Philodendron (to Amalia Pica), 2014, installation view

Céline Condorelli, À Bras Le Corps – with Philodendron (to Amalia Pica), 2014, installation view

In Céline Condorelli’s exhibition of sculptures and installations at HangarBicocca, a sequence of floating-curtain pieces – The Bottom Line (to Kathrin Böhm) (2014), Structure for Communicating with Wind (2012) and White Gold of Egypt (2012) – bisects the space into areas of ‘Day’ and ‘Night’. On one side, half of the works are illuminated by natural light, thanks to the large window cut into the black-box space by the artist and, at regular intervals, works on the nocturnal side are flooded with artificial light or plunged into semi-darkness. Also, the neon piece which lends the show its title (baubau, 2014), installed outside like a bar sign, blinks constantly: first reading ‘bau’ – a reference to Bauhaus and the German word Bau (construction) – then ‘bau bau’, like the Italian transliteration of a barking dog, as if an ironic twin had stepped on stage – possibly, a self-portrait of Condorelli as an architect and polyglot artist (born in Paris in 1974 to an Italian father and a French mother, she now lives in London and teaches in Milan at the New Academy of Fine Arts).

The exhibition expresses many of Condorelli’s different interests. In 2009, with a group of co-founders that included Gavin Wade, Condorelli set up the Birmingham exhibition space Eastside Projects. And last year, as part of the programme How to work together – jointly developed in London by Chisenhale Gallery, Studio Voltaire and The Showroom – she wrote a book on friendship, The Company She Keeps, and also created, for her solo show at Chisenhale, a new series of semi-functional works, ‘Intentional Objects In Accidentally Specific Appearances’ (2014 ), whose titles always include the name of a friend. Along with the book, these ‘objects’ are on view in Milan. À Bras Le Corps – with Philodendron (to Amalia Pica), for example, is a hexagonal steel structure on which visitors can sit and share space with philodendron plants or, like them, climb the steps of this hanging garden to come closer to the neon halo suspended above it.

The metaphor delivered by Condorelli’s display is clear. In this space, lights lend an intermittent visibility to what usually goes unnoticed: the ‘support structures’ – from functional props to social habits – that enable the best performances, in exhibitions as in real life. Support Structures is also the name of a dense, 438-page ‘manual for what bears, sustain, props and holds up’ that Condorelli produced at the end of an eponymous collaborative project with Wade, which ran from 2003 to 2009. In it, she analyses several types of structures, both concrete and abstract, ranging from scaffolding to social, political and psychological instruments of containment. ‘Structures are not the shape of things, but the underlying principles behind how things appear, as if they resided behind a curtain,’ she writes. The ‘Intentional Objects’ test some of her conclusions. At the show’s opening evening, I started to chat with a friend while sitting on a comfortable, dimly-lit bench, seemingly ideal for tête-à-têtes (The Weird Charismatic Power That Capitalism Has For Teenagers [to Johan Hartle], 2014). Suddenly, we found ourselves under a spotlight, only shielded from the discomfort of public exposure by our closeness to each other.

Another universal structure of support is, of course, employment. At the far end of the room, in the vitrines of a large metal construction, (Support Structure (Red) (2012–14), Condorelli brings together documentary materials found during her research into the production of Egyptian cotton with those related to the rubber industry and the manufacture of tyres that she retrieved from the archives of Pirelli – the company which founded, and continues to sponsor, HangarBicocca. Sponsorship is another obvious ‘support structure’ for art-making, and how much visibility it should be granted remains a major elephant in the room. Condorelli extended her collaboration with Pirelli by working in the company’s factory in Settimo Torinese to produce Nerofumo (Carbon Black) (2014), a series of tyres whose tread patterns have been modified by the decorative ‘intrusion’ – during the process of vulcanization – of flowers, leaves, cloth filaments and other objects. The names of all the workers involved in the making of the piece are listed on an adjoining wall, but as soon as the light goes off, they disappear, together with the evidence of how their labour is, in fact, the core support structure of the Hangar and everything in it.

Barbara Casavecchia is a contributing editor of frieze and a freelance writer and curator living in Milan, Italy.

Issue 170

First published in Issue 170

April 2015

Most Read

Ahead of the third Antwerp Art Weekend, a guide to the best shows across the city
On Alan Clarke’s Rita, Sue and Bob Too, the death of Ian Brady, and what laughter might conceal
Celebrating its 70th anniversary, a preview of some of the highlights of this year’s film festival which opens today
Ahead of Paris Gallery Weekend, a round-up of the best shows to see in the French capital
A stroll through the off-site shows
Anne Imhof and Franz Erhard Walther win Golden Lions; the Louvre Abu Dhabi to finally open
Tate Britain, London, UK
Werken, 2017, Chilean pavilion, Arsenale, 57th Venice Biennale. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia; photograph: Italo Rondinella
Highlights of the National Pavilions in the Arsenale
The best of the National Pavilions across the city and the Fondazione Prada’s intricate, collaborative exhibition
A first look at ‘Viva Arte Viva’ at the Arsenale
First impressions of Christine Macel’s ‘Viva Arte Viva’ in the Central Pavilion
The second in our series of daily reports from Venice, more of the best National Pavilions in the Giardini
The first in our series of reports from the Venice Biennale: the best of the National Pavilions in the Giardini
Phyllida Barlow, folly, 2017, installation view, commissioned by the British Council for the British Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. Courtesy: the artist, Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London and New York, and © British Council, London; photograph: Ruth Clark
Tanya Harrod on the art of Phyllida Barlow, who is representing Britain at the 57th Venice Biennale 
Geta Brătescu, Towards White (Către alb), 1975, black and white photographs. Courtesy: Collection of the National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest 
Camden Arts Centre, London, UK
A guide to the off-site shows in Venice this week
A brief history of the Venice Biennale
A response to some of the responses
The best shows to see across town during Frieze Week New York

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

March 2017

frieze magazine

April 2017

frieze magazine

May 2017