Riccardo Benassi


Riccardo Benassi, Techno Casa – an introduction to, 2013, HD video still

Riccardo Benassi, Techno Casa – an introduction to, 2013, HD video still

‘The eye, at first, would glide over the grey carpet of a long hallway, tall and narrow.’ Thus opens Georges Perec’s Les Choses (Things, 1965), a wonderful book about the unsatisfactory pursuit of happiness through the possession of objects in a consumer society. What follows is a detailed description of the furniture that the two main characters, a couple of Parisian pollsters – or, as we would call them nowadays, in the age of cognitive capitalism, data analysts – would have in their dream apartment. Soon, further objects enter the scene, like the tape recorder the protagonists use every day to interview people for their work. Riccardo Benassi’s exhibition at Marsèlleria, entitled ‘Techno Casa’ (Techno House), took me straight back to Perec’s book. Not only did it open with a narrow strip of carpet, hanging vertically from the stairs and running across the floor of the exhibition space, it also focused on household furnishings as a means of surveying our social habits.

The starting point for Benassi’s project is the video Techno Casa – an introduction to (2013), screened at Marsèlleria but originally produced for Live Arts Week at MAMbo. Digital animations (by Jurij Magoga) of floating modular furniture, flying laptops and cascading smartphones dance to a soundtrack of hypnotic electronic music, while a text scrolling across a news television-style red ticker reads: ‘Mobile phones have replaced design in mediating our relation to the surrounding space […] so that even the very idea of décor has been reorganized. The military wing of the digital revolution was the transformation of every room into an office, just in time for the colonization of every instant.’ During 2013, Techno Casa evolved into a ten-part series titled ‘Attachments’ (presented at the Gallerie d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Ferrara, Museo Marino Marini in Florence, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, and V8 Plattform für Neue Kunst in Karlsruhe).

At Marsèlleria, they were projected in sequence on the top floor, their abrasive, energetic soundtracks filling the entire building and conditioning the audience’s emotional responses. Each work in the series is introduced by an identical teaser, and is similar in structure to the others, although they all vary slightly in length, with the total running time amounting to around three hours. Shot in black and white on a smartphone, the videos collate images of corporate architecture and rural landscapes, as well as people moving across offices, parks, squares, gyms – occasionally interrupted by 3D digital animations – while a first-person text runs below on a red scrolling ticker. The viewer’s attention is held captive, having to work quickly to read the text against a backdrop of moving images and intense sound. Benassi (an Italian-born, Berlin-based artist, musician, writer and designer) doesn’t so much fetishize contemporary technology as use it as a medium for mirroring the daily pace of contemporary life with its multitasking, attention-deficit disorders and shifting borders between self-exposure and the compulsory performativity of our online existence. Such ‘busy’ lives act as a counterpoint to the disappearance of real jobs during times of economic crisis. By scrutinizing our daily interactions with portable machines and solid architectures, Benassi brings economics, politics and speculative realism into play. One work in the ‘Attachment’ series, for instance, starts with an image of a drop of olive oil running down a person’s arm before jump-cutting to scenes of recycling, evincing notions of voluntary work (separating waste, or producing data online by clicking buttons), the difference between productivity and occupation, and back again to the physical evidence of bodily gestures.

Perec’s novel ends on a train, with the main protagonists en route somewhere else, somewhere better; likewise for Benassi, reckless mobility, or rather a constant illusion of movement, is key. In 2008, the artist co-wrote with Gian Piero Frassinelli (founder of the legendary 1960s radical architecture group Superstudio) a fictional dialogue entitled Autostrada Verticale (Vertical Highway), which starts with a road trip and ends, after all humans have left earth by using their apartments as vehicles, with a rave on Saturn. Let’s make sure we find the way.

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

Issue 162

First published in Issue 162

April 2014

Most Read

Ahead of Berlin Gallery Weekend, a guide to what to see across the German capital
Ahead of Art Cologne this week, a guide to the best current shows in the city
A fresh dispute over the estate of Vivian Maier; Chris Ofili is made a CBE
Theaster Gates & The Black Monks of Mississippi’s latest project for IHME Festival, Helsinki
Barkley L. Hendricks has died; the Tate faces a lawsuit from its neighbours

From Egyptian surrealism to Parisian pissoirs: what to read this weekend
On the 2017 Jamaica Biennial and its attempts to confront the role of misogyny in Jamaican popular culture
Jan Bonny and Alex Wissel’s new film project, ‘Rheingold’, sends up the ethical superiority of art making versus...
Jason Rhoades, My Madinah. In pursuit of my ermitage..., 2004, mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy: Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, The Estate of Jason Rhoades and David Zwirner; photograph: Fredrik Nilsen
Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles, USA
Ahead of Art Brussels opening this week, a guide to the best shows around town
Recently awarded a USA Artist Fellowship, Lynn Hershman Leeson speaks about cultural technologies, personal narratives...
Cosey Fanni Tutti talks to Paul Clinton about feminism, freedom and the politics of the personal
David Zwirner, New York
A guide to the best of the current and soon-to-open shows in London
The final part in a series of our editors’ initial impressions from documenta 14 Athens, Amy Sherlock on the fourth and...
A survey of more than 50 respondents from over 30 countries

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

Jan - Feb 2017

frieze magazine

March 2017

frieze magazine

April 2017